Thursday 27 April 2023

Heyford Athletic - The Playing Fields

Heyford Athletic FC
The Playing Fields
Middle Street
Nether Heyford 

07901 534609

Ground Number: 1176
Thursday 27th April 2023
Heyford Athletic 0-10 Harpole
Northants Combination Premier


Heyford Athletic FC was established in 1908. They are not to be confused with their Oxfordshire counterparts who play in the Hellenic League. They are based in the village of Nether Heyford, located close to the M1 and around six miles west of Northampton. It has a population of just over 1,600. The Post Office once called the village Lower Heyford, but the name was restored to Nether Heyford after a reference to it in local deeds. The village is on the floodplain of the River Nene and used to be subjected to flooding, as Watery Lane suggests. The club played on the village green up until 1989 when they moved to their present home on the edge of the village.

The club was a founder member of the Northants Combination in 1953 when the Mid Northants and Central Village leagues merged. They started out in Division 1 and appear to have remained there until 1969 when a 5th place finish was good enough to earn promotion to the Premier Division. A long spell in the top tier followed and they won the title in 1975, 1976, 1982, 1988 & 1996. Since then, the closest they have come to winning it was a runners-up spot behind Cold Ashby Rovers in 2002. In 2012/13, they had the worst season in their history, finishing bottom of the table, winless and with just two points all season. Relegation followed and the team spent two seasons in Division 1, winning promotion back with a 6th place finish two years later. They've remained in the Premier Division ever since with mixed results as they finished 5th in 2017. The pandemic seasons bought about mixed fortunes - they were bottom in 2020 when the first season was abandoned but 4th in 2021 when the second campaign bit the dust early.


Originally on this evening, I was going to go to Woodcote. However, having missed out earlier in the week, Anwar was keen to do a game with me. He suggested Heyford Athletic or Cambridge University Press. I opted for the former as it had a backup in a revisit to Northampton Sileby Rangers for a cup final between Higham Town and Corby Siam. We could even get one and a half games in, watching the second half of the cup final. This was something that piqued the interest of Colin who wanted to tick the latter ground, for Anwar & I, it was a revisit, having been in 2014. Martin also decided to join us, so it was going to be a cheap night out for all. My only concern was that games at this level can often get called off at short notice, but at least visitors Harpole were fairly regular tweeters.

Following Tuesday's groundhop, it was a fairly easy day at work on Wednesday. On Wednesday night, I took a trip up to one of my local clubs, Marlow, for the Isthmian League D1 South Central Playoff semi-final against Hanworth Villa. The hosts were looking to return to step 3 for the first time since 2003/04 when the Isthmian D1 South was at that level before it was bumped down by the establishment of the Conference South and North. They were aiming for the Isthmian Premier, a league they had last played in during the 1994/95 season. It was only 20 minutes drive to a pleasant ground where I saw a few familiar faces. Hanworth had a good team including Sam Merson, son of Arsenal legend Paul and Tom Bender, a former Wales U21 and Colchester United left-back. They were the better side in the first half, Merson giving them the lead from the penalty spot. Junaid Bell equalised for Marlow on 49 minutes with a shot on the turn. It was a very physical game and Bell found himself sent off on 84 minutes for flooring a Hanworth man with a dodgy challenge. It was heartbreak for Marlow in the eighth minute of injury time as Hanworth scrambled home a late winner. Still, it had been a great game in an excellent atmosphere.

The day of the game came and I made sure to fill up with petrol before work. I was a bit tired, but it wasn't a bad day with me finishing at 4. I'd been having doubts due to the continually rotten weather but the others were keen. It was a poor drive over to Anwar to meet everyone, mainly thanks to the Mickey Mouse roads in Aylesbury, the last mile taking 15 minutes. Before we left at 5, we rang Heyford Athletic, and a friendly bloke told us it was on. He did say his team were struggling though and down to their bare bones. Though I had my doubts as we made our way on poor roads through torrential rain. We were there at 6.20 and were pleased to see lots of activity. It was drizzly, but at least it was game on.
Heyford Athletic were in 13th place whilst Harpole were 5th in the league. The two sides had met in the reverse fixture on Tuesday with Harpole recording a narrow 2-1 win on their own patch. Harpole had also won 2-0 in a cup game on 18th March. Heyford had recorded their last win a week before, beating Corby Pegasus 2-1. They'd not won in eight games, only avoiding defeat in a 2-2 draw against Woodford United. Conversely, Harpole were in excellent form, winning seven games in a row. They last dropped points in a 2-2 draw at leaders Kettering Nomads on 11th March. The game went as per the form book, with Harpole dominating. They headed in from a corner on two minutes to make it 0-1. It was 0-2 on 35 minutes, a shot and then 0-3 three minutes later with the striker sidestepping the keeper before slotting into the net. Before halftime, it was 0-4, despite a valiant effort by the keeper to keep the ball out. Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when they had a man sent off for a bad tackle. The victim limped off and it didn't look good for him. An avalanche of goals followed in the latter stages of the game. A penalty, a couple of long-range shot, a couple of close rangers and one past the onrushing keeper made it a final score of 0-10. Goalscorers were Cameron Baty Shaun Markie, Harry Slaymaker, Jack Shears with two, Bryan Tichawona with two and Iulian Vozian with a hat trick.
The above match report lacked details, but the weather was absolutely disgusting, old, wet and windy. We all got drenched. You have to wonder whether we will ever depart this infinite winter. It was a 20-minute drive to our next game at Northampton Sileby Rangers. It was the Northants D1 Cup Final between Corby FC Siam and Higham Town. Though my main concern was getting something to warm us up and the Bovril & Chips at £4 were both excellent in that respect. They were huge portions too. There was a goal apiece in the second half. Corby FC Siam pulled a goal back early on, but never really looked like making a comeback. Higham Town sealed their win in the dying embers but we all preferred a quick getaway as opposed to watching the presentation. It was 9.50 by the time we left and we listened to BBC Five Live on the way home with quite a few Premiership games going on. The results escaped me, but I dropped everyone off at 10.50. I was home myself half an hour later. I don't normally drink on a Thursday, but after putting all my stuff in the airing cupboard, I cracked open a couple whilst doing this blog.


NETHER HEYFORD PLAYING FIELDS is a decent venue with a railed pitch and some concrete standing. There's also a lot of parking. I didn't see a bar, but the place is a multi-sport facility, the most prominent being bowls. The place was a bit isolated, so might be a bit tricky on public transport.

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