North Leigh's picturesque ground, Eynsham Park, is less than 20 miles from home. So, after saying goodnight to my daughter, I set off around 7pm for a 7:45 ko. The ground itself is situated down a small private road. When I got there the car park was already heaving and cars were starting to park along the private track. A good sign. It was a short walk to the stadium which appears to be cut into a clearing in the woods. There are 2 turnstiles leading into the North end of the ground where the club house, toilets and snack bar are situated. The first thing that strikes you about the ground is the view down to Eynsham Hall in the distance. I don't think I have ever visited a ground that is pretty much in the front garden of a stately home.
With 10 minutes until ko, I grabbed a cup of tea and headed back around the pitch to stand near the dugouts. As I made my way around a voice behind me said 'You should be ashamed to wear that coat' (I was wearing a West Brom jacket). Deep in the wilds of Oxfordshire at an Evo-Stik Div 1 match and I have to stand next to a Wolves supporter!. He turned out to be a good bloke, there to see Didcot who he followed as much as possible. We chatted about the state of Midlands football, and Wolves' plight in particular, throughout the first half. He, like me, much preferred to watch a non-league game these days.
On the pitch North Leigh, kicking up the slope, were first to every ball and went in 2-0 up at half-time.
After grabbing another warm drink, I moved to the opposite side of the ground for the second half. Opposite the dugouts there is a small but nicely appointed covered seating area. I took up a position next to one of the floodlights. This is when I noticed the freezing blasts of cold air. In the first half I had been protected by a fence, but on this side of the pitch the full force of the easterly wind could be felt.
North Leigh went on to score twice more in the first part of the second half. At 4-0 it looked like game over.
I decided to move round to the stand behind the North goal, which would provide some respite from the wind. This turned out to be a good move. Within a few minutes of taking up my new position a Didcot corner to the far post was missed by the North Leigh keeper and powerfully headed in. 4-1 but still too late?
Just a few minutes later a Didcot cross from the right took a deflection off a North Leigh shoulder. Penalty! Much to the disgust of the home support. I'm not sure if the referee was trying 'even it up' as a few supporters suggested, but it was certainly harsh. The spot kick was duly dispatched and, at 4-2, we had an inetresting last few minutes.
It was at around this time that North Leigh made a substitution. As I was standing close to the players tunnel, I could hear the comments from some of the North Leigh officials. 'You alright mate?', 'Picked up a knock?' were a couple of the queries. The answer from the substituted player 'I'm fine but my train leaves in 10 minutes, so I had to come off'. Not the sort of tactical substitution that Sir Alex has to worry about.
Despite keeping the ball in the oppostion half for much of the remaining minutes, Didcot couldn't muster any more goals and the game finished 4-2.
A thoroughly entertaining game, played in a very good spirit, especially as it was a local derby of sorts. Eynsham Park is a very nice place to watch football. I would imagine that on a nice sunny afternoon it would be even better. I'll certainly be making a return visit next season.