As the majority of my game opportunities are in midweek, I like to get to grounds without floodlights when I get out and about on a Saturday. Recently I have been to a few Oxfordshire Senior League games and have been impressed with the football and the passion of the people who operate the clubs in the league. This weekend my chosen venue was Boults Lane, home of Marston Saints, where the locals were scheduled to take on neighbours Horspath,, the first OSL club that I had visited when I saw them entertain Cropredy back in September (Match Blog: Funny Old Game)
The sides had already met back in December, when they had fought out a 1-1 draw, but at this stage of the season, this game was very much a must win for the home team. Still in with a very slim chance of going for the title, they needed to take as many points as possible in their remaining games whilst hoping that a couple of the teams around them slipped up.
A mix up in kits led to Horspath wearing their change kit of red. Unfortunately, this clashed with Marstons normal kit so they were forced to play in the local Sunday kit, a delightful shade of salmon pink. To be fair, some of the players carried it off well. Some were clearly not so keen.
Horspath responded well to the early scare and, after 14 minutes, created a great chance to take the lead. Unfortunately for them, they could not accept it and game remained goalless.
There was a lot of ebb and flow about the game. Both sides posed some threat but it was Saints who continued to look the most likely top open the scoring. They came very close after 26 minutes but, again, could not take what was probably the best chance of the game so far.
They did, however, manage to take the lead after 41 minutes through some individual brilliance down the left flank. A driving run beat a few Horspath players for power and pace. It was followed up with a stinging shot that Clarke did well to parry. Unfortunately for the Horspath keeper the ball fell invitingly for a Saints striker Carly Bloomfield to send it back past him and into the net. 1-0
HT Marston Saints 1 Horspath 0. The home side deserved their slender lead but the game was clearly far from over.
They flew out of the blocks after the break. Only a minute had passed when they forced a mistake in the home defence, winning the ball back inside their opponents penalty area. A rash challenge saw the visiting striker hit the deck giving the referee little option than to point to the spot. The home support were not best pleased with the decision and, as a neutral I have to say it looked soft, but from where the referee was it would have been hard for him not to have given the benefit to the striker. The calls for VAR from the sidelines raised some smiles. Horspath's Dean Boyles stepped up and duly slotted the spot-kick home. 1-1
The visitors were on the march now and Saints were finding it difficult to get a grip on the game since half-time. We were only 8 minutes into the second period when the away side completed the turnaround with a second goal from Jayden Davies to make it 1-2.
Their jubilation did not last long as a breathless second-half continued to produce goals. This time Horspath's Jonny Roberts burst through the Saints defensive ranks before lifting a delightful finish over Jenkins for what was for me the goal of the game. 2-3.
We weren't done there though. Saints rallied again and after 75 minutes were handed an opportunity to get back on level terms again when they were awarded a penalty of their own. Ben Green stepped up and clinically beat Clarke to make it 3-3.
FT Marston Saints 3 Horspath 3. A great game to watch as a neutral. On the day, two well matched sides who played the match in the true spirit of the game. Another one of my OSL title chase run-in predictions bites the dust. It's a good job I'm not a betting man. I'd be bankrupt by now.
For any ground-hoppers out there, Marston is a great place to visit. You'll be sure of a warm welcome. They have a clubhouse (a rarity at this level) and are a genuinely friendly bunch of people. Next time, I'm staying for a curry afterwards. Gutted I missed out. The good news is that the little 'un came back with a couple more trophies to add to her collection. So, a good day all round.
Martson Saints: Jenkins, Day, Thomas, B. Cuff, Cardle, Jacob, Green, Hafiz, L. Cuff, Bloomfield, Holton. Subs: Harris, Sharvey, Forbes, Hudson
Horspath: Clarke, Gordon, Chase, McMahon, Buttnall, Foley, Hogg, Davies, Boyles, Thomas. Subs: Smith, Munt, Lowe, Reid
Ground Number: 189