Friday 5 July 2013

Banbury United - Spencer Stadium

Banbury United FC
Spencer Stadium
Station Approach
OX16 5TA

01295 263354

Ground Number: 280
Friday 5th July 2013
Banbury United 2-0 Swindon Town


Banbury United FC was established in 1931 and was known as Spencer Sports Club (due to being a  works team of the Spencer Corsets factory), Spencer Villa and Banbury Spencer up until changing to their present name in 1965. Early years were spent in the Oxfordshire Junior League, Oxfordshire Senior League, Birmingham Combination and Birmingham Senior League. The latter two were the predecessors to the West Midlands (Regional) League where the club played from 1962 to 1966. Their final season here saw them finish 3rd and this was good enough to see the elected to the Southern League. Up until 1979 they played in the second-tier Division 1, finishes ranging from 6th in 1978 to 15th in 1979. That year, the league abandoned the two-tier system and instead switched to two regional leagues with Banbury placed in the Midland Division. The Premier Division returned in 1982, but due to Banbury's 18th place finish, they remained in the Midland Division. Another relegation followed in 1990 with Banbury joining the Hellenic League.  After some mixed finishes, they were crowned champions at the turn of
the millennium, winning promotion to the Southern League - Eastern Division (at the time step 3 of the non-league pyramid). Due to the introduction of the Conference North & South in 2004, Banbury United were elevated to the Southern Premier. Aside from 2015/16 (when they spent a single season in D1 South & West following relegation), they've remained there ever since. Their best finish came in 2017 when they finished 6th, their best finish in the modern-day non-league pyramid. Currently, they sit 12th in the Southern Premier Central. 

The club has reached the FA Cup 1st Round on 4 occasions, though not since 1973 when they took Northampton Town to a replay, gaining a goalless draw at home before losing 3-2 in the replay. That same season also saw their best run in the FA Trophy with them beating Dudley Town, Bexley United & Guildford City before drawing Dartford in the 3rd Round. It took three games to separate the sides with Dartford eventually prevailing 2-1 in the 2nd replay at Bedford Town. Banbury United saw little success in the FA Vase, but locally they have won the Oxfordshire Senior Cup six times and the Buckingham Charity Cup on five occasions. The town of Banbury has a population of just under 47,000 and was the birthplace of Larry Grayson amongst others.


For the third game of my season, I would be off to Banbury United's Spencer Stadium. It was a ground that I had fancied visiting since I went there to take pictures a few years back. I would be on my own, however, as Anwar had already 'ticked' this one, so I was pleased it was a fairly short journey. It was a treat I felt I deserved anyway, after working 6 solid days at work. That would not have come about had I seen that Bala Town had the home leg of their game against Estonian team Levadia Tallinn, a fact I only discovered after going online after coming back from the cinema on Tuesday, where I had a good time watching World War Z, one of the better films I have seen in recent times. In any case, Bala won 1-0 in a match that had the odds stacked against them, fingers crossed they can finish the job in the second leg. I always like to unwind on a Friday night after a week at work, usually through a few drinks, or preferably the more healthy option of some Friday night football. So when this friendly came up, it was a good opportunity, especially seen as Swindon  Town were sending their first team to play the Southern League side. I had an enjoyable steak and chips for dinner and left home at around 6. I made good time despite it being the rush hour and me needing to stop to get cash on the way. 

I got to Banbury and parked up at around 7.10, going straight in. A nice thing that they did was give you a voucher for money off a drink in the bar, a decent idea that got people using it. I got myself some Kopparberg and went around taking some pictures and meeting a really friendly dog called Angus. In fact, everyone seemed friendly at that point. Swindon looked to have named a pretty strong side, Wes Foderingham who had played a lot last year was in goal, there were also a number of trialists. Banbury had much the better of the game and took the lead on 25 minutes when Luke Cray scored with a header. They continued to dominate and forced some good saves out of the Swindon keeper. The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, despite both teams making a host of changes. Banbury doubled their lead when Albi Skendi slid the ball home on 52 minutes to give them a deserved second. They continued to push for more. The Banbury fans were in good voice and must have contained some Oxford fans as there were plenty of anti-Swindon songs. I was surprised at the lack of lack of Swindon fans, probably around 40 in total, with no one singing. Though to be fair the team didn't give them much to cheer about.

