Posted by sean on March 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm in Bath City, Ventures Outside Of Bath with No Comments


Luton Town 2-0 Bath City
Conference National
Saturday 3rd March 2012 – 15:00

Last Wednesday, while most football fans were crying over the realisation the England national team were actually quite rubbish having been thrashed by Holland, Bath City supporters were even more distressed by the announcement that fans favourite Lee Phillips had left the club to go on loan! I know this must be startling news to you all, that a non-league legend would depart in Bath City’s hour of need. Surely it was for a bigger club. Had Arsené Wenger found “the missing link” to turn his Arsenal side into the Invincibles again? Was Lee about to become a Galactico in Madrid? No. He was off to Eastleigh of the Conference South. Yup, Eastleigh. ‘Just for a couple of weeks?’ I hear you ask. No. For the rest of the season. Good bye. The end. Fin.

The unexpected and disappointing transfer certainly gave a talking point for the pre-arranged “Meet the Manager/Chairman” evening on Friday. An event which takes place at Twerton Park a few times a year, where supporters are given the opportunity to ask the manager or chairman more or less anything they like. Occasionally the questions are football related. Regarding Lee Phillips’ departure. Despite the fact he is a brick shithouse of a striker, who always gives 110%, Phillips has only scored 3 goals all season. Stats don’t lie, which is why he’s gone. For those interested, a report of everything discussed can be found here.

And so to match day. Having made trips to Southport, Grimsby and Lincoln already this season, an away day at Luton Town could almost be seen as a local derby, and after a long week at work, followed by the Meet the Manager evening the night before, the later departure time of 9.30am was appreciated.

The temptation to buy this from Reading Services and hold an illegal rave on a coach full of pensioners was hard to resist

Fans aboard the coach were entertained by Brian York (brother of Mike). Full of excitement, an enthusiastic Brian told the coach how Bath City would avoid relegation and beat Luton that very afternoon. Readers who do not know Brian may find this optimism a little far-fetched, giving both club’s contrasting form. Brian is legend and whether we are playing Bristol Manor Farm or Manchester United, we are still going to win in his eyes.

After tales of how The Romans would put The Hatters to the sword, Brain unveiled his undying love for every female fan at the club, including the chairman, and how one day he would get married in Amsterdam and honeymoon in Blackpool. Again, this is all normal from the legendary supporter.

We arrived at Luton on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. As the coach drove down the high street towards the Kenilworth Road ground, we passed the local shops. Almost every single one had a fruit and vegetable stall outside. Never mind eating the recommended ‘5 a day’, the residents of Luton must be on 50 and the most healthy and regular football fans in England.

Wen Luton win tha cup I will be very hapy. Hear is a picture of me hold in tha cup. By Gary Brabin. Luton manager. Aged 41 and a quarter.

The ground is in the town centre, up a small side street. Last season, we were unable to park the coaches outside the ground, so both fans and players had to walk to the stadium. The late Don Revie would be proud. This time we were able to get off outside the turnstiles and made our way to a local pub.

The pub was filled both sets of supporters. The Luton fans were friendly, welcoming and a credit to their club. Sadly, the choice of drinks wasn’t great. Ciders ranged from Strongbow to… well, Strongbow. I believe the lager was Fosters. I stayed off the booze, instead opting for an orange juice.

I've seen some rubbish players in my time, but...

It seems the residents of Luton really do love and support their local team. The Liverpool/Arsenal game was on the telly (from a dodgy foreign television feed), but none of the drinkers appeared interested. They talked about their team, while reading the free fanzine “Half-time Orange”. If this was in Bath, the pub would be full of plastic football fans, crowded around the screen, oblivious that Bath City were even playing that afternoon.

In a bid to increase tourism, Luton Borough Council have placed a bed on every street alley, allowing tired visitors to sleep

After the pub, fans headed back to the ground, parting with their cash to get through the turnstiles. Like Grimsby, the entrance fee was £18. Like Grimsby, this is a ludicrous price to watch a football match, especially at Non-League level. I know Luton were playing Championship football only a few seasons ago, but there is no need to charge Championship prices! OK, rant over.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Taylor. I don't care if you are 'The Power', you're not bringing your darts in here"

The game kicked off, with Bath City supporters unaware what to expect. With the exception of Brain York, we knew we would lose; the question in everyone’s minds was by how many. City survived an attempt on goal by John Paul Kissock who shot wide, before Sean Canham at the other end missed a chance to take an unlikely lead. Would Lee Phillips have scored had he been in the same position? Probably not.

