Despite only being a few miles away, it has been 10 years since I visited Banbury United. In fact, it was only the second blog I put together for BotP. Back in those days they weren't so much blogs as short ramblings (this one doesn't even mention the score. Spencer Stadium). Things have moved on at both Banbury United and at BotP, hopefully for the better in both cases.
I was clearly overdue a re-visit to the next stop on the M40 and what better opportunity than the Banbury & District Coronation Cup Final between Longford park and Wroxton Sports? Longford's Ash Wingrove had contacted a few weeks ago after I covered their game at Deddington Town (Longford Cant End Park Run), reminding me that they were through to their first cup final. I had also seen Wroxton play before, a superb 8-3 win at Hardwick back in October 2021 (Sports 100% Beaten By Sports). Oddly, I've not seen either of them at home, despite both being in my to-visit list. I must address that next season.
Although this was a re-visit, the details on that original blog are very sparse and, of course, 10 years out of date. Banbury have gained promotion into the National League North since my visit and have made changes to what is now called The Banbury Plant Hire Stadium but will always be the Spencer Stadium to me.
Tucked away down a service road that runs alongside Banbury train station, it's still not the easiest ground to find if you haven't been there before. However, once you do get onto the correct road and past the myriad of speed bumps, you'll find a very good-sized car park directly outside the stadium. Turnstile access takes you from the car park into the stadium, close to the halfway line. Unlike many of the grounds I visit these days, Spencer Stadium is blessed with plenty of spectator cover. In fact, all four sides of the ground has some kind of covered stand. Immediately to your right when you enter is the main stand, the John Nicholls Stand. On the opposite side of the ground, but towards the left-hand goal is another, much newer, covered seating stand. Between them they provide seats for 250 spectators. There is covered standing behind both goals. To the left as you enter there is a small structure, The Puritan Radio Stand, directly behind the goal. Covered standing runs pretty much the full width behind the opposite goal. This structure has been here a while. Painted the club colours of yellow and red, there are Banbury flags and signs placed all along the back wall. In the corner nearest the John Nichols Stand there is also Ann's Tea Bar.
When I first visited Spencer Stadium I said that it was 'proper football ground'. I stand by that statement. It's a gem of a facility that has plenty of modern features, but also manages to capture a bucket load of history and atmosphere. Well worth a visit.
Banbury District & Lord Jersey League Coronation Cup was first staged in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. The early years of the competition were dominated by Bodicote who won seven of the first nine finals, only punctuated by Adderbury in 1955 and Fenny Compton in 1959. Ruscote Sports (who I believe are now no longer around) have the most wins with 8, although if you were to add together Bodicote (6) and Bodicote Sports (5), they could lay claim to being the most prolific team. Just behind Ruscote is Sinclair United who have won on 7 occasions. More recently, Bishops Itchington have been the most common name for the engraver. However, this season, whatever the result in the final, there would be a new name on the trophy.
There are four rounds leading up to the final. In Round 1 Longford Park received a bye whilst Wroxton defeated Bodicote 2-0. The Second Round saw Longford see of Broughton & Newington 3-1 whilst Wroxton went through by means of a home walkover against Arncott Athletic. On to the Quarter-Finals where both sides had convincing victories, Longford beating Steeple Aston 5-2 and Wroxtion disposing of Kings Sutton by a 3-0 score line. Both Semi-Finals were all together closer affairs. Longford Park were held 1-1 by Hardwick Sports before going through 4-3 on penalties. Wroxton triumphed via a hard-fought 1-0 win at Graven Hill.
As a pointer to the way the Final might go, the sides have already met three times this season, twice in the league and once in the Lord Jersey Cup Quarter-Final. The Cup game was a feisty affair in which Longford Park eventual went through 2-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Park also saw Niall Higgins and Nicolas Richardson see red in the game. The first league meeting came on the opening day and ended in a resounding home win for Wroxton. Ibrahima Gueye (the first of 21 over the season), Ousseynou Gueye Ndome, James Nash and Haruha Konateh scoring the goals. The league game at Croughton Playing Fields ended 0-0. Of course, we also have to take into account and congratulate Wroxton Sports for winning the league this season, only losing a single match and going unbeaten on their travels. Some achievement.
There was decent crowd in the Spencer by the time the teams took to the field, Longford in yellow and black, Wroxton in orange and black. You could say this was something of a local derby but that could to pretty much all of the games in the Banbury League. What was noticeable was that the Wroxton support was either larger or just more vocal than Longford's.
It was Wroxton who manufactured the first shot on target, Mohamed Gueye getting a shot off but it was a simple enough save for Jordan Reynolds Sports continued to move the ball around well, looking sharp up front and well disciplined at the back. They put together a lovely slick move on 10 minutes, some quickfire passing, culminating in the ball being slipped inside the full back for Foster, only for the winger to be flagged offside. However, this move displayed the problems that the Wroxton attack was causing Longford.
