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© Chris Byrne 2010


At the beginning of the season in which the Supporters’ Club celebrated its 50th anniversary John Maskell linked up with John Delaney as coach and Ian Rundle joined them as scout and City got off to a start with a 3-1 defeat of Banbury in the semi-final of the previous season’s Benevolent Cup – unfortunately the final was lost the following Saturday at Witney.
In the league the 1st XI made an (unusually) good start and had risen briefly to the top of the division by the middle of September despite having had eight away matches in their first thirteen. There were good wins against Walthamstow Avenue in the Hitachi Cup, and at Maidenhead United (4-2) in the FA Trophy. Unfortunately they fell at the first hurdle in the FA Cup, beaten 4-2 at Isthmian Premier side Harrow Borough.
The Reserves were entered again in the Wallspan Southern Combination and continued to find this competition very much to their liking with some excellent results. Perhaps more importantly it was giving John Maskell a chance to bring on young players and ease them into the 1st XI when they had proved themselves at this slightly lower level.
At the start of October, although interest in the Hitachi Cup disappeared after a narrow loss at Metropolitan Police, two successive wins over Ware (3-0 and 4-0) took the club back to the top of the division ahead of Bognor Regis and Epsom & Ewell, but a 2-1 defeat at Hillingdon Borough ended Trophy involvement and a string of poor results into November and December produced a slide out of the promotion positions and the replacement of John Delaney by John Maskell as manager. Ian Rundle stepped up to the Assistant Manager position.
The start of 1982, the Club’s centenary year, saw John Maskell’s reign begin with a fine 6-0 defeat of Chesham, with another couple of goals for Colin Tate taking him to the top of the division’s goal-scoring list with 17, before snow and ice brought an enforced lay-off of nearly three weeks until the comfortable elimination of Blackfriar’s Athletic by the same score in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup.


Not that it would have any immediate effect on the Club, but, at the end of January the Isthmian League finally came to an agreement with the Alliance Premier League (forerunner of the Conference) for promotion of the champions of the Premier Division, putting them on a par with the Southern and Northern League. There were concerns at many clubs about the ground-grading requirements of the APL in an era where many clubs, even at quite high levels, had fairly rudimentary grounds: paradoxically something that would not have been an issue at the White House.
The team was gradually changing its character and by February there were no players with Football League experience: a very different situation from the previous two seasons when experienced players, often living considerable distances from Oxford, had been brought into the side.
Wokingham were building an almost untouchable advantage at the top of the division and Metropolitan Police and Bognor Regis were stringing together good winning runs while City, though still capable of producing some very good football and seldom losing, were drawing rather too many games to mount as strong a challenge as they would like.
Having squeezed past Chipping Norton Town, 1-0, City were drawn to play Peppard Sports who had beaten them in the Final two years earlier and who continued to take the Reading and District League by storm having lost only once in their previous ninety-four matches. City were keen to take revenge for that earlier defeat but, again, Peppard’s performance belied their apparently lowly position and they won 1-0. It was a good season for the smaller clubs with Woodcote, from the North Berkshire League, overcoming Thame United in the other semi-final. Woodcote would lose the final 2-3 and be denied entry to the competition the following year as their League was not considered to be ‘senior’ by the OFA.
City were victorious in the previous season’s Professional Cup when, after an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Witney Town, their opponents were removed from the competition for fielding an ineligible player.
The Reserves continued to play some impressive football and topped the Southern Combination at the end of March after a comprehensive 7-0 defeat of Stevenage, although they were on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline in the Oxfordshire Charities Cup semi-final at Woodstock Town.
The senior team’s results rallied again through April, but too late to displace Wokingham and Bognor Regis from the promotion positions. Even so, since John Maskell’s taking over of the team in January they had lost only twice and never been outside the top five.
Less than a month after the Professional Cup had appeared in the trophy cabinet it had to be removed again as Witney beat City in this season’s Final: 1-0 in front of a crowd of under 100 at the White House. The OFA had finally conceded that the competition was something of an anachronism and this was to be its final season.
The Reserves capped a fine season by winning the Southern Combination League and going on to win the League Cup by beating Barton Rovers on penalties following a frantic 4-4 draw after extra time.
The Club visited Italy again in June, drawing 1-1 with Cattolica and beating Jesina Calcio 1 0.
The press reported that this was to be Berger’s last season of sponsoring the Isthmian League and, as the season wound down, a suitable replacement had yet to be found. And a small footnote in the Oxford Mail reported that a young Martin Keown, who had played for the City Youth XI, had signed as an apprentice for Arsenal: whatever happened to him?

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