Hooky were going into this game on the back of a great run that had seen them put some pressure on the leaders, Fairford Town. In fact, Hooky had not lost in the league since going down 5-0 to Fairford early in the season. Undefeated at home and with only a solitary home league goal conceded, they were looking very strong. Abingdon came into the game in seventh but with a few games in hand on a lot of their rivals and having won their last two league games.
When the game kicked off the home side were immediately in their stride and looking like a team near the top and full of confidence. Several chances went begging in the first 15 minutes, all of which fell to Hooky but none of which unduly troubled the Abingdon keeper.
Then, as so often happens in these situations, Abingdon hit Hooky on the break and took the lead. With just under 20 minutes on the clock a break down the U's left flank was pulled back straight into the path of Samuel Wharton who made no mistake with a drilled shot low to the keepers right. I think even the most fervent Abingdon supporter would have to admit that the goal came against the run of play but it was a lovely break and a very tidy finish. 0-1.
The game, in my opinion, turned on that goal. Suddenly it was United who looked full of confidence and the home side who were starting to look a little ragged. In fact, the longer the half went on the more Abingdon began to look the more likely team to score. The pace and timing of the run from the Abingdon forwards broke the Hook Norton offside trap on a number of occasions forcing a few last ditch tackles. On such break in the 42nd minute was ended when Abingdon's pacy right-winger, Siyanda Gila, was dumped to the ground. Although it looked like they had a fair penalty shout the referee waved play on.
The game was certainly not a dirty one but there were some niggles going on around the pitch. A clash in midfield continued up the field after the play had moved on. Another clash on the edge of the home box resulted in a brief outbreak of handbags and, in general, the atmosphere grew a little more heated as the half progressed
It has to be said at this point that the referee had been gradually getting more and more stick from both sides during the half. It also has to be said that there appeared to be a referees assessor at the game which may account for our man in the middle sticking very vehemently to the rule book. I say that because, although his decisions were frustrating to both sides at times and he did get some wrong (who doesn't), he was generally just applying the rules to the nth degree. More of this to come.
So, at half-time it was the visitors who went in the happiest. Hook Norton 0 Abingdon United 1.
It wasn't long before the game sparked into life. Six minutes to be exact. That's how long it was before home captain Joe Eyre picked up a second yellow card and trudged off the pitch. To be fair, the player began taking off his armband almost immediately, so he knew what was coming.
Hooky seemed to be galvanised by the sending off and, even a man light, made the game an equal contest for the next 10 minutes. On 63 minutes Hooky gave away a free-kick just outside their own penalty area. Graham Edney stepped up and curled a lovely effort over the wall and past the stranded Kurt Fox in the home goal. 0-2.
Hooky had now conceded twice as many goals in this game as in all of their previous league home games.
The game got a little disjointed at this point. Hooky didn't give the game up by any means but at 0-2 and a man down they knew it was going to be a tall order.
With just less than 15 minutes to play Abingdon sewed up the points when Gila, who had looked dangerous all evening, struck a fine effort over Fox and in off the underside of the bar. No way back for Hook Norton now. 0-3.
Their cause was made even worse when their number 5 (Howkins?), already on a yellow, went through the back of an Abingdon player. There were protests from the home side but, to be honest, the referee had little option but to hand out a second yellow and the inevitable red.
There was still time for more application of the FA rules from our man in the middle when the Abingdon right-back went down with cramp inside his own half. The game continued and his team-mates urged him to get off the pitch, presumably because he would be playing any Hook Norton players onside. He duly followed orders and limped the couple of yards over the white line. This action brought the referee running 50 yards to brandish a yellow for leaving the field without consent from the officials. Of course, by the letter of the law, this is a yellow card offence but was it really necessary? I would say not and I wonder if it would have happened without the presence of an assessor.
Anyway, the official eventually blew for full-time after what seemed like an eternally long added time with a final score of Hook Norton 0 Abingdon United 3.
It was certainly an eventful and enjoyable game (for a neutral at least), a very good three points for Abingdon and, let it be said, a very friendly club to visit. I would certainly recommend a trip to The Bourne for any hopper out there who has not yet been to Hook Norton and remember, it's next to a brewery.
Hook Norton - @fchooknorton
Abingdon United - @abingdonutd