Sunday 7th October 2018 ko 11.00
Western League Premier Division
BRIDGWATER TOWN 1 (Ellis 74)
BRIDPORT 0 Martin sent off 70 (Serious Foul Play)
Sunday dawned and with it the longest drive of the hop, from our base in Almondsbury to Bridgwater. It was odd driving one of our 3 minibuses, full of hoppers but utterly incapable of going more than 60 mph! The extra time on the M5 did give me time to consider what we’d be likely to find at Fairfax Park.
I’d seen the club during their last stint in the Western League and watched a dire 0-0 draw in 2007, the year they won promotion back to the Southern League status they’d enjoyed before bankrupcy in 1984 saw the old club forced to reform in the Somerset County League. Despite the game it was clear that this was a club going places so when I saw them lose limply at Tiverton Town I made a mental note that there was a fair chance that I’d be visiting Fairfax Park again.
The issue with clubs on hops who’ve been recently relegated to Step 5 is the high numbers of hoppers who’ve already been and therefore might seek to find and alternative fixture. Now these clubs deserve a reasonable chance as much as anyone else but the scheduling does require some thought. In this case this Sunday morning slot does seem to work rather well.
There was also the question of whether Bridgwater would be up for all this. We’d visited the likes of Raunds earlier this season and their limp hosting wasn’t exactly what anyone was looking for. Then the rumour started that Bridgwater were doing online programmes only.
Now personally that doesn’t worry me, but to a very high percentage of our clientele it would. As is usually the case with rumours it was based on a truth, the club are part of an online experiment but are continuing to do the paper version, and truth be told they don’t like the online version much!
But if I was worried we’d see another Raunds that thought disappeared the moment we arrived. The buzz was obvious and not only had the club attracted a far bigger crowd than elsewhere on the hop, but we were seeing hoppers who’d clearly travelled down for just the Sunday games. Perhaps even the lure of Bristol Telephones after this game helped.
If some folk decided to use the second game as a reason to visit the first, then there’s no doubt they’ll be pleased with their decision. The catering was superb, I can vouch for the excellence of the faggots chips and peas, but for me it was the way the club did the little things really well that made the biggest impression on me. An example was the team sheets, which are always popular. In the Southern League their production is mandatory, but not here in the Western. Nevertheless anyone who wanted one got one.
Sadly the game didn’t match the surroundings or the hosting, and for much of the game I thought I’d get a repeat of that goalless draw from back then. It was attritional stuff, so perhaps the pivotal moment wasn’t a moment of skill. Bridport’s Andrew Martin’s challenge on Harry Horton was dreadful, it was airborne, studs up and out of control and he was deservedly sent off.
Soon after Bridgwater swung in a free kick and there was Tom Ellis in a Martin-shaped gap to tuck away the winner. It was just about the right result on the balance of play and I really couldn’t begrudge Bridgwater the win after all they’d done off the pitch; they’ve given Bridport a superb steer on how to host next year.
I strolled back to the minibus, ready to head back to Bristol and arguably the most anticipated visit of the hop.