Welcome to the return of Good Week Bad Week! Back by overwhelming popular demand, this is the column where we look back over the last seven days to pick out the best and worst happenings from around Berkshire’s non-league scene. You have been waiting for six months so I will get right to it.
Yes, where else could we start. Binfield are in the FA Vase Quarter Finals for the first time in their history, and just two games away from a final at Wembley Stadium. The Moles dug deep to make it past Essex Senior League Premier Division side Hadley on penalties after the match had ended in a goalless draw. Once Liam Gavin had put away his sudden death spot-kick, Chris Grace became the shoot out hero for the second time in as many weeks with a fine save from the Hadley player’s effort.
Binfield’s run to the quarter-finals has been made all the more impressive by the fact that the four games they have played in this season’s competition have all been away from home. That trend continues next weekend as they have been drawn away at Midland League Premier Division side Long Eaton United who are based just outside of Nottingham. Rumours that Stewarts Coaches are involved in the draws are yet to be substantiated.
Congratulations to Binfield, and congratulations to our Buckinghamshire neighbours Flackwell Heath who have also made the quarter-finals. Nice to have two Hellenic League sides still in the competition at this stage.
Maidenhead seem to be hitting form at the right time. Tuesday night’s 6-0 demolition of Wealdstone was followed up with a 2-1 home victory over Woking with striker Danilo Orsi-Dadomo scoring five of his team’s goals this week, taking his tally for the season to 16 for the season. With Sam Barratt looking like he is back to full fitness and Nathan Blissett coming back into the mix around the end of May, the Magpies look to be finding their shooting boots for the business end of the season.
The York Road faithful might not like to admit it out loud, but they will be keeping an eye on the playoff picture as their side is currently 7 points off the final spot with three games in hand. Whisper it softly but Maidenhead could be hitting form at exactly the right time.
Due to the regional nature of the Hellenic League’s Challenge Cup and the Combined Counties League’s Fripp-Smith Trophy we are currently being treated to Berkshire derbies on a weekly basis. This week saw double headers between Wokingham & Emmbrook and Holyport, Windsor and Virginia Water and Chalvey Sports and Langley, plus a single match between Eversley & California and Ascot. Virginia Water are currently leading their Challenge Cup group whereas Sandhurst Town seem to be a level or two above the competition in their Fripp-Smith Trophy group as they currently sit three points clear.
For those of you who actually want to see some Berkshire teams squaring off a lot of the games in the Thames Valley Premier League and Thames Valley Counties Women’s Football League are played on public land so spectating is possible if you follow the relevant Covid guidelines. In the TVPL Berks County beat Newbury, their 10th win in 11 games, to strengthen their grip on the Premier Division. As for the TVCWFL…
The title races in TVCWFL Division 3 South and East
Fans looking for a competitive title scene as we head towards the end of the season need look no further than the TVCWFL Divisons South and East. In the South Division the three top teams went into the weekend separated by just 3 points with 3rd placed Mortimer Ladies arguably looking the strongest having games in hand and a far superior goal difference over first placed Taplow United Ladies and S4K FC Berks County Ladies who were second. However on Sunday Mortimer suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 2-1 at Thatcham & Newbury Ladies, and with S4K FC Berks County not having a game Taplow were the big winners after they were awarded a walkover victory in their fixture with Newbury Ladies Development.
This leaves Taplow (26 points from 11 games) leading S4K FC Berks Counties (22 points from 11 games) with Mortimer (20 points from 9 games) still looking dangerous in third. All eyes are on 6th and 9th May when Mortimer play S4K FC Berks County and Taplow in the space of 3 days!
In the East Division there was a clash between the top two sides as leaders Slough Town FC Ladies travelled to face Penn & Tylers Green Ladies. In a hard fought game Samantha McKenzie came off the bench to give Slough the lead in the second half only for the hosts to rescue a point with a late equaliser. The result leaves Slough three points above their rivals with both sides having six games left to play, including the reverse fixture at Arbour Park on 16th May.
Two title races with all to play for.
Those of us who still harbor aspirations of playing international football
Ok, this one doesn’t apply unless you have Antiguan heritage but on Sunday, players from across the county and beyond met up at Hayes & Yeading United’s SkyEx Community Stadium to try and impress former Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City striker Stern John and earn a place in the Anguillan National Team squad.
