This was not the first time I had been to Clanfield's Radcot Road ground. In fact, I was there earlier this season to watch the local side take on Milton United in the Hellenic League. Neither was it the first time I had seen Hailey and Hanborough. I have seen Hailey twice before, a pre-season friendly at home to Bicester Town Colts last season (Two 100% Records In One Night) and the final of this very competition in 2019 when Hailey defeated Hollybush 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. (All Hail Hailey). I have only seen Hanborough once before, a 3-0 defeat at Cropredy in the 2019-20 Oxfordshire Senior League season (Crop Top).
Both sides are now playing in the Witney & District League structure and, this season, finished as the top two with Hailey taking the title by an eight point margin, their first league title since 2012 and their fourth in total. During the season Hailey beat their closest rivals twice. A 3-2 away win in September was followed up with a 3-0 win at the recreation Ground in February. Both sides have won this trophy on several occasions. Hailey are the current holders and, in fact, have won the last two competed tournaments (2020 was not played as far as I can see). In all they have won the ted Young Cup six times. Hanborough have won it three times, the most recent being in 2017. The winners of this game would face Stonesfield in the Final after they beat Milton-under-Wychwood 2-1 in the other semi. Let's hope I haven't made too many statistical errors for Mr Witney to correct :-).
No sooner had John written the teams up on the whiteboard than Hailey announced that they were going to make a change to their starting line-up when Cam Foster limped out of the warm-up. His place at right-back was taken by Kieran Fallon. Not too long after kick-off the early change score was evened up when Hanborough defender Peter Coombes was forced off through injury, to be replaced by Jonny Ayris.
The opening encounters were reasonably evenly matched although Hailey seemed to be first to settle and were holding sway possession-wise without unduly troubling Bennington in the Boro goal. However, it was Hanborough who engineered the first big moment of the game. A raking pass split the Hailey defence allowing Collins to get clear and drill home a low shot. Unfortunately for the Reds the assistant's flag had already gone up well before the ball hit the net. Five minutes later, with Hailey starting to get on top, Sam Wheeler was played in behind the Boro defence but blazed his effort high and wide. The next close call came on the 26th minute as Freddie Buckingham lofted a teasing free-kick into the Boro box, causing absolute chaos before a slight touch from Bennington saw the ball out for a corner. When that ball was played in Hailey came even closer as what looked to be a goalbound header was deflected over off one of their own players. A few minutes later, Nathan Kimber was put clean through but saw Bennington react well to save with his feet. The ball was now almost exclusively staying in the Boro half as Hailey looked to turn their territorial advantage into goals. Just past the half hour mark Sam Wheeler went on a run, bursting through the Boro defence and letting rip, only to see the ball deflected for another corner.
As the half drew to a close it looked as if Hailey had missed their opportunity. After being on top for a good part of the half, they found themselves being pushed back more in the final few minutes as Hanborough began to make inroads into the Hailey half. A good response from Boro after being on the back foot for quite some time, they showed that this game was far from over.
HT Hailey 0 Hanborough 0. A close game so far as would be expected of the top two in the league. Hailey certainly had the greater number of chances but Boro's defence has held out well.
That was it as far as most watching were concerned. There was no way back for Boro now but Hailey wanted to make absolutely certain and, on 84 minutes, they did exactly that. Again quick thinking was the order of the day. Hailey were awarded a free-kick close to the halfway line. Before Hanborough could set themselves the ball was lofted to the unmarked Nathan Kimber who checked inside before firing low and hard past Bennington. 3-0.
There was still just enough time for Buckingham to almost repeat his free-kick from a very similar position. This time, however, Bennington managed to get a fingertip to the ball, diverting it against the bar.
FT Hailey 3 Hanborough 0. Overall a comprehensive victory for Hailey. Once they got their noses in front it didn't feel as if they were going to let it slip. Three very good finishes, aided by some quick thinking, won the day.
Hailey: 1.Davies, 15. Fallon, 3. Wood(c), 2. Turner, 7. Wheeler, 17. Cormack, 8. O'Conner, 4. King, 13. Britnell, 11. Buckingham, 10. Kimber. Subs: 16. Fisher, 12, Bolly, 9. Evans, 14. Aust
Hanborough: 1. Bennington, 5. Haggie, 2. Austin, 12. Coombs, 3, Hobley, 7. Johnson, 6. Collins, 8. Ashley, 9. Morton, 16. Mays, 11. Rogers. Subs: 20. Loach, 10. Brookes, 4, Ayris
Ground Number: Re-Visit