It was a bit of a tough decision about which game to go to, especially as other local sides were in FA Cup action this afternoon, one of which I had to drive past to get to Horspath's ground. However, as I have said before. I mostly go to midweek games and, therefore, don't get too many chances to visit grounds that done't have floodlights. So, a Saturday game is a perfect opportunity to get to a ground that I may not have chance to visit again for some time.
Horspath play that the Horspath Athletics and Sports Ground, although their pitch is actually behind the athletics stadium and adjacent to Oxford Harlequins Rugby Club, who incidentally have a beautiful-looking, white-fenced artificial surface. No such luxury for Horspath. This is Step 7, remember. No covered areas required here. Just a pitch and a couple of dugouts. This is proper grassroots football. There are, however, some trees at the side of the pitch which, seeing as it rained non-stop for the entire game, was lucky if only to keep the rain off my phone's touch-screen.
Last season saw Cropredy rule the roost in both fixtures, winning 7-1 on their own ground and 4-1 at Horspath. With Cropredy going into the game unbeaten in three and Horspath with just one win in five, the omens pointed to an away win. However, you can never be too sure in football.
The goal seemed to wake up the visitors and, from that point onwards, they started to get a grip on the game.
After 22 minutes Cropredy's number 10 tried his luck from a free-kick some 25 yards out. Horspath's keeper did well to get a fingertip to it and put it over for a corner.
This was to be the first of three saves that the keeper would pull off against the same Cropredy player. The second came on 31 minutes when the Cropredy player was fed on the right hand side of the box. The keeper did very well to parry the effort and was then fortunate to see the rebound bundled just wide for a goal-kick.
HT Horspath 1 Cropredy 0. Horspath took advantage of a sluggish start from their opponents and got a little fortunate with the goal. However, since going a goal down it has been all Cropredy and only a couple of good save from the Horspath keeper has kept them in front.
In proper grassroots style, neither team left the pitch at half-time. Both team talks were conducted on the pitch, in the rain.
On the hour mark a Cropredy attack down the left saw the ball fly across the Horspath goal and come back off the upright to safety. Within a minute of coming so close to the equaliser, Cropredy fell foul to the ultimate sucker punch. In what was the home side's first real venture up-field in the second period, they broke down the right side and managed to produce a good cross which Paige was on the end of to slide his, and Horspath's, second goal. 2-0.
Cropredy's response was almost immediate. Two minutes after somehow managing to go two goals down, they hit back. The broke down their left wing and, when the cross was delivered, Jason Tillcock was in the right place to stroke the ball home. 2-1.
Cropredy then almost fell foul to another sucker-punch but this time their Number 15 was on hand to make a superb blocking tackle when it looked like Horspath were going to get a third goal.
From that point onward the pattern of the game resumed. Horspath were pushed backwards and Cropredy launched attack after attack.
On 77 minutes the Horspath keeper pulled off his third, and possibly, best stop from Cropredy's unfortunate Number 10. This time getting a fingertip to a drive effort to push it over the bar. Whatever the away side threw at Horspath, they just couldn't find an equaliser.
Then, with only a minute left on the clock, Horspath managed a rare foray into the Cropredy half and won a free-kick out on the right wing. The ball was floated into the box and Charlie Bishop rose highest to power in a header. 3-1, and game over. Cropredy managed to launch a couple more attacks but all to no avail.
FT Horspath 3 Cropredy 1. I spoke to Cropredy's keeper on the way off the pitch and he was as incredulous as I was that they had lost the game. He fully admitted responsibility for the first goal but had then spent much of the game as a distant observer and hadn't had a lot else to do apart from pick the ball out of the net twice more. Still, you have to credit Horspath. They were backed up in their own half for much of the game and yet went on to win 3-1. Their goalkeeper must take a lot of credit for a series of good saves but their defence also worked very hard throughout the game and they took their chances when they were presented. Something that Cropredy didn't seem to be able to do on the day.
Ground Number: 164
Programme: Not available