Bath City v Salisbury City
Twerton Park / Conference South / 1st April 2013
With two weeks off work for the Easter Holidays, I had decided to head back to the Wales via a stag-do in Brighton. Unsurprisingly, I had put together a football schedule for myself whilst back in the Land of my Fathers. My football week consisted of two visits to the Liberty Stadium: Tuesday night’s international between Wales and Croatia and Swansea’s Premier League fixture against Gareth Bale…I mean Tottenham Hotspurs on the Saturday. Wedged in the middle of these fixtures was a visit to my hometown club, Merthyr Town, to watch an excellent game between the Martyrs and Clevedon Town. Penciled in for Easter Monday was a trip to Ashton Gate to watch Bristol City, but I found myself not overly-enthused about a trip to the Championship club. I perused the fixture list and spotted a match which immediately took my fancy: a West Country showdown between Bath City and Salisbury FC. A trip to Bath it was to be. Football aside, I have always really liked the city of Bath since I used to make an annual visit to the city every Christmas period with my Nan and cousin during my early teens. The trip was made more appealing when I remembered that my Bournemouth-dwelling pal Harry Hugo regularly visited the spa city to see his Dad and on asking him if he fancied some non-league football action, he decided to join me to make his Lost Boyos ‘Lost in…’ hatrick appearance.
Since my Dad was heading to Street, a small town south of Glastonbury, he had kindly offered to drop me off in Bath en route to his destination. We had departed Quakers Yard at 10am and we found ourselves outside the city of Bath shortly after 11am. The problem was that we remained outside the city of Bath for quite some time thanks to the Easter Monday traffic. Having eyed up the queue ahead of us into Bath city centre, we made a family decision that it would probably be quicker if I walked into the town centre.
I disembarked at the ‘Welcome to Bath’ sign and made the trawl into the town centre towards the southern part of the city, where I was due to meet Harry. The walk was actually a very pleasant one, as it also acted as a meander down memory lane past the sights of the city I remembered from my visits in my early teens. I’d say to anyone now that if you have not visited the city of Bath, I highly recommend it, as it is a uniquely pretty city.
Once I had navigated my way through the endless street of antique shops and the swarms of tourists, I arrived at the Ring O’ Bells pub just south of the river in the Widcombe area of Bath – it was here I was meeting Harry. Harry had stated the day before my journey that the ‘Ring O’ Bells’ was a ‘classy’ establishment and may not be to my liking; just because I’m Welsh and live in Salford, he seems to perceive me as someone that revels in squalor. I informed him that I could deal with ‘classiness’ and the pub would do just fine having seen its website. On arriving, I found Harry and his Dad, John, at the bar and I enjoyed a ‘classy, £4.40 pint of Kaltenberg (kindly paid for by Harry’s Dad).
John had obligingly offered to drive us to the Twerton area of the city where Bath City FC is located; however, we’d be making the short journey via a delivery job for John. John works as an antique salesman (cheeky plug http://jhbureaucrat.com/), so in a Lost Boyos prematch first, we went desk delivering. After completing the delivery (largely thanks to my amazing lifting and carrying skills) it was onwards to Twerton – an area described by the Hugos as the ‘rough’ part of Bath. Remembering I lived in Salford, they retracted the claims of ‘rough area’.
We alighted at the Old Crown Inn with the truly gargantuan floodlights of Twerton Park towering over the terraced streets around us. Unlike the Ring O’Bells, The Old Crown Inn I imagined was the sort of pub Harry associated me with, as it was small, quite dingy and spectacularly humble within. Pints also didn’t cost £4.40. I liked the Old Crown and after a pint and another dire attempt by myself to play the game of pool, we moved on.
