Abingdon Town: Remember Them?

By Pete H

Unless Boro’ ever come up against Aardvark United, we think Abingdon Town will always be first alphabetically in the list of teams we’ve played over the years. It’s a small claim to fame for them and we can’t think of any other Aa or Ab clubs. Oh. Wait! Yes we can! What about Aberdeen? And there’s Aberystwyth United too. So, maybe the Abbots could find themselves toppled. Until that happens, however, let’s give them our attention – and see what put them there in the first place.

Who are Abingdon Town Football Club?

A birth year of 1870 makes the Abbots quite long in the tooth; formed as plain old Abingdon FC and competing in district leagues for the latter part of the 19th century – and then into the first half of the 20th. After World War Two, things started to gather pace for them. First, they moved up into the Spartan League. Then, in 1953, they were founder members of the Hellenic League.

(Oh, they added Town to their name in 1928)

This started a close association between the Abbots and the Hellenic League. Before the 1950s were even done, they’d won the title three times in four seasons. More often than not, the club were strong contenders in the years that followed. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Twice they were relegated to Division One, which was deeply inconvenient if nothing else.

To be fair, twice they secured an instant return to the Premier Division.

Why do we know the Abbots?

The 1986-7 campaign saw the Abbots win a fourth Hellenic League crown. But their time in the competition was coming to an end. After coming second in the 1987-8 season, they upped and left for the Spartan League; winning that championship at the first crack. With the Spartan title under their belts, clearly they felt it was right to move onto bigger things right away. There was no hanging around, then, as they joined Isthmian League Division Two South in 1989.

That decision was vindicated soon after too. And, weirdly, it meant they followed a similar path as us. As we finished fourth at the end of the 1989-90 season in the North, the Abbots ended the campaign in third. Then, we won the Division Two North title the following season. And they did too. Their title success wasn’t as gallivanting as ours, admittedly. But 94 points from one season is never a bad thing. The Abbots only fell short of 100 goals by five too.

What is our record against them?

So, the 1991-2 Division One campaign set up to be a collision between two meteoric forces from the previous year. Sort of. But we’d actually already had our first taste of each other’s company. Oops – did we forget to mention that? If we did, it’s because it was only a Loctite Trophy tie. And it was a forgettable result for us; losing 1-0 at Culham Road. Mind you, you could probably argue that tournament wasn’t at the top of our list of priorities.

It makes us feel better about it, anyway.

The first ‘proper’ meeting between us (we’ll persist with that argument) was again at their place. Boro’ were on a run of eight straight league wins and looking super confident in Division One for the first time since 1988. But it all went wrong for us again at Culham Road in mid-October – and in some style too as Cloughie’s team slumped to a 4-0 defeat. Our previous league defeat before that had been in mid-August as we lost 4-0 at Yeading. When we lost, we lost big.

Our head-to-head record by this point made for grim reading. So, could a chance to get them on our own patch help? Well, history would suggest yes. Not to make it seem as if the Abbots had a hold over us, Martin Gittings and an Andy Walker hattrick set us on course for a 4-1 win. It didn’t quite balance out our mini goal difference, however; allowing them to score not doing that any favours. But we were at least off the mark against them and heading in the right direction.

Abingdon Town: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 3 — W 1 — D 0 — L 2 — F 4 — A 6 — Pts 3 — WR 33%
Our last tango: Stevenage Borough 4-1 Abingdon Town, 08 February 1992

What happened to them?

Boro’ were promoted at the end of the season, while the Abbots came a credible sixth. Five years later, however, they replaced the rise with the fall; relegated from Division One in 1998. And they went straight through Division Two too.

After a few more years in the Isthmian League’s bottom division, the Abbots quit the competition in 2005 and returned to the Hellenic League. It wasn’t a hugely successful move; the club ending each of the next four seasons in the bottom three or four. After a short surge back into mid-table between 2010 and 2012, they again hit the bottom; conceding 100 times in two straight seasons – the second of which saw them come bottom of the table and out into the North Berks League.

That actually marked a two-season drop from the Hellenic League Premier Division – but worse  was to follow. The 2016-7 season saw them go dormant for a year, before making their return to the Hellenic League in its lowly Division Two East. The following year, they competed in Division One East and conceded 112 times.

The Abbots even managed to record another desperate lowlight before Covid struck during the 2019-20 campaign; the players walking off at half time versus Abingdon United and going home with the score at 8-0 to United. And now, this summer, the latest chapter of the Abbots’ tale saw their Culham Road ground sold to a Singaporean property development firm. With the club not to obtain a new lease, they were forced to leave the Hellenic League again.

The words “property development company” are enough to make you worry enough – without throwing all that recent turbulence into the equation. You can only hope better times lay ahead.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Abingdon Town club profile

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