More of that to come later but, first of all, the background bit. My chosen game for this Thursday was a match up between Stadhampton FC, members of the Upper Thames Valley Sunday League, and Berinsfield FC Reserves who play in Division Three of the North Berks League. It's something of a local derby with the two villages only separated by just over 5 miles.
When last season was cut short, Staddy were sitting 10th of 13 in their league. Berinsfield were 4th of 12 in theirs.
Normally I try to make these blogs as much about local background, facts about the location or about the ground itself. However, with so much match action to cover, especially in the second half,this one is going to be an exception.
The Stadhampton pitch, on the village green in the heart of the village, is a lovely setting for a football match. Trees all down one side and plenty of open space on the other. A fair few from the village and from Berinsfield had come along to watch the game, taking advantage of the vast expanse of space on the green.
It was the visitors who started much the stronger of the two sides. In only the 3rd minute their number 4 attacked down the left flank, cut inside and curled an almost perfect effort around the keeper. I say almost perfect because, unfortunately for the striker, the ball struck the far post and flew to safety. A minute later Berinsfield were on the attack again, forcing a corner on the left. When the ball was delivered their number 10 rose highest but saw his header crash against the bar and again rebound to safety.
The visitors had their hosts and their woodwork shaking. However, this Staddy side is clearly made of stern stuff and they proceeded to battle their way into the game. In the case of their captain, maybe a little too vigorously as he was involved in a couple of challenges which led to a scuffle and a raised hand. He was asked by the referee to depart the pitch for a cool down, although a substitute was allowed to replace him. Two minutes later it all got a bit feisty again, as local derbies sometimes do. No cooling off offered this time though.
The extra bite in the game seemed to suit Stadhampton and, after their shaky opening few minutes, they started to take some control over the game. After 21 minutes they got a reward for their efforts. A free-kick, way out on the right flank, was swung in towards goal by their number 20. a number of players challenged for the ball although no-one got a touch. This was enough to completely deceive the keeper though and the ball sailed past everyone into the net. 1-0
Shortly after the goal we had another series of challenges that led to the referee asking the Berinsfield number 3 to take cooling off period. Again, a substitute was allowed.
That was the last major incident of the half, although the game flowed backwards and forwards, neither team took full control of the game.
HT Stadhampton 1 Berinsfield Reserves 0. Considering that Berinsfield started like a train, hitting the woodwork twice in the opening 4 minutes, Stadhampton came back well and deserved their half-time lead.
However, the wind was taken out of Berinsfield's sails after just 2 minutes of the second half when they failed to clear the ball which eventually found the feet of Staddy's Jake Spraggs who stabbed it past the keeper to make it 2-0. The home side were now on a roll, buzzing with confidence and taking the game to their opponents. After 53 minutes they made it 3-0 when a good move don the left culminated in a deep cross which was met by Jake Akril, who finished with some style.
Just short of the hour mark the home side were presented with an opportunity to make it four when a penalty was awarded for a trip on Akril. The nippy winger picked himself up to take the spot-kick but was disappointed to see the Berinsfield keeper make a good save
The stay of execution was short though. Five minutes past the hour a nice short corner move saw the ball delivered to Staddy's Max Wilkinson on the corner of the penalty area. He then unleashed a vicious drive that whistled into the far corner. 4-0
I was actually still tweeting the penalty incident when, almost straight from the kick-off, Steffen Thomas tried his luck from the halfway line, beating the keeper with a Beckham-esque effort (think Wimbledon 1996. Was it really that long ago?) 5-1
Maybe it as the thrill of the goal but, no sooner had play restarted than the referee was asking Thomas to leave the field for a cool down period after a foul on Berinsfield's impressive substitute (number 6). From the resulting free-kick, the fouled Berinsfield player rose at the far post and scored with a delightful header. 5-2 Once more, though, any signs of a comeback seemed to have been thwarted just 4 minutes later when Jake Spraggs was felled by the Berinsfield keeper. After Akril's miss earlier, it was Spraggs who stepped up this tine and made no mistake. 6-2
Berinsfield re-introduced their number 3 at this point (presumably sufficiently cooled off) and he made an almost immediate impact, breaking into the box and forcing a block from the home keeper. However, his persistence paid off when he managed to control the rebound and slot the ball under the keeper. 6-3
Yet another 4 minute gap elapsed until the next significant action, and it was another goal for the away side. A free-kick was lofted into the area where the visitors number 8 rose to glance a header into the net. 6-4. Could a comeback be on?
No is the answer and, oddly enough, it was yet another gap of 4 minutes before we got that answer. Stadhampton's nippy and tricky number 3, Jake Akril, had been causing more and more problems for Berinsfield as the game wore on and it was he who delivered the killer blow. His first and second efforts were blocked by a combination of a good save from the keeper and a goal-line clearance from a defender, but both were helpless to prevent the follow-up being driven past them into the net. 7-4
Just to add some garnish to his man of the match performance, in the last minute Akril then showed superb control to pull a long ball out of the air and take it in his stride up the left, he drove towards the box and slipped the ball under the advancing keeper. A very classy piece of play to round the game off and make it 8-4.
That's how it stayed.
FT Stadhampton 8 Berinsfield Reserves 4. Remember when it was 1-0 at half-time? The whole game was a pleasure to watch as a neutral observer but the second-half was something else. It's always a good sign when a game only feels like it lasts 10 minutes. Thanks to both Stadhampton and Berinsfield for supplying the action and best wishes to both teams in the coming season. Apologies for having to use numbers rather than names in places. If anyone wants to tell me the names, I will gladly edit them in later.
Ground Number: 237