Friday, 22 July 2016

#30 Hardwicke Playing Field, Tytherington Rocks

Tytherington Rocks 1 Hereford Lad's Club 4
Saturday 16th July, Pre-season friendly 

Determined to press on and rack up more grounds than last season, I decided to take advantage of the fact I was spending the weekend catsitting for my parents at their house in Pilning by checking out a nearby South Glos ground. Tytherington Rocks may sound like a third-rate local music event featuring your Dad's Status Quo cover band but it is actually a Hellenic League team based near Thornbury. I assume the Rocks get their slightly strange name from the large quarry in the village 

Tytherington Rocks

Tytherington rocks

Tytherington's opponents in this afternoon's strange name derby are Hereford Lad's Club, who finished second in the West Midlands (Regional) League Division One but were denied promotion due to failing the ground grading. For those of you wondering: yes they do have a women's team, called Lad's Club Girls. The Rocks finished last season 14th out of 14 in the Hellenic League Division One West but haven't been relegated for some reason.

I arrived at the ground and wandered in. As I was taking my customary lap of the field a Hereford substitute who reminded me of Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria spotted my camera and said "Get a good picture of me mate!" Sorry guy, this was the best I could do:

I came to a halt behind the away goal and continued to be mistaken for a reporter from the local press as I overheard a collection of old boys on the clubhouse steps say "Wonder where he's come from?" One of them came over to investigate and once I'd explained I was just a hobbyist he warned me to be careful because he first came to the club to take pictures and ended up with "about 15 jobs". 

The kindly gent was able to answer a question I'd had about Tytherington Rocks for a while, namely why they were in the Hellenic League rather than the Western League with the other South Gloucestershire clubs. Apparently a switch has been attempted before but the Hellenic League wasn't keen on letting them go as it's short on teams. This may explain why Rocks weren't relegated last season. The chap also explained that the team was in a somewhat transitory phase at present, with an exodus of players leaving manager Dan Gillespie heavily reliant on youth. I had to compliment the man when it turned out one of his many jobs was groundsman, as the pitch looked pretty good from where I was standing. However he did bemoan the fact that the occasional weed was still present at this late stage due to "the bloke with the weedkiller not turning up".

This minor setback didn't change the fact that Hardwicke Playing Field is a perfectly fine place to watch football. There are a handful of local teams that have taken up residence in local playing fields (including Tytherington's local rivals Thornbury Town) and I always thought it was a little strange but it doesn't seem to have effected the space as a public asset. It really has the feel of a park, with neatly trimmed grass and thick green hedges. The drawback of these is their tendency to swallow up stray balls leaving the players to get scratched to buggery retrieving them.

The only permanent structure is the Ted Oakley stand which seats 100 under cover. There's hard standing on both ends and the side with the stand but the side opposite that is grass. The clubhouse doubles up as the changing rooms so it's quite small but there's a tiny little bar and a tea hut, plus a Tytherington shirt from the 1950s proudly on display.

The game kicked off and my chat with the old boy was interrupted by the Hereford manager coming over and asking for the changing room keys because he'd just sent on two players wearing the number 15 shirt. Magic. Tytherington's young side barely touched the ball for the first 20 minutes but sprang into action at around the 25th, winning a free-kick and rattling the post from the resulting corner when some poor defending from the away side resulted in a free header. However it was Hereford that would open the scoring when a player broke down the wing, took the ball right to the goal line, forcing the keeper to commit and then whipped it across the face of goal for an easy tap-in from Dan Herbert.   

During half time I grabbed a cup of tea, took a seat in the stand and watched the Tytherington physio's tiny dog sleep underneath the subs bench in a pile of bags and coats.

The whistle blew for the second half and a Hereford player embarrassed himself by shouting "Come on then lads, let's go" too hard so that his voice squeaked like a 14-year old pubescent boy's, for which he was roundly mocked by his teammates. 

Still in the seats, I noticed the lino in front of me was having a hard time keeping up with the action and seemed to be carrying an injury, which would serve as a point of major controversy during Hereford's second goal. I missed it happening because I was still trying to get a good picture of the beardy bloke but the Tytherington bench were incensed and calling for offside, making the point that the linesman hadn't kept up with the players at all. After being berated for a good thirty seconds the poor stiff shouted "I'M NOT HAVING THIS" went onto the pitch and started waving his flag manically at the ref so that his admittedly controversial ruling would not be swayed. After considerably more arguing, the lino decided he wasn’t going to bother anymore and stomped off to the clubhouse, to be replaced by Hereford’s husky manager. Ah non-league.

Hello darkness my old friiiend

This goal was scored by Tom Harding who added his second shortly afterwards, putting in a stunning individual effort by beating two defenders, retrieving the ball after having it kicked away from him by one of the defenders who had fallen to the ground and pressing forward to fire in from an angle. He completed his hat-trick approximately 30 seconds later with a simple strike from a through ball.

Tytherington were finally receiving the fisting that seemed on the cards during the first 20 minutes. My hero from the match was their captain who wasn’t going to let a trivial thing like losing 4-0 ruin his afternoon, shouting words of encouragement to his embattled comrades such as “Lads, we’re losing. Let’s just enjoy it. Let’s just try and do simple things.” Words of encouragement to make William Wallace himself focus on his first touch a bit more.

The Rocks did finally get their consolation with approximately 1 minute to spare with a mighty lob from midfield that the visiting keeper didn’t look like he could be arsed to save more than anything else, judging from his lethargic reach and unwillingness to leave the ground.

An encouraging display for Lad’s Club who will be looking to push on after coming up trumps last season but Tytherington it seemed still had a lot of work to do with their young squad to compete. Still, a lovely ground and a friendly club made for another enjoyable afternoon of west country non-league.  

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