Posted by sean on October 10, 2012 at 11:04 am in Bath City, Ventures Outside Of Bath with No Comments

Gosport Borough 3-1 Bath City
FA Cup – 3rd Qualifying Round Replay
Tuesday 9th October 2012 – 19:45

When the draw was made for the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Cup a few weeks ago and Bath City were handed a kind home tie against lower league opponents, Gosport Borough, I had a sneaky feeling we would draw the game. So much so, I booked time off work to attend the replay. The 1-1 score line on Saturday proved me right.

It was almost a game I didn’t attend, but not due to the inevitability of a draw on Saturday. Bath City’s poor season meant very little interest from fans to attend the replay and therefore the chance of a supporters’ coach being run was slim.

A bus did run, but again the match was in doubt after rain showers throughout the day. The game went ahead. Some would say, ‘unfortunately’.

We were, in fact, treated to one of the posh buses, with tables and even a microwave! This was one of only two highlights of the entire evening. I should have known things were going to be bad, as we sat in what seemed like a never-ending traffic jam, somewhere outside of Gosport, in heavy rain, while anxiously checking internet forums for announcements on pitch inspections and match postponements.

You have to admire a club that has its own personalised carpet

After getting through the longest traffic jam of all time, we were greeted by the sight of the sea. As anybody who doesn’t live near a beach will testify, it is customary (and I think the law), to get excited when you spot the sea. The second and final highlight of the evening.

It was still raining when we got to the ground. I bought a programme and pin badge from the club shop. I’m not one of those collectors of other team’s badges, but I liked the ship on Gosport’s crest. A pre-match drink of Olde English cider was drank in the clubhouse, while sheltering from the persistent rain.

A very wet Gosport

The first half of the match was OK. Not bad, but not good. We stood behind the goal which we were attacking (we’re not at Kenilworth Road anymore, so can do this), undercover from the elements. City created various chances on the home side’s goal and when Sean Canham (yes, he’s come back), opened the scoring, things appeared to be looking up. I even started to dream of the next round – an away trip to Slough – which would inevitably have resulted in a blog with various references to The Office.

From then on, despite City’s best efforts to increase the lead, the vital second goal never came. In fact, Gosport nearly equalised on a number of occasions. Perhaps a warning of what was yet to come.

Although a goal down, the home fans continued their support for their team, singing the local sea-shanty sung by all Hampshire-based football clubs “Play up”. In this case “Play up, Gosport. Gosport, play up”

The Gosport players themselves refused to give up the fight and continued to battle for every ball, while their goalkeeper, with a hairstyle almost as impressive as Kurtis’ yelled instructions at his defence, in between profanities far too rude to mention on this family blog. A shout of “You won’t get that kind of language in The Conference” came from one group of home supporters.

The comedy moment of the night came towards the end of the first half, when both Aaron Brown and the foul-mouthed goalkeeper challenged for the ball. Due to the water-sodden pitch, the keeper fell to the ground, skid off the grass and into a puddle which would be better described as a small pond.

I decided to watch the second half from the stands; mainly because there was no roof behind the other goal. I realised this was a mistake when Brian York sat next to me and his brother, Mike, behind. Gosport started the second half well and Mike annoyingly pointing out “They’ve come out a different team”.

Shot from the stand

Mike’s comment may have been annoying but it was correct. Gosport looked good and not long into the second half, the inevitable happened. A scramble in the box and a goal for Gosport. Poor defending.

It really pains me to write this, as I very rarely give up on a game and believe that there is always a chance of a comeback, right up until the final whistle. However last night, when that goal was scored, despite it only being an equaliser, I knew that was it. The cup dream over. Indeed, 10 minutes of madness followed, where Gosport tore through our weak defence, scoring another two goals, leaving the club mortally wounded as if being stabbed in the heart.

It was awful to watch. The players’ heads had dropped. They had already gone down at the equaliser. Some would say at half time. Club legend, Jim Rollo, refused to give up, didn’t stop running and, along with a small pocket of supporters, tried to rally the team. You can’t stop encouraging your team, even though the result is inevitable.

With less than 15 minutes to go, a group of elderly supporters, renowned for their bitterness towards manager, Adie Britton, over many seasons, woke up and started to complain. Not prepared to listen to them lambast my club any further, I moved behind the goal. The rain had stopped, but I would have still walked off, even if there had been a monsoon.

