Tuesday 12 September 2023

Wallingford & Crowmarsh - Hithercroft

Wallingford & Crowmarsh FC
Wallingford Sports Park
Hithercroft Road
OX10 9RB

Ground Number: 520
Friday 18th September 2015
Wallingford Town 0-1 Abingdon Town

North Berkshire League - Division 1


The club can trace its history back to 1922 when Wallingford Town FC was established. They played in local leagues such as the Reading & District up until 1953 when they joined were founder members of the Hellenic League. The league expanded to two divisions a few years later and Wallingford would remain in the top tier until 1989. They even won the title in 1969 as well as finishing third a couple of times. They'd been struggling for a few seasons before they went down to Division 1. The closest they came to returning whilst in their original entity was a 3rd place finish in 1993. The original club got as far as the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round and the FA Vase 3rd Round. At the end of the 1994-95 season, they merged with Wallingford United, a team who at the time were playing in the Chiltonian League.

The new club was originally called AFC Wallingford. They opted to take United's place in the Chiltonian League which they would go on to win in 1998. Following this, they joined the Combined Counties League where they finished as runners-up to Cove in 2001. The following year they were champions with 104 points. They had to settle for another runners-up spot in 2003 behind Withdean and for a third time in 2004, this time behind unbeaten AFC Wimbledon. They'd been denied promotion due to ground grading after winning the league but ironically, after they had made improvements, there was a mass exodus of players to Didcot Town. This resulted in a bottom-place finish in 2005 and relegation to the Combined Counties D1. They bounced back at the first attempt as they finished as runners-up to Warlingham. A couple of seasons were spent in the Hellenic Premier before the club opted to drop down to the North Berks League. Finishes here were moderate but in 2017, they were elected back to the Hellenic D1 East, following a 3rd place finish. They transferred to the Combined Counties D1 in 2021. They finished 3rd in their debut season, winning promotion to the Premier North division after being victorious in the playoffs. Rayners Lane were beaten 2-0 in the semis before a 2-1 win after extra time at Hilltop in the final. They remain there to this day, amalgamating with Crowmarsh Youth FC to become Wallingford and Crowmarsh FC in June 2022.

The 2002/03 season saw the club's best-ever FA Cup run as they beat Dereham Town, Brentwood and Hertford Town before losing 1-0 at home to Eastbourne Borough in the 2nd Qualifying Round. In the FA Vase, they had their best run in 2021/22. They beat Clanfield, Bishops Cleeve, Ascot United and North Greenford United before a 4-2 defeat at Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd Round. The club were North Berks Charity Shield winners in 2015 and Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy runners-up in 2001.

Wallingford is a historic market town and civil parish on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, 12 miles north of Reading, 13 miles south of Oxford and 11 miles northwest of Henley-on-Thames. Although belonging to the historic county of Berkshire, it is within the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire for administrative purposes (since 1974) as a result of the 1972 Local Government Act. The population was 11,600 at the 2011 census. The town has played an important role in English history starting with the surrender of Stigand to William the Conqueror in 1066, which led to his taking the throne and the creation of Wallingford Castle. The castle and the town enjoyed royal status and flourished for much of the Middle Ages. The Treaty of Wallingford, which ended a civil war known as The Anarchy between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, was signed there. The town then entered a period of decline after the arrival of the Black Death and falling out of favour with the Tudor monarchs before being called on once again during the English Civil War. Wallingford held out as the last remaining Royalist stronghold in Berkshire before surrendering after a 16-week siege. Fearing that Wallingford Castle could be used in a future uprising, Oliver Cromwell ordered its destruction.


I'd originally tried to go to Wallingford Town around a year ago. They had organised a friendly against a team from Wales called Felinfach and were playing on a Friday night. But sadly around a week before the game, the Welshmen had to pull out due to not being able to raise a team, an understandable situation with most of them probably having full-time jobs, and the match scheduled for a Friday night. It was also a Friday night game on this occasion, as it was the opener to the North Berks League Hop, which was now in its 5th year. Last year the opener had been at Abingdon and had been a resounding success. While all that was going on I was in Felixstowe on the Eastern Counties League Hop. That was not such a success, with the plank of a referee calling the game off due to light fog, and the league officials nowhere to be seen, presumably stuffing their faces in the hospitality area. There had been a bit of ill feeling about them scheduling the hop at the same time as an established event and it had certainly cost their clubs, as the attendances were a lot smaller than what some excellent grounds, games and clubs merited. Unbelievably they had done it again this year, so I guess some people never learn the error of their ways. While I (and a lot of other hoppers) are not big fans of 'fields' there are plenty who would have liked to do both, yet are unable to do so because of poor scheduling on the ECL's part.

On the day of the game, I had my annual appointment at the heart clinic at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The checkup turned out to be a complete waste of time as the clinic was running 45 minutes late, and all I did was speak to the doctor for 90 seconds which could have been done over the phone or by email. It cost me petrol all the way over to Oxford and back, plus a ridiculous £2.80 for 1 hour and 2 minutes of parking. I came home and resumed my Football Manager 2015 career with Blyth Spartans, which had yielded an 11-game undefeated run before I went to sleep last night. I didn't quite carry on the unbeaten run, but I nabbed the last playoff final spot and won the semi-final before I had dinner and left at 5.45.

