Bridgwater 2 Clevedon 1

Bridgwater Town 2 Clevedon Town 1 (20/03/2012)

A tense local derby. A big crowd. A cracking game, and no less than nine goals! Yes, that’s what I would have seen had the original plan to see Alfreton v Mansfield been stuck too. Instead, circumstances dictated a trek through rural West England to see another local derby, although this one had six fewer goals and drew the home team’s lowest crowd of the season.

On the other hand, as well as a comedy own goal and a comedy miss in the match itself, the journey to/from our game allowed us to take in Stonehenge at 70 mph, and appreciate army manoeuvres on Salisbury plain. We also had the unexpected treat – clearly sometimes I’m easily pleased – of pulling up directly next door to Bridgwater Rugby Club’s ground. The most unexpected part of that was the sat-nav saying we’d reached our destination. A reasonable non-league venue it certainly looked, but the H shaped goalposts clearly indicated this, despite the sat-nav’s insistence, was not our venue for the evening.

Playing at the 5th level of rugby in England, the rugby club had the better ground. It only had two stands. One was a tall, seating perhaps 600 above dressing rooms and offices, with a standing area in front. Opposite is a short covered standing area. Looking across the ground towards the football club floodlights, barely 30 yards away from the rugby pitch, it seems like madness that the two couldn’t come to some agreement to enable better facilities for both. Instead they stand back to back like sulking siblings, prepared to put up with anything rather than wanting to share.

Bridgwater Town’s ground was actually tucked away round the corner, squeezed between the rugby club and the busy artificial pitches of the college next door, as well as the GWR main line along one side. The sound of Inter-City 125s hurtling by would be the soundtrack of the evening.

The main stand at the football ground was like a scaled down version of the rugby club’s one. Rather than sitting atop the dressing rooms here though, only a small tractor for mowing the pitch was underneath this one. It did offer a good view, so you can’t complain. Opposite was one of those ubiquitous Atcost stands, found everywhere where clubs have to add seats irrespective of need. They always look like they could be bought in a flat-pack from B&Q, and typically are so shallow that they offer a worse view than the terracing that was there previously.

Half of one end was a covered terrace with three steps of terracing. At the far corner of this terrace was a tiny two-seater press box, more akin to a slightly large school desk. Wherever the press watched from on this evening, it wasn’t from here. The other half of that end was taken over by temporary huts for the dressing rooms, as well as the canteen. No tea bar this. It had tables for you to sit down at, and had a pleasant “welcome to the 1950s” ambience, very much in fitting with the countryside en-route.

Opposite this end was a short cover over two steps of terrace. The terrace roof, possibly designed by Ronnie Corbett and his shorter brother, had roof supports so low that virtually anyone out of short trousers would feel the need to duck when walking underneath.

All in all it seemed a very friendly place, with a “nothing is too much bother” attitude among the volunteers helping out. It’s just a shame that there were more people over the college side of the fence, around their pitches, than the pitch here.

The game itself was fairly routine. Not great, but not bad either. The pitch was so bobbly in parts that you wondered if the tractor beneath the stand had been set to plough rather than mow at times, but both teams just about coped. Clevedon looked more of menace going forward, but the tricky flicks and turns of the front two just seemed to fall at the final hurdle. Despite perhaps getting forward less, Bridgwater actually looked more likely to get shots in. They did too, taking the lead halfway through the first half with a shot that came down off the crossbar.

Good chances were difficult to come by, so Bridgwater probably figured the game was as good as over with a gift of a goal midway through the second half. A long punt upfield was met by a defender determined to head it away. He misjudged it badly though, as his unintentional looping back-header only managed to arc into the back of his own net.

Clevedon had to push forward now. Right back Henry Muggeridge was pushed up front to try to get some change out of a defence of Alpine height, that had been an equally mountainous barrier to Clevedon pressure all night. Muggeridge, despite having a name that should belong to someone in their sixties, was a loanee from Bristol City’s youth team. The young Joe Absolom lookalike looked a very useful player, as he had done at Hungerford a few weeks back, and indeed got the goal he was pushed forward to get. A cross wasn’t cleared and he was able to hit a low volley into the net from 12 yards.

That ended the goalscoring for the evening, although it shouldn’t have done. In injury time, with the Clevedon keeper over-committed, the ball was squared to a Bridgwater forward six yards out. All he had to do was put it beyond the despairing reach of Clevedon defender on the line. He did that alright, but side-footing it about five yards over the bar perhaps wasn’t what he had in mind. About a minute late the final whistle blew, no doubt to his very great relief.

Click here for full gallery. 23 pics including Bridgwater Albion RFC, Stonehenge at 70 mph, some countryside, and a passing helicopter.

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