We were soon followed by the Last of the Summer Wine cast, who continued past the goal, heading for the dugouts. It was clear of their intentions. To verbally attack the team and their hate figure, Adie.

Behind the net shot

I can understand their frustrations at the defeat and recent form – all Bath City fans are suffering, but to verbally assault your team is unacceptable behaviour. Those “supporters” will argue they have been attending Twerton Park for over 50 years. Whether a fan has been attending 500 years, or if it is simply their first match; abuse or intimidation towards another human-being, yet alone your own team, is beyond appalling.

On the pitch, things were not much better. Gosport had stopped their attack, instead reverting to a committed and organised defensive style of play; something we have been missing. City created a few chances themselves, but nothing to get excited about. The damage had already been done.

Full time came, amidst mass cheers from the home supporters. They deserved it. It was their moment. We have had ours and been giant killers in the past – just ask Grimsby Town. Yesterday was Gosport’s night. I hope their fans enjoyed it and I wish them all the success in the next round.

As for my beloved Bath City, where do we go from here? Something is clearly not right at the football club. I have always felt that even in our promotion season, three years ago, we were not one of better teams technically in the division. Our success was built on team spirit and hard work. The club were living off the wonderful 2006/07 Championship-winning season and a team built by both Adie and former-manager John Relish. In my eyes, the spirit has gone, along with many of the players who were part of, what the management team previously referred to as “the bubble”. That bubble burst some time ago. We have been left with a squad of individuals, who at times have underachieved and must take a degree of responsibility themselves. Granted, the club have been unlucky with injuries and we have not been blessed with a wealthy financial backer, but can everyone at the club honestly say they have done their best, every game?

Local media coverage

Is anybody to blame for this? Maybe. There is no doubt a hangover from last season. What should be done to stop the rot? I simply don’t know. Do I want Adie and his assistant, Lee Howells, to leave? I am well aware I am the minority, but I would say no. I would like them to rebuild a team. Whether they feel they are able to, or be given the opportunity to do so, is a very different matter.

By the time I had reached the dugouts at fulltime, Adie had disappeared into the changing rooms. Along with a small number of other supporters, I met with Lee Howells for a sombre post-match chat. I hope it wasn’t a ‘good bye’, but worry it may have been just that.

Posted by sean on October 7, 2012 at 8:36 pm in Bath City, Ventures Outside Of Bath with No Comments

Buckland Athletic 1-2 Bath City
FA Cup – 2nd Qualifying Round
Saturday 22nd September 2012 – 15:00

Let’s not beat around the bush here, after a very encouraging start to the season, which saw Bath City top of the league in August, things have gone downhill somewhat. After a very poor performance at Bromley, a home game against Dover Athletic followed. We lost, and although the injury-plagued team came in for some harsh criticism from many supporters, I don’t think the performance was nearly as bad at the previous week in Kent, or the second half against Dorchester weeks earlier. The mid-table position is, however, disappointing.

Spot the dog

What can be done to lighten the mood of the club and reignite the season? The return of everyone’s favourite cup competition, of course. Nope, not the Somerset Premier Cup (that’s in November), the FA Cup. Bath City are renowned for being famous in the FA Cup. Generally famously good or famously bad. The likes of Cardiff City, Hereford United and Grimsby Town have all been victims of ‘giant killing’; whereas Bath City themselves have been slain by smaller teams, most notably, in recent years Aylesbury United and Swindon Supermarine.

Trophy cabinet avec trophies. Clearly not the property of Tottenham Hotspur

The draw for the second qualifying round was kind. Or so we thought. An away tie at Western Premier Division side, Buckland Athletic – three divisions below the Conference South. The draw was greeted with optimism, with many supporters convinced that we had been effectively handed a bye. Buckland’s FA Cup replay against potential opponents, Plymouth Parkway saw them win 5-1. A 7-1 victory days later in the FA Vase started to get the nerves going. We may have never heard of Buckland, but they could certainly score goals and didn’t look like they were prepared to roll over and have their bellies ticked by Adie Britton.

The coach journey down was like many other this season, expect we didn’t stop at Reading services (somewhat of a diversion to Devon). There was a 50/50 draw, which I didn’t win (I never do), Brian York entertained us all, while his brother, Mike (ever the optimist), said the match would be the hardest FA Cup tie we have ever played in the club’s history. He’s right; Stoke City are dog shit compared to Buckland Athletic!