The Anguillan Football Association are hosting trials in the UK to try to boost the men’s national teams chances in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers and beyond.
I’m off to check my family tree to see if I have any Caribbean relations.
Potentially Good Week
Binfield, Wokingham & Emmbrook, Holyport and Berks County
Binfield get a second mention in this week’s column alongside some of Berkshire’s other promotion hopefuls as they all move a step closer to playing their football a level higher next season. At the end of the 2019/20 season, the FA were aiming to complete the next phase of their non-league restructure that would see an extra division added at Step 4 and two new divisions added at Step 5. This was delayed due to the pandemic but it is now set to go ahead before the start of the 2021/22 season and this week the FA Council approved plans to upwardly move 110 clubs from Steps 5, 6 and 7. At Steps 5 and 6 combined points per game over the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons will be used to decide which clubs can apply to move up a level and clubs are invited to apply between 26th April and 3rd May.
All three of Binfield, Wokingham & Emmbrook and Holyport qualify using that metric so we wait to hear the outcome of the process. Upward movement from Step 7 will be decided on the basis of a subjective application process which will happen at the same time so Berks County could be playing at Step 6 next season if they come through that process. 2021/22 League constitutions will be confirmed by the FA on 17th May, so not long to wait!
Newbury has been without a senior football facility for men and women since the decision to close Faraday Road and evict the football club by West Berkshire Council in 2018. The old ground currently sits derelict within the London Road Industrial Estate awaiting redevelopment. Newbury are playing their home matches at the Henwick Worthy Sports Ground in Thatcham, however, the club could be about to make a move back to Newbury if a proposal from West Berkshire Council to build a ground capable of hosting step 4 football at Newbury Rugby Club gets approval.
Hopefully, Newbury can look forward to playing back in their home town, and climbing up the divisions in the near future.
Supporters of Reading Women and England
A sad moment this afternoon for supporters of Reading Women and England as midfielder, set-piece specialist and all round football icon Fara Williams MBE announces her retirement from professional football.
There have been so many highlights during her 20 year playing career including winning the Women’s Super League, two Women’s Premier League Cups, two FA Women’s Cups, representing Team GB at the London Olympics and being part of an England team to win a bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup. She retires as England’s most capped player with a staggering 172 appearances for the national side, one of many incredible achievements throughout her career.
A sad day for those of us who have enjoyed watching her play over the years, but a day where we get to celebrate a fabulous career and wish Fara the best in all her future endeavors. Whatever comes next I am sure she will be successful.
The managerial credentials of Caversham United’s Paul Gutteridge
Caversham United are always up to something. Whether it be cultivating friendships with some of the biggest clubs on the planet, raising funds for charity partners through summer tournaments and the sale of club shirts, or adopting a goat as their mascot, they certainly know how to grab the spotlight. So when they said they would be unleashing a top-secret plan for their Reading Sunday Social League game against Thames Railway we here at FiB Towers were wondering what they had up their sleeves.
The top secret plan turned out to be to decide the positions of each player using the Wheel of Misfortune:
As you can imagine this led to one or two interesting selections:
It didn’t seem to slow them down on the pitch however because despite initially giving up a two goal lead the Billy Goats eventually ran out 7-2 winners.
Not sure what recording one of your biggest results of the season after leaving team selection to chance says about the tactical nouse of manager Paul Gutteridge? After that result the Wheel of Misfortune may end up replacing him in team selection on a more permanent basis.
It is fair to say Tilehurst Panthers had a tough afternoon on Sunday. Playing away at Southern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division side Oxford City Women, the Panthers, who are in the division below their hosts ended up on the wrong side of a 21-0 score line in their Supplementary Cup match. Oxford striker Jessica Biggerstaff netted nine times in a dominant display by the home side. Tilehurst are back in action next weekend against Eastleigh in the Community, a side from the same division as the Panthers so hopefully they can enjoy a more competitive game next weekend.
Eversley & California’s Cafe
A perpetual hazard for anyone or anything situated next to a nonleague pitch.
Hopefully the damage was easily fixed.