Kintbury Rangers play their home games at The Recreation Ground, on the western edge of Kintbury and what a little gem it is. Accessed via a small driveway that services both the football ground and bowls club, there is a small car park behind one of the goals as well as parking on the grass down one side of the pitch. At the opposite end of the ground from the car park is a rather quaint looking building, somewhat reminiscent of the cottage at Craven Cottage, that houses the club house and other facilities.
There is one small, wooden covered standing area on the far side of the ground but what makes the ground different from most others is the fact that there is a dugout on either side of the pitch. Talk about keeping the benches apart.
The Wiltshire Senior League was all new to me before Tuesday evening, although I was familiar with some of the names from their days in the Hellenic League. This was the last league game for Wroughton and the penultimate one for Kintbury. Wroughton had already secured the league title, even if Kintbury were to win both remaining games. Kintbury's 1 point deduction for fielding an illegible player meant that they could not now catch their rivals. However, only the previous weekend, Rangers had beaten Wroughton 3-2 in the Senior Cup Final in what was, by all accounts, a tremendous game.
So, it was with some excitement that I ventured into Wiltshire on Tuesday night, hoping for a good match. I was not to be disappointed.
Kintbury, in their orange and black kit, made a blistering start to the game. Inside the first minute George Smith curled a delightful effort past the outstretched Wroughton keeper Callum Wilkinson, only to see his effort strike to post and fly to safety. Rangers had the bit between their teeth and only a superb reach from Wilkinson prevented Kintbury's number 9 from getting his name on the score sheet after little more than 2 minutes had passed.
Wroughton were rocking but, like true table-toppers, they gathered their wits quickly, stemming the home sidde's attacks and getting themselves back into the game. What followed, for the best part of the next half hour, was a fascinating encounter, interspersed with some, shall we say eccentric, officiating and a strange series of events surrounding a substitution. First of all, Kintbury decided to withdraw their number 11. Thee didn't seem to be a noticeable injury but the substitution came immediately after a Kintbury attack petered out when the aforementioned player failed to chase a loose ball because he was looking away from the play, looking somewhat disinterested. There was a brief exchange ebtween player and bench and then the player walked form the pitch, ignoring coaches and team mates before heading straight towards the changing rooms. Strange in itself (although maybe I misread the situation), but there was more to follow. Kintbury introduced substitute Chris Collin, waved on by the assistant on that side of the pitch.
One of the Kintubury players, seeing the the referee was apparently oblivious to the fact that they had made a substitution, pointed it out to him. The official then called the substitute over to the bench and, after having words with the coaching staff, booked Collin for entering the field of play without permission. All this despite the assistant apparently waving him on initially. Needless to say, the home bench was not happy with the officiating.
They were even more unhappy on 33 minutes when their defence allowed Aaron Maximen to rise, unchallenged, to head home a right-wing corner, making it 0-1.
The goal swung the action in favour of Wroughton who, seven minutes later, doubled their lead. Number 8 worked hard in midfield, winning the ball back and playing in Shane Hibbert who guided the ball past Kyle Clough to make it 0-2.
That was the end of the scoring in the opening 45 minutes, a first-half that, as a neutral, had passed in the blink of an eye.
HT Kintbury Rangers 0 Wroughton 2. Wroughton, after surviving an initial onslaught, were good value for their lead at the break.
Maybe they would have been better served to have concentrated on marshalling their team because, two minutes later the home side drew level. A right-wing corner causing chaos in the Wroughton six yard box and the ball being forced over the line amidst appeals for a foul on Wilkinson. The goal was givin immediately and credited to Rangers substitue Jake Rowe.
There was a brief lull in the action but, just past the hour mark Ali Thorp was sent clear for Rangers. He was hauled back by Craig Bowden for a second penalty. The Wroughton defender escaped with a yellow card when it could easily have been a red. Smith stepped up and clamly slotted away his second and Kintbury's third. 3-2 and the comeback was complete.
Wroughton tried to rally, Hibbert coming close but ot was Rangers who looked more likely to get a fourth. However, neither transpired and the referee drew a close to whta had been a thoroughly compelling encounter between two very good, competitive sides
FT Kintbury Rangers 3 Wroughton 2. Rangers won the battle but it was Wroughton left celebrating at the end, lifting the Wiltshire Senior League trophy for the third time and keeping up the recent pattern of these two sides alternating title wins.
As I said at the start of this blog, this was my first taste of the Wiltshire Senior League. On this evidence, it ceetainly won't be the last. I'll be tapping into this league for a number of games next season.
Kintbury Rangers: Clough, Lee, Williams, Thorne, Sopp, Pinto (c), Mahoney, A.Smith, A.Thorp, G.Smith, Way. Subs: Cox, Rowe, S.Thorp, Collin
Ground Number: 197