A long time ago I spent four years living and studying in Uxbridge. I can’t tell you much about the studying part, it was too long ago, but I can fondly recall a lot of the local pubs. I’m now wishing this local derby had been on a Saturday allowing me the chance to re-familiarise myself with a few of them.
While living (and apparently drinking) in the area, I visited Hayes Town to see them take on Bognor Regis Town. It must have been 2003 because I can also remember watching West Ham, following relegation, play a televised Championship game that evening. Thanks to the football club database I now know that this was my first ever foray into Isthmian League football. The two towns contested an upper mid-table battle in the Premier Division. At the end of the season, Hayes were whisked away into the newly formed Conference South. It seemed to mark the beginning of a boom time for non-league football in my then local area.
Yeading won the Isthmian North Division that season. They also won the Premier Division the following season with the help of a certain DJ Campbell. In the same season, they famously made the Third Round of the FA Cup, losing a televised game to Newcastle. I watched that game at an excited Vine pub on the Uxbridge Road. Yeading then joined Hayes in the Conference South while I slipped off to Bristol for a few years.
A United celebration
On my return to London, I discovered that the two clubs had merged. For a casual observer, it appeared to be an odd decision as both appeared to be flourishing. Yeading were playing at the highest level in their history. Both, however, were languishing at the wrong end of the table. Interestingly, in the two seasons prior to the merger both finished in the same position in consecutive seasons. Yeading in 16th and Hayes in 20th. The clubs clearly sensed stagnation and moved to ensure that they wouldn’t slip too far down the divisions.
The merger proved to be a success. The new club was propelled up the Conference South table and promoted into the Conference National in its third season. United gave a good account of themselves over three seasons in the top tier of non-league football before a return to the South Division. The realities at the top, however, began to take its toll. A reduced budget and a ground share due to delays in the completion of their new stadium saw United spend four seasons in the Conference South before back-to-back relegations. They finished third in the Southern League East last season before the sideways move to the new Bostik South Central Division.
The other team in Hillingdon
A couple of miles west on the Uxbridge Road is another local side. In 2003 Uxbridge were in the same division as Yeading when ‘the Ding’ launched their rise up the divisions. They watched on from a safe distance until last season when they were moved from the Southern Central Division to the Southern East Division. This meant they’d finally meet the newly created Hayes & Yeading United in league football. The spoils were shared, Uxbridge won the first game in West Drayton, 3-0. United took revenge in style in March with a 4-0 victory.
Hayes & Yeading Utd v Uxbridge
United finished the season in third but were beaten at home by sixth-placed Cambridge City in the promotion play-offs. Uxbridge finished 12 places and 34 points behind them. The summer’s non-league restructure saw eight teams from the Southern League East Division join the brand new Isthmian South Central Division. United and Uxbridge were amongst the eight, ensuring the emerging rivalry would continue.
Both sides haven’t looked out of place in the new division. Uxbridge sat in tenth place before kick-off with Hayes in fourth. United were five points behind the leaders with two games in hand. Tonight’s game would be their first chance to close the gap. The visitors were on a run of three successive games against the title favourites having lost to Waltham Abbey but beaten Bracknell Town.
United taking off at new home
Hayes & Yeading moved into their new ground two seasons ago but last minute safety concerns saw them having to relocate from Beaconsfield Road to actual Beaconsfield. They finally moved in again last season. They’ve settled quickly and it’s not surprising why. The Skyex Community Stadium is a large complex that feels like it could be a lower Football League ground. It has a big car park and a spectacular main stand. The pitch was immaculate. Even Chris Sutton would have been impressed.
Everything about the club feels like it’s ready to be at a higher level. On the pitch, things are just as slick. United took around three minutes to open the scoring as a through ball found top scorer Lee Barney who finished with ease. Eleven minutes later Hassan Jalloh was allowed to run unopposed from the halfway line, and just as everyone thought he’d play in Barney he curled the ball into the bottom corner. Captain Donnelly then belted one into the top corner just past the 15 minute mark. The Uxbridge Twitter account described it as ‘men against boys’ and it was hard to disagree.
The visitors had looked reasonably bright going forward but shellshock had now set in. They fell back and pressed the damage limitation button. Several good saves from McCarthy helped keep the scoreline palatable. Just as it looked as though they’d made it to the break Jalloh struck again, this time at the back post. The impressive forward picked up a knock in the act of scoring but his work for the night was largely complete.
The second half looked like a training exercise, which was slightly disappointing for an eagerly anticipated local derby. Uxbridge looked more organised but rarely threatened. United continued to pour forward. More McCarthy saves kept them at bay. Barney added to his haul on 64 minutes and the scoring was done. Chants of “We are the ‘Ayes” floated across the well-lit pitch.
I went back to Hayes for a local derby. What I got was akin to an audition for the National League. Hayes are averaging just over four goals per game in the league. They’ve put the likes of Waltham Abbey, Bracknell Town, Cheshunt, and Marlow on notice. They’ll be hard to stop, but anyone visiting their sparkly new stadium is in for a treat.
Well, as long as you’re not a fan of the away team.
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