Bath City 4-2 Gateshead
Saturday 21st April 2012 – 15:00
Saturday saw the final home game of what has been a disappointing season at Twerton Park. The visitors were Gateshead, who had made the very long trip to Somerset from the north east – even longer than my previous week’s journey to Darlington.
Pre-match, I visited the old club shop. The old club shop is a blue shipping container, which up until a couple of years ago supplied supporters with metal badges, mugs and best of all, fridge magnets. Since getting promoted to the ‘big boys league’, Bath City have upgraded their shopping experience to a dog food marquee. The shipping container remains in its original location and is used by the Supporters Club as a base on match days. The purpose of my visit was to hand in my voting form for the player, supporter and young supporter of the season. This was all done with the highest security, to prevent any vote-rigging or foul play. While I won’t post on here which supporters I voted for (they may read my blog!), my player of the season was an easy decision – Marc Canham. A great player, who can even be forgiven for playing for Team Bath all those years ago.
City’s opponents, Gateshead, were having an excellent season and sat just outside the play offs. A remarkable feat for a club who, and with the up-most respect, would not be considered one of the league giants like Luton or rolling in money á la Fleetwood. They did however need a win to keep their play off dreams alive. Surely a trip to the side bottom of the league would be a guaranteed 3 points? In fact, they should just give the first team the weekend off in preparation for their upcoming midweek fixture. Send the youth team to Bath? Football isn’t like that, as we all know.
Bath City’s first season in the Conference South, back in 2007, was a huge success. The majority of the campaign was spent in the top five and talk of back-to-back promotions was rife. That fairy tale ended in April 2008, during the final home game of the season, when Sutton United, who were cemented to the foot of the table and already relegated, beat City 3-2 in a result that shocked world football (probably). The defeat cost us a play off spot and coincidentally almost four years to the day, Bath City, bottom of the league and already down, ruined Gateshead’s party. I guess that’s why we love (and at times hate) football.
After casting my vote, I walked round to the terrace behind the dugouts to watch the magic unfold. Bladud the Pig got into an altercation with Gateshead’s keeper during the warm up. Very strange. Clear red card for the pig. A dangerous two-trotted challenge.
Gateshead started the game well and gave little indication as to what would unfold across the 90 minutes. They even forced City into clearing a ball off the line. Then Bath turned on the style in a performance no doubt the best of the season. Adam Connolly, the goal hero against Dagenham and villain who messed up my bet against Fleetwood, scored what a Twerton Park moaner would call a “pretty good goal”. In comparison, I would call it a “fucking fantastic strike”.
It would appear that God is a Geordie. As following City taking the lead, what was a warm sunny afternoon, turned wet with rain. God was clearly crying as Gateshead’s play off dream started to die.
As God’s tears fell to the Twerton Park turf, Bath City continued their attack. Minutes later winning a penalty, awarded by referee Stephen Bratt who was still overcome with guilt following his last trip to Bath (I hope he got my letter). The spot kick was converted by the player of the season, Marc Canham and City were 2-0 up. Just so you’re aware, folks; the clock at this point reads just 8 minutes!
The singing started, with The Legion entertaining the ground with a rendition of “We’re all going on a trip to Boreham Wood” Excellent. You can stick your Luton and your Wrexham up your arse. I’m looking forward to away days at Staines, Tonbridge Angels and Weston Super Mare… OK, maybe not that last one!
Either somebody had put something in the players’ pre-match cup of tea, or I have been looking at the league table upside down all season, as Bath City were playing fantastic football and in just the 13th minute, yes 13, it was 3-0. Was I dreaming? Had I in fact had the hallucinogenic cup of tea? I checked my iPhone for confirmation. We were winning 3-0! At this point there were just three sets of people upset in the ground. Gateshead players, Gateshead supporters and the negative Bath City fans. They were upset because there was absolutely nothing to moan about! You could argue the referee, Stephen Bratt was saddened by our winning margin, given his previous treatment of us, but even he seemed happy.
By the way, for anyone reading my blog who also happened to visit Twerton for the first time on Saturday, I must tell you something. Despite our league position, we play like that EVERY week. I promise. So, if you’re a billionaire who wants to find a sleeping giant of a football club that plays such attractive football they make Barcelona look like Stoke, you know where to chuck your spare coppers.
