Banbury United are ‘The Puritans’. I’m sure those dour, strict authoritarians from centuries past would be delighted to know that there is a group of young men (and, on Sundays, women (even better)) wearing bright colours, swearing like troopers, enjoying themselves at sport, competing for trinkets, and then washing it down with a beer or two. Still, it could be worse. The first nickname listed for Didcot Town on wikipedia is ‘Diddy’ which brings to mind either an army of Ken Dodd followers or an annoying rapper. Thankfully, most of those who showed up this evening for the visitors were wrapped in scarves declaring them to be ‘The Railwaymen’ – a far more noble name. They still lost, mind.
Didcot are in the first round of the FA Cup having overturned a 3-0 deficit in their first match to win 4-3 and going from there. They nearly pulled off a similar feat today after Banbury had taken a 2-0 lead and were cruising towards victory. The boys in red and yellow were playing an assured possession game that although occasionally tedious was working well when combined with the fast attacking options afforded by a strong and sharp-shooting front two. Didcot were hardly even on the same pitch.
But then on around 53 minutes the weirdness started. A collision in the box led to a penalty. It seemed harsh but as both the linesman and referee were going to give it clearly there was something hidden from my sight. The shot was saved but in scrambling to pull the ball back in the Banbury ‘keeper fouled an oncoming Didcot attacker looking for the rebound. Again, a trifle soft as a penalty but rules is rules. This time there was no mistake. Moments later, the Banbury number 5 picked up a second yellow card to reduce his team to ten men. For most of the rest of the match they were in total disarray, only occasionally showing the brains that had seen them into the lead – and when they got they ball they seemed to forget they were the ones in front. Didcot scrapped and tried but could not force that many clear openings. The referee blew a few minutes after the 90 minutes but he could have added more.
The crowd was given as 286 but seemed like a lot more than that. Whatever number it was they all enjoyed a midweek game with real entertainment and controversy. Plenty to mull over as you adjourn to the bar for your postmatch beer. Those Puritans would be so proud.