Abingdon United, Drayton, East Hendred, Football, groundhop, groundhopping, Non League, North Berkshire Cup Final, North Berkshire League, Northcourt Road
Saturday 14th May 2022 ko 14:30
North Berkshire Cup Final
DRAYTON 3 (Jacks 7 Dennis 16 25)
EAST HENDRED 0
Att 489 at Abingdon United FC
Entry & Programme £5
So from the Witney League’s league finale, it was the chance to head east for the North Berkshire League’s own final bow. I am, of course still on the NBFL’s committee, and will be while they think I can add something as their token “Outsider!” As with any league’s major final it’s all hands to the pump so I found myself manning a gate in the warm sunshine with plenty to look forward to.
This season has seen something of a change of the guard. The temptation in recent years is to see what Saxton Rovers and Berinsfield were doing before looking at the other clubs. But Saxton Rovers had opted to move to the Oxon Senior League, and Berinsfield had a season in transition winning only the the reserves-only North Berkshire League Cup.
Unquestionable the side that took the most advantage of this was East Hendred. Many groundhoppers will remember the Owls and chairman Steve Mulford from their excellent Hop game back in 2015 and their Mill Lane Ground remains one of the most picturesque grounds anywhere. They won the league and Charity Shield and were favourites to take the Treble.
Facing them were Drayton who come with the distinction of being one of very few clubs who’ve hosted a hop game twice, at Lockway in 2011 and at the Rutherford Appleton Ground in 2017. Its fair to say I hold chairman Pete Ivey in great esteem, that second hop game took a lot of organising, but I was pleased to see Pete and his team turn up in suitable attire- they’d turned up in onesies for that last hop game.
You may remember Drayton making it to the 2016 final where few gave them a chance against a Saxton side that won just about everything that season. But, while Saxton won again, Pete’s men gave them a real game and I wondered then whether a slow start cost them more than they knew. Back in 2022 I inwardly debated whether that experience had stood them in good stead.
Stood running the side gate I soon saw that the game was going to be extremely popular. I knew we’d worried that printing 400 programmes was overkill, but they sold out well before kickoff and setting the entry fee at £5 was handy- it made giving change as simple as having enough enough fivers! Obviously the weather helped, but watching non league football is undergoing something of a renaissance right now and it was lovely to be part of that.
Running that gate I actually missed a fair chunk of the first half, I missed Jamie Jacks’ deflected shot to open the scoring and maybe on that deflection the cup headed to Drayton. Certainly the weight of a long season and a sweltering afternoon seemed to weigh heavily on East Hendred, and in the end Drayton were worthy winners.
I was able to catch a quick word with both Steve and Pete before the presentation and Steve was gracious enough to admit his side hadn’t managed to find enough to raise their game one more time. Pete seemed almost lost in the moment, but soon found himself once someone found a bottle of fizzy!