A groundhopper view of yesterday's match
One of those matches that when the final whistle went at 16.52, the thought was could we have another half hour please...
Slimbridge 5 v 3 Winchester City - Southern League Division 1 South and West
Prog 28 pages £1.00 - Att 76 (counted 68 in first half, approx half of 'crowd' from the capital of Wessex) - Admission £8.00
...Cracking entertainment from the start here, especially given the hot conditions with the pace unrelenting. Doubt whether the young ref (Jack Shepherd) will be receiving any plaudits from the Winchester entourage, with some perplexing decisions.
Curiously, Winchester had the better approach play but at times their crossing was poor and their finishing wayward. In contrast Slimbridge were deadly in front of goal. After a relatively quiet opening twenty minutes the extremely impressive Sean Lawson gave the hosts a slightly fortuitous lead with a shot from the edge of the area which took the faintest of deflections.
Merchant in the home goal kept the score level with an excellent save tipping over a powerful rising drive from Hubbard, however, at the other end a similar effort from Haskayne left Noice clutching at the hot Gloucestershire air as the shot beat him for pace and found the top left corner.
Even though they were two behind Winchester were creating the better chances and a decent cross from Briggs found Holloway unmarked on the back post but he could not keep his effort down. The difference in the quality of finishing was once again graphically illustrated by Slimbridge's third with Lawson running onto a long ball forward from Richard Thwaite and exploiting the gap between the near post and the not particularly well positioned Noice.
Mr Shepherd's first controversial decision was to issue straight reds to the hosts Turner and the visitors Barron. Late challenge from behind by the latter and a resulting fracas involving pushing. Two yellows and a stern talking too would have sufficed but clear that many referees are not going to tolerate any form of ill discipline and if that means reaching for the red rather than the yellow then so be it.
A three goal advantage for the hosts was extremely hard on Winchester especially as a Feeney close range shot came back off the underside of the bar, Plummer looked particularly bemused as his original header was heading for the far corner before Feeney thought he was going to help the ball over the line,
Any thoughts that the players would wilt under the heat were dispelled when Winchester once again piled forward in the early part of the second half. Feeney volleyed over from close range and Hubbard was unfortunate to see his curling shot come back off of the angle. However, the visitors kept a their task and a cross from Briggs went through the Slimbridge defence and past a static Merchant and found the far corner.
At this stage expected this to be the catalyst for a sustained Winchester come back but straight after the restart an excellent through ball from Hawkayne saw Payne turn Flooks inside out and place his shot perfectly past Noice and at 4-1 the contest looked dead and buried. Winchester though kept pushing away and their chagrin was clear to see when Tomasso was pulled back when lining up a shot for a foul after the main in black had initially waved play on.
The deficit was once again reduced, on this occasion by Flooks rising above a slow responding Slimbridge defence and angling a header past Merchant. Seconds later and Merchant kept the lead at two with a spectacular save to push away a further downward header from Feeney, Feeney then thought he had reduced the deficit to one placing a shot wide of Merchant but a very late flag for offside meant that the visitors frustrations with the officials was maintained.
The resistance from the visitors was finally broken with three minutes left with an excellent chipped cross from Major being headed into the far corner by Martin. Feeney eventually on the scoresheet four minutes into stoppage time with an easy finish after Briggs had done the spade work but by then it was a question of too little too late,
Excellent from start to finish and impressed by both teams approach, whether they can compare with the big beasts of the division in the form of Hereford and Salisbury remains to be seen.
A trip to the newly named Thornhill Park (after the benefactor who originally gifted the land to them in 1960) has been high on the agenda for some time. Not an inspiring venue with a slightly off centre stand and a piece of cover behind one goal but I am sure sufficient for the hosts needs with the minuscule crowds that they attract. Had massive problems attracting a signal to the dog n bone for the duration of time in rural Gloucestershire and I understand that there is a quick route via a footpath under the M5, which would mean that you could walk from Cam and Dursley Station in approximately 20 minutes. After one wrong turning ended up going a different route along the Dursley to Slimbridge road which took approx 35 minutes from Cam and Dursley Station.
A rare pre-booked trip which meant that time in Slimbridge was severely truncated, not that it is a particularly sizeable village and the GBG entry is on the opposite side of the village to the ground and was not visited. Slimbridge Church is a stunning piece of architecture though dominating the village vista and was well worth twenty minutes mooch around away from the seering sun.
Not a completely ale free day as had two forty minute breaks between connecting services at Bristol Parkway. The neighbouring Beaufort Arms although an Ember Inn had an impressive array of ales. Nothing particularly unusual but the Salopian Brewery Shropshire Gold was refreshing enough on both trips.