Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Wonderful Witney?

Witney United 1-0 Hook Norton
Tuesday 30th September 2008
Hellenic League Premier Division
Marriotts Stadium

The Hellenic League is one of these leagues that I seldom frequent with only five clubs visited in ten years of watching non-league football. Of the five clubs there have been contrasting fortunes:

Yate Town - now playing in the Southern League
Slimbridge - dropped down to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League, now playing in the Gloucestershire County League
Shortwood United - still playing in the Hellenic League Premier Division
Chipping Norton Town - folded
Old Woodstock Town - promoted to the Premier Division and groundsharing @ Abingdon Town.

The day saw me leave Leicester around lunch time and make my way to Cheltenham to visit a friend who I hadn't seen since December last year. The journey I took was uneventful skirting round Coventry, Warwick, Stratford and Evesham before reaching my destination in the west of the town. After catching up we made or way to Witney and arrived in the town at around 6pm. I had made a plan to get some ale (one that can only be bought in branches of Tesco or Threshers in Oxfordshire and Berkshire) but found that a local branch of the latter shut early due to staff shortages. Not to be deterred we had lunch in one of the local hostileries before heading to the ground around 7pm. The Marriotts Stadium is on the west of the town on Downs Way and on entering the car park you are met with the main stand in front you which also houses the changing rooms, bar and catering facilities. Entrance was £5 with a further £1 for an excellent programme. Just as we entered the ground we were asked if wanted to have a look in the club shop and from which a badge was purchased for £3 while the remainder of time before kick-off was spent chatting to the chap that runs it. The ground also has standing cover on two other sides - behind the goal on the left hand side and opposite the main stand.

Before the start of play Witney occupied 4th place on 18 points with nine games played while Hook Norton were 1 point and 1 place below them so a close game seemed to be the order of the day. What followed was a very entertaining game with chances aplenty created and missed from both sides with Witney being particularly guilty. I must add that good goalkeeping from the visiting keeper helped keep the game goalless at half time. The second half continued with Witney playing some excellent football but as in the first half creating and missing chances. The deadlock game on 77 minutes when Gary Wickens headed home for Witney United from a right wing cross - my run of games without a nil-nil continues. (Easter Monday 2006 and 81 games). Witney could and should have had a couple of more goals in the final ten minutes but as with the rest of the game poor finishing was the order of the day.

Final score: 1-0

A game, venue and club I enjoyed visiting. We were back in Cheltenham for around 10.20pm ready for the Champions League highlights. The following morning saw me set of for home at around 8am, taking the scenic route home through the western Cotswolds heading north towards Broadway and then Stratford, before getting home around 10am.

Google maps driving time / distance:
(direct from home) 76.3 miles / 1 hour 47 minutes
(via Cheltenham) 118 miles / 2 hours 23 minutes
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