Town play at the Watlington Recreation Ground just outside the village on the North-Eastern perimeter on . There is a fair sized car park set back from the main road which is adjacent to a clubhouse in the Watlington Pavilion. I didn't go in but I saw people coming out with hot drinks, so I gather there are refreshments available. The pitch is situated alongside the main road with one of goals backing onto the service road leading to the pavilion. It is also possible to park just off the service road or, as I did, in the next street along, Love Lane, which has another entrance to the Recreation Ground through a small pathway. First view of the ground are very good. There are also many small-sided pitches and goals spread around the Recreation ground. The club offers football to all ages from 4+. Great to see a thriving community club like this. The playing area is surrounded by a white plastic barrier fence. There are dugouts on the main road side of the pitch and, given the recent weather, the pitch looked to be in fair shape (although, it did start to cut up later). All in all, a very tidy looking ground, well worth a visit.
Before the start of play Watlington sat at the top of the table on 32 points, two points clear of nearest rivals Woodcote but having played two more games. Holmer Green Dev. sat in 8th spot on 22 points but having played more games than anyone in the league (16). However, that didn't tell the whole story. Top they may be but Town had hit a slight wobble of late, losing 4-0 to Penn & Tylers Green reserves and drawing 1-1 with Chalfont Wasps in the last two home games. Holmer Green, in contrast, came to the game on the back of four wins in their last five games, including a 2-0 win over third placed Thame United A. Since Watlington re-joined the Hellenic structure in 2020, there have been two meeting between the sides, both won by Town. In last season's truncated campaign the sides had met in Watlington with the home side victorious by 3-2 and on the opening day of this season Watlington came back from Buckinghamshire with a 2-0 win courtesy of John Clarke and Adam Holloway goals.
It was a lively start from the visitors and a bit of a sluggish opening from Watlington. However, after a few minutes the home side seemed to get to grips with the conditions and the game which led to a much more even contest. Despite this, however, it is fair to say that when the opening goal came on 16 minutes it was slightly against the run of play. It went to the home side. Holmer Green lost the ball in midfield allowing Watlington's speedy Ashley Stevens to break down the right. His low cross evaded both defender and goalkeeper before finding Adam Holloway, unmarked, to slot into an unguarded net. 1-0
Watlington, buoyed by the goal, almost doubled their advantage a couple of minutes later. Once more it was a cross from the dangerous Stevens, this time right into the centre of the six yard box where a Holmer Green defender was forced to head the ball narrowly over his own bar under pressure from a Watlington striker.
Just before the half hour mark Holmer Green hit back with a little bit of luck on their side. A speculative shot from Jamie Mitchell squirmed out of the home keeper's grasp and, with multiple players from both sides lunging for it, the ball slid over the line. 1-1
As with Watlington earlier, the goal sparked Holmer Green into more action and they came close to taking the lead almost immediately. Only a combination of some good last ditch defending and a save from Ben Little kept out Green's Kudazi Chunga
HT Watlington Town 1 Holmer Green Dev. 1. A slow start from the home side but, once they got into their stride, the game was fairly even. Both sides noticeably grew in confidence immediately after scoring. The late downpour added to an an already wet pitch which became quite heavy in the centre. It could be a sapping second 45 minutes for both sides.
The visitor's joy did not last too long. Six minutes later the fourth goal of the game arrived. Ashley Stevens' low skidding effort catching out Jack Vaughan who couldn't get enough grip on the slippery surface to get across his goal and prevent the ball flashing into the corner of his net. 2-2.
Right on the hour mark Town were awarded a free-kick out on the left flanks after a long ball was chased down by Ben O'Connor. Green's keeper jack Vaughan sprinted out of his area but was a little too late, clattering the Town player and earning himself a yellow card in the process. Luckily O'Connor was soon on his feet after the heavy challenge. Vaughan's punishment was not over however because when the free-kick was played into the area a group of players challenged for it with the final touch coming off a defender. 3-2.
The action kept coming thick and fast. Two minutes later Holmer Green substitute Jethro Odumosu was completely taken out as he tried to weave his way into the box. The Green player made the mistake of immediately jumping up to confront his assailant, earning himself a yellow card that was to come back to haunt him shortly afterwards. I didn't see any card handed to the Watlington player which, considering the challenge, seemed a little odd. However, I was at the opposite end of the ground, so maybe it looked worse than it was?
The card did not affect the visitors too much and on 70 minutes they, once again, drew level. Centre-half Reece McKenzie climbing well to power home a header from a left-wing cross. 3-3.
Six minutes after regaining parity it seemed as if the visitors had shot themselves in the foot when Odumuso, chasing down the same player who had fouled him (I believe), got the tackle all wrong and received his second yellow. At this point most of the crowd would have put money on Town going on to win the game but the reduction in numbers did not seem to deter Holmer Green too much as both sides went for the winner.
It duly came in the last minute of normal time but not for the home side. Instead the game was won by a superb piece of individual skill from Green's Alex Dimitrijevic. Picking the ball up near the halfway line and out on the flank, the left-winger used his pace to outstrip his marker, driving for the by-line before stepping inside another defender and firing past Little from an acute angle. 3-4 and cue scenes from the Green players and bench.
Even in this game of twists and turns, there was never going to be enough time for Watlington to come back again before referee David Evans called an end to proceedings.
FT Watlington Town 3 Holmer Green Dev. 4. The first thing to be said is that the amount of effort expended by both teams was exemplary, especially given the conditions that worsened quite quickly after the first-half downpour. Both sides wanted to win the game. There was no sitting back, especially in the second half. When the visitors went down to 10, mine and a lot of other spectator's, money would have been on Watlington to go on and win the game. However, Holmer Green showed great resilience and determination to not just stay in the game but to find a winner themselves.
Once again though, massive congratulations to the Watlington staff for getting the game on in the first place. Best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season. If you want to catch either team in action soon, Watlington make the short journey to third-placed Thame United A on Tuesday evening, in what is a potential cracker of a game at The ASM Stadium. Then, on Friday evening at Watchet Lane, Holmer Green Dev. host Taplow United looking to continue their current winning streak, whilst Watlington welcome AFC Aldermaston Reserves to the recreation Ground.
Watlington Town: B.Little(c), Carrigan, J.Little, O'Connor, N.Little, Carter-Knight, Cox, Tyson, Burton, Holloway, Stevens. Subs: Butler, Saulter, Cavill, Selwood
Holmer Green Development: Vaughan, Page, Morgan, Ryll, McKenzie, Tyler, Mitchell, Dimitrijevic, While, Pepelyarski, Chunga. Subs: Odumosu, Limar, Barnes, Folker, Browne
Ground Number: 299