It was only at half time I realised than Gateshead’s star striker, Jon Shaw was playing. The way some fans, newspapers and websites raved about him, you would have thought they had bloody Pele playing for them. I guess the stats don’t lie. 28 league goals. But Bath City managed to make him look ordinary. Is there still time to win the league, as I think we may give Fleetwood a run for their money? No? Bollocks.
The ever-impressive City continued their dominance and Sean Canham – no relation to Marc Canham (player of the season) – scored a header to make it 4-0.
Gateshead did manage to get a couple of goals back, just to give me a few nerves. After all, what’s a football match if you’re not given a minor heart scare during the course of the 90 minutes. If nothing else, it gave the moaning old men something to whinge about “Roll-o again” they complained. I hate it when people call him that. It’s “Jim Rollo”, not “Roll-o” He isn’t the name of a chocolate sweet. The only person who is allowed to mispronounce his name, and does so only a frequent basis, is the manager Adie Britton.
We were happy. Very happy. The Legion sang how we would stay up and Adie even raised a rare smile from the dugout. A nice sight as he always looks so stressed. It is clear how much the football club means to him. He even managed to share a joke with the referee, reminding him of his performance in the Alfreton game. At least I think he was joking.
Gateshead tried for the third goal, which lead to repeated groans of “Come on, City. Keep ‘em out!” from a nearby fan I have now named Mr. Grumble, however City did a professional job and kept the scoreline at 4-2. An excellent performance and 3 rare points.
Scott Murray won man of the match. He did well, but given the fact it was his last home game of his long career, it was inevitable he would win the honour this week. In fact, had he scored an own goal, broken Marc Canham’s leg, mispronounced “Roll-o” and got sent off, he would still have got the champagne at full time.
The club house at full time was packed. All it takes is a win and the place fills up. Fans, hearing rumours that fellow strugglers Kettering had dropped points, gathered around the projector, waiting for Jeff Stelling to bring good news about our league position. A cheer erupted when our thoughts were confirmed. After 8 months in 24th place, Bath City had moved up to the dizzy heights of 23rd! Cue scenes of unprecedented joy and songs of “We’re not bottom anymore!” I love non-league.
Darlington 2-2 Bath City
Saturday 14th April 2012 – 15:00
Since I last blogged, Bath City have played two games. The first on Easter Monday against Forest Green Rovers. This was our penultimate home match of the season. Bath City have never beaten Forest Green… OK, apart from that famous extra time 2-1 win in the First Round Replay of the Welsh Cup, during the 1988-89 season. Given our poor record against our Nailsworth neighbours, the fact we’re rock bottom of the Conference and Forest Green were flying high on their hippy owner’s bong (and admirable league position), I wasn’t holding out much hope. I was wise not to get too optimistic. It was a poor performance from both sides, in the pouring rain and City lost 2-0. A dishonourable mention for Rovers’ Reece Styche, who got booked for diving and was quick to take the “Inbred of the Month” award (won last month by Richard Brodie). The referee should also have given Jamie Cook a penalty too. Probably.
On the plus side, Bath City held the ‘name the stadium draw’. While I am a traditionalist and will always refer to Bath City’s home as Twerton Park, I welcomed the promotion which encouraged people to spend £50 on the chance to name the ground. If nothing else, it brought in much-needed revenue to the club. Of course, an embarrassing name could have been drawn out the hat, so I was pleased when The Mayor of Bath pulled out The Mayday Trust – a charity which helps people who are facing difficulties in their lives. Therefore, during next season, Twerton Park will officially be known as the Mayday Trust Park. Cue various wannabe comedians posting on the internet “Mayday, mayday, we’re going down”. Sigh. It wasn’t funny the first time. Or the second. Or the third, fourth, fifth or even sixth time the joke was made.
Enough about that and onto what you all came to read about. My sixteen and a half hour trip on a minibus to County Durham to watch a side bottom of the league and already relegated play a team third from bottom of the league and about to get relegated. El Classico this is not.
