Posted by sean on April 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm in Bath City, Ventures Outside Of Bath with No Comments


Brislington Reserves 1-1 Purnell Sports
Somerset County League First Division
Saturday 7th April 2012 – 15:00

With Bath City having played on the Friday night, I was left with a free Saturday. Like any obsessive non-league fan, I used my afternoon to do a spot of ground-hopping. For those not in the know, ground-hopping is a bit like trainspotting, only geekier. A ground-hopper will visit the football ground of a club he or she has not visited before and add the fact they have done so to a scrapbook, wall chart or in my case, a spreadsheet. There are even Facebook applications and websites dedicated to ground-hopping, all used by saddos like me.

My ground of choice for Saturday would be Ironmould Lane. Home of Brislington FC of the Western League. I only live a short way from Brislington, but shamefully have never visited their ground before. Bath City did play them a few years ago in the Somerset Premier Cup. City lost the game 5-0 and were fined £250 as punishment for fielding a side made up almost entirely of youth players. Like the majority of the first team, I did not attend that match.

The game will be refereed by Lewis Hogg, with Matt Coupe and Nathan Rudge as linesmen

I would make use of local public transport for my trip to Brislington, boarding the infamous X39 bus. I sat near to the back, just in front of a woman who looked like she had passed out and another who was listening to her iPod, except without headphones so the entire bus was subjected to her awful choice of music.

I got off the bus just in time. Had I been on the bus any longer, a female traveller would had an iPod firmly thrust into her head. After escaping, I crossed the busy main road, remembering to look left and right, just the hedgehogs on the TV advert told me. I then made the walk up a long side road to the concealed football ground. I thank Google Maps for allowing me to plan my route before departing.

Did I mention that I wasn’t actually watching Brislington FC play? Well, not the first team, anyway. It was Brislington Reserves against Purnell Sports. Upon arrival at the ground, I looked for the turnstiles. I couldn’t find them, so instead wandered through an entrance intended for the players and match officials. Ether the reserve fixture was free entry, or I can pass for a Somerset County League First Division player.

I headed for the club house for a pre-match drink of Thatchers Gold (a perk of visiting a West Country-based club) while listening to the commotion amongst the home fans and staff. The excitement over an incident involving a swimmer holding up the Boat Race on the TV was soon forgotten when a reserve team manager came rushing into the bar asking if anybody had a spare black sock as a player had lost his. Mayhem.

This is a gate

After Thatchers had been drank and a suitably black sock found, I made my way outside to prepae for the highly anticipated fixture. There was about five minutes before kick off. A couple of players got out of their cars and wandered over to their manager to check if they would be playing. After being complemented on their new football boots and informed they had three minutes to get changed, they ran off to get ready.

The closest Brislington will come to signing Thierry Henry... or even Leigh Henry

The place began to fill up. After all, this was a hotly contested derby. Brislington were still counting the gate receipts when I left, so was unaware of the official attendance, but as the game kicked off, I counted as many as 9 supporters in the ground.

A coach, late out the changing room, ran to the dug outs, clutching a bottle of vinegar – either to go with his chips or just in case a player gets stung by a wasp. An overweight Brislington player took up the job as linesman, while exchanging banter with his team mates and supporters.

A rather worrying stain on a clubhouse chair

The game started as you would expect a game involving a Western League reserve side to start. With the goalkeeper miskicking the ball so it stopped after 10 yards. The keeper had a chance to redeem himself moments later with a second goal kick. This time his kick went a bit further. All the way out of the ground and into a nearby hedgerow. A player leapt from the dugout, ran across the terrace and began taking apart the fence before crawling into the bushes and nettles to retrieve the lost ball.

As I waited for the makeshift ball boy to do his duties, I noticed Brislington’s opponents, Purnell Sports, were sponsored by Berkleys coaches – the firm who provide away travel for Bath City. Fascinating observation of the day #1.

Brislington is a nice ground. Most of it is undercover, which is great as it was a bit wet that day. I avoided the main stand and terraces, instead opting to sit on a bench which looked to have been stolen from a school cloakroom. There were coat hooks along the top of the seats, making it ideal for anyone wishing to hang their suit or dinner jacket up during the match.

