BACK TO FOOTIE
TT contributors Matt Roberts and Andy Charles describe their days out at two more non-league grounds last weekend
Matt Roberts – @MatthewVA438
Bristol Manor Farm 1-1 Wimborne Town
Starved of live football since watching Bath host Weymouth in a deathly dull goalless draw back in March just before the season came to a juddering halt, I was willing to watch any game after so long. With the prospect of good weather at the weekend it didn’t take me too long to decide on going to watch some pre-season action, as Bristol Manor Farm faced Wimborne Town.
It’s a pleasant journey to The Creek, just a short 10-minute ride on the Temple Meads to Severn Beach line, which is apparently rated as one of the most scenic railway journeys in Europe. Having ridden the line in its entirety I’m not entirely sure how this conclusion was reached, although my part of the journey from Redland to Sea Mills is relatively nice, with the train chugging along the banks of the Avon, which is where we find the home of Bristol Manor Farm. The Creek is in a very green setting, where you can see rolling hills on the opposite bank of the river.
Having bought a ticket online the night before in order to save faffing about with cash and track and trace, I was sent an email straight afterwards informing me of match-day procedure, just walk straight to the turnstiles where someone will have your name and you’ll be let straight in. Surprisingly, it was as simple as that. Having been to The Creek a few times before pre-Covid, I wasn’t worried about trouble with social distancing given attendances have usually hovered around the 150 mark. The figure wasn’t given but I suspect there was about 100-120 in the ground on the day. There’s plenty of space and apart from the ticketing procedure you’d be hard pushed to know there is a global pandemic in progress.
Having bought a pint, which at £3.80 is far cheaper than you’ll find elsewhere in Bristol, I watched a first half which was – though energetic with most players clearly up for it – rather low on excitement with neither goalkeeper being tested really. The exception to this was the Farm’s opening goal, which I missed while in the bar getting another drink. For all I know it could’ve been a world class finish, a bicycle kick from the halfway line perhaps? Alas, rather unlikely.
The lack of on-pitch action failed to dent the enthusiasm of suited gentleman who was banging a drum and singing throughout the proceedings, clearly the most passionate member of the ‘Farmy Army’. One of the more unique features of The Creek is it’s proximity to the railway line, with the diesel drone of the train’s engine drowning out the shouts of players every time one goes by just a few metres from the pitch. I’d make a fairly confident guess that there is no other ground in the country which is so close to a railway line.
The second half picked up from where the first left off, with little in the way of chances. Wimborne equalised late in the half with a well-worked goal from inside the box which was powered into the top corner. A goal that I managed to witness this time. Farmageddon this was not, but overall, it was a match between two teams who looked much the same in terms of ability and fitness with the eventual draw being a fair result, surprising perhaps given that Wimborne are in the league above.
Bristol Manor Farm is a welcoming club which yesterday had a friendly atmosphere, with many people clearly doing the same thing I was doing, going to see a local football match for not much money, after months of watching soulless Premier League games in stadiums filled with cardboard cut outs and fake crowd noise. The Creek might not be Plainmoor, but it’ll certainly do for the time being.
Andy Charles – @capitalgull
Waldon FC 0-7 Okehampton Argyle
This might surprise some of you, but I had somehow only visited five football grounds in Devon until the start of 2020. I would imagine three of those are relatively easy to guess – the others being Coach Road in Newton Abbot and Dawlish’s Sandy Lane, both for pre-season friendlies.
A long-time delayed trip to Buckland Athletic added another one towards the end of what turned out to be a curtailed 2019-20 season made it six but now circumstances – pandemic, working from home and looking after my mother – have given me a chance to try and rectify that and enjoy a local football fix.
Bovey Tracey and Newton Abbot Spurs have already been ticked off the list but, on Saturday, I drifted down to Step 7 with a first game in the Devon League at probably my most local club – Devon Football League’s Waldon Athletic.
You would kind of expect a ground called Windmill Hill to mean a bit of climbing to get to it, and I had been warned, but the drag up from the bottom of Penny’s Hill to the top of Lower Audley Road had to be done in instalments. Thankfully, a lovely gap in the houses gave a great view of the action at Barton’s Cricketfield Road, and a couple of minutes’ rest enabled me to get to my destination fairly unscathed!
I thought I had missed kick-off, but it transpired I was going to be treated to two games rather than one, with Babbacombe Corries playing in the South Devon League against Chudleigh Athletic’s third team.
Going through the motions we are all getting used to, I signed in with (I think) the club chairman and might well have been the only one to do so. At one point I thought I might well have been added to the bottom of the team-sheet and, based on what was to follow, I might have even been a decent addition to the squad.
Waldon’s manager recently left, I was told, and a proper rebuild was underway, with the first “real” game coming against newly-promoted Okehampton Argyle who had moved up to this level for 2020-21 but had “thrown plenty of cash” at their squad with the aim of going straight through to the Western League or South West Peninsula League (excuse me for not being sure which!)
Seeing the teams line up there was little doubt which was one was better-prepared. I had a text exchange with a friend in the early minutes and suggested the most likely injury a Waldon player might suffer would be a bruised beer belly (pot, kettle, black for those who know me).
What followed was basically a shooting gallery and I had to feel for the Waldon goalkeeper “Sammy” who was valiant against a series of assaults from the Okehampton attack. He was simply unprotected for most of the game and we even had a laugh near the end of the game when I stopped the ball heading into the undergrowth – he wanted to waste a few seconds looking for it!
It took Okehampton a while to get the opening goal but there was no way back once Luke Mortimore (a former player at much higher levels with Willand Rovers) broke the deadlock with the first of what would be a handful of goals for him alone.
I think it was 3-0 by half-time, with Mortimore getting all three, and the flow continued when they attacked uphill in the second – in fact there was no point standing anywhere other than near the Waldon goal as that was where all the action took place.
Well, most of the action anyway, as there were a few minutes when the game looked like getting out of hand as one of Waldon’s substitutes came on and appeared ready for a (literal) scrap. He was booked for a horrendous two-footed tackle from behind and confronted a few Argyle opponents before being dragged away, also being lucky to escape a second yellow for a foul soon after.
Four more goals would come after the break but 7-0 was probably the best Waldon could have hoped for such was the gulf in class and fitness between the teams – Okehampton could, and possibly should, have gone close to matching Torridgeside’s victory in the Peninsula League – a 15-love hiding of Stoke Gabriel up in North Devon.
Mr Mortimore would have enjoyed his day but that seemed to apply to everyone who made the trip from Okehampton, including three or four supporters in the crowd of approximately 12, boosted from time to time by the odd dog-walker or convert from the game on the other pitch.
But as many have said already, at least it is football…and I shall continue on my travels until at least October 3, when maybe I’ll be able to make the 250 yard journey from the front door to Plainmoor – if TUFC will let me in!