Despite being already doomed to play in the Conference South next season, I managed to convince myself that the ungodly early start, expensive trip and long day would be worth doing. Why? I attend most Bath City away games. Plus, I asked myself the question “Would I have gone if Bath City were top of the league?” From a personal point of view, the answer should be the same, regardless of league position.
Fourteen fans plus two drivers boarded the minibus to Darlington. Meeting at Twerton Park at 6.45am. Shortly before 9am, we arrived at the Tamworth service station, where coffee was bought (an essential purchase). We met some Forest Green fans on their way to Gateshead. There was little talk of the events from five days previous. City fans probably embarrassed about losing again, while Rovers supporters ashamed by Styche’s cheating. After a lot more driving, we arrived at Wetherby Services. This place is a haven for football fans. Last season, again on the way to Darlington, we met a crowd of highly intoxicated Sunderland supporters. One of whom fell over in the toilets, before shouting out to everybody that he had pissed himself. This time, there would be no drunken antics. We were however joined by Chesterfield and Wolves fans. A fight almost broke out following an argument about who has had the shittest season, although luckily that was stopped and we all had a relegation party instead. The relegation party was a success and much fun was had by all. Party games were played, including Pin the Tail on the Donkey Defender and Blind Striker’s Buff.
We arrived at The Darlington Arena at midday. I have been twice before, but I never fail to be amazed at just how big the place is. The stadium was opened in 2003, holding a capacity of 25,000. However, local planning laws restrict this to just 10,000, although not even that figure is ever close to being met. According to a Darlington supporter I met last year, one of the reasons such a grossly oversized stadium was constructed, was so that Darlington could one day host Champions League football. Given the fact Darlington were in League Two at the time, you may think that decision sounds a little mad. That’s because it was.
You will have no doubt read or heard about the awful mess Darlington are in, so I won’t bore you with it all on here. If you want to find out exactly what has gone on, their sad plight is well publicised on the unofficial website and forum, Darlo Uncovered.
Just looking around the ground, it was clear why they are financially screwed, which is a very sad state of affairs – not only for their supporters, but for fans of non-league and football itself.
We collected and paid for our tickets from an away ticket office. The previous two visits we went to the club shop. Why 15 or so away fans need to pay in a separate location to home supporters is a mystery to me, but assuming the man in the office was not a volunteer, it just highlights some of the off the field financial mismanagement involved at Darlington.
Due to our early arrival, we had lots of time before kick-off and had two options. Stay at the ground and try to locate the clubhouse somewhere within the vast arena, or walk to a nearby pub. The fans’ minds were quickly made up when a monsoon of rain and hail fell from the sky. Club house it is. A group of older Bath City fans were already drinking. It always amazes me just how much elderly gentleman can drink. They can easily put away five pints before a match. I would be on the floor if I had that much. After drinking a £3.60 bottle of Bulmers and visiting the club shop, picking up a pin-badge commemorating Darlington’s FA Trophy Final against Mansfield, I entered the north east’s answer to The Bernabeu.
As we awaited 3pm, the hip hop classic Can I Kick It by A Tribe Called Quest was played across the ground. Given both Bath City and Darlington’s poor seasons, I thought this track was rather fitting, as the song’s title had probably been thought many a time throughout the season by demoralised players.
The game was poor. You could tell both sides had experienced long and unsuccessful seasons. Mistakes were made and the atmosphere was subdued. If it weren’t for the freezing cold, it could have been mistaken for a pre-season friendly.
The ground was filled with photographers, however most appeared to have their lenses focused on the home crowd. It was no secret that if Darlington failed to beat Bath City that afternoon, they would be mathematically relegated. Given the fact they had not won for seventeen games, the chances of seeing grown men crying (hilariously) at the prospect of going down was high. Every football photographer wants to get one of them on camera.
Few chances were created by either side, but Jamie Cook did manage to get the ball in the back of the net. We saw the linesman’s flag raised ages before Cook’s strike, so did not even attempt to celebrate the clearly offside goal. That did not stop a group of 30-or-so home fans mocking us for NOT cheering a disallowed goal. Strange.
