DIDCOT TOWN (Loop Meadow)

After an enforced weekend of no football due to the arctic conditions (the shakes have now subsided) it was back to normal service today. Well not quite, as traditionally Boxing Day means "double headers" but unfortunately my planned double of Barwell/Stamford bit the (snow) dust early doors. However, lots of games were dropping like flies due to the not so pleasant conditions today, so I should be thankful just to actually see a game.

There was no game in mind as I set off this morning, I was just going off the forecast that said the weather was "slightly better" down south, so it was down the M6 one headed. I stopped the car at that central point where the all the motorways meet just south of Birmingham and begin the arduous task of phoning around to see what had survived.

After around 25 minutes I eventually phoned Didcot Town, where to my delight they said there was no problems with the pitch and no inspection was planned as it was in great playable nick (that was spot on by the way). That was good enough for me. Ironically, just up the road both Banbury and Oxford United's games were called off, but this worked in Didcot's favour as it swelled the gate to over 500, double their average. Didcot Town now play at the (NPower) Loop Meadow, which celebrated being open a decade this year, having previously played at Station Road, near the railway, hence their nickname of The Railwaymen. They were playing Oxford City in a big local derby and what a treat they served up.

The game finished 4-4, aye 4-4!!

The game got of to a flying start with three goals in the first ten minutes. Jon Douglas headed Oxford City in front after two minutes. Didcot equalised from an Alex Stanley corner four minutes later as his kick was fired home by Mark Draycott (see below). After just ten minutes Phil John crossed the ball in from the right and Draycott was allowed a free header to put The Railway men 2-1 up. On 36 minutes Oxford won a free kick wide on the right which Steve Davis crossed in and went through the defence to the far post where Mark Janes finished from close range.

Mark Draycott then claimed his hat-trick on 75 minutes when he converted another Phil John cross. Five minutes later a long ball over the back four fell to Liam Malone who shrugged off a defender to force the ball home. All square again! However his joy was shortlived as three minutes later and he was sent off after the referee decided his tackle was worthy of a second yellow card. In the 89th minutes Lee Steele, looking suspiciously offside, chased a hopeful ball forward, reached it before onrushing 'Keeper Trott and rounded him to roll the ball into an empty net for what looked like the winner.

However deep into stoppage time the referee awarded Didcot a free kick on the edge of the area. The ball was fired hard into a packed goalmouth where it dropped to Phil John who took a touch and hit a low shot just inside the 'keepers right-hand post to claim a (deserved) share of the points. A real Christmas cracker indeed!

So this blog ends another (calendar) year of groundhopping. Merry Xmas and Here's to 2010, I sincerely hope it's a good one! :)


Mark Draycott fires home his first goal

Saturday 26th December 2009
Southern Premier League
Didcot Town 4-4 Oxford City
Attendance: 511

There was actually so much that went on in the game, i'm gonna post a link to a more in depth report so you can fill in the gaps so to speak http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/oxfordcityfc/?primary=senior&secondary=matchreports&team_id=1289&report_id=45210


It was a trip on the choo-choo train to Atherton today and a visit to Crilly Park, cue lots of Father Ted related puns and even a Father Jack look-a-like checking the tickets on the train. Crilly Park is actually named after Jack Crilly, a former Chairman of Atherton Laburnum Rovers who was instrumental in the development of the club in its early days. Today they were playing bottom of the table Abbey Hey

It was a bitterly cold day but the game was given the go ahead, however the pitch did look very, very heavy. Atherton have had quite a few postponements due to the recent heavy rain. Combine this with a sloping pitch and today looked like it was going to be a tough slog of a game.

Actually, the game proved to be an absolute corker and a fantastic advert for the North West Counties league. Abbey Hey, belying their lowly position, dominated the first half. Playing down the slope they attacked with pace and found themselves two goals up by the break. After 23 minutes John Hardy side footed home a cross and then, 6 minutes later, Daniel Cocks picked himself up, after being tripped in the box, to convert a penalty. Atherton rarely troubled Jon-Paul Lewis in the Abbey Hey goal and the visitors thoroughly deserved their interval lead.

