The journey to Fairford took me through Faringdon and then Lechlade, a lovely Cotswold town that reminds me of childhood holidays in the South of England. We would always set out from the Midlands at the break of dawn and stop in Lechlade for tea and breakfast cooked over a small camping stove. My memories are of a meadow next to the Thames, which at this point is not much more than a stream, with early morning mist hanging low over the surrounding fields. Enough of this reminiscing though. There are pressing non-league matters at hand.
Fairford Town's ground is at the end of a small lane, Cinder Lane, just off the main road into Fairford. Yes, it is the same Fairford where they have an annual air show. If you are driving to the ground you can pay your entrance fee without leaving your car, drive behind one of the goals and park up in a large field at the rear of the stadium.
The ground itself is nothing short of superb for a club that has not been higher than Step 5 in it's history. Along the Cinder Lane side of the ground there is a two-story clubhouse which incorporates the snack bar and also seems to have a pretty large function room. There is also a shallow covered seating area which has padded bench seats set into it and an open plan laundry area. Opposite this are two smallish covered seating stands and, separated by over half a pitch length, the dugouts.
It really is quite a unique stadium and is certainly up there rivalling Hardenhuish Park as my all-time favourite.
On to the game. Whether or not it was down to nerves, Fairford did not start the game like a team almost guaranteed the league title. Milton, to their credit, were making sure that no-one could say they were to make up the numbers and were giving as good as they got. However, neither side was finding any fluency in their passing and the game was a little scrappy.
As the game progressed Fairford did seem to shake off their initial edginess and gradually started to get on top without really making any serious threat on the Milton goal.
That was until the 20th minute. The home side won a corner on the left, which was half-cleared to the edge of the area. When a fierce drive came in, Milton keeper Craig Griffiths responded with a good stop only to see the ball fall to Fairford skipper Sam Ockwell who smashed it back into the net. 1-0.
This was the point where the majority of the large crowd expected the floodgates to open. However, it was not the case. Fairford certainly looked a lot less tense now, but Milton dug in and worked hard to keep Town at bay without ever really mounting a serious threat of their own.
Two minutes from half-time Fairford won another corner on their left. This time the cross was met by a firm Ockwell header that beat both the keeper and a defender on the line to make it 2-0.
Eleven minutes into the second half Fairford produced the best move of the game which culminated in them also putting the game, well and truly to bed. A slick passing move and a tremendous defence splitting pass found Lee Smith on left. He cut inside past a defender and then drilled the ball past Griffiths to make it 3-0.
Once again, credit must go to Milton United for not completely collapsing at this point. There were plenty of encouraging calls from their players, showing that they were determined not to let the score get embarrassing. They stood firm for a further eleven minutes before a loose ball across their own back line was easily picked off by Levi Cox. The striker was afforded a clean run through on goal and he beat Griffiths with some ease to make it 4-0.
This mistake actually seemed to bolster the resolve of United and, although a well beaten side, they held out well for the next 20 minutes. Then, with a couple of minutes left, Dan Reynolds rounded off a very good personal performance with a great run and shot from 20 yards which dipped over the keeper and went in off the under side of the bar. A spectacular and fitting end to the game. 5-0.
FT Fairford Town 5 Milton United 0. Congratulations to Fairford Town, Champions of the Hellenic Division One West.
Fairford Town - @fairfordtownfc
Milton United - @miltonunited