I’m not sure who it was that talked about “the best-laid plans of mice and men” but it could easily have been written about me and this football season. With the passing of the cold snap I thought I’d get a clear run to the end of the season, but not a bit of it. A two-day schedule in South-Western England wrapped around a business trip is supposed to include matches at Gosport and Andover, but it’s clear quite early that the amount of rain falling is going to have an effect on this.
So when my phone call to Gosport at 5pm on Monday evening is fielded by a helpful guy who sadly declares that tonight’s game is ‘definitely OFF’ it leaves me shaking my head in despair. I do have a nearby option, but it’s a strange one. Western League division One local rivals Hengrove Athletic and Almondsbury UWE are meeting at Hengrove, although technically it’s a UWE home game. When I arrive at the ground, which is in the middle of nowhere some dozen miles south of Bristol (despite most websites declaring the ground to be in Whitchurch, a ‘suburb’ of that city) it’s still raining but the players are out kicking a ball about so I’m optimistic.
After the pedantic club official has ensured that I’ve parked my car to within a centimeter of where he wants it, I purchase an Almondsbury programme and enquire as to why their home match is being played away. Transpires that building work at the ‘visitors’ new University ground has made the pitch unplayable, hence we’re all here tonight.
Hengrove’s ground is hardly Fort Knox to access, and I suspect anyone desperate enough to avoid shelling out four quid could find one of several vantage points to view proceedings. Spectator facilities consist of a covered area on the halfway line and a small seated kit stand nearby. The clubhouse is inside the ground and has the welcoming bonus of an excellent pint of Butcombe Bitter on handpump. This begs the question that if a small clubhouse at a ground as isolated as this one can put on a great pint of cask ale, why don’t some of their bigger brothers make the effort? A couple of old dears are manning a food table offering cheese or ham rolls, and I partake of the former, although the cheese does taste as if it’s been saturated in pepper!
On current form you’d have to have this one down as an home banker – or should that be away banker? – with Hengrove currently fifth in the table whilst UEW are sixth from bottom. The pitch resembles a bog and the players could easily be more mobile wearing wellies, but they make a good fist of it and it’s nip-and-tuck for a while until Athletic’s forward line start to show the difference in class between the two teams. Almondsbury’s keeper is looking solid but can only parry a vicious strike from range and the impressive Ben Crewe follows up to open the scoring.
A second Hengrove goal twenty from the end of the second half would seem to signal game over, but the visitors – or should that be the home team? – raise their tempo and after pulling a goal back threathen to square it up, forcing the home keeper – or should that be away keeper? – to earn his corn. Five minutes from time Hengrove settle it with a third and although UWE score again in injury time, the points are decided. All in all an enjoyable game.
And that proves to be the final football of my two-day trip. Andover on the Tuesday night is postponed early, and so I wend my way home. Or should that be away?
Programme: Almondbury’s programme. Functional with some sexist jokes – don’t get me started again on political correctness!
Floodlight pylons: 6
Parakeets: Surprisingly none, despite the rain forest environment
Toilets: In the bar
Club Shop: Nothing evident
Tannoy: Can’t recall there being one
Players with the quirkiest name: Hengrove’s Marcus ‘Porno’ Maggs