Bradwell village has long since been enveloped by the sprawl of Milton Keynes. However, when you pull off the A5 and wind your way around a couple of side roads on to Abbey Road, you do indeed find something resembling an old English village. Bradwell Sports and Social club sits perched just above the playing fields which serve the village community. It encompasses the cricket club, tennis club, bowls club and, of course the local football club. There are two pitches, a nine-a-side pitch close to Abbey Road and the men's pitch at the far end of the playing field. The Abbey Road side of the ground is open because it also forms part of the cricket ground. The right-hand goal as you look from the clubhouse is backed by the tennis club and courts but the most interesting part of the ground is at the far side from the clubhouse. The West Coast Mainline runs past the ground raised on an embankment at this side of the ground. Below this sit the two dugouts, a brick construction with art work on both sides, a kingfisher design, and the rear, OBUFC written in a graffiti style. However, that's not all. When I first started walking down to the pith level I noticed a young lad heading towards the dugouts carrying a large net on a pole. It was then that I realised there was water running behind that side of the pitch, between the touchline and the railway line. The lad was clearly employed by the club to fish errant passes out of the water. Not quite the coracle man of the old Gay Meadow but a cut down equivalent for non-league. These are the little quirks that make non-league grounds such interesting places to visit in my opinion.
This was a Spartan South Midland Challenge Cup game between the home side, Old Bradwell United, who play in Division Two (Step 7) and currently lead the division by two points, up against Milton Keynes Irish, mid-table in the Premier League (Step 5).
United have been around since the 1920s and spent much of that time in local football, paying in the North Bucks League. They gained promotion into the South Midlands set-up in 1995. The club, it is fair to say, have not set the league alight but have steadily progressed over the years. Unfortunately, I also understand that they cannot get promoted to Step 6 even if they win the league, unless they leave the village, because permission to get their ground up to Step 6 standards has been apparently refused by the local council.
Milton Keynes Irish are a relatively new team in their current format, having been created in 2020 by a merger between MK Robins and Unite MK. Neither of these teams was very old either, MK Robins were Buckingham Town until 2019 and Unite were Wolverton Town until 2016. They are based at the Irish Centre in Bletchley making this a bit of a local derby with just over 7 miles separating the sides. The team has come a long way since featuring in the highest scoring game I have seen during the lifetime of my blog, a 3-16 home defeat to Olney Town in the Buckingham Charity Cup on the 5th January 2017 (Sixteen Goals For Three Quid).
Within 10 seconds of the game kicking off the lad with the net on a pole was already in action, fishing a clearance out of the stream. It was going to be a fairly busy day for him, not just fishing but retrieving wayward balls from all around the ground. He certainly earns his keep.
There really isn't too much to speak about in the game. In the first half it was fair to say that it was very difficult to notice two division's difference between the teams, a testament to the effort being put in by the home side. In Josh Douglas-Smith United have a striker who leads the line very well and is the sort of player that most defenders don't really like to face. He is happy to mix it with them and seems to revel in the ugly side of the game. I don't mean that in a bad way, he just seems to enjoy a battle. However, he was always going to have his work cut out against a very well drilled Irish back line.
Clear cut attempts at goal were at a premium as the ides effectively cancelled each other out.
The best chance of the half came in the 29th minute when Muzaffar Amoako tried his luck from the edge of the box only to see the ball come back off the bar and then for Liam Jahn to smother the follow up.
HT Old Bradwell United 0 Milton Keynes Irish 0. A half of very few chances but the Division Two side had acquitted themselves very well.
After the goal Bradwell tried to get themselves back on level terms but their case was not helped when Sam O'Neill got himself sin-binned for something he said to the referee in the 88th minute.
FT Old Bradwell United 0 Milton Keynes Irish 1. Not the most spectacular of games but interesting in its own way. Old Bradwell certainly showed why they are top of Division Two and did not look like a team two divisions below their opponents. In the second half, however, Irish showed their pedigree, controlling the game without ever looking as if they were going to run away with it.
Irish entertain third-placed Harpenden Town at the Irish Centre next Saturday whilst Old Bradwell are at home to Hale Leys in a Bucks/Berks Trophy game.
Old Bradwell United: Jahn, Deria, Bhasin, Butler, Ennis(c), Hack, Dewsall, Valentine, Pursey, Douglas-Smith, Bird. Subs: O'Neill, Cox, Keene, Bryce
Milton Keynes Irish: Taylor, Coyle, Amoako, Dummett, Ansah, Smyth, Filip, Lyon, Boland, Coleman, Lawless. Subs: Brooks, McDonald, Masumbuko
Ground Number: 289