Western League Division One
Bowdens Park, Cheddar
Match Rating: 3
After much deliberation, I finally decided to take on the four game Western League groundhop today. With a 10.15 kick off at the first game in deepest Somerset, I set off from home at 5.20 am at the start of what would be a very long day of groundhopping, and my first ever visits to Western League grounds.
After the long drive which neared its conclusion with my heart sinking as I drove through thick fog as I approached the area but ended with a quite stunning drive through Cheddar Gorge, I parked up in the village and walked five minutes to the ground. It is a basic venue, as may be expected for a club that is embarking on only their fifth season in senior football, but it certainly has a rustic, relaxed charm about the place. Spectators enter via a turnstile at the entrance of the car park behind the goal, with the spacious brick clubhouse to the right which was doing a roaring trade this morning serving breakfasts to hungry hoppers, with a patio area in front. Beyond the corner flag and along the length, there is a small children's play area, a small modern metallic all-seater stand, and a fairly small building housing the changing rooms straddling the half way line. Pitchside there are a couple of covered steps for spectators, with a small wooden tea bar hut to one side. Hard standing is available along the rest of this length and behind the entrance goal, whilst the other two sides are inaccessible to spectators. The steep Mendip Hills provides an attractive rural backdrop behind the inaccessible length. The 24 page programme was perfectly adequate, containing all of the essential information to preview the match and some interesting articles, although over half of the content was advertising. Although the programme sold out as kick off approached, those disappointed were invited to leave their details for a copy to be forwarded on.
Cheddar came into this game in fifth place in the table, with seven wins and four defeats from their eleven league games, but with games in hand on all teams above them, and so are in a good position to mount a challenge for one of the two promotion positions. Portishead Town were in 15th position, with five wins and a draw from their 11 games, and again, have games in hand on most teams above them to potentially climb the table.
On an overcast morning with the little mist disappearing, Cheddar almost took the lead straight from the kick off when a shot was parried and the rebound was fired over the bar. However, they did take the lead on 5 minutes, Callum Ham striking a lovely shot from outside the area which beat the keeper’s dive. Cheddar were dominating the early stages of the game and they were creating chances to extend their lead at will, and they scored again on 15 minutes. A long throw in caused panic amongst the defence, the keeper couldn't catch the ball and eventually the loose ball was fired home by Billy Vaughan. Cheddar remained in complete ascendancy up to half time, and came close to scoring a third on 26 minutes when a defender deflected a cross onto his own bar and from the resulting corner, a shot hit the post before the follow up was tipped over the bar.
Cheddar certainly played their part in making the start of the hop successful, with plenty of volunteers ensuring everything ran smoothly and the needs of the masses were amptly catered for, with a calm, organised and welcoming feeling about the place.