Tuesday, 19 January 2016

#18 Cossham Street, Mangotsfield United

Mangotsfield United 1 Taunton Town 3
Saturday 9th January 2016, Southern Football League Division One South & West

With the insanely wet January dancing a merry jig on the fixtures list and cancelling matches up and down the country from Wimbledon to Altrincham to Newport, I was forced to cancel my plans to take in Cheddar vs Chippenham Park and hurriedly seek an alternative. This seemed like a good opportunity for me to finally check out Mangotsfield United, a club that have interested me for a long time due to their Rovers links including: 
  • Former players David Mehew and Steve Elliot are the current management team.
  • In the last two seasons alone we have loaned them Danny Greenslade, Dominic Thomas and Kieran Preston.
  • Players we've signed from Mangotsfield include Gary Penrice, Steve White and Phil Purnell.
  • Former player and Radio Bristol man Geoff Twentyman is responsible for bestowing Mangotsfield with their slightly odd nickname "the Mangos".
These aside, I've heard nothing but good things about Mangotsfield locally as a cheap no-nonsense alternative to the Bristol big two. Their highest attendance this season has been 303 and they even used to have their own ultras. They were at one point in the Southern League Premier Division but currently reside a level lower, SPL Division One South and West.  

As I drove to Cossham Street in torrential rain I kept one eye on Mangotsfield's twitter account. I couldn't believe this was going to be on but sure enough as I approached the gates there was a man in waterproofs perched on a camping chair, guarding the players' entrance, looking thoroughly miserable.

I had a pint in the clubhouse and watched Wycombe play out their draw with Aston Villa. I stood admiring the signed Rovers and City shirts framed around the room and the impressive collection of scarves above the bar. I must have been gawking pretty hard because the kindly barman asked me if I'd spotted my club's scarf, to which I could only nerdily reply that I hadn't but I was impressed by the Almondsbury Town one (Almondsbury Town having ceased to exist sometime around 2012).

Eventually I could delay leaving the warm, dry clubhouse no longer and made my way through the turnstiles, paying £8 for the privilege.

The first thing I noticed as I passed through the gates into the near-torrential rain was how many people had turned up. Whether that was down a lack of any other non-league action available that afternoon or just people getting the date of the much-anticipated pig race wrong I didn't know but the 'field had pulled a respectable crowd of 186 for the afternoon.

Cossham street is a very tidy ground indeed for step 4, with ample seating in the Ralph Miller stand and three covered standing areas, two of which had terracing. I particularly enjoyed the shed opposite the Ralph Miller stand which has the subs benches built into it, creating a sort of tunnel where I could hide from the rain with my tea and chips.

The pitch really was in a sorry state by the time the game kicked off, with total devastation dealt to the grass in both penalty boxes and small pools of water gathering around the wings. Players were sliding into the concrete walls left right and centre from standard tackles and the physio made four forays onto the pitch during the first half that I counted. 20 minutes in and every challenge is looking like a potential career-ender for someone. Ryan Batten for the Mangos suffered a dislocated shoulder in the 25th minute which physio Megan Weston popped back on-pitch before he was carted off to hospital.

Six minutes later Lewis Powell was the first man to wade his way to a rebound from the post and poke the ball over the line. Taunton were ahead and were only denied a second in the 40th minute by the crossbar, as the rain finally began to let off. Before the half-time whistle the Mangos lost another player, Luke Bryan, to injury.

Taunton did get their second pretty quickly in the second half via an easy header from a corner. An older chap stood near me was apparently privy to some "blatant" pushing in the box and proceeded to unleash the single greatest torrent of lino abuse I have ever heard: "FUCKING UNEMPLOYABLE. FUCKING FAILED HIS 11-PLUS. CAN'T EVEN KILL A FUCKING WOODLOUSE. DISGUSTING."

By this point Taunton had control (well as much control as a team can have playing on a bog) and Jordan Rogers scored their third with a lovely 20 yard punt. At this point I figured I'd start making my way to the exit ready for a quick getaway as I was pretty wet and very cold indeed. As I passed behind the Taunton goal, the out-of-play ball bounced in front of me followed by the Taunton goal keeper. Wanting to be helpful, I hit the ball towards him along the floor without noticing the massive muddy puddle that had formed between the two of us and was now flying up into his face. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Taunton goalkeeper who was magnanimous enough to thank me for my efforts. To be fair it's not like he could have gotten any more soaked.

Unfazed by my ineptitude, the Taunton keeper produced a fine save from a Mangos free kick that was just short of being a penalty. He did finally concede when substitute Joe Hillard scored a nuts volley from distance for his first club goal in injury time.

As has been mentioned elsewhere on the web, I feel a massive doff of the cap needs to go to Mangotsfield groundsman Pete Crowley for getting this game on when more or less every non-league fixture in Bristol had been abandoned, not to mention the players and the other 185 wackos that came to watch on a day like this.  

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