Posted by sean on February 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm in Bath City with No Comments


Before the quarter-final draw for the FA Trophy was made, I knew whoever Bath City would be drawn against would pose a difficult task. There couldn’t have been many more challenging opponents, however, than an away trip to Dover Athletic. At the time of the draw, Dover had been unbeaten in about 5,000 games, only beaten once in recent months in the FA Cup by Premier League opposition, Crystal Palace.

Despite the hard tie, Bath City fans and players remained upbeat. In previous rounds, they had torn up the form books, beating both Bristol Rovers and Altrincham, both of who has been on incredible runs of positive results prior to losing to The Romans.

I was more annoyed about the fact I missed out on a Saturday morning lie in. Had we been drawn at home to Dover, allowing me to stay in my bed until mid-morning, I would have been delighted.

So, I found myself leaving Weston Village and heading up to the coach pick-up point at Odd Down at a time far too early for a weekend. I suppose if we had drawn someone like Gateshead, we would have left even earlier, and been at Tamworth Service Station instead of waiting on top of a cold hill on the outskirts of Bath.

The day’s drama started long before the football had even kicked off. As the coach drove through Bath City Centre, we saw half of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary surrounding what can only be descried as a moped (aka ‘a chav mobile’) which had been mounted on some 5-foot-high railings. Either Evel Knievel has been racing through the streets of Bath, or some chavs had stolen a rival chavs wheels and placed them on top of the metal fence for a jolly good laugh.

The rest of the journey was a lot less eventful. The highlight being the 50/50 draw, which is basically a raffle, where those on board the coach pay a couple of pounds for three tickets. These tickets are placed into a hat (well, OK, a carrier bag) and drawn at random* with the winner receiving a share of all the takings – the rest of the money going to the Supporters Club, who organise the travel.
* while the draw is supposed to be at random, there are some conspiracy theorists aboard, who always claim the winners come from the back of the coach.

Due to a large number of fans traveling, the prize was huge. I can’t remember the 1st prize, but it was probably close to this week’s lottery jackpot. Sadly, I didn’t win. Two people at the back did get their tickets pulled out (somebody call Mulder and Scully), but there was a winner at the front of the coach too, so the crap conspiracy theory can be put to bed.

Fans on the coach, buzzing on the trip to Kent

We got to Dover’s Crabble ground with two whole hours to spare. Many would ask “who wants to spend two hours in Dover?” and that would be a fair question. The coach has to plan to arrive in good time, in case of any traffic delays on route. Plus, some of the drinkers like to arrive to incorporate a pub crawl into the away day.

The game was unsegregated. Generally, I am not a fan of segregation, but like yesterday, when it is a cup match, and we bring a lot of travelling supporters, I enjoy being kept together. It adds to the atmosphere. Before the game began, the referee performed the tradition of tossing a coin into the air, to determine which end of the pitch each side will attack during the first half. It is predictable that whatever goal I find myself standing behind before the game beings, will be the one that Bath find themselves defending, therefore resulting in me having to walk all around the football ground, with the match in-play, to get behind the other goal nets.

My walk was made longer, as I had to walk behind the seated stand, instead of walking in front of it. A jobsworth steward wouldn’t let us pass through the area, wanting to charge us extra to place our bottoms down on the seats. It’s not like I was going to sit down anyway, but considering we had paid a ridiculous price of £15 already to get in, I thought it was cheeky to ask for even more money. Who do Dover think they are charging so much? Arsenal?

During my walk round, things got exciting. Bath City were in Dover’s box, when one of our players fell to the ground. The referee blew his whistle. My instant thought was that we had been awarded an early penalty. Then I saw the linesman’s flag raised for offside. Excitement over, although many fans in a better position than I was, tell me it was a clear cut penalty, which the referee missed – presumably, just to piss us all off.

It wasn’t long until Dover showed why there were the side from the higher division and scored. Cue goal music. Sigh. There was confusion when the referee liaised with his linesman. Would the goal be disallowed? After a lengthy debate, the goal was awarded. Whoever was manning the tannoy and tape deck, decided it would be appropriate to play the goal music AGAIN. The only thing more tinpot than playing music once for a goal, is playing it twice!

Following their goal, the home fans began singing “D… O… V… E… R”. At least it shows that they can spell their own club name. I wonder if members of The Welsh leagues spell the name of their team in song. What do Llanfairpwllgwyngyll FC do?

With the exception of Dover’s keeper being very dramatic and lying on the ground (cheating), the rest of the first half went on with not a lot to blog about. That is until right until the end of the 45 minutes, when, at the other end of the pitch, there was a melee in the Bath City penalty area. The referee ended up brandishing a red card to a Dover player, much to the disgust and anger of the home fans.

Half time came, with a chorus of boos from the home fans, presumably directed at the referee and the Bath City players. I have later learnt that the player who was sent off punched our goalkeeper. I can only assume the Dover supporters thought our keeper had head-butted their player’s fist, and should have been shown the red card instead.

As I walked round to the other side of the ground, another City fan and I were greeted with some home fans who sportingly started shouting “Bath are shit” at us. I politely pointed out that it was only half time and that it would be advisable to wait until the end of the game before making such an elaborate statement.

The second half against 10 men was going OK. Just OK, though. Dover hadn’t scored again, but neither had we. At that point in the game, The Romans were going out. I then remembered that in my coat pocket, I had my new Bath City beanie hat, which I had bought before the Altrincham match, which we won. I there and then proclaimed it to be my lucky hat and placed it upon my, by then, freezing cold head. Before my noggin had even had time to warm up, Bath City scored. A fantastic run and shot by Andy Gallinagh. Substitute, Ross Stearn, then shot home himself, before getting a second. We were winning 3-1! We were going through to the semi-final! My lucky hat was officially lucky!

Our fans, who, to their credit, had been singing all game, went crazy, and sung even louder – much to the bemusement of a ball boy and nearby steward. Bath City fans sing a lot of songs, certainly more than Dover’s supporter’s highly unoriginal one, which I mentioned earlier. My favourites from yesterday afternoon were aimed at their drummer. I hate musical drums at football. They should be banned from all grounds. If you don’t, anarchy will be caused. Drums are a gateway instrument, turning to horns, clappers, pianos and eventually vuvuzelas. Therefore, renditions of “Only drum when you’re winning” and “Only shit fans bring a drum” were most pleasing.

The smile I raised at the songs was the last time I remember being happy at Dover. Literally seconds after I muttered the words “I wonder if Bath City will be giving Claire and I the FA Trophy as a wedding present”, Dover scored – in the 87th minute! There was then chaos. The home side threw everything at the Bath City goal. In the 94th-pissing-minute, their late dominance paid, when our ex-striker (Bath City reject), Jake Reid scored. The home fans were jubilant. We were gutted. Another fight broke out between players, resulting in a second player being sent off, this time for Bath City. The game ended 3-3. After playing so well, we had thrown it away, and it was all our fault. The third and final goal was a goalkeeping error. It was very upsetting. That said, I could not fault any of our players at all for their effort and commitment. They were fantastic.

Oh well, all is not lost. We all return to Twerton Park on Tuesday night for the replay. Dover will have to make the trip to us this time. I just hope we haven’t missed our chance. One thing is for sure, Bath City players and fans alike will be very up for the game. Not only did I have an unpleasant run-in with fans at half time, but my fellow City supporters reported some even nastier incidents with the locals – one which involved a man being restrained by police and stewards. The fact we came so near, yet so far; the horrible encounters; and the prize for progressing, we have all the inspiration we need to go for the win.

Come on City!

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