Posted by sean on October 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm in Bath City with No Comments

Braintree Town 3-3 Bath City
Conference National
Saturday 15th October 2011 – 15:00 

Braintree. Officially the second best football team in the country to be named after an internal body organ and a natural object. The first being Liverpool. Before any smartarses comment, Hartlepool doesn’t count. Having learnt that fascinating fact on Twitter last week, I simply had to attend Bath City’s trip to the Essex town.

Bath City played Braintree a few seasons ago. Back then, many friends of mine didn’t believe such a place actually existed. They thought it was a football club I simply made up, like Chickenton City or Fisher Athletic. I wasn’t able to convince them Braintree was a real town back in 2008, so I didn’t try again this time.

The turn out of Bath City fans for the trip to Braintree was low. Probably because we have had an awful start to the season, but mainly due to the fact we were playing a club most people didn’t believe was real.

Twenty dedicated insane City fans made the coach trip – the average age on board being 82 years and 3 months. I sat at the rear of the bus. It was freezing cold and I had to wear my coat for almost the entire trip. Funnily enough, the front of the coach was like a sauna. I’m sure the bus has its own atmosphere and varying climate. Had I ventured towards the front, no doubt I would encounter bikini-wearing pensioners enjoying cocktails, whilst sitting under a palm tree.

Katie Price's official magazine. Read during our stay at the service station. The greatest piece of literature since Wayne Rooney's autobiography

One thing I remember about past trips to Braintree is that the ground is almost impossible to find. I know I may sometimes stretch the truth from time to time on this blog, but there is little exaggeration when I say that Cressing Road is better hidden than Area 51. Apparently it cannot be found on Google Maps.

Cue a large coach driving around a small housing estate, narrowly avoiding driveways, with parked caravans which looked like they hadn’t been occupied since 1972. A battered England flag flew from a decaying shed. The flag bared the logo ‘NEWS OF THE WORLD’ – obviously a free gift during England’s 1986 World Cup campaign.

Upon arrival I headed for the clubhouse. It was a warm day and after the long coach journey, I would have killed for a Thatchers Gold. I was disappointed, however not surprised, when I saw the cider on offer – Strongbow or Magners. In my best attempt at an Irish accent I asked for a Magners. Expecting a small man named Paddy to appear, wearing a beard of bees and reminding everyone “there’s method in the Magners”, I was most upset when some middle aged woman handed me the luke-warm bottle and asked “Do you want ice with that?” Ice with cider? How dare you… OK, technically Magners isn’t cider.

I didn’t think their players were that funny

While supping my warm Apple-based beverage, I watched the second half of the Liverpool/Manchester United game. An overweight, middle-aged man stood nearby wearing a ManUtd shirt under an open Braintree FC coat. Braintree is prime ManU country. There are more Manchester United fans in the county of Essex than Lancashire. Then Steven Gerrard scored a goal. A loud cheer erupted. Essex is well-known for its large scouse-community. Seeing the score line, the tubby ManU fan soon realised his true allegiance and did up the zip on his coat, hiding his red football shirt. Then ManU scored. This must have made the fan hot as he took his coat off. I left the clubhouse and headed for the terrace.

Braintree Town appear to not only be a football club but a hardware store, selling everything from bricks and tarmac...

... to scrap metal

The game started well. Very well. Ever-dependant Gethin Jones opened the scoring for The Romans in the first 3 minutes. We were pinching ourselves. Could we have turned the corner? Could we be heading for the dizzy heights of 23rd place? Then a Braintree strike struck the post. Minutes later reality struck the City fans. Braintree scored a goal… and another. That losing feeling returned.

The Braintree faithful. Kept singing "red army". Strange as the players wore orange.

Half time came. I bought a can of coke. Again served at room temperature. Why can’t they just stick their drinks in a fridge? I know they have such technology in Braintree. There was one dumped in a driveway outside the ground.

I walked round to the other side of the ground behind a goal. Despite all my negativity about the trip, being able to mix with the home supporters and swap ends at half time is always a welcome novelty of non-league and something I have missed from most trips since our promotion.

Cressing Road is full of portacabins. I haven't seen that many since I was at junior school.

The fans were downbeat. Could we spark a comeback. I’m always optimistic and replied “maybe”. Within minutes of the second half, Braintree scored again. Awful defending. It was going to be another one of those afternoons. Then, as the autumn sun was setting, Marley Watkins, Bath City’s answer to Lionel Messi, scored. I could have kissed him. Thank you Marley! You’re amazing! No wonder Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson named their pet dog after you.

Despite the euphoria, we were still losing and needed a goal. Step up another hero of mine, Lee Phillips. A football war horse and man I would happily change my sexuality for if he came out and asked to come back to my flat for coffee. Deep into ‘Fergie time’, Mr. Phillips scored, sending me, a group of fans with a flag and 19 pensioners into mass hysteria.

A distraught Matt Paine getting a pat on the head from a steward

We may not have won. We may still be bottom. It may be very cliché, but yesterday Bath City won a MASSIVE point. Bring on Stockport.

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