There's something not quite right about watching night-time football in mid-September clad only in a t-shirt and shorts. It just feels wrong. Having said that, it was very pleasant to be in the rural setting of The Elms on a warm summer's evening.
Parking, as I was warned, is not brilliant around the ground. It is part of a large sports complex, Highworth Recreation Centre, which includes multiple football pitches, bowls, cricket and tennis. The car park is a shared facility and isn't that big. Therefore, unless you arrive very early, you aren't going to find a spot. The best place to park is probably what's referred to as the lower field, which is accessed from the golf club entrance just off the A361.
Once inside the ground, accessed from the Recreation Centre car park, you will find yourself next to the main facilities block, which is perched on a bank above the playing surface. There is a clubhouse, which incorporates a tea/snack bar, as well as the changing facilities for players and officials. The ground is, effectively, three-sided as there is no hard-standing to the right hand-side as you look from the clubhouse, although this is where the dugouts are situated. Looking to the left from the clubhouse there are two covered seating areas and a covered standing area running down the side of the ground. The playing surface which has a slight slope from the clubhouse down to the lower field end, looked in very good condition as the teams took to the field.
Both sides started the game in the lower half of the table, separated by a point, with The Worthians on ten points and Nomads on nine. However, in recent meetings, Nomads certainly had the edge. The previous five game had seen Nomads win four and Town just one.
Kicking down the slope in the first half, Highworth began the half with the intent of establishing the tempo of the game. They were knocking the ball around quite nicely and looking to play balls into the feet of their lively front pairing of Corrick and McCarthy. However, they always looked a little vulnerable to the counter-attack, playing a very high line and leaving space for balls over the top. Nomads were not shy of playing the long ball and, once or twice, almost broke the home side's offside trap.
It was, however, the home side who made the first real chance of the game when Aysa Corrick, who had started to really influence the game, went on a mazy run down the right. He pulled the ball across to Gleed but he put his shot well over the top of Lawrence's goal.
The game continued in the same vein for most of the first half. Highworth playing neat balls into the forward line with Corrick and Stanners causing problems for the Nomads defence, Nomads getting the ball forward much quicker and trying to turn the Town defence.
It was about midway through the half that I was again reminded of the power of the internet. After tweeting about the match using player numbers rather than names I was asked by the former Highworth Twitter Admin, who wasn't at the game, if I needed a team-sheet. He then quickly sent me a picture of said sheet and hey presto! I was equipped with player names. Thanks to @fatbury for the information. Most helpful
After 34 minutes, Nomads had a great chance to take the lead. A very nicely disguised reverse pass set Kaylem Patterson in on goal. However, his shot was straight at Scholefield who managed to turn it over the bar for a corner.
Nomads were made to regret the miss just six minutes later. A defensive slip gifted the ball to Corrick some 40 yards out on the right. He still had a lot to do but after jinking past a couple of defenders he turned inside and drilled a low shot past into the net at the near post. A very accomplished finish from the most dangerous on the pitch in the first half.
At half-time it was 1-0 to Highworth which, on balance, they just about deserved.
It was the home side who started the second half the brighter although, I'll be honest, I was still busy chatting to Derek for the first 5 minutes or so.
Ten minutes into the second half Highworth produced a very slick piece of football that almost, and probably should have, got them a second goal. A minute or two later they once again broke down the Nomads defence and only a slack piece of finsihing prevented them from extending their lead.
In fact, for most of the first 25 minutes of the second half, Highworth continued to look the most likely team to score. Then, as often happens in these situations, they got caught out by a swift counter-attack. The high line that Highworth were playing, something I had mentioned to Derek at half-time as a potentially dangerous game, was breached by a ball over the top. Tyriq Hunte was onto it like a flash and, as the keeper advanced, he expertly lobbed it over him and into the net. It was a very calm finish by the striker giving the keeper no chance at all.
Not to be undone though, Highworth hit back almost immediately with a classy goal of their own. The away side had barely finished celebrating when The Worthians sliced through their defence with a series of one-touch passes culminating with Fabian McCarthy sliding the ball past the keeper for 2-1. It was by far the best move of the game and a goal well worthy of winning any match.
Nomads clearly did not agree with that statement though and for the last 10 minutes they set about trying to get an equaliser. They almost did too, crashing a shot against the foot of the post when it looked easier to score (always easy to say that from the sideline though).
That was the last major incident of the game and Highworth held on to take all three points with a 2-1 scoreline.
Nomads now have over a week to wait before they take on Ardley United at home. Highworth face three long away trips, Havant & Waterlooville (whose manager, Lee Bradbury was watching this evening), in the FA Cup, on Saturday is followed by a league trip to Longlevens on Tuesday and then an FA Vase tie at Bashley the following Saturday.
Good luck to both teams for the rest of the season.
Highworth Town - @highworthtownfc
Oxford City Nomads - @oxcityfc