Wednesday, 8 March 2017

#47 Bristol Road, Portishead Town

Portishead Town 0 Oldland Abbotonians 1
Tuesday 7th March 2017, Western League First Division 

Venturing out on my first midweek trip for a while, I hopped across the Avonmouth Bridge to the North Somerset seaside resort of Portishead, famous for trip-hop, Adge Cutler and weird minimalist beach sculptures. Portishead Town joined the Western League in 2005, after making a nuisance of themselves in the Somerset County League by winning it five times in seven seasons from 1991/92 to 1997/98 and then being runners-up in four consecutive seasons from 2001/02 until their ascent, by which time everyone was probably thoroughly fed up with them. They made strong start to life in the Western League, consolidating in 2005/6 with an 8th place finish then finishing as runners up the season after but failed to go up do to ground grading. Since then it's been mostly mid to low table finishes for Posset, the most disappointing being 2013/14 when they finished bottom of the league. Today they sit at a more respectable 10th place. 

Oldland Abbotonians were formed in 1998 as a merger between Somerset-based Longwell Green Abbotonians and South Gloucestershire-based Oldland. Their home, Aitchison Playing Field, is in the South Glos village of Oldland Common near Bitton. Oldland were promoted to the Western League two seasons after Portishead and like their rivals this evening were able to finish as runners up early on in 2010/11, also without promotion. They come into tonight's fixture 18th out of 22 teams.

Bristol Road is another fairly basic Western League ground befitting of a club from a small town that have only relatively recently made the step-up to this level. Portishead share the site with Gordano Valley Cricket Club so it's a vast space with a long walk between the clubhouse and the pitch. The football portion of the ground has two stands, a small covered metal seated stand on the far side of the ground and another large covered stand near the entrance. The stand near the entrance is a bit of an odd one. If you, as a teenager, ever formed a terrible rock band and were forced into a cramped garage full of assorted bits of dusty furniture to practice by your parents, you'll probably feel quite a home in this stand.

The walls of the stand are made of sturdy blue-painted cinderblock and the roof is made of less sturdy wood which has crumbled in the corners over the years. The wooden beams in the roof and the random assortment of tables only added to this overall feeling of garage. The rest of the ground is that familiar combination of hard standing concrete and white metal railing. There is also a building containing the changing rooms and tea hut which has a small roof and some railings of it's own and a lady who I assume was the cook spent the half watching from here. The ground is situated next to a steel works so all sorts of weird machinery can be seen dotted between the trees in the distance.

As I entered the ground and did my lap around the perimeter a ball got loose and hit a crowd member squarely in the groin. I enjoyed this far too much and should probably extend my apologies to the gent in question. The evening of physical comedy continued towards the end of the first half when the ball went up high and a large clod of mud flew off and hit an elderly chap on the head. Judging by the way he didn't so much as blink during this aerial assault, it would seem he was too engrossed in the game to notice. A doff of the cap to this soggy stalwart.

In terms of the game itself Portishead were the team keeping hold of the ball and passing better but Oldland spent more time in attacking positions in the opposition's half. The first chance of note came from the home side, as a short corner was worked into the centre between two players, only for the third to scuff the final product hideously giving away possession in the process. This was the beginning of many woes up front for Portishead and their humorously named players Cookie and Twigsy.

Blowers kicking it in "the bush". Immortalised in mural form.

Throughout the game the ref was getting absolute dog's abuse from at least three people at any given time. It was probably the most feisty game I've seen at this level. Not violent, although there was a bit of handbags after one tackle, just quite bile filled. I couldn't see that the ref did much wrong during the first half but it didn't stop anyone on the pitch or in the technical areas having a good old shout. One lightning rod of criticism was a poor Portishead forward named Tyler who received the bulk of advice bellows from his comrades. I genuinely feel that Portishead's general fury towards one and other might have had something to do with them losing the game as they often piled on right after a mistake while the ball was still in play.

Right at the end of the first half Portishead forced a very good one-handed save from distance but it was Oldland who scored the only goal of the game in the 53rd minute. A daisy cutter was sent forward to David Saffer who turned to lose the defenders and stick it in the top of the net.

Not great but nothing on Viktoria Žižkov.
From this moment on Portishead battled hard and got forward but could not find a goal. Free headers go begging, goal-line scrambles come to nothing, shots go wide and Tyler ponders whether spending his Saturdays gardening might be more fulfilling. The last action was a free-kick from about 25 yards that Oli Trevarthen blasted dangerously towards the top corner of the Oldland goal only to have it palmed away by Shaun Semmens who had a very good game.

It was good to get another tick in the Western League from a ground that's so accessible from my flat that it's pretty stupid that I hadn't done it yet. You can expect a few more North Somerset games in the near future. For now though it was time to get home and prepare myself for the big Bury trip next week.

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