I have been to the Velocity Stadium on a number of previous occasions, back when it was a grass pitch and since it has been converted to 4G. I have seen Oxford City play there, I've been there as a coach (well, on the outside pitches anyway) and I have seen Long Crendon play there. The Long Crendon game, as it happens, was quite an important one in the club's history, the day they won the Hellenic League Division Two East title to gain promotion to Step 6 for the first time in May of 2019 (Crendon Cruise). The ground hasn't changed since my last visit. However, what I would like to point out was the welcome I received from the man on the turnstile who I later discovered was Long Crendon Vice-Chairman Gerald Reilly. We had a short chat about the weather, the game and artificial pitches. When I enquired about programmes he said there weren't any on the day but gave me a copy of the programme from the midweek Quarter-Final against Wycombe. During the game Mr Reilly converted from gate duties to ball boy (and was kept quite busy by the blustery conditions), and we had another chat at half-time. In my opinion he's one of non-league football's hidden heroes. Being on the gate he's the face of the club and certainly gave a very good impression, welcoming and friendly. Long Crendon have got themselves a good one there.
Long Crendon were coming into the game in fifth spot, two points adrift of Northampton Sileby Rangers but with a game in hand. The top two, Stotfold and Winslow United, are now probably too far ahead of the pack for them to be caught, but third place, currently occupied by Ampthill Town, is still definitely attainable for a number of teams. Burton Park Wanderers started the day at the opposite end of the table, second from bottom, four points above Irchester but eight adrift of third bottom Amersham Town. Long Crendon were unbeaten in the league since a 1-0 defeat at Buckingham Athletic on January 3rd, a run of five games in which they had won four. Wanderers ended a run of six straight defeats last Saturday when the beat Thame United Reserves 3-1 at Latimer Park.
The reverse fixture between the sides, played back in November, ended in a 5-1 win for Long Crendon in a game that saw Liam Brown see red for the Wanderers.
For a team on a good run, Long Crendon made a slow start to the game, something that their bench were well aware of judging by the shouts coming from their bench. However, they soon started to get their act together and forced the first real chance of the game in the 10th minute. The visitors keeper seemingly just doing enough to push an effort onto the post and grab the ball on the line.
Crendon took the lead in the 17th minute. A cross from the right was met by captain Oli Lethbridge. The Wanderers keeper did well to get down to it but parried the ball into the path of Keegan Simpson who made no mistake from inside the 6 yard box. 1-0
Seven minutes later, with Long Crendon now well in control of the game, they made it two. Once again the threat came from the right. This time a cross from Jack Wright was met by the head of Oli Lethbridge giving the keeper no chance. 2-0. The third goal didn't take long to arrive, just before the half hour mark in fact. A mistake in the visitor's defence put the ball on a plate for Harry Pettingell who rounded the keeper and slid the ball into the net. 3-0
HT Long Crendon 3 Burton Park Wanderers 0. With only two subs on the bench and no sign of any coaching staff, Burton park looked like a beaten team as soon as the first goal went in. Not too sure what is happening there. Do they have people out injured or isolating? A strange situation. Long Crendon probably feel they should have had a couple more goals. Sadly, from a neutral perspective, the game appears to be over as a contest. As I commented to Mr Reilly, unless there's a massive swing in the game it's just a case of how many Crendon want to score.
The home side found it difficult to get into their stride in the second half. Having the wind in their favour seemed to work against them rather than for them and whilst they were never really in danger of conceding a second goal, they also didn't look as if they were going to extend their lead. That was until the 77th minute when Scott Chappell drifted a lovely ball into the area for Oli Lethbridge to stoop and glance a header into the net. 4-1
FT Long Crendon 4 Burton Park Wanderers 1. The home side did the damage in the first half and then took their foot off the gas in the second. Credit to Burton Park though. They looked completely dead and buried at half-time and could easily have capitulated and shipped a lot of goals. Instead, they dug in, got themselves a goal, and made life more difficult for Long Crendon.
Long Crendon are in action again on Tuesday when they welcome Premier League high-flyers, and local rivals, Risborough Rangers to The Velocity. Then on Saturday Crendon make the journey to Bedford for a crucial league game against Bedford who are just two place and two points below them. This will be the first time they have met this season. Burton Park are back at Latimer Park where they face the visit of mid-table Langford. The reverse of this fixture was a narrow 2-1 win for Langford.
I'm still not the biggest fan of artificial surfaces but I have to say the pitch saved the day. This was the only fixture in the Division that beat the weather.
Long Crendon: Cullen, Wright, Simms, T.Lethbridge, Hall, Brownsword, Simpson, H.Pettingell, Hawkes, Chappell, O.Lethbridge(c). Subs: Diment, Shrimpton, Shaw, G.Ashworth, A.Pettingell
Burton Park Wanderers: Brown, Buchanan, Duncan, Fitzjohn, Frankcam, Greene, Lee, Romain, Sykes. Subs: Johnson, Prior
Ground Number: Re-Visit