Park finally got an attempt on target after 20 minutes when a deep cross found Paul Davies at the far post, but he could only plant his header into the arms of Josh Breakspear. Wroxton immediately went up the other end and came very close themselves when Ibrahima Sewane-Gueye slid his effort wide of the post when he really should have hit the target. The end to end action continued two minutes later when Davies got a flick on a cross from the right, directing the ball into the feet of Ash Wingrove but a last ditch piece of defending got enough of a block on the ball to make it easy for Breakspear to gather. It was Longford's best chance so far, but they were made to pay for passing up the opportunity just a minute later. Wroxton broke again and this time Mohamed Gaye made no mistake with the finish, firing low into the corner of the net. 0-1.
Wroxton, buoyed by the goal, started to turn the screw at this point, looking to increase their advantage whilst on top. Ash Peacock let his frustrations get the better of him just before the half hour mark, picking up a yellow for what could, at best, be described as a robust challenge. The Sports player on the end of it may have used a different description. Then just past the 30 minute marker, Sewane-Gueye was played in on goal only for Reynolds to stand up well, making a great save to keep his team in it. Back at the other end Wingrove, who had been tightly marshalled, managed to make himself a yard and get off a decent effort that Breakspear was down sharply to save.
It looked as if Wroxton would go into the half-time break in front but, a minute into added time, Longford changed all of the half-time talks by snatching an equaliser. After winning a free-kick out on the right, some 35 yards out, the ball was played into the centre of the penalty area where Michael O'Carroll rose above everyone to power a header over Breakspear into the net. 1-1.
HT Longford Park 1 Wroxton Sports 1. Wroxton probably deserved to go in a goal up but let their guard down right at the end of the half. After going ahead, they had put Longford in a tough spot. They needed to press for the equaliser but were clearly worried about the pace of Wroxton on the break. The late goal changed the complexion of the game again. back to square one for both teams.
When we did get under way, it wasn't long before tempers flared a little. After a Wroxton attack had been clear, Longford scorer O'Carroll went down with an injury, presumably picked up when clearing the attack. I must admit, I didn't see what happened. However, O'Carroll was incensed by something and made his feeling knows to both the officials and some of the Wroxton players, before being replaced.
Play in the second period was much more even than the first. Longford seemed to have got to grips with the Wroxton attack more effectively and were causing some issues themselves, although neither Breakspear or Reynolds was called into serious action until after the hour mark. Just past that time, Wroxton had the ball in the net through Gaye, but the assistant's flag had gone up before he finished the move. At the other end Lewis Baker flashed a shot just wide, as both sides started to step up their efforts.
Longford had a very lucky escape in the 68th minute when, chasing back into the box, Nic Richardson slipped just as the cross was driven in. The ball appeared to hit his had as he fell. Definitely a 'seen them given' moment, but luckily for the defender the referee was unsighted and the assistant didn't seem to see it either, much to the ire of the Wroxton players.
Longford weren't hanging about to dispute the call though, they went up the other end and, a coupe of minutes later, had the ball in the net themselves when Davies challenged with the goalkeeper for a hanging ball. He swept in the loose ball and wheeled away in delight only for the referee to pull it back for a foul on the keeper. Longford disappointment lasted no more than four minutes though. This time a deep cross from the right found Davies and Danby climbing at the far post. From my vantage point at the far end of the ground, it was impossible to tell who got the final touch, but either way, the ball ended in Breakspear's net and Longford led the Final 2-1.
They say teams are at their most vulnerable straight after scoring. Well, in this case it was certainly true. Longford cheers had barely stopped resonating around the stadium when Wroxton hit back. It also came form their right flank. A deep cross was headed back across goal for Gaye to nudge the ball over the line from inside the 6-yard box. 2-2.
Longford were rocked by the equaliser, the pendulum had swung and it looked like Wroxton might go on to win the game. However, Longford steadied their ship, making some tactical substitutions, possibly in preparation for a penalty shootout. Having already beaten Sports on penalties this season, Longford seemed the happier of the two teams to see the game out. Having said that, Reilly Baldwin had a good go at a very late winner when he smashed a shot just over in added time. However, in the end, neither team could muster a third goal and we were heading straight to spot-kicks.
FT Longford Park 2 Wroxton Sports 2. The second half turned into a proper blood and thunder cup tie. Some crunching tackles, two disallowed goals, a few disagreements, and some great entertainment for the crowd. As I heard someone say as I was heading back to car park 'You can't knock that for three quid'.
It was hard to separate the teams, especially in the second half. The both gave it everything they had and there were some very tired legs out there toward the end.
Big responsibilities on the shoulders of the goalkeepers, Jordan Reynolds for Longford park and Josh Breakspear for Wroxton Sports. The penalty shoot-out went as follows (apologies if I got any names wrong. I was trying to Tweet as each kick was taken. More than happy to change them if necessary).
Longford Park - 2022/23 Coronation Cup Winners
Wroxton Sports: Breakspear, Gregory(c), Gueye-Ndome, Witton, Sanneh, Nash, Fall, I.Gaye, Sewane-Gueye, Foster, M.Gaye. Subs: Hartwell, Kimani, Sroda, Konateh, Johnson
Ground Number: Re-visit