Arriving at Waterside Park a good 20 minutes before the game it was clear to see that a larger than usual crowd had turned up. The car park attendant told me to find a spot anywhere but make sure I didn't block anyone in. Luckily there was a good spot right at the entrance which I quickly snapped up and made my way over to the ground. There was a short queue at the single turnstile and, a little disappointingly, they had already run out of programmes.
Waterside Park is a relatively new stadium, opened in 1992 but has managed to avoid the sterile feeling that some purpose built and new stadia suffer from. All of the facilities are on the car park side of the stadium. There is a single tier covered seating area which is part of an L shaped building that also houses the clubhouse, changing facilities, toilets and snack bar. There is a small covered standing area behind the goals to the left of the main stand and the dugouts are directly opposite the main stand. The rest of the ground is given to hard-standing.
The pitch looked to be in very good condition especially given the recent weather and the time of the season.
In front of close to 200 spectators, it was Kidlington who started the game the better of the two. The Greens created a couple of decent chances in the first 10 minutes but couldn't quite force the home keeper into action. Kidlington were playing some nice football, knocking the ball around well and completely dominating possession. Oddly though, their best chance in the opening 15 minutes came from a long ball which caught everyone out and allowed Odhiambo to get a run on the defence. As he was challenged he got a shot away but either the defender or keeper got a slight touch to deflect it wide for a corner. A few minutes later a ball across the box was just begging to be finished off but again the shot went wide. I was starting to wonder if Kidlington would regret missing these chances.
Just before the 25 minute mark there was an incident that didn't exactly change the course of the game but did change the pattern of the first half. As two players challenged for a ball in midfield the Thatcham player went down holding his face and the referee immediately blew for a foul. A brief melee followed with some of the home players and officials clearly incensed by what they had seen as a flailing elbow. The incident was less than 20 yards from my vantage point and I have to say, I thought it was a clear red card offence, as did a group of Kidlington supporters standing next to me. However, the referee didn't see it that way and, in fact, didn't even issue a yellow.
As I said, the incident changed the pattern of the game, certainly in the first half. Suddenly Thatcham got themselves going. They were no longer being pushed back by Kidlington and began to make some in-roads into the Kidlington half. Indeed, just 5 minutes later they had their best opportunity of the half but were thwarted by some quick thinking by the Kidlington keeper who was off his line quickly to clear the danger.
Clearly both sides had been fired up somewhat by the earlier incident and the remainder of the first half, a very tightly contested final 20 minutes, was littered with strong challenges both legal and illegal. We went in at half-time with the scores level at 0-0. Kidlington had definitely controlled the first 20 minutes but the rest of the half was pretty even and there was a prospect of a very good second half to come.
Just about on the hour mark came the second game-changing incident, this time leading to a goal for the away side. After some sustained Kidlington pressure a shot from Castle took a wicked deflection and fell right at the feet of striker Odhiambo. He quickly controlled it and fired the ball past the Thatcham keeper amidst vociferous appeals for handball from the Thatcham team and supporters. At the risk, once again, of sounding like a certain Premier League manager, I really didn't get a good look at the incident. What I can say is that the Thatcham players appealed immediately, before the ball hit the net, and the supporters closest to that end of the ground were also adamant that a hand was used. Nevertheless, the referee and his assistant, who should have had a good view, gave the goal and Kidlington had the lead.
To be honest, once the goal had gone in, my thoughts were that the game was done. Thatcham had showed no signs at all of having anything in their game that could trouble the Greens defence. They seemed to be heavily relying on long balls to their forwards who, even if they got a head to the balls, were not being supported by their midfield.
It was actually Kidlington who continued to press forward and look the more likely to get another, keeping Rackley, in the home goal, very busy. The Greens were having great success down their right side, the runs of Brooks into the right-hand channel were causing all sorts of problems for Thatcham. Particularly impressive, throughout the whole game, was Kidlington's right-back Lewis Brownhill (?, no programme I'm afraid) who in my opinion gave a man of the match performance both defensively and pushing forward to assist the midfield.
On 88 minutes Kidlington finally finished the game off when a clearance was charged down and the ball fell to Brooks to make no mistake.
There was still time for Kidlington to miss another chance when Brooks had a shot cleared off the line. Credit to the Thatcham defender for putting the effort in right up to the last seconds.
In the end though, it was Kidlington who took a very well-deserved there points back up the A34 , at least they would have done had it not been closed for roadworks.
Next up for Kidlington is another top of the table clash as the other title contenders, Flackwell Heath, visit Yarnton Road an Saturday. As for Thatcham, they need to pick themselves up for a visit to Brackley at the weekend. They can still console themselves with the fact that they are still top. The question is, for how long?
Thatcham Town - @thatcham_townfc
Kidlington - @kidlington_fc