The coach arrived at the ground at what was apparently the car park. It was so close to the pitch, you could have watched the entire match from your seat, while munching on prawn sandwiches. As we left the coach, we were asked to cough up our entrance fee, no turnstiles here. A more than reasonable £6 to get in plus £1.50 for a programme, which was quite simply superb. Not only is it better than any programme in our league, but also the Conference National, where you generally expect to pay £3 for a magazine of adverts and a few pen pics.

Entrance fee paid and programme in hand, I went to the clubhouse. A recent build and much like the programme, excellently presented and better than most club bars at far higher levels. I was impressed. My only disappointment was the selection of ciders on offer, as I had to resort to drinking Olde English. After collecting my pint, I was annoyed to see a fine selection of real ales, which I would have certainly gone for had I noticed them about 30 seconds earlier! I complimented my drink with sausage and chips – freshly prepared and at a bargain £2. Again, compared to nearly all the places in Bath City’s current league and the Conference National, the food is far better quality and value. Clubs like Luton Town with their awful franchised catering should be ashamed.

The clubhouse. NOT a photo from Brian York’s wedding.

After leaving the club house, I had my now usual pre-match chat with assistant manager, Lee Howells. We discussed the forthcoming game, journey down and when Ken Bates would step down as Leeds chairman. Sadly, as I write this, three days two weeks later, he’s still there.

The game kicked off with Bath City creating an excellent chance inside the first 40 seconds, Charlie Griffin chipping the goalkeeper, only to see his effort go over the bar. Another chance was created later on in the half, where he hit the post. Mike York reminded us of the strength of Buckland’s shot-stopper “he’s the best keeper in the league”. They always are.

The best place to dine in Devon

Most worrying was not the fact Bath City were not scoring, but the fact Buckland were creating many chances themselves, including forcing Glyn Garner to make an excellent save, before missing an open goal themselves. Indeed, I felt relieved when the referee blew for half time with the scoreline at 0-0.

Match shot

An honourable mention to one group of Buckland fans who provided the best comeback chant ever. It was so poor it was excellent. With the City fans singing “We are the Bath, we are the Bath”, the home supporters replied with the ingenious “You aren’t the Bath, you aren’t the Bath”. Such wit. Almost as funny as the remark about us being Jeremy Guscott loving rugby fans. We’ve never heard that one before… naaaaat!

The second half kicked off much like the first ended, with City looking nervous and Buckland pressing for a goal… which they then got! An excellent strike which keeper, Glyn Garner, could do nothing about. Some of our fans complained and demanded a free kick for a foul on our Garner. There was no foul. Buckland had scored fair and square.

The die-hards

The goal must have acted as a wake-up call as City started playing. They bloody had to. They were less than 40 minutes away from being knocked out of the cup and effectively ending their season. No win means no cup run, and no cup run means no money for the club, and no money for the club means no money for players, and no money for players means a rubbish league season. Make sense? Good.

Bath City made it 1-1 with a great strike from Aaron Brown. Relief all round. The relief became joy-cum-get-out-of-jail minutes later when Luke Cummings’ cross met Kurtis Guthrie’s afro who made it 2-1. Let’s go crazy! We’re going to Wembley!

Buckland did not give up, despite having thrown away the lead and pressed for an equaliser, which they nearly got. Meanwhile, young Kurtis had a row with the linesman for failing to award a throw in his way “Fuckin’ hell!” he yelled at the official “Grow a pair!”

While I am unable to comment on the number of testicles attached to the linesman, I can agree with Guthrie in that he was a bit of a plonker (to put it in gentleman’s terms). I even had a “red mist” moment of my own when he flagged a Bath City player offside when he was blatantly level. Hooligan.

“Oi, Lino!!!”

Bath City went on to win the game 2-1. If you have been clever enough to notice the unacceptable lateness of my blog being posted (over 2 weeks old), you’ll also be aware Bath City are still in the cup (just), having drawn against Gosport Borough at home yesterday (6th October). Therefore, it’s all ‘daannn saaarrrfff’ for the replay on Tuesday night. Annoyingly, it looks like there will be insufficient support to run a coach (announcement due tomorrow; so check the forum, folks). Especially enraging for me as some Gosport club official promised me a free drink from their clubhouse.

Where my next blog will be from, who knows. Hopefully not Tonbridge Angels in the league, as it’ll mean we lost to Gosport. Is it too soon to dream of Sheffield United away in the 1st Round? Yes it most certainly is.

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