I got to Anwar's at 6.10 and he was ready and waiting with his son Hicham. It was a pretty slow journey over there thanks to dawdling drivers, but 50 minutes later we were at the ground. Paying a very reasonable £4 to get in, including a programme, my first port of call was a double-decker bus that they had converted to a bar. I had a pint of Thatchers while I flicked through the programme. I then did the rounds chatting to various hoppers whom I had met down the years before taking a seat in the stand with Anwar and his lad.

It wasn't the best of games, though it started quite lively. The visitors had a goal disallowed on 5 minutes - a crossed free-kick was delivered into the box and the attacker headed in, but it was ruled out for offside. Apart from 2 great saves by the Wallingford keeper in the space of a minute, that was the sum total of the attacking intent for the first half. The winning goal for Abingdon came when a good through ball was played and the Abingdon number 10 finished cooly through the keeper's legs to get his side the win. There were half-chances for both sides after that, but there never really looked to be any serious danger of another goal occurring. Though the game had not been the greatest, there had been a good friendly community vibe at the club and it had been good to catch up with people. After the game it was a much better journey home, dropping Anwar off shortly after 10 and getting home myself at 10.30. On FM15 North Ferriby were put to the sword and therefore I took them up to the Conference North. There was no civic reception or open-top bus ride, just a couple of cans of cider and a bedtime of 1 a.m.


For this Tuesday, I wanted to stay as local as possible. My car was still not fixed and the courtesy car was showing a warning light so I wanted to keep the mileage down. It boiled down to two options - either Harpenden Town or Wallingford & Crowmarsh. I'd visited both around the same time in 2015 and I fancied doing a blog update on both.In the end, I opted for Wallingford as it was a cup game and with Harpenden Town being 3G, I could save it for the winter. Since I last updated this blog, I had a frustrating trip back from London following my trip to the Isle Of Wight as the Amersham service was unreliable. Maybe it was Sunday starting early as my least favourite day of the week turned out to be a horrible one at work with it being packed and not a great day.

Monday was busy too with me doing an hour extra, but a far more pleasant vibe. It was Monday evening when I finally decided on Wallingford. Tuesday was the usual day off work and walk down Wycombe. Fellow hopper Colin said he would be joining me as he had been let down for a lift to Leamington v Berkhamsted. I spent the afternoon updating this blog and looking forward to my trip to the North East at the weekend. I received the annoying news that my car wouldn't be available for another week and was glad that I was using public transport for my trip. I left just after 6, meeting Colin at my local bus stop. The journey was OK, though once we got off the M40, the roads were rubbish, all narrow and windy. We got there just after 7, parked up and went in. After a rainy journey, it was dry at the ground and we were given a lovely welcome. I paid £7 to get in and £2 for some chips. They were nice and freshly cooked and great value for money.

There were around sixteen miles between the two sides with Wantage Town to the west of Wallingford. Wallingford & Crowmarsh has an indifferent to the season, sitting 16th on Saturday, they had drawn 2-2 at North Greenford United. Wantage Town had endured a torrid start to the season, sitting bottom of the table after seven straight losses. On Saturday, they had lost at Worcester Raiders by a respectable 1-0 scoreline. The opening was very competitive but with little quality up front. The most notable incidents were some very robust challenges. There was finally a goal on 62 minutes, the Wallingford keeper making a decent save but unable to prevent the follow-up. Just over a minute later, it was all square, Tom Carter heading home an excellent cross from the left at the far post. Wantage went back ahead on 72 minutes, their number 8 showing a decent bit of skill to get past his man before finishing calmly past the keeper. Just as it looked as if Wantage had snatched it, Wallingford equalised on 88 minutes, and a good flick-on found Luke Preen who finished well. From then on, the hosts looked far more likely to score but were wasteful with a couple of chances. They were wasteful on the penalties too with Wantage Town triumphing 3-1 in the penalty shootout.


HITHERCROFT is a former step 5 ground and it shows, as it would probably be good enough for step 4. All the covered accommodation is on one side in the form of 2 stands. Firstly there is an older stand, with very comfortable padded seats but supporting pillars which don't spoil the view that much unless you are unlucky.  Then there is another arena-type metal stand with bland styling and reasonable views. The rest of the ground is open flat standing.

There is a unique bar at the ground - at least there was for the groundhop day. A double-decker bus had been converted into a bar and it had a few real ales plus a cider. Food was jacket potatoes when I went, and they also had a small merchandise stall. Should you need a better choice, the town is not too far away, though I never went so I can't say what it's like.

THE GROUND - 2023 

There had mainly been cosmetic changes to the ground when I went, though the huge size of the Sports Park was more noticeable this time with a ton of parking. The food facilities were also a lot better with a new tea bar. Drinks-wise, the double-decker bus had gone but there was a bigger bar outside. The welcome was friendly and the prices fair, so I enjoyed my revisit, it being well worth my while.

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