Bristol Manor Farm 1 Brislington 1
Sat 21st March 2015, Toolstation Western League - Premier Division
Having missed Bristol Rovers vs. Aldershot on Friday and conscious of the need to get as far away from the Six Nations as possible, I decided to spend my first Saturday as a Shirehampton resident in the company of local leading lights of the Toolstation Western League; the superbly named Bristol Manor Farm.
Sea Mills is a one stop and three minute train ride away from Shirehampton and sod getting a bus in Bristol. While I was waiting for the train I got to vicariously live out my lifelong urge to press the button that connects you to a First employee via the help machine tannoy. A nearby toddler took advantage of his father being too distracted by his phone conversation about Bristol City’s upcoming Wembley match to notice the plucky sprog waddle over, melting kit-kat in one hand with the other reaching out to hit the big green button. After sitting through 10 minutes of “please wait, connecting you to an operator”, all the while having to restrain his sticky offspring lest he hit the button a second time, the man had to make a grovelling apology to the poor probably underpaid bastard on the other end of the line, much to the amusement of myself and my fellow passengers. Everything continued to come up Tom when for the third time this week First Great Western neglected to charge me any money for the privilege of using their trains.
As a frequent user (occasional customer) of the Severn Beach line, I've often marvelled at The Creek (BMF’s stadium) which can be seen in all it’s ramshackle glory as you pass by Sea Mills station. Until quite recently the club were the unhappy owners of a notoriously sloped pitch, which produced a noticeable even from ground level incline away from the mud docks behind one of the goals. Steps have been taken to correct this and it is now noticeable only in a couple of the corners (but still completely obvious from afar).
What makes The Creek really stand out is it’s stunning surrounding scenery. The ground is perched at the intersection of the Trym and the Avon rivers, where rickety old pleasure boats can be seen nestled in the ruins of the wet dock built in the 1700s. From the dugouts you can see the grand old stone bridge that takes the portway over the railway and from the stands you can look out at the rolling fields towards Abbots Leigh. BMF are very lucky in this respect and the walk to the ground from the rail station was lovely.
The ground is accessed via a left turn on the portway, a 6 mile road linking Avonmouth with the city centre, with nothing either side but houses and tinpot football clubs, so there was no chance of ducking into a pub for a frosty beverage and some crisps to make up for the lunch I’d forgotten about. As a result I entered the clubhouse early enough to settle down with a pint (£3) to watch West Brom get bullied by Man City. The clubhouse was cosy, plush and decorated like my Nan’s front room. I took my seat between two half-asleep old-timers and wondered if this new choice of hobby would 40 years from now lead to me discovering a clubhouse I’d love enough to settle down in it for a nap at midday every other week. I had to question whether a large flat-screen telly on one wall and a projector on the other wasn't slightly overkill for such a small room as I could just about cross my eyes to view both.
Glass drained, I moseyed on down to the two turnstiles and paid my £6 (plus a pound for a programme which I ingeniously left behind somewhere) to a smiling man with a Tesco bag. I did this quickly so I wouldn't have to make eye contact with the slightly over enthusiastic lone man behind me who was repeatedly and forcefully muttering “come on Briz...” on his way to the entrance.
Money paid, I took the mandatory stroll around the then empty ground. The perimeter of the pitch consists of a concrete walkway which could contain about two people in restraining order issuingly close proximity to one another. There is a covered area on the opposite side to the clubhouse behind the dugouts and two seated stands, one near the clubhouse and one a few meters away named the Geoff Sellek stand after the club’s eternal president... Geoff Sellek. Geoff emitted a somewhat ubiquitous presence around the club. In the clubhouse I was inadvertently privy to some kind of planning meeting between what I assume must have been two club officials on what steps Geoff wanted them to take in order to better to promote the club online. (Alright lads?) On the side of the pitch there was an argument that went something like: “Hi, Geoff’s announcing the charity skittles tournament next week.” “Why’s Geoff announcing it? It’s my skittles team.” “Well, Geoff’s chairman.” “BUT IT’S MY SKITTLES TEAM”. Of course what this young upstart failed to recall is that (quoted from the club website, capitalization unaltered) as a “founder member of the club back in 1961, Geoff IS Manor Farm.”
Eventually the teams were welcomed onto the pitch by a selection of flag-waving youth players and the match began. Bristol Manor Farm started the game second in the Western League Prem, tantalizingly close to leaders Melksham Town so I was expecting a veritable tier nine classic. This wasn't to be. Farm’s work rate was unfaultable but apart from their number 10 (dubbed “The Shed” by fans) reading a long goal kick superbly, getting on the end of it and easily slotting past the bemused Bris flapper, they struggled to get anything right in the final third. This may have been something to do with their other striker being 5’6 with a frame I can only describe as all-torso, who gave it absolute beans for the entire time he was on but in all fairness was probably not suited to the role. Their number 6, a lanky winger with incredibly floppy hair, always seemed to beat his man (at least when I was paying attention) and made some nice passes. Brislington scored a soft goal at 21 minutes of the back of a bit of defensive disorganization from Farm and the rest of the half was uneventful.
Seemingly not entertained by the game unfolding before them, a gaggle of the more boisterous Farm supporters began making their own entertainment in the form of bowling stray balls to the kit bag by their teams bench, presumably in preparation for the all important skittle tourney. The youth team began some orchestrated flag waving and chanting when Bris drew level, producing the following eyebrow-raising back and forth:
“You havin’ a sing then?”
“Nah, can’t cuz of that child protection register.”
|The Unplanned End|
One thing about minnow football that should have been obvious to me but was a surprise in practice is the ability of everyone to hear absolutely everything anyone else says in the entire ground. So much so that when a man in the clubhouse stand shouted “Come on then Farm!” before a set piece, the aforementioned hilarious blokes beside me on the other side of the pitch shouted back: “Yes Mark!” to which Mark replied, seemingly genuinely delighted to be acknowledged, “Cheers then!” You just don’t encounter that level of beautiful inanity in anything other than being a bit bored at football. I had to wait for the end of the first half for something brilliantly amateur to happen but boy was the pay-off worth it when the referee, fresh from giving a yellow for a trip, managed to accidentally trip the victim a second time before resuming play. Delightful. Our hardy official had to be 60 if he was a day and was having genuine trouble keeping pace with the players, which resulted in him giving a handball against BMF player for a fine piece of chest control while the player in question was turned away from him entirely, making the mistake glaringly obvious to everyone in the now incensed Holy Geoff Mother of God stand.
Half-time upon us, I brought one of BMF’s frickin’ huge portions of chips and a coffee which came to less than £3. Bloody love non-league me.
The second half left me with very little to write about. Brislington were well organized but unspectacular and looked content with the point. In the final 5 or so minutes Manor Farm seemed to get a bit hungry for a win and things opened up, briefly becoming end-on-end. The home team had a real chance to finish it off when the Bris goalie slipped to the floor but sadly when locked in this one-on-one “The Shed” could only boot the ball into the downed goalie's gloves for an easy catch and that was the end of it.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this ground. The Creek was every bit as lovely inside as it looked from the train and surprisingly well provided for match day amenities wise. A classy operation all round. I hope to be back before too long as I feel I haven’t seen Bristol Manor Farm play as well as their league positions over the last two seasons suggest. Also I love their chips.
* Ed. note: This is ground number two because Bristol Rovers' The Memorial Stadium is my first ground. I'll be covering that in a later post.