Heyford play their games at the King George's Field in Lower Heyford. There is limited parking at the ground, accessed via Mill Lane, and alongside the pitch. Beware that there is quite limited parking nearby as the ground is in the centre of the old, picturesque village, not designed for modern traffic. The club recently (in the past couple of years) has built a great new clubhouse (currently closed, of course) which sits at the entrance to the ground. The pitch is at the lower end of the playing field and does have a slope, from the Freehold Street side down towards the canal and also from the top right corner as you look from the clubhouse. Bordered by trees behind and on the canal side, the Mill Lane goal end is backed by the clubhouse and a children's play area. The club has invested in roll-out dugouts, very useful on a day when the weather was atrocious. Although, the away one did get caught by a couple of gusts and moved backwards a yard or so at one point. The pitch itself, although on a slope. looked to be in pretty good condition. All in all, a nice setup.
This was a Bateman Sports Presidents Challenge Cup last 16 game, as opposed to the Chairman's Challenge Cup which, I believe runs each year. The last 16 in this case also being Round 1. I'm sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, but it seems this competition may have sprung up to provide a little more football after he season was aborted. If I am wrong, and there have been previous competitions, please can someone tell me where to find the history? Both of these sides had only managed to play four games in their respective league seasons. Malvern sat in third spot at the close, five point off the leaders but with to games in hand after winning three and drawing one. Athletic meanwhile were et cursing their luck after winning all four of their game and topping their division. The prospect was for a close game this afternoon.
Although the rain had slowed a little towards kick-off, the wind was still gusting and causing havoc. Just ask the local who had turned up with his own chair and umbrella. He soon gave up on the brolly after it got turned inside out for the third time. Great effort with the chair though. I wish I had thought of it (note to self, put a fold up chair in the boot).
The first big chance of the game fell to Heyford quite early on, but the close range effort was well turned over the bar by the visiting goalkeeper. In fact, it was Heyford who seemed to have settled quicker and mastered the conditions better. Which is why it was something of a surprise when they fell behind. A somewhat fortuitous goal when Malvern's Jack Cullity decided to try his luck from outside the box and to the right of centre. He dragged his effort which evaded everyone but fell very kindly into the path of Jack Davies on the back post, who fired home from close range giving the Athletic keeper no chance. 0-1.
Heyford really were not helping their cause by getting caught offside time after time. These decisions can always be a bone of contention in games where a member of each team is running the line. Athletic started to get a bit annoyed at the constant flagging. From my position on the opposite side of the pitch, it was impossible to tell how close they were, but the referee seemed happy enough with the decisions and to be fair, the Heyford complaints were fairly muted.
In the latter stages of the half there was a strange incident near the dugouts where an altercation seemed to break out between the Malvern coach and a Heyford player. No idea what started it and it got no further than some raised voices and a yellow card for a member of the home squad.
The constant offsides cost Athletic dearly on 44 minutes when they got the ball in the net, headed in at the far post from a left-wing free-kick. However, the flag was already up and, again, there was no complaint from Heyford.
HT Heyford Athletic 0 Malvern Town Development 1. Not a lot to choose between the sides. The conditions certainly not helping either team. One or two bits of niggle were creeping in towards the end of the half which the referee would need to keep a lid on in to stop it boiling over.
Heyford started to turn the screw more and more as the half wore on, with their visitors, who only had a single substitute in the squad, starting to tire a little. Then, just when it looked as if their efforts would go unrewarded they finally made the breakthrough. A cross from the right travelled through the Town 18 yard box, eventually finding the home number 15 who steadied himself and fired a crisp drive back past the keeper to make it 1-1. A very clean strike and deserved equaliser for Heyford based on their second half display.
However, the drama was not over. Just as I was trying to work out if the game would go to extra-time or straight to penalties, Malvern won free-kick some 25 yards out and fairly central. Cullity, who's mis-directed strike had led to the first goal, certainly did not fluff this effort. He struck it superbly over the wall and into the top corner of the Athletic net. 1-2. Almost as soon as the ball hit the net the referee blew for the end of the game. It was, literally, the last kick.
FT Heyford Athletic 1 Malvern Town Development 2. A cruel way to lose for the home team who, on the balance of play, probably deserved to win the game. Having said that, you cannot argue with the quality of the strike that won it for Malvern. They now go on to play Hungerford Town Swifts, who had walkover awarded in their tie against Headington Amateurs, in the Quarter-Final.
Swindon Supermarine Development 2 Kintbury Rangers 3
Newent Town Reserves 3 Cricklade Town Reserves 8
Yately Town 7 Wallingford Ton Reserves 1
Chinnor 3 Abingdon United Development 2
Cove U23 5 Holmer Green Development 3
Chalfont Wasps 2 Hazlemere Sports 2 (4-5 pens)
Ground Number: 262