We were aiming for the Royal Oak on Lower Bristol Road, but en route we stumbled upon the Golden Fleece, which we decided to frequent, solely because it had a cool sign (admittedly, it was just a man stroking a gold fleece). Another great drinking hole with what appeared to be stables converted into toilets adding a unique touch. We witnessed Demba Ba’s excellent goal and Petr Cech’s excellent save in ITV’s early FA Cup game between Chelsea and Manchester United, before heading off to the ground. Next on our radar was the club bar, Charlie’s, which, unsurprisingly, the club’s Twitter account had urged us to go and visit.
After one miscalculation through the streets of Twerton which led us to a dead end just feet away from the ground’s entrance, we eventually found ourselves at the ground’s entrance and Charlie’s. The place was huge with plenty of TVs showing the Chelsea v United game and a particularly big bar to keep the punters happy. Charlie’s definitely had the best pool table that I’ve encountered on my travels – even bettering the Trafford pub’s (near Old Trafford) all red effort – a black and white ensemble with the Bath City club badge beautifully positioned in the middle.
At 14:45 we decided to pass through the turnstiles into Twerton Park hoping for some gripping Conference South action.
Twerton Park was opened as Innox Park in 1909 and Bath City FC moved into the ground in 1932. As well as Bath City, Twerton Park has been called home by two other football clubs: Bristol Rovers and Team Bath. Bristol Rovers moved there in 1986 after they were forced to depart the old Eastville ground for financial reasons, before returning to Bristol in 1996 to play at their current home, the Memorial Stadium.
Team Bath, the club affiliated with the University of Bath, were residents at the ground for half of their ten year existence. The club agreed a ground share with Bath City in 2004, but the club struggled to attract crowds and when the the Football Conference announced that the club would not be eligible for further promotions (the club were then playing in the Conference South) or be allowed to compete in the FA Cup as they were not a limited company. The club opted to resign from the Conference in 2009 and are now extinct.
Since Bath City’s whole history has been outside of the Football League, Twerton Park has largely served as a non-league football ground and with an 8,000 capacity, it is quite an impressive stage for the level.
Some football trivia: despite their non-league status, Bath City have the accolade of being the only semi-professional team to win a Football League trophy, after they were given the chance to play in the temporary Division Two Northern Division (brought about during the Second World War) alongside Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton; Bath City were the eventual winners of this wartime league.
The ground consists of one large main stand (consisting of a large seated area with a standing terrace in front) with another smaller seating stand situated next to it, a large sheltered standing terrace down the opposite of the pitch and open standing terraces behind each goal. For a non-league club, the ground is very impressive and as mentioned previously, the floodlights are huge.
On entering, we soon smelt and then spotted the snack bar. I realised I was starving and could not wait to tuck into my usual prematch pie. Then it happened. Disaster. I kept looking and looking up and down the wooden snack bar menu, searching desperately before it fully dawned on me. NO PIES!?!? You what? I was furious. Harry tried to makes excuses for the club by saying that we were in the south of England and pies are less of a mainstay in the area, but I was having none of it. I was at a football match and thus there should be pies. When I calmed down, I eventually settled for some chips, but with my ‘pie-lessness’ still preying on my mind , I accidentally began to put sugar instead of salt on my chips – I remedied this by absolutely pasting them in plenty of salt and vinegar. Anyway, enough of venting about food – the game.
Firstly, I was disappointed to learn that ex-Swansea player and Merthyr-born Kerry Morgan was on the bench for the home team. Kerry had made a good impression for the Swans under Paulo Sousa and even pulled off my favourite showboat that I’ve ever seen live – a sort of flying tackle into the air to stop the ball going out for a throw in, before twisting on the floor and surging back at Reading’s Liam Rosenior. For whatever reason, Brendan Rodgers did not rate Morgan as highly as Sousa did and after a spell at Newport and Neath, the Welshman has ended up at Bath City and on the bench for them. If I was to find this disappointing, the game wasn’t going to help. It was pretty crap from the 1st to the 90th minute.