At the other end of the pitch, Bath City defender Andy Gallinagh almost scored what would be the most impressive own goal ever – attempting to lob his own goalkeeper. Thankfully Glyn Garner dealt with it, but had he not, at least Bath City would have found their way onto Danny Baker’s Own Goals and Gaffs 2012.
As if trying to gift Darlo a lead with an attempted own goal wasn’t enough, the generous City defence totally capitulated moments later, allowing a Darlington forward to find himself in a one on one position. Luckily their strikers are worse than our defenders and the ball was well saved by Garner from just 6 yards out.
However, Darlington did make it 1-0 before half time. A player, unmarked, managing to give the home side the lead. I was annoyed. Very annoyed. Not by the fact we had made yet another mistake in defence. Not because Darlington had scored. No, because Darlo play goal music. Worse still, Tom Hark. Why clubs do it, I have no idea. It is so embarrassing.
As half time approached, City tried to equalise, although only managed to shoot wide of goal. The fans who jeered us earlier on responded to the miss with a song of “That’s why you’re bottom!” Thanks for that.
Two substitutions were made at half time for City – Scott Murray and Sean Canham entering the field to give the away side a more attacking line up. It was needed. Darlington were clearly vulnerable in defence, so it was worth exploiting in an attempt to salvage some kind of a result.
A pair of policemen entered the segregated away stand, which consisted of the fourteen fans who made their way up on the minibus and six other supporters who I have never seen before, who had decided to sit with us. Strangely, I think they were locals. There was also a dozen stewards to keep the drunken Bath City pensioners under control. I did wonder what the police were doing. Either they had been mistakenly informed that we are the Millwall of the Conference and were about to start a riot, or they were heading for the press box in an attempt to keep warm.
Darlington scored again. 2-0. Game over. More goal music. Darlo’s first home win in 18 games. The sad thing is I could see this coming and even said pre-match that I suspect they’ll win…
“Sean! Wash your mouth out with soap and water!”
“OK, sorry, Sean! I’ll keep the faith…”
My faith was repaid when, with a few minutes to go, Alex Russell lobbed the Darlington goalkeeper. A great goal. 2-1. Game on. At this point, Darlington collapsed like a pack of cards. Scott Murray broke through their frail defence and with the sweetest of strikes equalised. That really was game over, both for the match and Darlington.
Cue mayhem in the away end as along with thirteen other supporters, I celebrated like we had won the World Cup. Remembering the fans who had mocked us earlier in the game, we responded with a rendition of “Going down, going down, going down” It felt great and for a moment, I almost forgot that we had been relegated ourselves.
I later learnt following his equalising goal, which mathematically relegated Darlington, Scott Murray ran to the home fans gesturing them to ‘shhhh’. Some supporters had abused him pre-kick off and Murray had promised a reaction if he scored. This reaction clearly upset the home fans. I do feel sorry for the Darlo supporters who did not wind-up Murray or mock us Bath City fans. It is awful to be relegated (believe me, I know) and the last thing you need is to have the fact you are down rammed down your throat. However, those who were involved in any mockery of Bath City and Murray can have little complaint. After all, if you are not prepared to take it, don’t dish it out.
The referee blew for full time. A few boos echoed across the mostly empty and amply named Northern Echo arena, while most home fans just left in silence. Bath City supporters, already relegated, yet elated after the late comeback, celebrated with their players and management.
We wouldn’t get back to Bath until gone 10pm, but the long journey home would be much sweeter following the fantastic fight back. I am glad I made the trip – for many reasons. One being I do not know the next time I will spend almost seventeen hours on a single away day again – it’ll be the likes of Basingstoke, Eastleigh and Boreham Wood next season. Sob.
On a final note, I really hope Darlington manage to sort their problems out. While Bath City supporters are upset at going back down to the Conference South next season, at least we know we’ll have a club to follow. Darlo fans may not even have that. It made me sad to see a previously well-established Football League side in such a dire state. Good luck to their supporters, whatever happens in the future. Our five recent encounters have been fun, even if you did give us two hidings last year.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tamworth 0-1 Bath City
Friday 6th April 2012 – 19:45
It was Bath City’s first game since their inevitable relegation on Tuesday night. As we walked to Twerton Park to join our fellow
dedicated mad supporters, a car drove past. The driver, spotting our black and white striped attire, beeped his horn before shouting “Going down” out of his car window. I must applaud him on his observation skills while at the same time thank him for informing me of the fact that Bath City were in fact relegated. Only yesterday I thought to myself “I must make sure I have booked tickets to Luton Town next season”. I won’t bother now.
