Founded in the summer of 2007 by Danny Harding and Tom Cleevely Chad Park FC joined the Witney & District FA in Division Four for the start of the 2007 / 08 season. As a new club, Park decided to share facilities with Wootton Sports in the village of Wootton close to Woodstock.
Chad Park were an unknown entity to themselves and others having only played 2 friendly games prior to the opening game of the season. In a squad of 24 players used, 16 players came from the village of Chadlington and 6 from Chipping Norton. They blended youth with experience well. With brothers Danny and Jono Harding, father Graham and cousin Danny Murphy in defence along with brothers Tom and Jack Drinkwater there was a strong family feel about the club with enjoyment of their football a key goal.
They won the league championship by a clear 6 points that season having gone on an amazing 19 match un beaten run with the only league defeat coming on the opening day of the season, away to Hailey Reserves. With 88 goals scored and only 23 conceded their goal difference of 65 was the best in the whole of the Witney & District that season.
Will Phipps topped the division scoring charts with 32 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions. Striking partner Josh Vaughan scored 23 goals in 23 games, Tom Drinkwater added 16 goals having played in all 30 games that season and Steven Hunt netted 14 times in 29 games.
At the end of the season Chad Park were joined by runners up Witney Royals Reserves, 3rd placed Hailey Reserves, 4th placed FC Chequers Reserves and 5th placed Milton Reserves in the promotion places into Division Three.
In the cup competitions Park started well with a 3-1-surprise victory over Division Three Wychwood Forest in the Fred Ford Cup. However, 3 weeks later they were brought back down to earth by Witney Wanders of Division One in the next round loosing 3 -1 despite giving a good account of themselves.
In the Oxfordshire Junior Shield Park were again humbled, this time by Banbury League side ABK Sports. Fielding an under strength team they lost 5-2.
In January, Park started their Supplementary Cup adventure. In a league of five teams Park drew with Spartan Rangers A 1-1, beat Freeland A 4-1, lost to league rivals Witney Royals Reserves 3-1 and thumped Aston Reserves 7-0. This last win saw them through to the knock out stage as runners up. In the quarterfinal Park beat rival neighbours Kingham Reserves 3-0. The semi final was held at Clanfield against FC Chequers and in ridiculously wet conditions Chad Park won 1-0 in an epic battle.
On the 8th May 2008 Chad Park travelled to Witney Town to play Wychwood Forest in the final. Despite Forest wishing to avenenge their defeat earlier in the season, Park controlled much of the game. However they could not kill the game off within the 90 minutes. Despite this, Vaughan added to his first half goal and along with Drinkwater scoring late, a 3-1 win was achieved after extra time. On the road to lifting the Hughes Supplementary Cup Park had beaten 4 teams from the league above. Chequers, Kingham and Forest had finished the season in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in Division Three respectively. This made Parks achievement all the more impressive as captain Danny Murphy lifted the trophy.
Danny Murphy also received the club award of Managers Player of the Year along with Greg Kemp as Players Player of the Year at the end of season celebrations.
As Division Four Champions Chad Park were full of confidence during the Division Three campaign but were again entering the unknown. They did everything right but for two critical matches against Witney Royals Reserves.
Renewing their rivalry from the season before, Royals this time came out on top as Park had to settle for second place in the league. However promotion to Division Two was achieved for the second time.
New signings were made to the team over the summer with Neil Keenan, Gary Keenan and Martin Plumbridge adding quality to an already impressive squad.
The season started well for Park with a 6-0 triumph of Spartan Rangers A. Jono Harding scoring his first goal for Park on his 30th appearance for the club.
However the first blow came in the second league game of the season. At home Park lost a close game against Royals Reserves, their first league defeat for over a year. Little were they to know how crucial this 1-0 defeat would be.
Park soon got back to winning ways though and scoring goals for fun and keeping clean sheets was to be the trend throughout the season. Through keeper Danny Harding they kept 10 clean sheets in all and conceded just 13 in 22 league games, the second best in the whole of the Witney & District that season behind FC Chequers of Division Two.
Park were also the highest goal scorers in the Witney & District hitting the back of the net 95 times, smashing the total set the season before. Goals flowed from all areas of the pitch.
