The original plan was to attend Solihull Moors v Wrexham in the National League, but that match was postponed. With train tickets already purchased, a long overdue visit to Banbury was a perfect replacement. The fast service from London Marylebone takes around an hour to reach Banbury. Just before arriving, almost adjacent to the railway, you get the first sight of the Spencer Stadium.
However, before venturing to the ground, an opportunity was taken to head in to the town centre. Breakfast was consumed at The Exchange (J D Wetherspoon) before the obligatory visit to the Banbury Cross. From there, as a result of some earlier research, I headed for the Bailiff’s Tap. This superbly quirky micropub is clearly a labour of love and I could envisage locals spending many a happy hour there. For the short period of time that I was there, it was a delight to enjoy the Pale Ale (5.6%) from Burning Sun and Redcat Porter (4.5%)
Arriving at the stadium, it was good to meet up with my Fakenham based retired colleague who had driven across from Norfolk for the match. The ground is a superb relic from a bygone era, with lovely old terracing just oozing with history. There is a decent sized covered seated stand along part of one side. The clubhouse and changing facilities are also situated on this side. Behind one goal is an old covered terrace, the rear of which would strike the heads of all but the shortest of people. The opposite end houses a much smaller modern terraced structure. The remaining side of the ground, where the dugouts are located, houses a combination of terracing and hard standing.
This was the proverbial “game of two halves” with the visitors from Lincolnshire dominating the opening period. However, they only had a solitary goal to show for their efforts at the break, courtesy of a penalty. The second period was a complete transformation with the hosts eventually drawing level from the spot. Their continued dominance was thwarted when the visitors regained the lead.
With time ticking away it looked likely that the visitors would be heading in to the Second Qualifying round. This would have been harsh on the home side, but a final twist to this tale saw them awarded the third penalty of the match, which was duly converted. The resultant draw meaning that the teams would meet again three days later in order to settle the tie.
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