The Maroons play at St Joseph's College on Ocatal Way. I'd driven along this road numerous times before, normally on shopping trips to the Outlet Centre with my family, and never really taken any notice of the name. It was only today that I saw the twinning sign on the way into Swindon and realised that Ocatal is actually a town in Nicaragua. See. Following grassroots football can be educational as well as fun. The ground itself is fairly unremarkable, being part of the college sports grounds. It was, however, flat and looked to be a decent playing surface. The first thing I noticed when standing on the Ocatal Way side of the pitch were the four floodlights of The County Ground looming above the college buildings. It really is not much further than a long goal kick from the grounds. Seeing the County ground always reminds me of my days following West Brom home and away. One Saturday we experienced blazing sun, rain and then hail in the space of one game. Not much fun in an away end with no roof and with the majority of the Albion following in T-shirts. I have a feeling we lost the game too.
The sides had not met before today, but they had both come up against Nalgo Sports in earlier rounds of this competition, which maybe could give some indication of how the game would go? I had also had the pleasure of seeing both sides in action on a number of occasions in the last couple of months. This is how the two teams had got to today's Semi-Final (along with links to my blogs if they were games I attended):
Nalgo Sports 5-4 Swindon AFC (Only Ref In Swindon?)
Purton 3-1 Swindon AFC
Redhouse 3-1 Swindon AFC (Swindon Resistance Torpedoed By Subs)
Swindon finished bottom of a very tough group but had shown that they were more than capable of competing with teams from two divisions above, something they would prove beyond doubt in the Quarter-Final.
Last 16 - Swindon Centurions H-W Swindon AFC
Quarter-Final - Ludgershall Sports 0-4 Swindon AFC (Marooned)
Jovial Monk 10-0 Swindon Centurions (walkover score awarded)
Hatherop 2-2 Jovial Monk
Chesterton 5-1 Jovial Monk (Smith Makes Jovial Monk Frown)
The results meant that Jovial Monk finished third in the group, missing out on Cup qualification on goal difference to Hatherop.
Last 16 - Jovial Monk 1-1 Nalgo Sports (3-2 pens)
Quarter-Final - Siddington 1-5 Jovial Monk (Monks Get Winning Habit)
I arrived at the ground and saw a message from Shaun Smith, Jovial Monk's player-coach, sating that they had had a nightmare with the kit. They had been informed that Swindon played in yellow, which is also Jovial's home kit colour, and had had a lot of difficult sourcing a change kit. They had eventually managed to cobble together a set of white shirts and various shorts. However, they did not have numbers on all of the shirts, so the team sheet had a number of ways to identify players, shirt numbers and short numbers. Proper grassroots stuff. I love it. Thanks to Shaun for sending me a handwritten explanation of their team sheet. Thanks also to Swindon for DMing their team sheet to me. The is very much appreciated.
Both of these sides had come through the tournament wearing underdogs rosettes, seemingly relishing the opportunity to cause an upset. So, it was interesting in this game to see how Swindon would cope going into a match as the probable favourites (although I have to say, I would not have liked to put a wager on who would come out on top of this game). The answer to the question was immediate. Swindon clearly had a plan to take control of the game as early as they could, and they did. With only two minutes played they won a penalty. Tom Whitham stepped up but his spot-kick was well saved by Jesse Seward-Nice in the Monk goal. An early warning for Jovial Monk but Swindon were not down-heartened by the miss and continued to look the stronger side. Jovi were not able to get a foothold on the game with Swindon doing exactly what they had done to Ludgershall last week, stifling their opposition, stopping them for playing and then mounting attacks of their own.
Swindon were now on the prowl, looking to get back on level terms and Seward-Nice had to be on his toes in the final minute to tip a goal bound header over the bar.
HT Swindon AFC 1 Jovial Monk 2. Swindon edged it on possession and were really in control for the first 20 minutes or so. Then Jovial Monk hit them with two quick goals, but the late goal back for the Maroons gave them something to go at in the second half.
The away side still managed to hang on, even with 10 men and, to their credit, even made attacking substitutions at this point. They were clearly not going to go down without a fight. However, their cup run was finally extinguished in the 81st minute when Tom Whitham latched onto a loose ball and rammed his third and Swindon's fourth into the net. 4-2
FT Swindon AFC 4 Jovial Monk 2. Two penalties, six goals, a hat-trick and a sin-binning. Once more, as they have done throughout the tournament, these two sides produced a thoroughly entertaining game of football, played in good spirit for the entire 90 minutes.
Swindon will now take on the winner of next Wednesday's other Semi-Final between Stratton United and Kingswood Reserves, which will hopefully be the BotP game of the week. Jovial Monk will take heart from the fact that they already have a Cup Final line dup next Sunday when they take on Division One side Marios FC at Pewsey Vale in the Swindon Sunday League Chairman's Cup Final. Ko 10:30 if you fancy going along. I am sure all support would be greatly appreciated.
Swindon AFC: Miller, Buckingham, J.Sawyer, R.Cass(c), Carter, Good, Bradfield, R.Sawyer, Street, Whitham, Smith. Subs: Fisher, R.Cass, Wells
Jovial Monk: Seward-Nice, Dent, Pres, Heawood, Collett, Redford, Ali, Lennard, Sutton, Peachey-Score, Kearns
Ground Number: 267