The highlight of the season came in late November with an 11-0 mauling of Fieldtown followed by a 10-0 thrashing of Milton Reserves. Strikers Josh Vaughan and Matt North hitting hatricks in both games. Vaughan's tally of 5 against Fieldtown and consequently scoring 15 goals in 6 consecutive fixtures set a new Chad Park record.
In all Vaughan scored 24 times in 19 games, George Slatter scored 16 mainly from central midfield, Plumbridge 15 in his debut season for Park and Steven Hunt added 13. Slatters back to back hatricks in the last 2 games of the season was a taster of things to come in Division Two.
In February Park lost their way in the league with a 2-2 draw against neighbours Charlbury Town Reserves and another frustrating defeat away to Royals Reserves, again 1-0.
Park didn't drop any more points that season but it wasn't enough, despite drawing to Charlbury Reserves themselves late on Royals Reserves comfortably closed the season out.
In the cups Park failed to recreate their first seasons success. Their only cup victory came in round one of the Fred Ford Cup, away against AFC Marlborough. Goals were shared around with Tom Drinkwater, Richard Ingram, Gary Keenan, Martin Plumbridge, George Slatter and Daniel Townsend (2) scoring with no reply.
However in the second round, 2 weeks later, Park lost 5-1 at home to West Witney. This defeat against Premier Division opponents for the first time showed Park just how far they needed to go if they wanted to climb the leagues.
Defeat came again in the Oxfordshire Junior Shield, Aston of Division One putting 4 past Park with only Vaughan replying for the home team.
In January Park started their defence of the Supplementary Cup. Now a highflying Division Three side there was genuine optimism that a cup run was on the cards. However it was not to be. Aston Reserves avenged their defeat to Park in the same cup the year before. 2-2 at full time following goals from Matt North and Tom Cleevely they lost 7-6 in a penalty shoot out.
In summary, Chad Park again had a fantastic season beating their pre season expectations. Despite loosing out on the Division Three title and failing in the cups they reached new highs in terms of goal scoring, defending and all round team play. Division Two beckoned with optimism.
The Division Two season turned out to be a roller coaster of a season.
Reinforcements to the squad were also called in with Mark Sheffield, Alex Kemp and Wayne Beauchamp adding experience.
The season opened away to FC Nomads were Park survived a late come back to win 3-2. Plumbridge, Hunt and Magee scoring the goals. Mark Sheffield making his debut from Chad Park having been signed over the summer.
The first disappointment came in the second game at home against Ducklington A. At half time they were 3-1 down and playing with 10 men following the dismissal of Gary Keenan. Tom Drinkwater scoring the first half goal. Park rallied in the second half and found another gear. Goals from Hunt then Plumbridge completed the come back before Slatter had a late winner dubiously ruled out for off side.
Park then travelled to familiar surroundings to play Wootton as the away team. They demolished their hosts 5-0 with goals from Plumbridge (2), Townsend (2) and Hunt. Alex Kemp making his debut for Chad Park.
A further 3 victories on the trot in the league followed. There was a 5-2 win home to Two Rivers, a 4-2 away victory at Ducklington A and a 3-1 win against West Witney Reserves with Slatter scoring a hatrick.
In late October Park then travelled to Spartan Rangers Reserves. Without Cleevely, Murphy and Sheffield in the starting line up a different Park entered the game, Neil Keenan slotted in to the centre of midfield and Sean Godfrey partnered Slatter up front. It didn’t seem to matter though as Slatter bagged an early brace to put Park in a comfortable position in the game and to take his scoring run to 9 in the last 4 games. Perhaps Park thought that the game was one and as in previous games, more goals were to follow. However, things were to change. Centre midfielder Kemp was knocked out and spent the rest of the game struggling to control the centre of the pitch. Spartan then hit back in the 2nd half with two goals and despite Parks best efforts they just couldn’t create worthwhile opportunities. A draw left Park 2 points behind point Witney Royals in the league.
Park soon got back to winning ways and kept winning with 5 in succession despite a winter break of 6 weeks. During this run they scored 19 goals with only 3 conceded. Slatter scoring 3 consecutive hatricks.
