FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
Berkeley Fields, Greenford
Match Rating: 3
On FA Vase day, I decided fairly early on to tick off one of my last two unvisited grounds in the Combined Counties League Premier Division today. Both were at home, but as Abbey Rangers were playing against a team from the same division, and I had visited that area of London just a couple of weeks ago, I decided to head to north west London, and visit a ground that hosted Step 4 football last season.
Berkeley Fields is about a 15 minute from Greenford train and underground station, and after passing by fields, car park and the clubhouse of a Gaelic sports club, spectators reach the football club through a gate and then pass through a neat wooden turnstile block to enter the ground. The clubhouse is located to the right as one enters, and is spacious, welcoming and comfortable. Outside there are about half a dozen picnic tables placed on a patio area, from where a path leads up to one corner of the pitch. Behind this end and close to the corner flag is a covered flat standing area, whilst immediately behind the goal is a modern metallic all-seater stand, and a similarly bland identikit stand covering terrace steps is located by the half way line. Around the rest of the ground there is just hard standing. So this is a rather sparse and basic ground, surprisingly so for a club that was only relegated from step 4 football last season after six seasons at that level, and this is not a place to admire architectural delights, however it is neat, tidy with a surprisingly rural appearance and feel to it, given its Greater London location. The 20 page programme was informative enough to provide a good preview to the match.
Since relegation from the Southern League, North Greenford United find themselves third bottom in the Combined Counties League Premier Division, with one win and two draws from their six games, but they do have up to four games in hand on all teams above them. They have performed well in the FA competitions this season, winning through two rounds in the FA Cup before exiting away at Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Folkestone Invicta, and beat Spartan South Midlands Premier Division side Stotfold in the previous round of the FA Vase. Oxhey Jets were in tenth place in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division, having won three and drawn one of their seven league games, and they received a bye in the last round of the FA Vase.
On a mercifully warm afternoon, following the bitter conditions I encountered at Sawbridgeworth last Saturday, it came somewhat against the run of play when the home side took the lead on 9 minutes, Sandro Costa striking the ball from 25 yards and although the ball bounced in front of the keeper, there was no obvious reason apart from a bizarre misjudgement, why the ball went straight through him. On 25 minutes came what turned out to be the game changing moment. An Oxhey goalbound header was palmed onto the bar by a defender, to prompt the inevitable penalty award and red card for Ansah Palmer. Martin Netzer fired the ball low into the bottom right hand corner from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way. Things got even worse for the hosts on 38 minutes, when the ball was lofted from deep on the right wing, and Sim Armstrong met the ball with a lovely glancing header to guide into the far inside of the net.
It would be a tough ask for North Greenford to salvage their stay in the FA Vase, playing over an hour with ten men and they did battle hard to create openings, but rarely looked likely to score an equaliser. The closest they came was on the hour mark on 53 minutes, when a far post header hit the cross bar, and the rebound agonisingly just evaded a North Greenford player lurking in the six yard box. But it was the visitors who progressed to the 1st Round Proper.