Thursday, 6 July 2017

#52 The Meadow, Brimscombe & Thrupp

Brimscombe & Thrupp 3 Chalford AFC 1

Saturday 1st July 2017, Pre-season Friendly

Pre-season proper wasn't kicking off for another week but, itching to take advantage of the glorious sunshine, I decided to get myself to one of the smattering of games that was taking place in the first week of July. My choices consisted of Brimscombe or Nailsea United. Nailsea was the obvious choice because it was half the distance but the fixtures list stated that the match would be taking place at Nailsea School, not the setting I had in mind for an impromptu countryside adventure, so Brimscombe it would have to be. Brimscombe & Thrupp are a Hellenic Premier outfit based near Stroud, Gloucestershire. They've been on a bit of a roll in recent years, winning the Gloucestershire County League in 2010-11 before spending two seasons in the Hellenic Division One West, going up as champions in their second season. Meanwhile Chalford were last season's winners of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two (whatever that is) so another local team on the up.

Joining me this afternoon were smashing Gas lads Jack, Chris and Matt which meant I'd have to stop off in Redland and Yate on the way to darkest Gloucestershire. Adding these detours plus a stop-off at Tesco and a brief pause to prevent Jack from vomiting due to my erratic driving meant that we missed the majority of the first half, an unfortunate Partizan Bristle first. However, knowing that we were never going to make it in time did put me in the correct frame of mind to enjoy the lovely drive through this strange part of the world full of oddly named towns such as Petty France and Minchinhampton; a place so posh it's main road dissects a golf course. Less enjoyable were the hilly roads leading out of Nailsworth (Forest Green Rovers country), which my little car had serious trouble manoeuvring whilst full of stocky lads and probably didn't help poor Jack's stomach.

We arrived at The Meadow just as the teams were returning to the centre circle, Brimscombe having just scored in the 39th minute to cancel out an early goal from Chalford on 4 minutes to draw the sides level. Despite the fixture's early date, the atmosphere was thick with pre-season spirit. The barbecue was out and the several dozen ever-presents had re-emerged blinking-eyed and were busy chatting and reacquainting themselves with their preferred spots on the sidelines. While we acquired some frosty beverages in the clubhouse, Brimscombe pulled ahead with a goal in the 44th minute.

The Meadow has been Brimscombe's home for over 100 years, most of that time being before the club merged with Thrupp in 1970. It's one of those multi-tiered grounds, like Larkhall Athletic's Plain Ham, that uses grass hillocks to afford it's visitors a raised view of the pitch. One side and one end are on the elevated part of the hill, whilst the opposite side and end are at ground level. The only stand in the ground is on the elevated side and is a long jobbie with half given over to fold-down seating and the other half metal terracing. This side also contains the clubhouse and a large raised concrete area which I have dubbed the patio stand.

Three sides of the ground have hard standing but the end closest to the clubhouse doesn't. During the match the hill at the end opposite the clubhouse had a smattering of people watching from it, like a smaller-scale version of Springfield Park's famous Grassy Bank. Overall I was a big fan of The Meadow. I'm a sucker for multi-levelled grounds as they give a good view of the pitch whilst retaining standing space and are naturally pleasing to my eye, the big nature-loving beatnik that I am. There pitch did have a bit of a dip in it due to the grass verge but it was only on the very edge so hopefully doesn't cause too much trouble.

Whilst doing a lap round the ground and taking my pictures, I witnessed the only goal of the four that occurred while I was in the ground. A deep cross from a Brimscombe player into the box saw the keeper charge off his line but fail to connect with any of his frantic swats at the ball. Another white player touched the ball into control, took it to the edge of the box and put in a second cross whilst the keeper ponderously made his way back to goal, making a simple header from Sam Blackie all that was needed to notch Brimscombe's third of the afternoon.

Throughout the second half Brimscombe play well and do a fine job of passing the ball nicely along the ground, always an unexpected treat in non-league. Chalford for their part look tired and I couldn't really blame them in this heat but whenever they really needed to cut out an important pass between opposition players, they'd struggle to rise to the occasion. One moment in particular towards the end stood out where Chalford had possession but when the player met with his opponent, rather than try to take the ball around him, simply turned and charged into him with his back, falling over and losing the ball in the process.

We're nearly treated to a 5th goal on a couple of occasions, one lob struck from afar seemed to be dropping dangerously but hit the bar and another good effort was stopped manfully in the top corner by the Chalford keeper, who clattered himself on the post in the process and was down for a few minutes as a result. Ultimately another goal wasn't forthcoming and we'd have to be happy with a tame 45 minutes of football but that's pre-season and poor planning for you. The Meadow is a lovely ground and was an absolute treat to be in on such a beautiful summer's day with friends, hopefully the first of many this pre-season.

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