In the gap since I last visited, I had forgotten how much I like WIllen Road. It's a fine example of a ground for this level of the pyramid. The clubhouse and changing facilities are outside the actual ground, which is accessed through a gap in the surrounding foliage (the pitch is pretty much bordered by a natural barrier of trees, bushes and hedges, supplemented with fencing where necessary).
As I approached the entrance, a stray ball from the warm-up flew over the hedge towards me. I trapped the ball, with a display of control that I rarely showed in my playing days,
before passing it back through the gap in the hedge. This drew the attention of the lady on the gate who jokingly pointed out that I might get a game at that rate. Unfortunately, I told her, I had forgotten to put my boots in the car.
visiting their team. This was even more noticeable on Tuesday as the guy who made me a very nice cup of tea was also doing the PA announcements.
This didn't seem to faze him, as he juggled cups, tea bags and team sheets. He even let me have the team sheets to snap (much easier than trying to write the teams down) while he served another customer. It's little things like this that make me love non-league football so much.
The Swans were coming into the game defending a 100% home record in the league and looking to go within a point of league leaders Leicester Nirvana, who were in FA Vase replay action. Daventry, after resigning from the NPL in 2016, won the UCL Division One title last season and looking all set to make a good fist of a second consecutive promotion season despite a 3-1 defeat to Harborough Town at the weekend.
It was the home side, maybe buoyed by their 3-0 at Kirby Muxloe on Saturday, who started quickest and, within three minutes they had taken an early lead. A free-kick from the right was delivered into the heart of the Daventry penalty box. Josh Winters rose highest to glance his header past Cerga and into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
The early goal sparked a response from Daventry and they immediately seemed to step it up a gear. The game was being played like a local derby. Tackles were flying in and scores were being settled all over the pitch and, despite the blustery conditions, there was a lot of good football on display.
With 25 minutes gone, Daventry conjured up the best move of the game. Some neat interplay in midfield led to Creaney being released down the right flank. His perfect, low, driven cross was met by Jake Bettles who made no mistake in firing the ball home. 1-1.
Daventry were now gaining the upper hand across the pitch and looking very dangerous when they pushed forward. They came very close to taking the lead after 38 minutes when a Jordan Orosz effort came back off Osbourne's bar with the keeper well beaten.
It looked like the sides would go into the break on an even keel, but Town had other ideas. A minute into injury time they won a free-kick, some way out on the right-hand side. The ball was delivered to the far post where Tom McGowan won the aerial battle to power the ball past Osbourne. 1-2.
HT. Newport Pagnell Town 1 Daventry Town 2. Newport Pagnell started very brightly but Daventry fought back well, and, by the end of the half, it was they who were looking the better side, fully deserving their lead.
The Swans were back out very early for the second half and started, as they did in the first half, firmly on the front foot. They had a golden opportunity to equalise when a good move, similar to Daventry's first goal, saw a cross from the right drop to Koriya inside the Daventry box. However, the conditions caused the ball to bobble causing the striker to hesitate long enough for a defender to get in a block.
They were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when, on 70 minutes, Orosz found Bettles who beat the offside trap, ran on and beat the keeper with some ease to make it 1-3.
The biggest surprise of the second half was that there was not a red card shown to any player, not that it was a dirty game by any means. However, the referee had brandished so many cards in first hour that it seemed only a matter of time before a mistimed tackle led to a second booking and an early bath for someone. Thankfully, this was not the case and we finished what was a highly entertaining game with a full complement of players.
FT Newport Pagnell Town 1 Daventry Town 3.
The Purple Army makes up ground on all above them and are now just two points adrift of tonight's opponents. They were made to work extremely hard against a very good Swans side. On this evidence, the UCL Premier could be a fascination promotion race this season. Leicester Nirvana may be out in front and unbeaten so far, but these two sides will, undoubtedly, be snapping at their heals all season. Add to that Desborough Town, who are only three points below Daventry, then throw in Deeping with a couple of games in hand, and it's anyone's guess at the top.