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Saturday 22nd December 2018 ko 15.00

Gloucestershire County League


PATCHWAY TOWN 2 (Snook 55 Finn 84)

Att 34

Entry & Programme £2

If you’ve travelled southbound on the M32 over the last few months, you’ll have no doubt spotted a couple of sports grounds being built. On the left is Frenchay based Dings Crusaders RUFC’s new Shaftesbury Park (The Dings was a former slum area in Bristol near to Temple Meads) and I’ll be keeping close eye for an association rules games played there! The other side of the motorway, close to the intersection with the M4 is Hillside Gardens, and there’s more to the place than meets the eye!

At first glance the two pitch and clubhouse combination seems a repeat of the design of the new Middlesex FA Ground but here the clubhouse is almost exclusively a changing room block and one pitch is set up for rugby. The whole facility cost £4.5 million and is owned by the University of the West of England to provide a hub for establishment’s football, rugby, lacrosse, American football, and would you believe, Ultimate Frisbee!!

Its obvious why Rockleaze have moved in. Lights, cover, and an all-weather surface are all improvements on their former home at Coombe Dingle. The club’s background, is interesting, they started life as Nat West Court, became under the wing of the Bristol and West Building society playing at their sports ground at the Portway before moving to Coombe Dingle when the Bristol and West Sports Ground closed. The club became Rockleaze Rangers in 2009.

But as good as the ground is for Rangers now, you do wonder what scope there is for further promotion. There are no seats, the cover is a roof over flat standing, there is no pay booth or turnstile, but the biggest issue will be the clubhouse. The problem is that the changing room block is there to service a sports hub, it is not a clubhouse for an aspiring Step 6 club. There is no bar, no area to congregate and find out the half-time scores, just sufficient room for a cup of tea.

Perhaps that will come, or maybe that isn’t the aim. Opponents Patchway came close to elevation to the Hellenic in 2007, they’d have gone up as runners-up if champions Roman Glass St George hadn’t  taken promotion to the Western. Since then, finishing 4th has been their best season in the GCL.

With overnight rains waterlogging saturated pitches and a programme readily available, it was obvious this game would attract the groundhoppers. We were rewarded with an entertaining game that the hosts will feel a little aggrieved not to have taken at least a point from.

It was in so many ways an odd place to take in. On one hand Rockleaze are a friendly club trying to unpick the Gordian knot of fulfilling unsympathetic ground grading requirements with few resources, and squaring those with their ambitions. On the other, this is a new facility that is perfect for what the UWE wanted it to be. It will be interesting to see whether all of those interested parties can be kept happy.