At half time, I decided to use the plastic glass from my pint to have some of my Irn-Bru that I had bought into the ground as it was a lot nicer than drinking it out of the 2-litre bottle. This led to a bloke in a red polo shirt and with a serious attitude problem to come over and aggressively speak to me. 'If you use that plastic glass to drink your own drink again, then I will eject you' he said. I mumbled OK then, threw the plastic glass in the bin and walked a little further up the pitch. I was most taken aback, presumably a club official, handing out orders with no charm whatsoever. I was especially annoyed as I had made an effort to put money back into the club, spending money behind the bar, as well as paying to get in. I'd have been perfectly happy to comply if he had asked in a civilised and unthreatening manner anyway. Fortunately, people like this were few and far between - I've only met a few in 22 years and over 1300 matches of watching football, but this has put a serious taint on an evening that up until then, had been really good. As the end of the match approached  I went and stood around near the entrance so I could make a quick getaway. The few visiting supporters that remained were not happy, complaining about the pitch, the referee and of course their players! I made good progress on the way home and was back home within an hour, and looking forward to another game tomorrow when Wycombe play their first preseason game at Havant and Waterlooville.


Groundhopping options were extremely thin on the ground on this Tuesday, with just four possible options with fellow hopper Anway, three of which we had already done. I wasn't overly optimistic when I texted him with the options as he's usually pretty fussy. Luckily, the locality of Banbury and the fact that they were offering entry for a fiver helped sway him. I'd visited as recently as July 2013, but my evening had been marred by the poor attitude of an unpleasant club official. As they had a good reputation for being a friendly club and a nice ground, I wanted to give them a second chance. I'd had a really good evening in the same fixture last season, in a match played a mile up the road at Easington Sports' Addison Road ground, so was hoping for more of the same when I went this time. I had a reasonable nights sleep, waking around 7.30 am. I spent a few hours getting ready and lazing around before walking to town and back, picking up some shopping whilst I was down there. It took me a while with me getting back around 2.30. I had a few hours to kill, so spent the afternoon researching Banbury's history before tonight's game as well as planning Saturday's trip to London. Before having dinner I tested out the xBox 360 wired controller that I bought earlier. It worked a charm on my Android box ending a long search for something decent. It was a bargain too, £3.50 brand new from a local shop when they sell them used in CEX for £30. In the end, I got carried away and ran out of time, having to have a quick dinner of beans on toast and leaving at 5.40.

Thankfully, the traffic was not too bad and so I got to Anwar at 6.15. We were soon on our way, again making good time and arriving at 7.20. After paying £5 each, we went in. I noticed there had been a few changes since my last visit, a few licks of paint but most notable, new seats in the stand and a new covered stand behind the goal. The club shop was again closed so I went in the clubhouse and had some chips which were OK, but not as hot as I'd have liked them. I went outside for the game shortly before kick off and watched Banbury United dominate early on. They took the lead on 6 minutes when a cross from Sean Whaler deceived Easington keeper Adam Rimmer and went straight in. The hosts had dominated the first half and though the visitors defended stoutly, keeper Rimmer had looked nervous after the opening goal. It was 2-0 just before half time when Ravi Smasi's corner was headed home by Ricky Johnson. Banbury continued to dominate and smashed the bar with a great shot early on in the second period. Easington Sports were pretty physical and strong but weren't in the game as much as last season when they gave their higher level opponents a real game. The scoring was completed on 83 minutes and it was a carbon copy of the second with Johnson heading firmly home to seal the game. The game finished quite late and we didn't leave until 9.45. Listening to the football on the way home, the most notable result being Man United losing 2-0 at home to PSG, I dropped Anwar off at 10:35, getting home myself at 11. I went straight to bed, watching TV and trying to fall asleep. I didn't drop off for ages and in the end, only got a couple of hours sleep before waking at 4 am for work.


The SPENCER STADIUM is one of the more interesting grounds in non-league. There is a main stand holding around 250, but this is situated towards one end of the pitch. Views and legroom are good, despite some pillars at the front of the stand. Directly to the right is a covered terrace. The steps are quite shallow, but there are plenty of them. This is probably my favourite part of the ground, being decked out in bright red and yellow to match the club colours and it gives the ground a bit of character. This terracing continues to around the halfway line on the other side of the pitch, albeit uncovered. The rest of the ground is uncovered flat standing.

The club shop was closed on the occasion that I went, which is a shame as I fancied getting some old programmes and maybe a pennant too. The tea bar looked to have a pretty good range at decent prices too, though I didn't get anything as I had just had dinner. As for the clubhouse, it looked to have a good range, much better than most clubs. And the fact that you could have a pint whilst watching the game was a really nice touch and how it should be. However the attitude of the person mentioned on my first visit spoilt this, and I will leave it up to you to decide whether the ground is worth visiting. I'd certainly be recommending it, had it not been for that incident.  


Upon my second visit, the stand had been reseated with seats in the club colour, the stand behind one goal had been given a new coat of paint. There had also been a new stand added behind the far goal. Aside from this, there were also some cosmetic touches and a couple of new buildings added, most notably one for the clubs and town's radio station, Puritans Radio. It was a nice revisit and I'd definitely recommend a visit to any hopper.

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