15/1/22 Banbury United V Rushden and Diamonds, Southern League Premier Central. Rushing Across.

It was still freezing when I left my flat. By that, I mean it was physically freezing, I wasn’t just being a wuss and saying it was freezing. I was actually concerned that the game might not be on. At New Street station, I met up with Taffy, who must’ve had a bang on the head, because he’d decided to accompany me for the day. Arriving at a foggy Banbury, I was even more concerned that the game wasn’t going to manage to escape inspection failure. Talking of escaping, the Banbury station layout was confusing, but once I’d gathered my bearings and I was able to make sense of the hieroglyphics I’d got written down, we headed to the first port of call.

“Was it as good on the inside?”
“It certainly was”

The Olde Reinedeer Inn was like a step back in time. A perfect setting, complete with big band music piped through the pub. All that was needed, was Dirk Bogarde and Terry Thomas to walk through the door and the scene would be totally complete. Both me and Taff were reminded of our Dad’s. We concluded that they’d have been in their elements. If I hadn’t had an itinerary, we’d have just stayed in there. On the way to the next, I spotted a clothes shop that just drew me in. Although I made do with just a new hat to replace the one I left on the train last week, I could’ve easily have spent a grand in there. To tell you the truth, it was all I could do to stop myself from buying something more. The White Horse was totally different to the Olde Reinedeer, but was just as good.

“The fishy smell was to prove to be somewhere else”
“No, this really was part of the pub and not just someone’s conservatory”

I love pubs that have an interesting range of ale, keep it well, and have an extensive, eclectic decor that continually draws the eyes to yet something else that’s new to them. We’d been spoiled so far with where we’d been. Had we peaked too early? Unfortunately yes. Yes we had. The next on my list was this place below.

“It was rude not to”

Unfortunately, there was not only no cock horse, (Whatever the Hell one of those is.) but there wasn’t any real ale on either. We went next door to the next on the itinerary. There was real ale on in the Coach and Horses, but the stench of fish was so overpowering, that we decided against having a pint, and went back outside just so we could breathe again. The itinerary was going down hill rapidly. Could the next on the list redeem it? The Cherwell did have ale on, but was clearly an afterthought as the choice was boring. Although the ale choice might have been an afterthought, the choice of cider surpassed it and then some. For a football supporting, proper cider drinker, it was heaven as they were showing the Sky game too. Talking of boring, you might believe that heading back to the Reinedeer was boring. Nope, the boring thing was a bloke on the next table. We were unfortunately, too close to ignore his drone. A drone so jammed packed with a self righteousness, that it had me furiously scratching at my wrists as there wasn’t a sharp Knife available to hand, to slit them with. A bloke only second to Ade for being boring.

“Mr Butcher on one of his more interesting days”

I couldn’t take anymore, and even with his hearing aid turned off, Taff could still hear him. Before our spirits had been completely drained, we cut our losses and made for The Exchange. A Wetherspoons maybe, but not the worst in the country. After a quick pint, we headed for the game.

The football club may not be quite as shunned by the town as say, Oxford United or Leamington, but it’s still tucked away on an industrial estate. Banbury though, is still a pretty historic market town in the same bracket as say Lincoln or Stroud, so it’s just good that the club is still close to the railway station.

“Potential to expand as they climb the leagues”

Banbury United are absolutely flying at moment. Going into this match, they’d won 8 league games in a row. I know I don’t usually write about histories and records, but a winning streak of 8 games needs mentioning. Had it been a Premier League club, Sky Sports would have been all over it like a rash. Right, before I go onto describe the action as best I can, I can’t let the rise and fall of Rushden and Diamonds go ignored. In 1992, Max Griggs of Dr Martens boots fame, bought both Irthingborough Diamonds and nearby Rushden Town. He then amalgamated the two clubs, named the new club Rushden and Diamonds, built a ground somewhere in between the two places, and carried on chucking money at the club until it was as far up as League One. Unfortunately, fashion tastes change, and the new ground wasn’t easily accessible unless you drove. Effectively, the money dried up and it was back into what is now the National League. Max Griggs sold what was now a ‘busted flush’ to the fans who just hadn’t got the funds and R&D went out of business. They regrouped, started again, and they are where they are now. It’s definitely a lesson for any fan who embraces the ‘sugar daddy’ style of football club ownership. Yes Vince Dale, I’m looking squarely at you. Right, that game thingy. Backed by what was a healthy crowd of 1,055, the home side started on the front foot. They found though, that there was a large object in their way. Somehow, Rushden had managed to find an away shirt big enough to fit an elephant, and had smuggled it onto the pitch.

“Liam Dolan playing on his day off from giving rides at the Zoo”

As I’ve already written, Banbury were on a white hot streak of 8 wins going into this game, but were finding a way passed the bloke in the photo extremely difficult. In truth, he was up against a striker who lacked any football nous. It’s not like Dolan was deceptively fast for his size. He wasn’t. He wasn’t particularly good in the air either. In fact, probably his only one redeeming feature, was that he had positional sense. It was like he was a mobile wall. Banbury might have had almost all the possession, but they were struggling to know what to do with it. Lulled into a false sense of security, Rushden pounced on a mistake by the home defence. It was a blatant penalty, and definitely not in the script. Having been given a gilt edged opportunity to take the lead and have something to hold on to, the taker then pulled his effort wide of the post. Banbury just brushed it off as if it hadn’t happened, and carried on attacking. Amazingly though, they didn’t take what would’ve been a deserved lead. Halftime and it was 0:0. We moved to the other end. The end where if any goals were to be scored, were going to be scored at that end. By that, I mean that it was pretty much routine for The Puritans. I’m sure though, as all the rest drank their energy drinks during the break, Liam Dolan tucked into a double helping of pie and chips. Washed down with a can of diet coke? I doubt it. More like 2 litres of the original stuff. Maybe if the home manager hadn’t have perserved with the main striker who obviously didn’t know how to dance round the big lump in Rushden’s defence, before helping himself to yet another goal, it wouldn’t have taken so long for the opener to actually arrive. It wasn’t scored by said striker either. The goal still wasn’t so much relief, as expected though. Going into this game, Banbury were 16 points clear at the top, and on this performance, I can’t see them being caught. Although they didn’t add to their lead until the last minute of the game, it was never in doubt really. Although they’d controlled the game throughout and created enough chances to have won much more handsomely, 2:0 is all it was to be.

With just under an hour before the train, we took in The Bell. Yet another disappointment. Taffy even decided to just have a Guinness. Both the Olde Reinedeer and White Horse had been phenomenally good, but the rest that the town had had to offer, were terrible. There was no in between. Only the Wetherspoons was ok. No better than ok, just ok. We got the train back and headed for the Post Office Vaults. Just after we’d commandeered a table, Jinksy came in fresh off the train from a ground hop at Crewe. An entertaining 0:0 draw apparently. Mobile phones can be truly useful at times. A rather strange girl with looks to match, sat next to us on the next table. She tried engaging us into conversation, but none of us were interested. We instead, text each other on our phones about her. Both Jinksy and Taff left after finishing their pints. I was taking my time with mine. I was just enjoying being out. Even though the girl informed me that she was a Vile fan, it simply just consolidated her strange personality and looks. Drinking up, I left for the bus home. Oh, and Blues had managed a draw away at Preston. Wow, I’ve just realised I’ve written an entire account without mentioning Covid even once. What? you’re saying I’ve just mentioned it there?……..D’OH!!

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