Bracknell 0 Wokingham 3 (29/08/2011)
Bracknell is not a glamorous town. It could claim to have had its moments. Sean Connery’s first film role after quitting James Bond was filmed in the town. Richard Burton also filmed a wages heist in the town, although being the backdrop of some scenes of a Chesney Hawkes film seems more in keeping with the town’s character.
The town’s football club would actually have to go some to be more downbeat, but sadly Bracknell Town achieve that accolade with distinction. I say sadly, as I grew up in the town, and so little did the club impose itself on the local populace that I was at least 14 before I even knew where the football ground was. It would not surprise me in the slightest if half the people in the town don’t even know the club exists.
Part of it is because the ground is tucked away down a tiny left in, left out, lane, hidden away in a surprisingly pleasant and leafy part of the town that few ever see. Mainly it’s because the club has never really achieved much. It did nearly get promoted out of the Isthmian League 1st division in the 80s, and did actually make the FA Cup 1st round for the only time ever in 2000, but it’s been rather downhill since then.
In fact over the last seven seasons, Bracknell probably have the worst record of any English club in the whole pyramid system. In those seven years they’ve only finished higher than 4th from bottom once, and that was 7th from bottom after being relegated.
That relegation was no ordinary relegation either. 40 of 42 games were lost, as the team recorded a goal difference of -158. I saw them twice that season, and they let in a total of 14 goals in those two games alone. One, a 0-9 home defeat, is the highest score I’ve seen in a proper game. And that wasn’t their worst defeat of the season either, conceding 11 in a game a few weeks later.
I’m not a regular visitor. Over 20 years or so since my first visit, I’ve only seen them play nine times. They are probably grateful, as not only have I never seen them win, I’ve only seen them let in less than three goals once. It was the same story in this game too, another defeat, one that kept them bottom of the Hellenic League Premier Division, and another three goals conceded.
I have from time to time felt the odd pang of guilt at not watching my home town club more often, but the sad truth is that a game at Bracknell’s home of Larges Lane doesn’t exactly have a siren-like quality to entice you to its bosom. It’s hardly the prettiest ground in non-league football after all. Even by the limbo-dancing lowness the bar is set for in Bracknell, it’s quite an unattractive place. One side is taken up by four rather disjointed structures. Two of these are short seated stands of just a few rows of seats. The other two are the changing rooms and the club bar. The club bar itself is decked out inside in a mock-tudor style, with fake beams that make the place look like someone has coverted a mobile home into a public house.
One end of the ground has a flat corrugated iron roof over a narrow terrace, with supports looking like scaffolding borrowed from a building site. Bizarrely one end of this terrace carries an Ipswich Town badge, with a banner declaring this the “Tractor Boys Corner”, although both the boys and their tractors were noteable by the absence.
Looking towards the far end, you could almost be forgiven for thinking this was some rural retreat, such are the amount of trees visible, but the image is spoilt somewhat by the temporary fencing behind the goal, that been there for the bast part of a decade since the wall blew down in a storm. The other side is lined by tall trees, which just about do their job of keeping out wayward footballs.
At least Bracknell have a home though. The “visitors”, near neighbours Wokingham, actually share the ground, after theirs had to be sold to pay off debts in 1999. This local derby saw the crowd swell to around three times Bracknell’s typical crowd, with a “bumper” 185 in attendance.
Despite my poor run of results watching Bracknell, I was strangley confident that I mght see them win at last. I’m not sure where this came from. My previous derby game involving Bracknell, just a couple of miles away in Binfield, had seen them lose 0-8, conceding a remarkable four penalties into the bargain.
Today though, I just had had a feeling thing could be different. It lasted about 20 minutes. Neither side had really done much in that time, but Wokingham cross across the box found an orange shirt at the back post, and he lashed the ball in from close range to put the visitors ahead.
It had been fairly even up until then, but Wokingham did actually have some sense of being a threat up front, while the most Bracknell did was threaten to threaten. They were just about managing that when a through ball caught the Bracknell defence flat-footed, and giving wokingham a one-on-one. Bracknell’s keeper did well to stop the first shot, but couldn’t hold it and the resulting tap-in effectively ended the game as a contest before half-time.
The second half was almost a non-event until the last few minutes. Wokingham notched an almost apologetic third, with the scorer not even celebrating as he methodically tapped a loose ball into an unguarded corner of the net. “Come on! Don’t feel sorry for ’em” was the rallying cry from one Wokingham player, sensing his team weren’t keen to inflict more misery on a club who must have come to accept it as the default emotion. They nearly did add a fouth, but that would have flattered Wokingham, who were hardly impressive themselves.
Where do Bracknell go from here? As a club, maybe the Hellenic Eastern Division, playing teams from town maybe a 1/5th of the size. A move to a new ground has been mooted for years, but much like the much talked about regeneration of the town centre – built in the 1960s in that “much loved” new town pedestrian precint style, heels have been dragged to the extent they are worn to the knee-caps. Until then the club seems content to continue to exist off the pitch, regardless of what horrors happen on it.