Just for a change, this blog is featuring monochrome photos for no other reason than that I quite liked them.
Southam's new ground is literally a long goal-kick away from their old Banbury Road home. The new facility includes a large two story building which incorporates the clubhouse, snack bar and changing facilities as well as ample car parking facilities. The club wants to use the new stadium as a focal point to create a very much community focused facility, developing football from junior to senior levels. I also noticed a Wildcats poster at the ground. As a girl's football coach myself, this is great to see. The more clubs do to promote the girl's game, the better in my eyes. The new stadium will be known as Bobby Hancocks Park in memory of the club's most prolific player and servant. Mr Hancocks, or Mr Southam as he is fondly known, served the club for over 50 years in pretty much every capacity you could think if. He is the club's record appearance holder and the club's record scorer. The exact number of goals he scored is not recorded but it is acknowledged that the total is well above 1,000. He also once scored 85 in a season. An incredible servant to Southam United and non-league football. Sadly Mr Hancocks passed away in 2017 but his name will live on at the new ground.
As I have seen at every ground I have been to since the resumption of play, Covid measures were in place. Track & trace was either manual or through the app and QR code. There was hand sanitiser available and signs on the toilets to ensure only one person entered at any time.
Entrance to the ground was via a gate at the rear of the clubhouse. Southam do not currently charge for entry but they did have a donation box set up at the track & trace station. It was good to see a decent sized crowd and what appeared to be a fairly sizeable donation in the pot.
Both sides were coming into the game on the back of good starts to the season. Thame were sitting in second place, two points behind leaders Heyford Athletic but having played a game more. Southam were a number of places lower in the table but, after only playing two games, were boasting a 100% record after recording 4-3 wins in both of their opening games. Clearly the team were continuing from their form prior to last season's untimely end when they headed the table and had won 16 of their 17 league games before Lockdown 1.
The game started off at a frantic pace with both sides seemingly anxious to make their mark on the match and we didn't have to wait too long for the opening goal. It was the visitors who took the initiative when Dan West controlled the ball, turned sharply and rifled an effort past Edward Cox in the Southam goal. 0-1.
The goal served to increase the confidence of Thame and with Southam struggling to get a grip on the game, the home side were thankful to their keeper on a couple of occasions with one flying save, in particular, drawing applause from the local support.
At the other end debutant Thame keeper George Collingwood did not have many saves to make, although he was very sharply off his line to block the home side's best chance of the half when Steele threatened.
It was Collingwood's long kicks that were launching a number of the visitors' attacks too. Each time he kicked the ball out of his hands he was getting very close to the edge of his box, so much so that a group of home supporters, who had already had some light-hearted banter with the keeper, told the referee to keep an eye on him. The referee duly obliged but, to be fair, he was still easily reaching well inside the Southam half with his kicks even without the extra step outside the box.
HT Southam United 0 Thame United Reserves 1. Thame the more fluent of the two sides. Southam struggled to get any rhythm in their game.
Southam were still struggling to get into the game. Way too many passes were missing their target and Collingwood wasn't having to do too much at all. Although he did have to turn one long range effort over the bar. It was a decent enough save but definitely one for the cameras.
Just when it was beginning to look as if the early Thame goal was going to be enough to win it, Southam snatched an equaliser out of the blue. A long ball up the middle seemed to be misjudged by the defender allowing Levi Steele to run onto it and calmly slot past Collingwood. 1-1. Within a minute of the restart Thame almost it straight back when Davis intercepted a Southam pass, looked up and tried his luck from near on the halfway line. Cox was beaten but the audacious effort just cleared the bar. It would have been a wonderful goal, Beckhamesque was the word I used on Twitter.
The equaliser certainly stirred Southam and, as we approached the final minutes, and for a while they did start to offer quite a bit more than they had earlier in the game. Unfortunately, after Brandon Hallmark was sin binned for, I think comments made to the referee, they had to hang on for the final few minutes. Even so, neither side could find a winner before the referee blew for the end of the game.
FT Southam United 1 Thame United Reserves 1. A good point for both teams in the end. Thame will no doubt feel they should have won the game, especially as the home keeper was undoubtedly man of the match. Overall though, they were two fairly evenly matched sides, both of which will be closer to the top than the bottom of the table come May, in my opinion.
Southam United: Cox, Lenihan, Tennent, Harris, Hallmark, Locklin, Ethan Champkins, Ellis Champkins, Steele, S.Barby, Okolo. Subs: Long, Otunji, Trinoi, Hartwell, Knights, R.Barby
Thame United Reserves: Collingwood, Hurley, Russeu, M.West, Johnston, Sturgess, Lynch, Davis, D.West, Pykett, Casey
Ground Number: 251