Easington's ground is only a stone's throw off Oxford Road, main route into Banbury, less than a mile as the crow flies from Banbury United's stadium. Addison Road is sandwiched between a housing estate and the local Catholic School, where extra parking is available if required. On this occasion, however, I managed to get a spot in the car park behind one of the goals.
The extrance gate, accessed from the car park, brings you into the ground right next to the clubhouse. Teh only other features are the dugouts and the main stand, both of which are to your right as you enter. There is what looks like a single dugout on the opposite side of the ground. A remnant of the past perhaps?
A big shout out at this point to the gentleman serving tea in the club house. I asked him if the club pinned the team sheets up anywhere. He replied that they didn't and that he had seen the home sheet but not the visitors sheet. Thinking nothing of it, I took my tea and wandered back outside in search of anyone carry what looked like an official sheet. A few minutes later the gent came back outside, found me, said that he had both team sheets, and let me take a snap of them both. Any hoppers or enthusiasts out there will know how helpful this is when watching two unfamiliar teams. So, thank you tea bar gent. It's gestures like this that make a massive impression on visitors. You are a credit to your club.
There was a stark contrast between the styles of the two sides. Headington very much wanted to play a short passing game with a measured and deliberate build-up. Easington were playing a far more direct style of football, getting the ball forward at the earliest opportunity. There is something to be said for both approaches. The Headington passing was very pleasing on the eye, apart from when they gave the ball away in dangerous positions. The Easington method, although maybe not as aesthetically pleasing, was still good to watch as a neutral and added to the entertainment on the night.
On the quarter-hour mark, Sports' direct approach almost paid dividends. A long kick from their keeper, Adam Rimmer, caught out the opposing defence allowing Lewars to just about beat the advancing keeper to the ball. However, the striker's lofted effort fell narrowly wide of the far post.
To their credit, Amateurs continued to play their passing game and, as the half progressed, started to get on top, at least in the possession stakes. However, despite all of their lovely build-up play, they seemed to lose their way every time they got near to the Easington penalty area. If they had been able to produce that final, killer, pass they may well have gone in level at half-time.
As it was, it was Easington who almost grabbed another goal before the break, calling Jenkins into action again and the blasting the rebound well over when it looked easier to hit the target.
HT Easington Sports 1 Headington Amateurs 0. Great stuff. Easington have created the better chances, converting one of them but Headington are playing some delightful football at times. It's very evenly poised. Let's hope for more of the same in the second half.
Five minutes into the second-half, I was just responding to a Tweet asking if I could see Headington getting back into the game. As I typed 'Definitely. They just need to find a final ball', Headington won a corner on the right. The ball was delivered to the back post where centre-half, Sam Gordon rose to power a header into the net. 1-1.
A few minutes later, and with their tails up, Amateurs won another corner from the right but this time could not convert it into a goal.
In what was increasingly becoming an end-to-end game, Easington won a free-kick on the left side, just on 65 minutes. When the ball eventually dropped to the far post, it was smashed off the Amateurs post by Aaron Donsanjh before flying away to safety. From my angle it looked like a really good opportunity missed but, as I commented on Twitter, it is very easy to make these observations from the sidelines and far more difficult when you are on the pitch.
Both sides proceeded to make chances in the second half as the play switched from one end of the pitch to the other. Nine minutes after the woodwork saved Headington, it came to the rescue of Sports when Peck tried one from outside the box. It beat the keeper all ends up but cannoned away off the bar. Easington then came even closer when Lewars burst through only to see Jenkins make a brilliant fingertip save to push the ball over the bar for a corner.
With five minutes to go and with the home side under a bit of pressure, they won the ball back and broke at pace. Substitute George Coombes received the ball with his back to goal, just inside the Headington half. The striker then laid the ball into the path of the onrushing Joe Eyres, who burst clear of the Headington defence and planted the ball past the keeper into the net. 2-1.
Somewhat harsh on Headington to concede so late on, but a very well worked goal, good vision from Coombes, and devastating pace from Eyres. The goal came very shortly after Headington had made a defensive change with Chase coming on and switching to left-back whilst Harris-Steele swapped over to right-back. Maybe they hadn't quite had time to sort out their new roles or maybe it was just the pace and precision of the Sports break?
Much to their credit, Headington didn't give up the game but, unfortunately for them, there was no way back for a second time.
FT Easington Sports 2 Headington Amateurs 1. A throughly entertaining game between two evenly matched and fully committed sides. As a neutral it was a shame that there had to be a loser. Easington stay in second place following Ardley's 2-0 win over North Leigh United. Next up for The Clan is a home game against Woodstock Town. Headington face a potentially tough away game at sixth-placed Pewsey Vale.
Easington Sports: Rimmer, Fitton, Grant, Rose (c), Hastie, Travers, Spaull, Hill, Lewars, Convey, Eyre. Subs: Montague, Lambert, Jeacock, Coombes, Smith
Headington Amateurs: Jenkins, Day, Harris-Steele, Benji Cuff (c), Gordon, Hafiz, Hill, Peck, Mawema, Jacob, Zaja. Subs: Chase, Ellis, Williams
Ground Number: 144
Programme: Included in admission