Sunday, 4 March 2018

#74 The Field - Almondsbury

Almondsbury Ladies 6 - Oldland Abbotonians Ladies 0
Sunday 25th February 2018, South West Women's Football League Eastern Division

The Field. The Field. Have you ever heard such a meek name for a football ground? I've been to plenty of venues that were basically just fields but even they tarted themselves up to some degree with a fancy name. King George Recreation Ground, Penpole Lane, the Scatman John Memorial Hyper Glade (okay that last one was made up) but anything is more exciting than "The Field". In any case The Field is another ground that I've long been curious about as I often see it as I pass by on my way somewhere else. In a similar way to The Creek which you get a superb view of whenever you travel into town on the Severn Beach Line, you can see tantalising glimpses of the ground as you travel north on the M5 past Almondsbury. Although I was trying to have a bit of a break from groundhopping, I'd had such a lovely day at Rovers the day before doing the Gasheads Against Food Poverty collection with John and Jade that I decided to squeeze in another game.

Almondsbury started life in 1969 as Patchway North End, playing just down the road in the town of Patchway. In 1971 despite having only existed for 2 years and being relatively young boys at this point, the club decided to change it's name to Patchway Old Boys. The move to Almondsbury happened in 1989 whereupon they took their current name and one year into the new millennium they joined the Gloucestershire County League after finishing as champions of the Bristol & Suburban League. In 2009, a few years after gaining promotion to the Western League, the club went into partnership with the University of Western England and became Almondsbury UWE. This meant that the club suddenly had a pool of potential student players to choose from but the initiative didn't bring much success, the club have pretty much been mid-table since. Last season however they finished 22nd out of 22 but avoided relegation, the partnership with UWE was ended in the summer and a fifth re-branding returned them to life as Almondsbury FC. Since the untimely demise of Almondsbury Town, Almondsbury are the only game in town in the South Gloucestershire village and rather cheekily go by the former club's nickname The Almonds. The Field is just across the road from Oakland Park, Town's former home and current site of Gloucestershire FA HQ. Information on the ladies team online is scant but they were in the league below (Gloucestershire County Womens Football League Division One) last season and finished as runners-up in the League Cup. 

I turned up to the game about 20 minutes late because the entrance isn't the easiest to spot and missing it leads to an unfortunate and time-consuming diversion down the Almondsbury interchange. The football pitch is a fair walk away from the clubhouse (which is shared with a myriad of local sports clubs including Almondsbury Cricket Club) and by the time I got to the pitch the home team were already winning 1-0. It was an absolutely bitter afternoon and the fierce wind was causing a wind turbine on the touchline spin off it's hinges. This combined with the motorway running past the far goal makes The Field quite a noisy ground I must say. I guess it could be quite serene on a warm, still day with little traffic but today it served as a reminder of how built up the outskirts of Almondsbury is these days. The only two structures of a markedly basic ground are a funny little L-shaped covered seated stand which contains about 35 seats and room for wheelchair users below. There's also a tiny four step metal terrace with a roof, the kind of temporary-looking thing you see at a lot of grounds at this level. You do get a sense of seclusion despite the hum of the motorway due to the fact that the whole ground is on a raised grass bank that's accessed by stairs by the changing rooms below.

Once I'd established the score from a friendly local, I moved into the terrace in an attempt to stave off the chill. Not a lot happened during the rest of the first half but one glorious moment was the ample referee unfortunately finding himself in the way of a clearance and receiving the hurtling sphere square in the arse. As half-time was blown, I retired to the clubhouse for a pint in the warm. An elderly gentleman who was sat watching the Premier League game was joined by a young lad of about 5. The only bit of their conversation I overheard was "No you go out, it's too cold for Grampy today." I've got to admit I was with Grampy on this one and although I could see the game had restarted from the window, I took my time finishing.

I'd missed all the action of the first half but lucky for me (and this ailing blog) the second was a veritable goal bonanza. First off the tall Almondsbury number 10 who'd looked threatening for a while made it 2-0 when she latched onto a stray ball and moved into a 1-on-1 with the keeper who she slotted past from an angle. Not two minutes later this player had added her second as she lofted a cross into the box into the roof of Oldland's net. 4-0 comes as a player lobs the Oldland defence, including the onrushing keeper who is beaten back to the goal by a forward but even without her tap-in the ball was going to roll across the line for sure. The fifth comes from a fairly unforced Oldland defensive error, it's not been a good half for them. Just as I'm trying to control my shivering hand enough to note this down in my phone, Almondsbury score a sixth which I completely miss. Fucking hell girls, stop, they're already dead.

Despite this dominant display, the win only put the Almonds up to 4th in the table and the current leaders Wootton Bassett Town Ladies have played 13 and won 13. A promotion would see them duking it out with South Glos rivals AEK Boco Ladies and Downend Flyers, they have games in hand against the top three and clearly they have terrifying ability on their day. Good luck to them.

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