Whatever Atherton manager Dave Hughes said at Half Time it certainly did the trick. After 52 minutes Louis Edwards fired home from close range to halve the deficit and the game became a real blood and thunder battle, with the tackles flying in, just staying on the right side of the law! Wayne Welbeck, younger brother of United's Danny, nearly made it 3-1 to Abbey Hey but his lob over the stranded 'keeper was cleared by a defender just as it was about to cross the line.

On 77 minutes substitute Jon Stephenson surged through the Abbey Hey defence and toe poked home to level the game. The match then could have gone either way but, in the last minute, Ashford Blake was played through and he cooly slotted past the advancing 'keeper to grab the three points for Atherton.

Saturday 12th December 2009
North West Counties Premier League
Atherton LR 3-2 Abbey Hey
Attendance: 44


Another trip north of the border, but this one had been planned well in advance. The only concern, like the previous few weeks, had been the rain, with lots of the wet stuff hitting the borders region overnight. The go ahead was given so it was the simple, but boring, journey up the M6 to Dumfries and Galloway.

Annan are enjoying only their second season in the Scottish League (having replaced Gretna in 2008) and are handily placed just outside the play-off zone (last season they just missed out when they failed to win any of their last five games). Queens Park as everyone knows are one of the most famous names in Scottish Football but find themselves in the bottom tier after losing in their relegation play off last season.

Galabank is a very compact ground with a stand down one side of the pitch and terracing down the other. The only cover is in the stand, which given the weather it was a good job I had my brolly with me!The pitch is pretty narrow, a point which has not been lost on the authorities as Annan have to widen this, which means a little of the terrace will be lost, but not until next season at least. Again, like previous weeks, the pitch looked in good condition but very heavy. There was actually another pitch inspection at 2pm (unbeknown to me) and it was 50/50 whether the game would go ahead but the referee gave the green light. Phew! Amazing what a bit of sand can do!!

The first half of game was not the best in all honesty and I thought my run of not witnessing a 0-0 this season was going to end today. That was until Mike Jack curled in a superb effort just a minute before half time to break the deadlock, arguably against the run of play. Prior to that both teams had chances but barely troubled the respective 'keepers, Queen's Park probably just edging the count. David Cox had Annan's best chance but he fired wide when one-on-one with the 'Keeper, whilst at the other end Queen's Park had an effort from Martin McBride that hit the crossbar, Michael Daly had the re-bound cleared off the line before Ryan Holms fired over. It wasn't long after that Jack hit his effort, proving the old adage...if you don't take your chances....

The second half was 11 minutes when The Spiders finally hit the target. Ryan Holms cut in from the wing and fired home past the despairing dive of Greg Kelly in the Athletic goal. Instead of this equaliser sparking the game into life, it had the opposite effect and the game just became a turgid midfield battle with plenty of endeavour, but very little creativity. The game was petering out into a bore draw when, with ten minutes left, an Annan corner was swung into the box and Bryan Gilfillan headed home unmarked at the far post. With four minutes remaining Doug Philstorey powered into the penalty area and was hauled down by Spiders 'keeper Peter Hamilton, who was lucky to be only yellow carded. Mike Jack dispatched the resulting penalty to give Annan the three points.

A very enjoyable trip today. We were given a very warm welcome from the officials at Galabank, the Chairman even namechecked us in the programme, which was a pleasant and very nice surprise. The day was complemented by a haggis supper from the Cafe Royal and a couple of real ales (Galloway Gold & Cranky Flannen) at the GBG recommended Blue Bell.

Looking forward to my next Scottish jaunt in January.


Saturday 5th December 2009
Scottish Football League Division Three
Annan Athletic 3-1 Queens Park
Attendance: 433