Tilsley park is a large sports facility on the Northern outskirts of Abingdon, just off the A34. The complex has an abundance of multi-sport pitches and is the base for Abingdon Hockey Club and Abingdon Athletics Club amongst others. There is a large car park in the centre of the facility, making it a short walk to any of the sports locations. The main stadium, which is where Procision play their games, is an artificial surface surrounded by a running track, with a large covered seating stand running the full length of the pitch on the car park side.
The complex is a superb sports facility for the town. It's not my ideal football location because supporters are a long way from the action, separated by the running track and, regardless of the financial benefits, I am still not the greatest fan of artificial playing surfaces. Having said that, I understand the need for clubs to play on 3G/4G pitches and I guess at times we are all grateful when games can be played even when a lot of grass pitches are waterlogged. Of course, with the Olympics still in full flow, it was somewhat apt to be at a match with a running track surrounding the pitch.
In many ways this has been one of the more difficult blogs to research and write. Before the game I knew very little about either of these teams and, to be honest, I am still not much clearer. Procision Oxford are part of the Procision Football Academy is about to celebrate 10 years, having been founded in 2012. The academy, which provides football development and education, has a number of sites across the South of England and have links to local non-league teams in each of the areas they serve. The teams compete in various cups and regional leagues in each area.
As far as the Faringdon Thursday Cup is concerned, I couldn't see if Procision had entered before but I could see from the cup website, that they had definitely not reached a Final in the past. On the other hand, Saxton Rovers, who play in the North Berks League, do have something of a Thursday Cup pedigree. They have won the competition on five occasions, the first in 2003-04 and most recently in the 2018-19 season. One little bit of Thursday Cup trivia about Saxton Rovers, they have never lost a Final in this competition.
This game was something of a local derby with under 2.5 miles separating Tilsley Park from Saxton's Caldecott Recreation Ground home in the South of Abingdon.
Once again this tournament does not use team sheets. Therefore I was restricted to numbers and names picked up from Twitter. As always, I am more than happy to make retrospective edits if I get sent names and corrections.
The game began with Procision pinging the ball around as you would expect from an academy team, with plenty of one and two touch moves, using the artificial surface to their advantage. Saxton really struggled to get a hold on the game at all in the opening minutes and you felt it was only a matter of time before the home side made their possession dominance pay off. However, we had to wait until the 16th minute for that to happen and, when it did, it came from a Rovers mistake rather than Procision precision. A loose pass inside the Rovers half gifted possession to Oxford's Connor Barrett who rounded the keeper with ease and slotted home for 1-0. An absolute gift from Rovers.
Only a minute later Procision should have made it two when, after a break up their left, an initial effort was blocked but the ball fell straight to Procision's Josh Hedges on the edge of the 6-yard box with the goal gaping. Unfortunately for him he could not control his volley, putting the ball over the bar.
It was all Procision at this point. Saxton players were working hard to get a foothold but not making any inroads into the Oxford half. The home side was putting together some excellent build-up play but lacked a a threat in the final third either through a sloppy final pass or from through balls running away from the strikers on the zippy surface.
Gradually Saxton were gaining some ground in the game and, as we approached half-time, were unlucky not to equalise. A shot from outside the box took a heavy deflection, wrong-footing the home keeper. He managed to get something on the shot but could only deflect it into the path of Saxton's Number 4 who had followed in. He put the ball into the net only for the assistant on the far side to flag for offside.
HT Procision Oxford 1 Saxton Rovers 0. The home side played some delightful football in the first two-thirds but could not find an end product. The goal they did score, ironically, was from a defensive mistake. Saxton struggled to find a way into the game but, as the half drew on, they definitely started to make an impression. It could be an interesting contest in the second half.
A superb start to the second half for Procision. After Saxton had started to come back into the game towards the end of the first half, the home side clinically dealt with the threat.
Saxton, however, have been around too long to just sit back and take defeat. Two minutes after going three down they sprang back into life. Some hesitancy at the back allowed their Number 15 to nip in between defender and goalkeeper only to see his shot go narrowly wide. A warning for Procision which they did not heed. With 67 minutes on the clock the same Saxton player, Number 15, picked the ball up just outside the box. He wasn't closed down quickly enough allowing him time to drill a fine effort, low past the keeper's left hand. 3-1
The goal further sparked the away side's interest. Ten minutes later they came very close to reducing the deficit to one goal but a sharp save from the keeper and a great clearing header form the rebound shot saved the day. That proved to be Saxton's undoing as Procision went back up the other end and scored the goal of the game to put the game to bed. Once again it was a goal forged down the left. the ball was then squared to the centre of the box before being played out to the right again where Lucas Harry was coming in off the wing. He produced a sumptuous finish, drilling a shot back past the keeper into the top corner. 4-1
FT Procision Oxford 4 Saxton Rovers 1. In all honesty, the two quickfire goals at the start of the second half finished the game as a contest. However, Saxton never gave up on the game and, if they had managed to grab a second straight after pulling one back, it could have been a very different last 15 minutes.
Procision will now play Stanford in the Vale at Stanford on Thursday 12th August 6.30pm in the Quarter-Final.
Ground Number: 273