Everybody needs good neighbours. A view from inside the ground.

With Luton being a popular fixture, City fans travelled in numbers (well, about 80 which is good for us) and out-sung the home support with renditions of “Non-league and you know you are” (always a favourite) and the new classic “Que Sera Sera. Whatever will be, will be. We’re going to Salisbury.” With relegation looking ever the more likely with each passing game, the singers were almost certainly correct. However, one should be wary of the evil Dennis Strudwick, General Manager of the Football Conference. If Strudders has his way, we could be playing in the Conference North next season. May I suggest having an alternative version of the song, with the lyrics “We’re going to Guiseley“ ready just in case.

City did well to keep the Luton attack at bay, but in the 17th minute, Janos Kovacs scored. Unmarked. Free header from a corner. Despite being a goal down, the travelling fans kept singing, while Luton piled more pressure on the City defence, with Keith Keane missing a chance to make it 2-0.

My garden shed is bigger than this

Despite their friendly welcome in the pub and massive dedication to their team, I was a little surprised at what little noise Luton fans made. There was of course a huge cheer when they scored and the now common place “You’re shit aaaaahhhhh!” whenever goalkeeper Glyn Garner kicked the ball; but I can’t remember one song by the home faithful, besides a chant of “Southern League” directed towards us. Sometimes I wish we were back in the Southern League. Change from a tenner at the turnstiles, swapping ends at half time and morbidly obese goalkeepers.

Tinpot

Seconds before half time, City had an excellent chance to equalise – a free kick which Gethin Jones came painfully close to heading into the Luton net. The half time whistle was greeted with boos from a small number of home supporters. I was a little shocked by this at first, but considering it wasn’t long ago they were playing and thrashing the likes of Leeds United, the fact they were only beating “little old Bath City” by a solitary goal was worth complaining about. No doubt, next season if we are not 8-0 up against Borehamwood in the Conference South (or Chorley in the North) at half time, there will be calls for manager, Adie Britton, to resign.

The tannoy announcer told the home crowd, with glee, that local rivals Watford were losing 1-0. Considering Watford are now in the Championship, perhaps it is about time the rivalry was put to bed for a bit? Then again, I’m all for having a relegation party when Yeovil Town finally drop into League Two. Green slime.

The entrance is a converted terraced house. Remember to wipe your feet on the doormat before entering.

The second half began with more humorous singing from the Bath fans “We’re all going on a train to Borehamwood, a train to Borehamwood, a train to Borehamwood” before moving onto my favourite song of the day, possibly the season “The stripes are staying up, the stripes are staying up. ‘cos everyone’s in admin, ‘cos in admin” (to the tune of “Jolly Good Fellow”) Practice it, folks. I want a full rendition of it next season when we’re on our way to Plymouth Argyle.

On the pitch, Bath City were performing a lot better in the second half. It was one of the best displays I have seen from them this season. Sadly, as has been the problem in all games, we just haven’t been able to score, despite chances created. Scott Murray had a good opportunity to equalise from a free kick, but instead smashed a seat behind a goal into pieces. Such disregard for seats hasn’t been seen at Kenilworth Road since the Millwall riot in 1985. Murray did the same at Mansfield last season. Part of that seat is in my flat. A steward prevented me from taking a similar memento home from Luton.

As the game drew to a close, Luton got a second goal and ended any Bath City dreams of a comeback. The scorer was Adam Watkins, an England International who scored against Italy just days earlier. It may have been for the England C Team, but when ‘arry Redknapp takes over the senior side, Watkins will no doubt be higher up his choice of strikers than Frazer Campbell.

With the match almost over, an army of stewards appeared from nowhere, almost outnumbering the away fans. I suspect they thought we were going to invade the pitch in celebration of our 2-0 defeat.

The stewards sense trouble

So there it was. Another defeat. The eighth on the bounce. Unsurprising, considering we were playing Luton. It still hurts, although this time I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride at how well the players had performed, especially in the second half. The actual fact we were playing at such a wonderful stadium in front of almost 6,000 fans is impressive too, considering just a few years ago our away trips included local derbies against Yate and Mangotsfield. One middle-aged supporter announced “the next time City play in front of five thousand fans, I’ll probably be dead”. On that heart-warming thought, I’ll say goodbye. No game next week, so no blog for a little while.

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