Ground Number: 655
Saturday 24th December 2016
Stokenchurch 4-1 Henley Town Reserves
Hellenic D2 East
STOKENCHURCH FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
STOKENCHURCH FC was formed in 1886. They were founder members of the Hellenic League 1953. When it expanded to two tiers in 1956-57 they enjoyed their best ever finish when they were runners-up in the Premier Division. Results started to deteriorate however and by 1963/64 they were relegated to Division 1 after finishing second-bottom. 1971/72 saw a further relegation to Division 2 and despite finishing in 3rd place, they left the Hellenic League at the end of that season. A return to local town leagues followed until they joined the Chiltonian League in 1986. They had a best ever 3rd placed finish in 1987/88 but were not promoted due to lack of facilities. They left the Chiltonian League in 1995, and joined the Wycombe Senior League. After winning it in 2014, they returned to the Hellenic League and won Division 2 East at the first attempt. However, they remain there to this day, their lack of floodlights and a stand meaning that they are unable to participate at a higher level.
I'd done a game on most days of the year during the football season, but one day that had eluded me so far was Christmas Eve. I was determined to break that duck this year however, and initially it looked as if the westcountry may be my only option. Not overly fancying a long drive on Christmas Eve, I was glad when a local side, Stokenchurch, announced that their game against Henley Town Reserves was set for that day. It would be a very basic ground, with no lights and a 2PM kick off, but even so I was really looking forward to it. On the day of the game I was feeling a bit under the weather, but nothing was going to stop me seeing a game. I spent the morning listening to The Two Mikes and exploring my game options for the 27th December, where there was plenty of scope for a treble, hopefully with another hopper to save on fuel.
I left home at 1.10, driving the short journey to Stokenchurch. I got there at 1.40, parking a fair way from the ground as I was expecting a large attendance. I bumped into a number of familiar faces including Terry, the AFC Wimbledon supporting badge seller who lives in Stokenchurch, Dave a Wycombe fan, TalkSPORT's Tony Incenzo and fellow hopping pals John & Eddie. There was also a programme on sale, a well-presented sheet of A4 for the price of £2. It was more of a donation to help the club out as opposed to a programme, but I was more than happy to chip in, seeing as they'd blessed me with my first ever Christmas Eve game.
The game started at a fairly slow pace but a much changed Henley side held the upper hand, despite them being bottom of the table. Stokenchurch, who were league champions the previous season, sat in mid-table but they gradually got back into the game. So it was still against the run of play when they opened the scoring on 28 minutes. A free kick was awarded 25 yards out and Steve Park started off an incredible afternoon for himself by blasting home right into the top right-hand corner. It was a great effort that would not looked out of place in the World Cup final. Henley soon levelled things though - on 37 minutes their number 9 won a loose ball and slotted home from inside the area, but it was a rare high point for his team. The second half saw Stokenchurch win the game, starting on 58 minutes when Park looked to have taken too long to take his shot, however his eventual shot was helped in by a visiting defender. Park completed his hat-trick on the hour with a delightful lob before he ended a good run with a confident finish to get his 4th on 75 minutes.
LONGBURROW is a very basic venue, basically a council owned field with a rope on one side of the pitch. The views of the countryside around the pitch are very nice though. I didn't see any facilities at the ground, though there are a number of pubs, takeaways and shops around the ground.