Saturday 4th August 2012 Ko 3.00pm
Western League Division One
CHEDDAR AFC 3 (Jones 16 Manning 82 R Lindegard 85 og)
SHERBOURNE TOWN 3 (Caines 33 46 Day 39)
When selecting a game to see I’d pondered several ideas. Some hoppers went to see West Didsbury and Chorlton’s first game in the North West Counties League, others ticked off Loughborough University’s new ground. I selected Bowden’s Park for several reasons, firstly because the club are in the process of selling it to a supermarket chain who most be running out of local economies to ruin, and on a less controversial note, I fancied doing something touristy! As incidentally did North Berkshire League Press Officer Phil Annets.
I picked Phil up early, the idea being to visit Cheddar Gorge for at least a couple of hours before heading over to the ground. Its worth noting that there are 2 distinct areas of this Somerset village. There’s the gorge, a tourist trap with its caves, shops and cafes, but turn left at the bottom and there’s a quiet village, the only clue to its fame being the double yellow lines, forcing the tourists into the “Pay and Displays”
Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in the United Kingdom and includes several show caves. The gorge has been a centre of human settlement since Neolithic times, including a Saxon palace. It is also the site of several limestone quarries. The village gave its name to Cheddar cheese and has been a centre for strawberry growing, with the crop being transported on the Cheddar Valley railway line, which closed in the late 1960s but is now a cycle path. It is now a major tourist destination with several cultural and community facilities, including the Cheddar Show Caves Museum.
It was a good job we left early, as mixture of driving rain, and heavy traffic left the M4 and M5 a virtually car park, and our 2 hour visit soon turned into a quick dash for a block of cheese each and some dreadful fish and chips before heading over to the ground.
Cheddar won last season’s Somerset County league, and with the huge advantage of already having floodlights the promotion to Western League football was secured. That said, there are obvious deficiencies with the ground. With two sides being formerly roped off only, they are now inaccessible. There’s no seats either, save for the picnic tables outside the large bar areas. What there is in abundance though is character, most notably to the right of the covered area by the half way line.
For there is a tiny tea bar run by two old timers. It’s a simple enough menu, tea or coffee in a mug for 50p. Phil and I stationed ourselves there, and were soon joined by 4 or so hoppers, including Terry the press officer at Dorchester Town, and one of my subscribers, Bob. We watched the game, chewed the fat, and Phil fielded questions on September 22nd’s North Berkshire League hop. And all the while a steady supply of tea was being supplied; you don’t get that in the professional game.
Ah, the game almost forgot! Well that was the best reason to be there. Sherbourne made the far better start, so when Adam Jones scored the Cheesemen’s first Western League goal, it was a major surprise. Less surprisingly Sherbourne soon found space in a rather porous Cheddar defence (I couldn’t say holes, could I?) and were good value for their 2-1 lead at half time.
When Marc Caines gave Sherbourne a 3-1 lead soon after the re-start, it looked like the end of the game as contest. The game began to wide down, but with just 8 minutes left substitute Billy Manning’s 20 yard free kick sparked Cheddar back into life. The visitors goal was put under siege, and when George Booth’s misplaced shot was turned into his own net by Richard Lindegard, you didn’t begrudge Cheddar their point.