Tamworth is a fairly local trip, so there was no stopping at service stations this time. Upon arriving at the ground, the travelling fans all hungry, thirsty and tired, were advised by a steward that there was a Weatherspoons Pub just a five minute walk from the nearby river. We walked for what seemed like miles, passing geese, a funfair and even a castle, but sadly no Weatherspoons. A bar was eventually found. I didn’t get a drink. We left shortly afterwards. I think we may have inadvertently stumbled across a gay bar. On the walk back to the ground, we passed a Weatherspoons pub. We had walked the wrong way along the river. Dammit.
Tamworth play at The Lamb Ground – one of the more traditional stadiums in our league, which pleased me. The terracing could be better, but I always love a ground where home and away supporters can mix and of course, swap ends at half time.
As the players warmed up in the cold midland rain, Ready To Go by Republica was blasted out across the ground. It was tense -Bath City, already down, yet fighting for pride up against Tamworth – still in the relegation mix. Could The Romans slay The Lambs or would The Lambs hurt The Romans by nibbling them to death or smothering them with itchy, knitted wool? Republica was followed by Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer, as lots of home supporters bearing mullets enjoyed the classic 1980’s rock.
The game kicked off with the vocal home supporters singing “No one likes us, no one likes us, we don’t care” I can honestly say, I have never met a football fan who has said “You know what? I really can’t stand Tamworth football club. In fact, I hate them” Therefore, it was a rather strange choice of song. However, even Bath City have been known to sing the song and everybody loves Bath City – many people even more than their own club.
City started well, but as seems to be the case in every game this season, couldn’t take their chances. They were almost made to pay after giving away a silly free kick in a dangerous position, but Glyn Garner was able to pull off an excellent side, to the joy of the travelling fans who congratulated their player. Next to the City fans stood a group of young Tamworth supporters, high to their eyeballs on chocolate Easter eggs. Uninspired by Garner’s heroics, they began praising their own goalkeeper, Jonathan Hedge, and getting far too excited than is humanly healthy, when he made a comfortable save after an effort on goal from Scott Murray.
Despite being rock-bottom and already relegated, City were actually playing very well. In fact as good as they have been all season. Jamie Cook, who has come under much criticism throughout the season, was on fire. Not literally, but if he was up in flames, he couldn’t run around much more than he was doing last night. Well done, Cookey! He had a chance to score what would be his first league goal of the season, but was kicked down by a Tamworth brute. Hardly a lamb. More like an old sheep with tough mutton flesh and tangled up wool. If that lamb belonged to Little Bo Peep, she would put it to sleep… for good.
Half time was greeted to the odd boo from the home faithful and more Bon Jovi from the tannoy. Yet again, Living On A Prayer. They really do love Jo Bo here.
As will happen at every single away trip next season, the Bath City fans swapped ends for the second half, to be behind the goal they are attacking and wind up the home goalkeeper for yet another 45 minutes.
City continued their pressure into the second half. This started to annoy the locals. One of whom, a very Brummie man, became very frustrate. “C’mon!” He barked “What’s the matter with ya?” as City tore through the Tamworth defence. More chances were created by City and the angry fan became more angry “You’ve had your warning!” he bellowed as Scott Murray shot narrowly wide.
Tamworth made some substitutions. All of which were greeted by boos. Whether the fans were complaining about the choice of subs or booing the players coming off for a poor performance, I don’t know. As we were not segregated, I was tempted to join in.
City were beginning to frustrate the away fans. Chance after chance being missed. I wanted a win. I haven’t seen us win away all season. Some fans claimed they would take a 0-0. For me, a draw is pointless. We’re down anyway. We may as well go for a win and take some pride.
