Cropredy have endured a difficult start to the season both on and off the field, and faced Bletchington in the Presidents Cup, still looking for their first win on the campaign. In their previous game, Crop exited the OFA Charity Cup with a heavy defeat at home to Woodcote, but on paper, this encounter looked to be the perfect game to kickstart their season.
Their opponents Bletchington sat 8th in the OSL Division Two heading into this one, having reformed in the summer after a year away. Prior to their demise, they had competed in the Witney & District League, but have in their past been a mainstay in the OSL.
For the first time this season, Cropredy went into a game being the on paper favourites, and their tactics and game plan was to try and take the game to their opponents, instead of trying to shut up shop and defend, which was the case in some previous games.
With another storm peppering the country throughout the week, Williamscot Road was unfortunately once again waterlogged and unplayable, but with no more home games scheduled for a few weeks, it should have some sufficient time to recover. Luckily, Bletchingtons pitch was playable and they were happy to reverse the game, and despite the heavy rain, the pitch was in perfect condition. All credit to Bletch and their volunteers who did a great job hosting.
For the first time this season, Kieran Reading was able to name a full 16 man squad, with Fowler, Coleman, Milford, Reeves, Moon and Oxley all returning. In addition to the change of approach, there was a change of shape and 5 changes to the starting lineup from the last game. There was also positional changes for Isaac Locke and Harry Treml, both playing further forward. There was a late change, with Dan Bartlett running late, so no risks were taken and Alfie Aspinall came in to start at late notice.
An entertaining game started with a bang, as Blethcington took the lead after less than two minutes! They won a throw in deep in the Cropredy half, and a long throw caused havoc, and after a bounce off a player, it fell kindly to Ellis Matthews who fired home from 6 yards out, and to give the hosts the lead. In previous games, Crop have shipped goals in quick succession once falling behind, but this time out they were confident of turning the game around.
They were beginning to play so nice football, and Isaac Locke flashed a long range effort wide, after some good work in Milford driving with the ball, and Reeves had a chance at the back post following a long throw, but dragged his effort wide. Cropredy should have equalised midway through the half. Skipper Dan Reeves was gifted an opportunity as he intercepted a pass out from a goal kick, but with the goal gapping he fired onto the post, and it bounced clear, big let off for the hosts, and a big chance for Crop. The new front three of Treml, Mullis and Moon were looking threatening but it was quite clicking in the final third for most of the half.
The pressure did finally tell, and Cropredy equalsied 36 minutes into the half. A lovely bit of football along the right, eventually saw Reeves feed through George Mullis, and he delivered the ball across the 6 yard box, where an intended clearance from a defender struck another defender, and fell kindly for Moon who tapped home from a few yards out. Both sides gifted a little luck with their opening goals.
The goal seemed to spur Cropredy into life and the confidence was flowing, and they managed to take the lead late in the half. A smart quick throw from Reeves found Milford, and he delivered a lovely curling ball into the box, and Moon was on his toes to nip in front of the full back and fired home once again to make it 2-1.
Half time – Cropredy 2-1 Bletchington
Cropredy’s aim was for more of the same, and the game did feel like it had more goals in it.
Bletch continued to have chances, mostly from set pieces, with Crop conceding lots of throw ins, and free kicks around the box, that the hosts continued to deliver into the area to create chances, but Cropredy were doing just about enough to hold them at bay. On the hour mark Bartlett and Hancock were introduced to add some freshness, for Aspinall and Mullis. Aspinall having a solid game in an unfamiliar left back role, and George Mullis once again putting in a selfless shift up front.
Cropredy had a great chance as Reeves created an opening down the right, but his ball across towards Hancock was well defended. Toby Milford who seemed to be everywhere, managed to recycle the ball, and it found its way across to Callum Moon, but he flashed wide of the far post with his hattrick close to happening.
Lewis Fowler was forced off with injury meaning a reshuffle, and Coleman and Treml also left the field, allowing MacDonald, Oxley and Timms to enter the fray. The set piece chances kept coming for Bletchington, but Cropredy managed to seal the game from a set piece of their own on 84 minutes. Reeves’ corner was delivered to the near post where Isaac Locke rose unmarked to head home his first goal for the club.
The hosts almost pulled a goal back as a free kick was fumbled by Dan Bailey, but the effort from the edge of the area was brilliantly cleared off the line by Woodcock, and scrambled away. Crop had further chances to score late on, firstly Barney Timms was put through but he dragged his effort wide, and then a counter attack led to Moon feeding through Hancock, but his tame effort was easily gathered by the ‘keeper.
The full-time whistle sounded on a great cup game, seeing Cropredy through to the second round of the Presidents Cup, whilst Bletchington fall into the Ben Turner Cup. The draws are yet to take place.
Full time – Cropredy 3-1 Bletchington
Many thanks to Bletchington for hosting the game at late notice, and great hosts they were, also arranging for post-match food despite the late notice. It was also great to see a healthy crowd along for the match which created a good cup atmosphere.
Manager Reading’s thoughts on the game, “everyone involved in the club is buzzing with the result. Yes, it’s in the cup and against a lower league side, but after a difficult season both on and off the pitch, we are over the moon to get the first win.
All the squad played their part today, and it’s finally just rewards for the effort both the players, coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes put in.
Some of the lads put in their best performances of the season, and we got the reaction we wanted from certain platers, especially the likes of Isaac Locke and Harry Treml who were given different roles in this game. It was also great to welcome back Ben Coleman into the team this week, he’s a great lad on and off the pitch, and will become a real leader in the team.
I’m looking forward to getting back to league action next week, and with some games against teams around us between now and Christmas, I’m confident we can start to win games, and climb the league table moving forwards.
All the best to Blecthington for the rest of the season, a great club, with some great people involved.”
Man of the match – Toby Milford
It was good to have Milford back involved after missing the last few games, and with a point to prove, he put in by far his best performance of the season so far. He controlled the midfield and kept Crop ticking in possession, whilst also working very hard out of possession to recover the ball.
Shout outs also go to Callum Moon who was a constant threat and deserved his goals, and Isaac Locke who took to his knew role and added some much needed steal into the midfield.
Team – Bailey, Coleman (Oxley 77’), Woodcock, Fowler (MacDonald 71’), Aspinall (Bartlett 60’), Milford, Locke, Reeves ©, Treml (Timms 77’), Moon, Mullis (Hancock 60’)
Goals – Moon 36’ 45’, Locke 84’