What appeared to be a WAG joined me in the stand, sitting on the other bench. From the sounds of it, she spent most of her time sending text messages. In fact every fan in the ground under the age of 70 was on their phones, including some of the players.

The Cloak Room Stand

The job of the Brislington Reserve manager appeared to be to shout. A lot. His favourite phrase being “Squeeze him! Squeeze him!” closely followed by “Pass it! Pass it!”

A rival player entered The Cloakroom Stand and sat next to the WAG, who he appeared to know. While watching the game, I couldn’t help overhear their conversation, which included talk of all the naughty goings-on at Welton Rovers and Bishop Sutton. It was like he was reciting an episode of Sky One’s Dream Team. One story involved how morale was low after a player’s wages were cut to £10 a week.

Match shot

During the second half, I left the cloakroom, remembering to take my hat and coat from the hook, and stood behind the dugouts. The home manager continued to shout at his players “Don’t sell it! Don’t sell yourself!” whatever that means. Glad I’m not a footballer.

Purnell opened the scoring, which resulted in mass celebrations from the away dugout. The linesman for the second half, presumably a Purnell coach, congratulated the goal scorer on a fantastic effort.

Impartial match official

The away side came close to doubling their lead, when a pacey number 10 broke and ran towards goal. “Twat him!” came the instructions from Brislington’s bench. Number 10 got suitably twatted and the score remained 1-0. By this point, the attendance had more than doubled since the start of the game. I counted 25, although a lot of these were substitutes who had become bored of waiting on the bench.

As the game progressed, the challenges and passes became more scrappy. One player slicing the ball into the cloakroom stand, which almost burst on a sharp coat hook. The ball was retrieved before being hoofed out the ground and into a tree, probably destroying a birds nest in the process. Again, a substitute leapt from the bench to get the ball back.

The vocal manager, desperate to rescue a point continued to shout orders at his team. “Don’t stop!” he yelled, before a nearby fan piped up “Believing” Ha ha ha. The players didn’t take much notice of their manager, which infuriated him further “I’m speaking fucking English!” he reminded one player – probably a multi-million pound foreign signing who has little grasp of the language.

By this point I was becoming increasingly concerned. The player who had earlier left the substitutes bench to retrieve the lost ball from the hedgerow hadn’t returned. Anything could have happened – perhaps a badger or hedgehog had eaten him.

Condiments rating: 4/10

Brislington had a great chance to equalise as a decent ball was played to their number 8 who casually strolled into the box like Mario Balotelli. Unlike Mario Balotelli this player didn’t score, instead headed the ball into the stands. As there was no ball boy or fan in that stand, he had to get the ball back himself.

It was at that point I noticed the overweight and middle aged linesman from the first half had stripped down and was all kitted and booted in Brislington colours. The substitution was made and the bloke ran onto the pitch, bearing a number 14 shirt. As he jogged onto the field, a supporter asked if the shirt number represented his weight.

Controversy erupted when a Purnell forward appeared to have been fouled just outside the Brislington penalty area. He looked up, longingly at the referee, hoping for a free kick or penalty. This apparent cheating caused uproar as another player informed the referee “He gone down like he’s been shot!” Amusingly, the player berating the cheat was his very own teammate.

The match was drawing to a close and it looked like Purnell Sports had secured themselves a dramatic away victory. That was until the tubby number 14, who had also been a linesman less than an hour earlier, put all his weight behind the ball and slammed it into the top corner of the Purnell goal. It was a decent strike. 1-1. The player ran to his adoring fans, arms held out before shouting “I’m rolling back the years!”

Following the wonder-goal, Brislington stepped up a gear and turned on the skills. Their Number 2 passing a ball straight from the legs of Purnell’s Number 11. If Lionel Messi had done the same, Sky would be talking about it for weeks. Sublime football.

The referee then blew his whistle. Fans headed for the clubhouse to find out how many goals Liverpool had lost to that week, while others went home to watch Bristol City’s relegation battle against Nottingham Forest.

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