Another corner was won by City. “Don’t worry” a home fan was assured by a City supporter “We never score from corners” They were indeed correct. As I have mentioned on my blog before, we haven’t scored from a corner all season. Marc Canham, my player of the season, swung the ball into the penalty area. I almost looked away, expecting to see the ball headed out by a big centre back. That didn’t happen. The ball met Jamie Cook, who leapt forward with a diving header to put the ball into an open goal…
… Let’s calm down for a second, folks while we do a few checks. Is the ball in the net? Check. Has the linesman kept his flag down? Check. Am I awake? Check. Oh my god! You know what? I think we may have scored from a corner. What’s more, it was Jamie Cook that got it! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!
A bullet header from an unmarked striker after a corner. It was a typical Bath City goal to concede, yet somehow we had scored it!
As the final 15 minutes of the game was played, a feeling returned that I have not felt for ages. It was the feeling of winning away from home and praying to god that we hang onto the victory. It was nerve-wrecking and scary, although Tamworth had been rubbish for most of the game and rarely created anything to frighten me too much.
The bloke on the tannoy announced the match attendance as over 26,000. This was greeted to cheers and applause, even from the disappointed home fans. Of course the attendance wasn’t 26,000. It was 900-and-something. The high figure was the amount of money raised for the local St. Giles Hospice. Well done to all those who raised and donated money to the cause.
The game finished 1-0. There was, understandably, huge joy from the Bath City supporters, players and management. We may be down, but we haven’t given up all the fight. All this rubbish flying around the internet forums and terraces that manager Adie Britton isn’t up for the job and has lost the dressing room. Utter bullshit. The Bath City players did themselves, the club, fans and their manager proud.
The last time I saw Bath City win away from home was 26th March 2010. A 1-0 victory at Barrow. Since then, I have travelled 5513 miles on the road with The Romans, without witnessing a win, until last night. Phew! It was worth it, but I hope I don’t have to travel another 5,000+ miles to see our next 3 points.
Last night, Bath City were relegated. Relegated without even kicking the ball, due to Newport County beating York City 2-1. While disappointing, it wasn’t surprising. With the relegation, questions over the future of manager, Adie Britton, have emerged from supporters. Many, myself included, are in full support of Adie and believe he should retain his job. A few fans are less supportive. In this blog, I hope to detail why Bath City must retain Adie – both for the club’s future and because the great man deserves to keep his job.
After Bath City’s promotion and successful debut season in the Blue Square Bet Premier, Adie attracted interest from many bigger football clubs. While it was never confirmed, one of these was rumoured to be a Football League side. It is a credit to Adie that he has not once been tempted away from Twerton Park for success and riches, despite not taking a wage himself. In fact, Adie has invested vast amounts of his own money into the side, given up thousands of hours for the club and even climbed a mountain (literally and metaphorically) for Bath City. During one period of his reign, he also took it upon himself to chair the club; such is his love and dedication to Bath City. It could be argued that he was fortunate to be given the managerial position following the resignation of former boss John Relish in 2008, given the fact he had never previously managed a football club of Bath City’s size or level, but the Twerton Park faithful must show Adie the commitment and loyalty he has shown to the club.
Adie joined Bath City in 2005, as the assistant to newly appointed manager, John Relish. At the start of the 2005/06 campaign, Bath City were about to enter their ninth season in the Southern League, following relegation from The Conference in 1997. The duo had a successful first season at Twerton Park, only missing out on the championship and promotion to a big-spending Salisbury City side. The following season, Bath City won the league comfortably. While Adie was still in an assistant-role during championship season, the manager at the time, John Relish, was very open in the fact that Adie was an essential figure in winning the title. Following a pleasing first season in the Conference South, where Bath City narrowly missed out on a play-off spot, Adie took the manager’s role in October 2008 and yet again kept the Twerton Park side in contention for a top 5 finish during the majority of the season. Although one of Adie’s biggest achievements would come in his first full season at Bath City – the 2009/10 campaign, which saw the part-time Somerset side beat League Two opposition in the FA Cup, before winning promotion through the play offs in May 2010. A remarkable feat, as even at Conference South level, Bath City had a vastly smaller playing budget than many of their rivals, some of whom were fulltime outfits. The season which followed is classed by many as one of the greatest in the club’s history. Competing in a division which was effectively an extension of the Football League, Adie guided his part-time team, on a shoe-string budget, to 10th place in the Blue Square Bet Premier, finishing above, and beating, some famous, wealthy and well supported clubs such as Cambridge United, Grimsby and Mansfield. While this season has been a massive disappointment, it cannot be ignored that Adie and Bath City have had to compete against clubs with millionaire owners, teams who attract average gates in excess of 5,000 fans and clubs with a set up more suited towards The Championship than non-league. While everybody connected with Bath City is upset at the results this season and subsequent relegation, the situation Adie has had to deal with must have been extremely difficult and one which any manager, regardless of experience and ability, would struggle to overcome. Adie has shown during past seasons that he is more than capable of coping with life in the Conference South next year and there is no reason why he will not bring back success to Twerton Park.
