Sunday 8th October 2017, Western League Division One
You know you're about to watch an obscure side when their FCHD page only goes back to 2003-04. You'll have to forgive that very nerdy point of reference but Bishops Lydeard, newcomers to the Western League, haven't had the most celebrated history. Since being established in 1912, the little club from just outside Taunton have spent their time in the Taunton & District League and the Somerset County League, progressing slowly but surely until finally grasping that all-important promotion in the Toolstation promised land last season. Sustainable growth is really the golden standard when you're a side like this. The village has a population of less than 3,000 but Darby Way is still a tidy facility with plenty of charm, most of which comes from the breathtaking view out from the clubhouse side.
This suitably epic landscape was a fitting way to end an equally epic weekend of football and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Chris and everyone at the Grand Days Out Network for organising the groundhop and driving us, the clubs involved for changing their schedules just so a bunch of maniacs could watch seven games in three days, Simon for giving us a lift back on Saturday evening and Daz for being sterling company as always. I'd best get on with the report before the whole blog becomes too saccharine.
Knowing that they had the double appeal of being the final stop of the weekend and the ground most likely to be a new tick for some of the more hardcore attendees, Bishops Lydeard took the somewhat extravagant measure of laying out two massive cauldrons of sophisticated looking curry to bubble outside before kick-off. As nice as this smelled I went for a classic burger. I am not a sophisticated person. Before the match I again found myself perusing Terry's Badges, just in case he happened to have one featuring Cheddar's completely mental former logo. Sadly not.
Naturally with the sides in question this afternoon sitting at 13th and 14th place in the table, we were all hoping for a classic to round the weekend off. It would take only eight minutes for the Cheesemen to get the wheel rolling as Robbi Maggs played in Chris Coombs who shot home at an angle from about 20 yards. Shortly after this we were distracted by a small excitable child next to Daz who had somehow become wedged in the chair. Distracted in that Daz was called in to help prevent the wayward infant from losing a leg in the folding contraption and in that I was finding the whole spectacle pretty hilarious. Another notable in the crowd was a Cheddar supporting chap who, in his self-appointed role of team psychologist, would bellow things like "It's fine! It's okay! It's one of those things! It's in the past!" for about 30 seconds after his team made a mistake. That kind of unconditional support and stoicism is very rare indeed in the west county.
In the 28th minute a similar strike to the first goal was deftly kept out by Bishop's keeper Sam Carreau as he dived in the nick of time to make a one-handed save in the bottom corner. Minutes later Carreau was forced to rush out of goal to tackle Cheddar's Sam King, who was in a one-on-one situation that Carreau himself had created with a bit of dodgy distribution. However he compounded the problem when he went to ground with his tackle but failed to relieve his attacker of the ball in the process. His blushes were spared when the resultant shot sailed wide of the post, the Fuck-up Fairy having gotten bored of him and settled on King's shoulder instead.
Very much against the churn of the game so far, Bishops Lydeard clawed back an equaliser in the 39th minute as Charlie Wilson wriggled free on the left-wing and sent a cross into the box which James Quick smashed into the roof of goal from point plank range. This caused absolute disarray in the Cheddar ranks, evidenced by the fact that Quick's corner in the last minute of the half was missed by everyone in a yellow shirt and fell to Ben Hebditch to Caerphilly slot into goal to put his side ahead at the break. (I'm done now, sorry). After an opening 45 minutes full of decent chances for Cheddar, I imagined they'd be entering the changing rooms anticipating a grating from their manager. (ARRRGH).
Back out for the second half Sam Carreau continued to be an absolute Don between the sticks for Lydeard, making two vital saves for the home team right off the bat. One of which, if you believe Cheddar's website was "a save more akin to Gordon Banks of World Cup fame!" I wouldn't go that far but he was having a good game. All this pressure eventually led to Cheddar giving away a penalty as Nathan Best pushed Quick in the box but the lackluster strike pinged off the post and into Liam Kingston's grateful hands. This filled Daz and I with childlike excitement, as it was rapidly turning into a game that had everything.
Tiptoeing back from the precipice of gifting their opponents the three points, Cheddar regroup and force a number of saves and even score an offside goal before finally getting their deserved equaliser via a delicious Adam Jones volley in the 63rd minute. A point each would have been about fair but positively foaming to make up for missed chances Cheddar continued to turn the screw and in the 74th minute pulled ahead through Ricky Bennett who fired a powerful shot from midfield that Carreau got a hand to but couldn't prevent from bobbling into goal. A heartbreaking blow for our hosts but not altogether unexpected as Cheddar continued pelting the side netting throughout the final minutes, even managing to miss another open goal! Truth be told if both teams had taken all their chances it could've been 10-3 to Cheddar but football rarely works like that and the Western League new boys can be proud of a robust performance against an established side going forward. For us though it was time to head back to Weston-Super-Mare and hope that Daz's car was still there.