In the 1960s I was a very keen Bristol St George fan, regularly attending home matches at Bell Hill and cycling to some of the away matches. This was back in the heady days when they were the best amateur football team in the Bristol area. I even came back from university to watch them beat Dagenham 1-0 in front of 1,500 and draw with Hendon 0-0 with a gate of 2,800 in the old Amateur Cup.
I moved away from Bristol and did not return until the 1980s when many local football teams had caught up with and overtaken St George’s high standards, so now other clubs vied for my attendance. However, I still returned to Bell Hill more in nostalgia than anything else. The matches there were still competitive, enjoyable but the facilities were not great. The change of name to Roman Glass St George was necessary but regrettable, but the move to Almondsbury makes it much more difficult to attend games.
With my new allegiance to Keynsham Town, the fact that the match would be on a 3G pitch and unlikely to be postponed, and despite there being live football on BBC 1, I made the effort to travel there. My wife had warned as she had just returned from Easter Compton that the M4 westbound and the M32 was solid, so on a cold, wet winter’s evening I set off from my home in Longwell Green early, 6 o’clock for a 7.30 kick off, sounds ridiculous! This is the problem with travelling to that side of Bristol, the Ring Road is a lottery, sometimes clear, sometimes very busy and the reason why I don’t very often make it. Of course, it took just 35 minutes, arriving three quarters of an hour before kick-off. Never mind, plenty of time to read the excellent programme (24 pages and colour throughout) which was included in my £4 admission.
The play was typical Western league football. End to end, very competitive and entertaining. Keynsham probably had the better of the chances early on but it was St George that opened the scoring on 18 minutes. A long ball beat the Keynsham defence and the St George no 9 (sorry no team sheet to identify him) ran on to beat the advancing Ash Clark in the visitors’ goal.
Keynsham, however, struck back within a minute. They won a corner on the left which was hit to the far post and Mike Grist was there to score with a powerful header. Back in the game quickly and competing hard to get the upper hand, disaster struck on 33 minutes. Another through ball stretched the Ks’ defence and Jordan Anstey brought down a St George player in an attempt to win the ball. A red card was inevitable as he was the last man, although luckily the foul took place outside of the box and the resulting free kick was cleared. Scott Saunders took Jordan’s place in the back four and Matt Brown played a deeper role, leaving Troy Walters as the lone striker.
St George fought hard to make their numerical superiority tell and only 4 or 5 first class saves from Ash Clarke kept Keynsham level at half-time.
So, it was off to the portacabin (which has seen better days) for a warming cup of coffee. There are promises however, of better things to come as a new club house is being built at the far end of the ground. I had read in a previous programme that Roman Glass St George ( I should use their full name, but old habits die hard) have ambitions to get into the Southern League, but with tonight’s attendance of just 40 (a good half of which must have been Keynsham supporters) I wonder how viable that is.
The second period continued very much as the match had started. Were Keynsham really a man short? I had to keep counting the players to make sure, because the play was pretty even. In fact, it seemed as if Keynsham were getting stronger as the match progressed, although again Ash Clark made more great saves to keep the score level and the Ks never had a clear-cut scoring chance. St George made a double substitution on the hour but it seemed to make little difference. Craig Wilson replaced a tiring Troy Walters up front as St George pushed harder and Keynsham had a spot of luck when a shot hit the left-hand post and rebounded to safety with Ash Clark beaten.
As 90 minutes approached it looked like the tremendous effort that all the Keynsham players had put into the game would be rewarded with a well-earned point, when on 94 minutes the St George no 14 shot from a crowded penalty area and the ball glanced off the left-hand post and into the net.
Disappointment for the visiting Keynsham supporters was balanced by the fact that these part-time players, having worked all day, had run their socks off and given their all, albeit that it was to no avail. If only the full-time Bristol Rovers players, that I had watched the previous Saturday, had done the same. That cost me £25 to watch players who didn’t even seem interested in playing, not to mention competing with a poor Shrewsbury Town.
Starman: Ash Clarke – numerous first class saves kept Keynsham in the match and gave his players the incentive to keep going.
Report by Mike Slucutt.