Quality of Football
I have been watching Bath City for many years and I am sure there are a huge number of fans who have been watching football at Twerton Park a lot longer than me. There has been a lot of poor football witnessed at that fine old ground, a lot of which from the home side! However, the quality of football played by Adie’s teams, on the whole, has been a joy to watch. The stereotypical view of non-league football is that the ball spends the majority of the time being hoofed into the air. Adie’s Bath City side plays football. The ball is kept on the ground and his players are encouraged to pass it smoothly. Granted, things have been difficult this season and perhaps the attempts to play attractive football have even worked against Bath City at times, but I am sure I do not just speak for myself when I say I would rather watch a team play with an aim to make football pleasing on the eye than one who is just content to unimaginatively hoof the ball into the skies above Twerton and hope it lands at the feet of a striker.
Long Term Plans
When Adie joined Bath City with John Relish in 2005, both managers promised the club would be promoted to The Conference within five seasons. In May 2010, Adie proved he was a man of his word, as Bath City beat Woking 1-0 in the Play Off Final. The following season, the aim was to avoid relegation, which the club more than surpassed. This seasons aims were sadly not met, however in all areas of life you sometimes need to take a step backwards before you can continue progressing. I have no doubt in my mind, that between Adie, his assistant Lee Howells and the chairman Manda Rigby, new plans will be in place for the club and the direction it should take. On the whole, Adie has met his past targets set at Bath City. Not only would it be fair to allow him to set and carry out new aims, but it would be in the best interest to the football club.
The Development Squad
One of Adie’s long term plans was for Bath City to improve its youth structure. Since his appointment, the club have made a partnership with the University of Bath to form the Under 21 Development Squad – a programme with various aims, one of which to develop young players capable of being used in the first team. Adie has at times been criticised for his reluctance to field younger players, instead opting for older and more experienced talent. However, with the ever-improving Development Squad, which Adie himself has been involved in, there is reason to believe that fresh, youthful players could play a part in the Bath City first team in the future.
Football is in a big mess. Clubs are folding all the time. Take Kettering and Darlington for example. Not only does it appear they will be relegated along with Bath City, but their fans may not even have a club to follow next season. Luckily, this is not the case for Bath City. While the club have stated that further cuts will need to be made to the playing budget, Adie has shown during his time as manager that he is more than capable of working with limited financial resources, while still providing competitive and even silver wear winning football. If Adie was to leave, not only would a replacement manager have to be paid (remember, Adie doesn’t take a wage), but there is nothing to suggest that his successor would be able to make vast improvements with such limited resources. As I have mentioned earlier, Adie has in the past set himself and the club targets, which have been met. If financial aims can be set and achieved, Bath City will be in a much better position both on and off the field. I believe with his football and financial knowledge, Adie can play a huge part in helping the club move forward.
Adie has been wonderful for Bath City. With the exception of the supporters, he is the club’s biggest asset. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the football club, for all the reasons I mentioned and many more I have no doubt forgot. He is a gentleman; a kind, caring man, who always has time for the supporters. His football brain and knowledge is unsurpassable. It could be argued Bath City have underachieved this season, but so have so many other clubs. With all Adie has given to Bath City, he deserves the time and support from all connected with the club to help rebuild the team and bring back success to Twerton Park.
On this website, you’ll find me blogging (almost) daily about everyday life, living in Bath, working with computers, and the occasional bit of football stuff thrown in.
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