Taunton Town 4 Clevedon Town 1 (30th August 2014)
Sometimes it’s good to double-check. Taunton’s ground, in all honesty, didn’t really have enough about it to tempt me into a two hour+ drive for a game. However, the prospect of seeing most of a day’s play at the nearby Somerset Cricket Ground, did make it a much better proposition. OK, it’d mean leaving the house at about 8 am on a weekend, which is evil, but it’d be a good full day.
Had I not re-checked on the Friday night I’d have felt a little silly on arrival in Taunton though, while I’d have arrived early for the game, I’d have been a mite too early – a whole day early in fact.
Still, I did fancy having a look round the cricket ground anyway, and the town centre, a couple of minute’s walk away had a few things worth taking a look at. One was the remnants of a castle, now converted for a variety of uses – pubs, a museum, a hotel, in a very attractive square. Muscling in like an unwelcome guest on this square was a Mecca bingo hall, but it wasn’t enough to blot a nice little place.
I’d worried a bit that the cricket ground would be all locked up and I’d be unsatisfactorily photographing through the gates, but I found that not only was it open, I could have even parked in the club car park as saved myself a whole 20p on the hourly pay and display charges.
It is a lovely little ground though, full of the typical assortment of small stands that you can’t really imagine existing anywhere other than a cricket ground, where you imagine the fans munching on cucumber sandwiches rather than burgers or pies.
Not counting the blocks of open seating, six stands hugged the perimeter. The two oldest were the old pavilion and the St James Street stand, side by side on the south of the ground. The James Street stand’s lower tier is a rather basic area of covered seating. The seats look like they were raided from a school classroom, and somehow the cover for just five rows of these requires two rows of roof supports. Above and behind here are hospitality boxes. A little further behind are the towers of two churches, completing the genteel English scene.
The old pavilion certainly lives up to its name, being a wooden stand with seats upstairs. With its blackened dog-tooth fascia and other little touches, it’d probably be a lot more attractive without the adverting hoarding that have been nailed to it, but need must, I suppose.
Those same needs no doubt were behind the building of the new pavilion and Ian Botham Stand opposite, along with two more hospitality orientated stands on the east side.
When Botham was in his Somerset heyday, he no doubt hoisted sixes clear of all these stands with regularity, especially with the pitch lookingg decidedly small, but he may have found one of the newer additions a bit tougher to clear. A five-storey apartment block now fills the west side of the ground, with residents getting a perfect view of the field. How many crickets balls have flown through open windows is not recorded.
Half a mile away to the east is the home of Taunton Town FC, sadly in not quite as splendid a location, but at least the parking was free. After the charms of the cricket ground, the football ground would always struggle to be judged quite so favourably, but it was reasonable enough for the level the club find themselves at. Cover on all four sides would be envied by many too.
Perhaps the quaintest stand was on the north side. Seating about 100 in three rows, the interior of this stand was decked out in Taunton’s claret & blue, enlivening what looks a very old stand. The hefty supporting pillars look strong enough to support a small motorway intersection, but nevertheless, it was a popular part of the ground.
There were far more seats on the opposite side, were three rows of claret & blue seats stretched for about two thirds of the length of the pitch. The almost flat roof above was supported by slightly irregular-looking wooden struts with very thin metal pillars at the front. While the age of the stand no doubt implies its of very sound construction, the feeling that it was the result of a hugely ambitious woodwork project, finished off with Meccano, is hard to shake off.
Both ends of the ground have modern covered terraces, three steps deep and about 30 yards wide. The steps are at least a bit higher than most, and the rear wall did contain about the most hefty crush barriers you’ll find at any ground, but I can only imagine the person who invented these stands must be raking it in, so common are they at grounds now.
The club offices and bar – but not the changing rooms, they are way off in a block in the far corner – fill the rest of the north side, along with a small tea bar, and an ice cream van hoping to extend his season as the football one starts.
On the door of the club bar is a large club logo. The Latin motto “Defendamus” is certainly apt for the home side boasting the best defence in the division, even if is does sound like it’s been achieved via a Harry Potter spell than through organisation.
One of only two goals they’d conceded in their opening six games was away at today’s visitors Clevedon on the 2nd day of the season. Apparently the Clevedon chairman had said after than game that he didn’t think Taunton were very good. The Taunton chairman (or chairman/director/chief executive/groundsman to be exact) certainly heard those words, and his team played like they’d heard them too.
Taunton attacked from the off, and their defence, aided by magic spells or not, repelled everything Clevedon could offer, which wasn’t a huge amount.
Taunton went ahead after 13 minutes, when a combination of a good cross, non-existent marking, and a finely placed header, made it 1-0 to the home side.
The 2nd arrived just a few minutes later, with a weak clearance being smashed back in with the keeper having little time to re-adjust.
It was a surprise that it was only 2-0 at half time. No doubt in the Clevedon changing room there was talk about needing to score two goals in the 2nd half to rescue the game. They actually achieved that, but the fact that the weren’t celebrating at the end shows that not even that part of the plan worked out as they’d hoped.
First off, just a couple of minutes onto the half, a third Taunton goal made the game effectively safe. Again, another cross was just too easy, and the keeper had no chance of keeping the ball out.
A succession of chances followed for the home side, with the two best probably being a lob that got cleared before it could be turned in, and a shot across the keeper that got deflected onto the post.
The first of Clevedon’s “two goals” came at a stage were it was starting to look like Taunton’s pressure wouldn’t be rewarded with a scoreline it deserved. Having come very close to scoring a couple of own goals already, it was third time lucky as a ball across the six yard box was turned into his own net by a Clevedon player. Both him and keeper stayed on the deck, prostrate, for several seconds after, contemplating how this wasn’t the proudest moment of their careers.
At least the 2nd of Clevedon’s goals was in the right net. It was the best goal of the game too, hit from 25 yards across the keeper into the far corner. It was a goal fit to win a game rather than being a mere consolation. Having being thoroughly outplayed all day though, Clevedon would have to take any consolation they could.