The wins were against Tackley (3-1), Charlbury Reserves (5-0), West Witney Reserves (3-0), Wootton (5-2) and FC Nomads (3-0).
In the game against Wootton, Park were denied the home dressing room but soon showed the visitors who were in charge. Another pleasing aspect was the debut of new signing Adam Tinkham.
With the win against FC Nomads and their closest rivals Witney Royals Reserves loosing to Charlbury Reserves, Park moved 6 points clear at the top with 10 games to go.
Level on games Park and Royals then faced each other at Burwell Meadow. Both teams knew the importance of the game, as had been the case in the previous two seasons. It usually followed that whoever won the battle, won the league. So it was with huge disappointment that Park went down 1-0, beaten on the day by a team that looked more in control and up for the fight.
Park steadied the ship the following week with a 5-1 win away to Southrop. Adam Tinkham opening his account with a classy hatrick.
Saturday 13th March 2010 was to be a defining moment for both Chad Park and Witney Royals Reserves. The rivals went into the return fixture level on points. Royals had won the last 4 encounters in all competitions and without top scorer Slatter, Park were further disadvantaged. However it was time to be counted and Park started the game in top gear, relentlessly closing down the opposition. Hungry for success Park got the reward mid way through the half with Mark Sheffield following up his initial header to slot home. The rest of the game was an even affair with both teams attacking and defending valiantly. It was Parks defence however that stood firm to hold on to the victory.
Royals season from then on imploded, in their remaining 7 games they won just 1 on the field.
For Chad Park the league title was theirs for the taking if they could hold their nerve.
The first test of this came away against Two Rivers and after the first 25 minutes it looked as if Park were set to fall at the first hurdle. At half time Two Rivers were 1-0 up having already hit the woodwork. Raw determination was going to get Park back into the game. This was summed up by the energetic performance of Freddie Magee in the centre of midfield. 15 minutes into the 2nd half the work paid off. Adam Tinkham equalised with Plumbridge scoring the winner 15 minutes later. With the come back complete, Park reflected with relief that their 3-point lead in the league was retained.
A week later they had the opportunity to extend their league lead to 6 points as they played host to Spartan Rangers Reserves. However the visiting team had other ideas and without their first team having a fixture they were able to bolster their usual team. Park eventually went down 3-1 having never really been in the game. Only a late Steven Hunt goal gave Park some reward.
With the season in its final stage, Park were still favourites but were joined by Royals, FC Nomads and Southrop in a four team race to decide the title and promotion places.
The first of their 5 remaining matches was against Middle Barton. Cleevely and Slatter gave Park a 2-0 lead going into the half time break as both teams found themselves down to ten men following two dismissals. Despite Barton scoring a second half goal to give the visitors a glimmer of hope a further Cleevely goal sealed the game.
With Southrop beating Witney Royals Reserves the week before they were emerging as a real contender to Park. Therefore the next game home to Southrop had extra importance. Earlier in the season Park had dispatched Southrop 5-1 but this sort of score line was never on the cards. A 2-1 victory was achieved with Hunt bagging a brace. News then followed that FC Nomads had beaten Witney Royals Reserves to become Parks only real contender for the title.
Next up was an away fixture against Charlbury Reserves. In hot spring conditions Park went behind but the seasons results proved that they could come back from it, and they did. Slatter, Sheffield and Plumbridge completing the victory.
Midweek Park then travelled to Tackley who themselves were desperate for the points to stay in the Division. This probably accounted for the home teams eagerness. However their ‘attitude’ didn’t match their ability. Park only needed 1 point to win the league which the gained comfortably. Goals from Cleevely, Slatter, Keenan and Plumbridge (2) sealed the win. The only sour note coming from the dismissal of Sheffield in the second half.
On Saturday 24th April, Chad Park travelled to Middle Barton free in the knowledge that the Division Two title was secured. Before the game they were presented the trophy and Danny Murphy lifted it in front of the supporters. The game was still competitive with neither teams wanting to let their standards slip. The points were shared through a 1-1 draw. Sheffield scoring with a sublime strike from long range to equalise.
The final promotion place into Division One was secured by FC Nomads as they also beat Witney Royals Reserves in their penultimate game of the season.
Division One - to follow.......
Link to the Chad Park FC website