Posted by sean on March 2, 2015 at 7:14 pm in Bath City with No Comments

They say all good things must come to an end, but some endings can be better than others. Bath City’s amazing and memorable FA Trophy run came to a close Saturday afternoon, in the worse possible way. The Romans came crashing out of the tournament – one step away from a final at Wembley Stadium – in a manner which would fill any football fan with fear – a penalty shootout.

I started my long journey to North Ferriby United, early on Saturday morning. Some one hundred plus fellow Bath City supporters joined me, in boarding the coaches, which would drive from Somerset to Humberside for the Semi Final Second Leg. The Supporters Club organise travel to the majority of league matches, but are rarely able to fill a coach. Saturday’s trip was somewhat different. Such was the excitement of the fixture, that in addition to selling out a standard bus, a double-decker coach was also provisioned.

It would be that double-decker which would take me on the 10-hour round trip to East Yorkshire. I should really have been excited about the novelty of a two-tiered coach and taken advantage of sitting on the top floor. I knew it would be a long day and I would end up being very tired after the match, so decided to sit in a seat close to the driver.

The trip went quicker than in I thought. In my head, I imagined we were going to the other side of the world. I should have known better. In the past, I have been to the likes of Lincoln, Grimsby, York and Darlington – all following Bath City – not to mention countless trips to Elland Road to watch my other team, Leeds United.

I found myself getting more excited than I probably should have, when I discovered that there was free WiFi on-board the coach. I know we live in an age where you can get internet on your phone anyway, but you try logging onto the BBC website when you’re somewhere in the middle of the M4 motorway – you’re lucky to be able to send a text message, let alone check out Lawro’s Predictions.

I must have been the first person to find the WiFi as it was really fast. I started to regret not bringing my iPad, as I would have been able to get some live football streaming on the go. As the journey went on, I think other people clocked onto the fact there was free internet available, all tried to connect, which resulted in super-fast broadband turning into dead broadband. That was the end of my entertainment.

The only other positive about the journey up, was that my name was picked out first in the 50/50 raffle. On any previous trip, this would have meant me winning the top prize of twenty-something pounds. However, this time they pulled the tickets out in reverse order, which left me with £8 – not to be sniffed at, but also not enough to may my entry into the match.

We got to North Ferriby with lots of time to spare. Before we arrived, I didn’t know what to expect. They call themselves “The Villagers”, so wouldn’t have been surprised to see cottages. I had also heard some (possibly unfair) reports that areas of Humberside were run down and not very nice. This was not the case at all. In places, North Ferriby was really posh and even made some of the upmarket areas of Bath look like a rough council estate. I am sure most of the giant houses are owned by overpaid Hull City players and their WAGS.

North Ferriby United play their league football in the Conference North, while Bath City compete in the Conference South. Basically, they are at the same level, but one is based oop north, the other dawn saarfh. NFU haven’t always been at that level. Only a few years ago, they were many divisions below, and it is credit to them that they have climbed the ‘non-league pyramid’ like they have. Whether this is down to money or not, I don’t know, but fair play to them – they certainly haven’t been chucking obscene amounts of cash at their team, like some clubs.

The coach could only park roadside and we had to walk up a lane, past some houses and an allotment. It was very reminiscent of playing small local sides, close to Bath, in the Somerset Cup. It would have been great to of played a team of the same quality as Radstock Town or Shepton Mallet, but NFU were clearly far superior.

Despite arriving early, the ground was filling up fast. I quickly bought myself a programme. I don’t collect league programmes anymore – I used to have hundreds – but wanted one from each round of the Trophy to commemorate our run, as regardless of whether we made it to the final or not, we had done remarkably well.

I rarely drink alcohol at away games and it was a good thing that I didn’t want a cider on this occasion, as the bar was absolutely rammed. Standing outside, I could see bodies literally pushed up against the window, if one of them were to be smashed, people would probably come tumbling out.

Sensing that I may not have anywhere suitable to stand and watch the match, I found a suitable vantage point and waited for kick off. Come 3pm, when the game began, there was hardly anywhere to move. Bath City had brought around 300 supporters from the South West and beyond, while the home fans had come from all over the town and nearby Hull.

I never do match reports, as I am crap at them, and this isn’t going to change today. Needless to say, Bath City took an early lead and I really did start to think “what if…”. The first half was very even. City could have added two or three more goals to their lead, whereas Ferriby had more than enough opportunities to equalise and go in front themselves. In the second half, NFU were awarded a penalty and dashed my dreams of Wembley. Of course, I never gave up hope, especially with the match still tied at 1-1, but with the home team on the ascendancy, things weren’t looking good. Bath City did have their chances to win the game in both the regular 90 minutes and extra time which was played, but were unable to score the much-needed second goal. This meant a penalty shootout was in order. I’ll be honest. It was at that point I knew we had lost. Maybe it’s because I have never seen any of the three teams I support – Bath City, Leeds and England – win a shootout (apparently England beat Spain on penalties in 1996, but I don’t really remember). The thought of spot kicks filled me with dread.

I did my very best to support and encourage the City players, as did all the away fans. The first penalty was saved and our hearts were broken when we also failed to score the second. NFU went on to win the match, the round and indeed a trip to Wembley for the FA Trophy Final.

Their home fans ran on the pitch to celebrate. Many of our supporters rushed to our players, some of who were distraught and in tears, to offer comfort. Despite half of East Yorkshire being on the pitch, I was still unable to walk around the terraces to the exit, due to the sheer volume of bodies, so was forced to make my way across the turf, in front of all the jubilant North Ferriby supporters. That was tough. However, to their credit, they didn’t rub our faces in it. They were gracious in victory and our fans took defeat well. While I am gutted that I won’t be going to Wembley with Bath City, I wish NFU the very best of luck in the final against Wrexham.

Bath City may not be going to the home of English football, but I am immensely proud of every single player and all of the management team. We have beaten five teams along the way – including Bristol Rovers – and took the finalists to penalties. Although it is deeply disappointing, the players and fans must not see this as a failure. Once the wounds of Saturday’s game have healed, everyone at the club should look back on the Trophy Run with pride and happiness. There is no reason why next season the club cannot have more success, in the league, cup or even going that one step further in the Trophy and making it to Wembley. We just need everyone to stick together and look forward to the future.

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