Cadbury Heath (Red/Red) 1-2 Bitton (Yellow/Green), att 212, admission £6, prog included, tea 60p, badge £2.50.
A typical mid-week spent dithering about where to venture on the coming Saturday. After considering about seven options I awoke on the Saturday feeling rather lazy and a little tired of the motorway system, and so decided to venture somewhere fairly local. East Bristol is an easy ish seventy mile drive down the M4 for me, so the suburb of Cadbury Heath for a local derby became my chosen destination. As is the way with these things, two others I’d considered produced some healthy scorelines, Lye Town, 11-1 v Bromyard, and Chasetown 3-4 v Gresley. Hey ho, such are the frustrations of throwing the ground hopping dice in the air!
Rolling up in the club car park, shared with Cadbury Heath social club, the heavens were opening, causing a few pangs of concern about the capability of the pitch to take more rain. I’d already checked out their website in the morning, which proudly announced their Springfield pitch as very playable, and that game was ‘on’. Jumping out of the car wrapping myself up in my normal winter layers, I fell into conversation with a club official who was either waiting for someone specifically or just welcoming arrivals with a friendly hello. He’d spotted my Palace baseball hat and we talked about how well they’d done this season so far, and he suggested I introduce myself to Terry Mitchell in the club house, “He’d like to talk to you I’m sure”.
Terry Mitchell, as I found out later is club president, and father-in-law of Palace manager and fellow Bristolian Ian Holloway. I ventured into the clubhouse in particular to see if a programme was available in there, and found a very snug tardis like affair. Already busy a good thirty minutes before kick off, an elderly gent enquired about what the weather was doing outside, still raining I advised, but optimistically “the sun is trying to come out”. After a pause, I told him I was told to ask for Terry Mitchell?
As it turned out, he was Terry. We spoke briefly about Ian’s biography which I’d read just this summer, and had finished it by announcing to Ros, you know I’d love him to be our manager one day. Four months later, funny how things turn out, he is indeed the man in charge in London SE25. Terry was proud to have been mentioned in Ian’s book, and I vaguely remember the story about his first meeting with Ian, in relation to James Herriott on TV, a cow, a female cows private parts, and Ian’s general embarrassment! Just in those few short exchanges Terry seemed a lovely fella, and probably like many of his ilk the lifeblood of small clubs like Cadbury Heath. Ian Holloway is clearly very proud of his local roots, and the Heathens get mentioned quite frequently in the book, having turned out for them as a young player, and with his father having been more of a ‘local’ footballer.
A decent crowd had gathered and by kick off the sun was glimmering through the clouds. The heavy pitch which the player had been kept off pre-match looked sticky. As I stood by the door to the changing rooms, the officials came out, and we shared a joke about the christmas music coming from the dressing room. I must say it did seem quite incongruous to hear Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop the Cavalry’ booming out of the changing rooms, not the usual pre-match tunes one expects from players, and rather annoyingly even five days later, I’ve still got the damned tune on my brain!
Any fears I had that the heavy pitch would produce a dull and ugly game were quickly sated, as both teams looked comfortable on the ball, and the skill factor was high. Bitton had come into this game on the back of an excellent 3-0 win the previous Saturday at St Blazey (Cornwall) in the FA Vase, and looked ready to pounce, sitting just off the front-runners in the league table. Whereas Heath were second going into the game, their loftiest position ever since having been formed in 1894. I walked half way round the ground as the game kicked off, keen to snap a few photos with my new high-tech camera, gifted from Ros, one of the benefits of having recently celebrated fifty years since I arrived on this earth. And I was surprised to find the end behind the goal opposite the clubhouse end not pathed, as I thought this was a requirement of promotion to Step5, but I guess as they have just come up, the league has allowed them more time to lay this down. Quickly squelching my way round to the side opposite the small stand and covered shelter I fell into conversation with the fella next to me, who’d I’d overheard updating one of the Bitton subs (his son) with scores from Bristol City v Derby. Surprisingly he and his son were Derby fans, although both sounded like they spoke with the distinctive Bristol dialect, “I saw Derby at Ashton Gate the last two times, and we lost, so I thought I’d come and watch the son today”. Already this was looking a poor decision as Derby quickly took a 2-0 lead!
Back on the pitch at Springfield, the early pressure was up the hill on the Bitton goal. One or two half chances came and went, before Bitton started to exert their own pressure down the other end. O’Connor looked lively for them, so it was no great surprise when, after the ball bounced around the area for a while, that he converted from about five yards, 0-1 after 12 mins.
The game then ebbed and flowed, the pace and skill of the players remained high, but with no addition to the scoreline. “Could be a different game second half, with Heath playing down the hill” my Derby supporting friend offered as the whistle blew for half time.
He was partially correct, as Heath did indeed exert more pressure down the hill, and deservedly equalised after 60 when after a good one/two on the edge of the area, Bitton captain Crawley (bkd) conceded a clear foul for a penalty, which was converted down the middle with power from centre forward Mark Reynolds, 1-1.
It would seem from here, that Heath would use this initiative to push on for the winner. Yes and no, after 64 minutes Bitton sub Sawby played a lovely through ball from the half way line, directly into the stride of their No 9, Salter, who ran on, and then thumped a storming fifteen yarder into the top right corner, 1-2.
This goal, had come against the run of play, and generally for the remaining twenty-five minutes, Heath had more of the possession, but Bitton defended well, perhaps at times, off the ball, roughing up danger man Reynolds, and held firm to take the points in what had been a most enjoyable game. I fully expect these two sides to be involved in the championship shake up, come late April 2013.
A quick getaway, and a clear M4 had me turning my key in my front door by six fifteen. A good day out.