Sunday, 14 January 2018

#71 Longwell Green Communuty Stadium, Longwell Green Sports

Longwell Green Sports 1 - Bitton 5 
Tuesday 26th December 2017, Western League Premier Division

Ahh the Boxing Day fixture. A chance for those of us that can muster the energy to stand around in the cold, attempting to focus on a match while secreting a noxious, gravy-tinged discharge from every pore. Deciding early-on that I wouldn't engage with a return trip to Walsall's Bescot Stadium to watch Rovers, I'd settled on a mere 5.5 mile jaunt to local Western First Division side Almondsbury to watch them take on Roman Glass St. George. This was scuppered however by heavy drizzle throughout most of Christmas Day itself which caused the game to be called off. Unfortunately for me, I had engaged in my usual Christmas tradition of staying up all night drinking, ingesting garbage and ruining EastEnders for my wife by howling with laughter at this year's improbable mass death. As I result, I didn't learn about this postponement until around 11 o'clock the next morning and the only reasonable not called-off alternative was kicking off at 12. So with bleary eyes and a bad head I set off for the East Bristol suburb of Longwell Green.

Although it was a last-minute change of plan I was pretty happy to be going to Longwell Green for shamefully voyeuristic reasons, namely the fact that the side were without a win so far in the entire 2017-18 season. In fact, over 22 matches played they had acquired a grand total of 2 points and a goal difference of -62. This struck me as pretty remarkable and I'd had the club on my to-do list for some time, A: because I couldn't imagine what they were doing to obtain a record like that other than all the players running headlong into each other after kick-off, and B: because it would be great scenes to be in attendance for the first time they nabbed 3 points during the current campaign. Of course I'd already seen Paulton Rovers U18s who weren't only winless but pointless to boot, so how bad could they really be?


As previously mentioned I was pressed for time that afternoon and unfortunately it was one of those grounds where the postcode didn't quite get me to the right place. So after finding a quiet place to park, I scanned the skyline for floodlights and the sound of men swearing and romped towards them. I ended up getting to the local park which, as is the case with many recent additions to the 10th tier (Longwell obtained promotion to the Western Division One in 2005) contains a hastily ringed off rectangle containing the pitch and clubhouse, as is in the ground regulations at that level. This has varying degrees of success, not least in at Cadbury Heath where I spotted several places a person could sidle in and Welton Rovers where the village playground is mere inches from the ground boundary with only a waist-high brick wall interrupting a perfect view of the pitch. This is used to great effect by many. Even today as I walked towards what I assumed was the entrance a dog-walker paused by the fence to eye the action for 10 minutes or so. Perhaps he was on a one-man boycott, refusing to enter the ground until the club had turned things around but unable to drag himself away completely, like a tinpot South Glos version of Coventry when they were at Sixfields.     

The exterior of Longwell Green Community Stadium is very much the archetypal small town community center, the entrance to the football ground sandwiched between a Scout hut and a modern church building. The place was originally farmland that was given over to the staff of Longwell Green Coachworks, who opted to form a club in 1966 in the wake of England's World Cup triumph. Their greatest success was in 2008-09 when they finished as runners up in the Western League Division One and went up as a result. Other than that they've reached the second round of the FA Vase on two occasions and were Bristol & District League Senior Division champions in 1991–92. Although it's a far-cry from the farmland it once was, Longwell Green Community Stadium is still a fairly spartan ground. There are two metal covered stands, one with four rows of fold-down seats in blue and white and another right next to it which is half the length and holds a standing metal terrace. That's all there is. The rest of the ground is just railing and two painted blue brick dugouts. 

As I took my place behind the goal, I couldn't help but wonder how on earth these lads could be arsed. I was feeling very woozy under the effort of just standing outside and watching their Christmas lunch paunches sway in the breeze, imagine playing! It was a pretty cold one as well but mercifully the rain had left us alone for the afternoon. Some of the players seemed to be looking to just get through the afternoon with as little fuss as possible, as evidenced by one lad that went absolutely ballistic at an opposition player for clearing a ball into the opposite field early doors. I would've been happy for the momentary break personally. It's true there's no such thing as an easy game, especially on a cold boxing day but Bitton certainly would've fancied themselves considering the record of their opposition.

I was expecting wanton incompetence from Longwell Green but they're an industrious side who mark and defend decently enough but are severely lacking when it comes to strength in possession and creativity. Despite keeping things even for 35 minutes and forcing a few weak saves, Longwell do eventually concede as Best shoots low past the diving fingers of the goalie. Bitton make it two on 43 as the ball is passed from near the corner flag into a mostly empty box, well, empty of Longwell players anyway. There were, if I recall correctly, three Bitton players waiting in the box for the man by the flag (who was being kept onside by his marker) to put in the cross which Baker diverted into the goal, making my earlier comments about Longwell's defending seem a bit premature.

After a quick pint in the packed out clubhouse, I took a spot on the metal terrace for the second half. It was from here that I overheard the mad statistic that Longwell have fielded 54 (fifty four) players over this half season. Truly a mind-boggling feat which one would assume leaves the hope of getting any consistency on the pitch a far-off dream. This lack of organisation is highlighted in spectacular fashion when their goalkeeper tries to dribble the ball outside his area instead of going for a clearance and is dispossessed, allowing a Best to walk it into an open goal for his brace. I decide at this point that's it for them and it's just a matter of how many get let in now.

However they do claw one back, a somewhat fortunate nod in at the near post from a corner, to much rejoicing. A dogged period of resistance following Bittons third goal ensues where the home team see a bit more of the ball and create a couple of chances but it's short lived and Bitton score two more in the closing 15 minutes. At this point most people around me shuffled of home for some turkey sandwiches and I was left to contemplate the passing of another successful year of groundhopping. Here's to many more.

No comments:

Post a Comment