Salisbury are battling for an automatic promotion spot out of the Conference South and were much the better team in the first half against the home team who sit in the lower half of the league. As the half progressed Bath began to come into the game a lot more, attempting to play some nice football at times. However, the problem for both teams seemed to be that as soon as the ball got anywhere near the frontline, there was nobody to hold onto the ball and soon the ball was heading back downfield in an endless, dull cycle. Bath’s only real threat was coming from Josh Low out on the flank, but his hardwork out wide was left unrewarded as he often only had striker Charlie Griffin to aim for. Bath keeper Jason Mellor had made a few good saves to keep Bath in the game and keep the score 0-0 at half-time.
During the game, Harry and I had completed a lap of the ground for photography purposes, but also to keep warm as it was a freezing Easter afternoon. At half-time we headed back out the entrance gate and into Charlie’s to warm up. The queue for the bar was quite long, so we decided to swerve half-time drinks and instead headed to a table to discuss how we hoped the second half would be a vast improvement on the first. We also discussed my LostBoyos bests of the season which will be coming at the end of next month, so watch this space (incidentally, here’s last season’s ‘Lost Boyos Best of‘ if you are interested).
Unfortunately, the second half was to follow in a similar vein to the first half. Once again, Salisbury were doing most of attacking in search of the vital three points that would keep their outside chance of winning the league alive, but Bath always looked like they could catch the Whites on the counterattack.
Salisbury actually had the ball in the net through Rob Sinclair, who turned the ball in from close range only to be denied by an offside flag. This was shortly followed by the Whites’ Chris McPhee going agonisingly close with a headed effort.
There was to be some excitement on the pitch in the second half thanks to the Salisbury fans behind the goal. With Bath attacking the Salisbury goal, many fans were distracted from the actual game by a yellow flare that had been thrown on the opposite end of the pitch by the away fans (I assumed it was thrown on by the away fans anyway).
With thirteen minutes remaining, Bath came the closest to breaking deadlock as Griffin struck the bar with a looping header from a Joe Burnell cross, which had Salisbury keeper Will Puddy beaten.
The game had been ridiculously scrappy and I could not understand why Bath manager Lee Howells had done nothing to change his team and their setup. With less than five minutes remaining Bath finally made some changes with a triple substitution,which included the introduction of Kerry Morgan. By the time the changes were being made, we found ourselves standing directly behind the dugouts and my shout to Kerry of “You Jack Bastard!” was greeted by a cheeky wink from the young Welshman. For me the changes were far too late and the three had little time to have any impact on the game. At the final whistle, the frustration was perhaps best summed up by Kerry Morgan who took his shirt off, angrily threw it into tunnel and then stormed off down the tunnel – maybe a reaction to the fact that he saw virtually nothing of the ball in his 5 minute cameo, except for an excellent touch and through pass to set up a Bath half chance.
We exited Twerton Park and began the walk down Lower Bristol Road back towards Bath city centre. En route we found the Royal Oak pub we had searched for earlier and decided to have a post match drink in there. The pub is part of the CAMRA good pub guide and it was probably the most pleasant of the three pubs we had visited in Twerton. Harry continued his mission of having a different beer in every pub and, despite the supposed great ales on offer, I opted for a pint of Budwa.
By 6 o’clock we had gone full circle and we were back at the Ring O’Bells with John and his two friends, Simon and Mark. We regaled them with our tales of Twerton pub crawling and uninspiring non-league football over our pints of Kaltenberg. Soon it was time to say goodbyes to the Hugos and I remained with Simon and Mark. Having told the two of some of my groundhopping exploits Simon, who had a tendency to look like Terry Venables from certain angles, kindly bought me a pint, which eventually led to me spending an hour longer in Bath than originally planned.
Overall, a good Easter Monday out at an excellent non-league football ground in one of the nicest cities in the country. It was just a shame that the football had to let it down.
Highlights: great city, numerous pub visits, nice beers, good clubhouse with the best pool table in football (I’m calling it!, brilliant non-league ground, the massive floodlights.
Low Points: the game was dire, expensive beer, Kerry Morgan only making a 5 minute cameo, NO PIES!!!