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This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbors together do meet
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet;
Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay;
The old and the young doth carol this song
To drive the cold winter away.


Tuesday 18th December 2012 Evo-Stik Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Premier Division

Banbury United                                 2                              AFC Totton                        1
Chris Lait 73                                                                              Mike Gosney 20
Nabil Shariff 78
referee:- Adrian Gillett (Aylesbury)                                      attendance:- 116

A dank December night and a mediocre fixture at The Spencer Stadium in Banbury. I can still remember (just) when they were Banbury Spencer and after all the near disasters they have been through in the last thirty years, I suppose they should be happy still to be playing! They are, but not very successfully, lying but four places off the foot of the Southern League Premier Division table.

They were pitted against reasonably successful AFC Totton who have come from nowhere, taking the Wessex League and the lower echelons of the Southern League by storm and now, with their new stadium just off the M27, beginning to make their mark in the Premier Division.

Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division: Banbury United 2 AFC Totton 1

We were early, my sons and I, and the food bar wasn’t yet open, but the drinks were soon on the table and James had hammered both dad and brother at pool, before we succumbed to the delights of Cornish pastie and chips!

The game itself looked a foregone conclusion until deep into the second half. AFC Totton had taken an early lead and were totally dominant, so much so, that it was just a question of how many. They lost their way a little when they fell out with the referee over what they saw as a sending-off offence, when one of their players was upended, but the referee merely awarded a free kick, despite the players protests and the virulent, slobbering lout who charged down from the back of the stand to vent his frustration on the officials!

The Spencer Stadium, Station Approach, Banbury, Oxon

After that in the final quarter, the game swung and the home side gained an unlikely victory, to add to home wins in their previous three games, including a 4-0 demolition of leaders Hemel Hempstead. The attendance was given as 116 – the lowest I have ever seen for a Banbury Town first team match – I counted over one hundred and fifty and, unless Banbury United are letting in huge numbers of fans for free, I think they need to work on their arithmetic!

Wednesday 19th December 2012 FA Carlsberg Trophy k.o.:- 7.45pm

2nd Round Replay

 Corby Town                                    2                               Tamworth                    4

Paul Malone 52                                                                   Tommy Wright 32

Liam Hughes (pen) 65                                                       George Baldock 38, 58

                                                                                                  Duane Courtney 67

referee:- Graham Horwood (Luton)                               attendance:- 300

On Wednesday evening after a day of filthy rain and wind, I decided to visit Huntingdon Town, but on the way, I stopped in Thrapston to ring the club. I was told that the match was on and so I drove the twenty five miles or so to Jubilee Park, only to find when I got there, that the lily-livered referee had called the game off!

Says it all, I suppose, but there was no match here on this dreary, wet, windy evening!

I was less than pleased, but I just had time, at breakneck speed, to hurtle back along the A14 in driving rain to catch the FA Trophy match at Steel Park. It was wet and cold at Steel Park with a driving wind that made playing conditions difficult.

I sat with John, a UCL linesman friend of mine, who told me during the course of conversation, that the referee of the 1970 cup final replay between Leeds United and Chelsea was a chap from the West Midlands called Jennings. His rather inept performances led to the FA choosing FA Cup Final referees on merit rather than as a gesture to a long serving referee about to retire. All this because Leeds United were playing Chelsea this same evening in the eccentrically named Capital something or other cup (Chelsea won 5-1 at Elland Road after being a goal behind at half-time). A referee of today, watching that cup final replay from 1970 commented that he would have handed out nine red cards!

Tamworth were in no mood to let their inferiors dictate this replay and established a two goal lead by half-time. In the second half, Corby twice pulled the difference back to a single goal, but Tamworth restored the lead each time and were full value for their victory on a sodden pitch.

Saturday 22nd December 2012 power Championship  k.o.:- 3.00pm

Peterborough United                             5                  Bolton Wanderers                  4

Lee Tomlin 2, Dwight Gayle 6                                         Keith Andrews (pen) 45, (pen) 56

George Thorne 47, Mark Little 69                                  Benik Afobe 85, Martin Petrov 87

Gabriel Zakuani 83

referee:- N. Miller                                                      attendance:- 6,600 (965 away fans)

It rained incessantly all day, and had been raining all night as well. I didn’t even consider a non-league match and booked a seat at Scunthorpe United’s Blandford Park for their match against Carlisle United. This was a club where I had visited the old ground, but never the new. I wasn’t fated to visit the new ground today. I was on the A46 just outside Lincoln when Radio 5 Live broadcast the current postponements and to my utter surprise, Scunthorpe United v Carlisle United was right there amongst them!

I took lunch in “The Pride of Lincoln” on the A46 whilst I considered my options. Claire, the menu was pretty ordinary and I eventually chose chicken in some sort of sauce with pasta and garlic bread. It was all right, but nothing to write home about. They only had gas-delivered beer as well, so, all in all, a pretty ordinary repast. During the meal, I selected Peterborough United as the best option.

Just peeping above the north stand at London Road can be seen the upper outline of Peterborough Cathedral where Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII is buried. She died of cancer of the heart.

The rain was still bucketing down as I arrowed back along the A46 to the A1 and down to Peterborough. I had found a parking space, bought a very reasonably priced ticket for a seat in the best stand (£15.00 concession), a cup of hot chocolate and a chocolate bar and was settled in my seat with plenty of time to spare!

Saturday 22nd december npower Championship: Peterborough United 5 Bolton Wanderers 4

The match that followed was truly enthralling. I’ve been a lifelong follower of Bolton Wanderers (indeed, my last visit to London Road in April 1994 was to see a 3-2 Bolton Wanderers victory), but although they threatened regularly, they were never really in the hunt for this one after conceding two goals in the first six minutes. They clawed it back to 2-1 and 3-2 either side of half-time, but then fell away to 5-2, before two goals in the last five minutes restored a little respectability, but nothing more.

London Road, home of Peterborough United

The rain continued all evening, but today, it abated and I went with my grandson onto The Nene Valley Railway Santa Special and savoured his unalloyed and spectacular enjoyment of the festive occasion with all the trimmings of Christmas – band, Santa’s Grotto, crackers, mince pies – AND The Fat Controller (but he wasn’t fat enough!).

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