Saturday 4th August 2018 ko 15.00
Gloucestershire County League
HENBURY 1 (Cox 11)
HARDWICKE 1 (Smith 79) Tracey penalty saved 78
I’m not sure why, but every time I drop Robyn off at Ashton Gate and I drive under the Clifton Suspension Bridge on the A4, I think I’m heading west. In fact I’m heading more northerly than west, especially when you turn right just past Bristol Manor Farm, and you soon end up in Bristol’s northern suburbs. As Robyn would put it, you’re in Gashead (Bristol Rovers) country here!
Of course there’s more to Henbury than whether you prefer your football coloured red or in blue and white quarters. I’m sure you’ve worked out by now the name means High Fortified Place, and even now sits on the edge of the Blaise Castle estate. Visible from the football ground is the Grade II listed Church Of St Mary the Virgin, dating from approximately 1096.
Henbury FC’s Arnall Drive sits in one corner of a much larger park. It’s railed, and enclosed and if I described Virginia Water’s The Timbers ground as what Step 6 used to look like then that would also be the case here. There’s a thriving clubhouse, the ground is in excellent condition and does exactly what the club need it to. What it now doesn’t do is allow for promotion, and you’d think the costs involved in doing so would be prohibitive.
In groundhopping circles Hardwicke do tend to be remembered as being the visitors at the biblically wet game at Lydney Town on the Hellenic Hop in August 2009. The game lasted only 29 minutes before the correct decision was made to abandon it but that was plenty of time for Hardwicke’s then manager to annoy just about all of the 309 there by indulging in foul mouthed rant about the event and groundhoppers in general. It’s worth commenting that when he left, and the club couldn’t fulfill Hellenic ground grading, they folded and reformed in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League.
Perhaps as I was one of the volunteers who helped brush the water from the pitch at Lydney I was looking for some other way remembering them. That came courtesy of Hardwicke’s very own ultra complete with his own array of props to help him cheer on his side. He added humour and colour to the occasion.
It was a fiesty encounter on a tinder-dry surface. Luke Cox’s header gave Henbury an early lead but they failed to capitalise on that early advantage and when Hardwicke forced a penalty this neutral saw that likely goal as justice on the balance of play. But Kieran Tracey’s penalty was brilliantly saved saved by Cameron Tarr, and normally the script would suggest that would be signal for a home win. But less than a minute later Shaun Smith sneaked through to take a point for the visitors that many would have thought lost.
The game ended in the type of shouting and unpleasantness than produces more heat than light and thankfully it all fizzled out as players thought about the more important thing to do. And on such a hot day that was how best to rehydrate, and I’m sure there were no lack of ideas. I allowed myself a smile as I strolled back to the car.