Bodicote Sports play their home games at The Bodicote Sports Ground, just off the A4260. In this day and age the ground is probably, unfortunately, familiar to a lot of locals because it is opposite Cherwell & District Council offices which are also used as a Covid testing centre. There is parking available at the ground and alongside it, on White Post Road. There is also a new, large, car park just on the junction of White Post Road and Blackwell Drive, effectively behind one of the goals but separated by a hedgerow. The pitch is bordered by White Post Road on one side and has a couple of very handily placed benches, very useful for spectators who had already spent the morning standing at the side of a pitch. The opposite side is open because the ground is shared with the cricket club. The pitch slopes away from the road side a little but, overall, is fairly flat.
Bodicote and Hardwick play at grounds that are less then a mile and a half apart, making this a very local derby. Going into the game Hardwick, despite last week's heavy defeat, were perched on top of the league, three points clear of Wroxton. Bodicote, with three wins and two defeats from their opening five games, sat in fifth spot six points behind their visitors but with a game in hand.
Both sides had suffered heavy home defeats last weekend. Bodicote going down 8-1 to third-placed Longford Park whilst Hardwick ad crashed 8-2 to second-placed Wroxton, a game that BotP had the pleasure to watch (Sports 100% Beaten By Sports). The Full-Time website shows that, during the truncated season last year, the sides met once with Hardwick coming out on top, 3-0 at Easington Park.
Hardwick, clearly still stinging from last weekend's defeat, started very well. Twice inside the first two minutes they managed to get Josh Northam in behind the home defence but, unfortunately for them, the striker slotted narrowly wide on both occasions. It was a warning to Bodicote though and, to be fair to them, they quickly spotted the problem and shored up their defences.
It was turning into a decent, tight, tussle between two quite evenly matched teams, although it's fair to say that Hardwick edged the possession in the first fifteen minutes. So, it was slightly against the run of play when the home side opened the scoring after 16 minutes. A long ball from their captain caught the visitor's defence napping a little. Some hesitancy amongst the defenders allowed Matt Gibbs to nip in to lob the ball over the stranded Jack Garner. 1-0
Three minutes later Bodicote doubled their advantage and, once more, it came from a defensive mistake. A low cross from David Gibbs should have been dealt with but the ball was allowed to travel through to Scott Clarke who finished deftly to make it 2-0.
I was still in the process of tweeting the second goal when Hardwick hit straight back. A shot was parried by the home keeper but Michael Zinn was on hand to nod the loose ball back into the net. 2-1. Bodicote's defenders clearly felt that Zinn was offside when the shot came in but the referee waved away their protests. Unfortunately, Luke Gibbs took his protest a little too far and was sin binned for his troubles. Having hit back immediately and now facing 10 men it seemed to be an ideal opportunity for Hardwick to push on and grab an equaliser. However, as last week when they played the last 30 minutes against 10 men, they could not take advantage.
HT Bodicote Sports 2 Hardwick Sports 1. Superb start from the visitors but two quickfire goals saw Bodicote get ahead and look the better side for a while. Overall, there was not much to choose between the sides and the second half could easily go either way.
Just past the hour mark Hardwick got themselves back on level terms. A really good cross, one of those that makes it difficult for defenders, was delivered in from the right. A group of players tried to get on the end of it with the result that the ball looped over the goalkeeper's head and into the net. It looked to me as if the last tough came off a Bodicote defender especially judging by the reactions of the players. 2-2. Once again there were some strong complaints from the home side, presumably for a potential offside. Once again the comments were met with a sin bin order, this time for David Gibbs. What made this one even more galling for the player in question was that, after waiting for 10 minutes to get back on, he was almost immediately substituted. It has to be said that the player took it all in very good spirit.
The real drama in the game came in the 90th minute. Bodicote repelled an attack but when the ball was recycled into their box Hardwick's Ryan Evetts was left all alone to volley into the net. 2-3. However, when the ball was played the assistant had immediately raised his flag for offside. I have to say, I had a good view and I thought the Hardwick looked well off too. The lino kept his flag up, calling the referee over to him. Despite the protestations the goal stood.
There was still time for another flare-up which led to The Hardwick Number 8 getting his marching orders from the referee, presumably for comments made, I certainly didn't see any serious foul play, and then that was it, the referee brought a hard-fought game to a close.
FT Bodicote Sports 2 Hardwick Sports 3. A bit of a harsh result on the home side. A draw would probably have been a fairer result. However, you can't knock Hardwick for keeping going to the last minute and coming from two goals down. I certainly wouldn't want to knock the referees performance but I do think there were some contentious decisions which probably didn't help his cause too much. You have to remember that he does not have the luxury of his own assistants at this level, which must make life difficult and leave referees feeling a bit isolated. Luckily, despite this being a local derby, it was generally played in the right spirit.
The result leaves Hardwick six points clear but second-placed Wroxton do have two games in hand. Bodicote remain fifth after Deddington and Kings Sutton drew 1-1. Next week Bodicote face Deddington at home whilst Hardwick make the journey to seventh-placed Bloxham.
Bodicote Sports: Allen, T.Beckham, Clarke, Corbett, D.Gibbs, L.Gibbs, M.Gibbs, Gray, Hale, Hirons, Randall. Subs: P.Backham, Coleman, Hartwell, O'Cleary, Simons
Ground Number: 286