Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Odd Down (Bath) v Moneyfields

The wall of Odd Down (Bath)'s clubhouse at The Lew Hill Memorial Ground.
"No, no, not yet!" Moneyfields' Steve Hutchings was standing in an offside position near the corner flag. His team mate Stuart Green instantly dismissed the possibility of making the simple pass. Instead, he took two steps towards Hutchings, pulling an Odd Down defender along with him. He then stood on the ball, swivelled 180, leaving the hapless left-back wondering where he'd gone, like a disbelieving magician's audience gasping at the glamorous lady in the box who must surely have been sawn in half, but no... He knocked the ball into space twelve yards from the goal and then aimed for the far stanchion. Another Odd Down defender realised what was happening, but too late. Flinging himself at the oncoming sphere, he only managed to deflect the ball in an arc over his own keeper's head.

Ripple, plop, yeeeeesssss!!! 2-1 to Moneyfields! They're on their way to Wembley!

Odd Down (Bath)'s seated stand. A pair of rusty old towel racks on the left.
Odd Down (Bath) AFC (1) 2 v 3 (1) Moneyfields FC
FA Carlsberg Vase 2nd Round
Saturday 16th November 2013
Attendance: 53 (headcount)
Admission: £6
Programme: Free with admission
Colours: Blue / blue / white v Yellow / dark blue / dark blue
National Grid reference: ST7361

It's called the Paul Richards Stand.
I've been following Hampshire clubs in the FA Vase this season. They've done very well so far. Two seasons ago, there were only four county sides left at the Second Round Proper stage, and they were all knocked out. This year, nine had made it through - Folland Sports and Sholing were playing each other, but the other seven were all playing clubs from outside the county, giving me eight ties to choose from.

I decided to visit Odd Down (Bath), as they are a club that's always fascinated me. Exotic. Alluring. Sort of. Studying Rothman's annuals through the years, their name has stood out as one of the more intriguing ones, like Billingham Synthonia. Why did they feel the need to add the name Bath in brackets after their name? This isn't normal. If it was, then we'd be seeing Everton (Liverpool) taking on Arsenal (London) in the Premiership (although if you look at German language league tables, this is precisely what they call our clubs, but without the brackets - thus, Everton are known as "Everton Liverpool" in Germany).

The only other clubs that I can think of with brackets as part of their name are Newport (IW) and Ashford Town (Middx) - both of whom use brackets to distinguish themselves from clubs of the same or similar names elsewhere in the country. Curiously, Newport (IW) were playing across the other side of Bath on Saturday at the home of Odd Down's city rivals, Larkhall Athletic. Two bracketed teams in the same city at the same time. Can't happen very often.

[Reader's exasperated voice: "Fascinating, Andy! Don't tell me, you were going to list all the clubs with hyphens in their names next, then point out that Ruyton-XI-Towns is the only place in Britain with Roman numerals, and then tell us the Pub Quiz Basics fact about Westward Ho! and its unique exclamation mark..."].

No, no, definitely not! I wouldn't be that boring! *hastily rewrites next paragraph*

The roof of the covered standing area is stepped, which shows the direction of the slope at Odd Down's ground.
Odd Down's ground is at the top of a very long hill on the south side of Bath. Handily situated next to one of the city's Park & Ride car parks, it is 175m above sea level (Bath City's Twerton Park is only at 30m, and Larkhall are 80m above sea level). The air is thin up there.

Entering at the gate opposite the social club, immediately in front of you is a sight that would make a lot of groundhoppers very emotional: a dustbin full of unwanted programmes, unsold from previous matches. I also spotted a couple of discarded issues dotted around the ground, unread and unloved.

To the right of the entrance is a covered standing area, flat underneath the roof, but the roof itself goes up in steps. It's at this point that you might want to skip to the next paragraph as I reveal the height of the slope at Odd Down...it's a lateral slope of 1.4m, which is the smallest of all the Bath grounds. Bath City and Larkhall Athletic both have 2.5m (10ft) slopes.

Over the far side of the ground is a small stand built in the Eighties containing black and white plastic tip-up seats. Next to the stand are two large green tanks. In front of the tanks are what looks like a pair of rusty old clothes horses. Or possibly towel racks. I wouldn't put my freshly washed towels on them though. They'd get dirty.

Steve Hutchings of Moneyfields traps a loose ball.
Odd Down (Bath) AFC are situated very close to the West Wansdyke, which historians believe was the historic boundary between Saxon England and the Celts. It would once have been a wild frontier town, full of hairy mead-swilling reprobates, ready to repel invaders at a moment's notice.

Saturday's match could be described as feisty. If it had been a boxing match (and it nearly became one at times), it would have been a bare knuckle contest. If you think that football is no longer a contact sport and you've had enough of all that namby-pamby tiki-taki, then this would have been the match for you. It was the brave Celts of Odd Down repelling the yellow-shirted invaders from faraway Portsmouth. An ancient battle re-enacted for the fifty or so enthusiasts that had turned up to be entertained. Except without the crossbows and swords. Or the mead (not on sale in the clubhouse).

Of course, the West Wansdyke has now been eroded by centuries of garden encroachment and dog walkers. It's merely a bump in the landscape, unnoticed by most, but still shown as an antiquity on Ordnance Survey maps.

Moneyfields' Stuart Green skins this bemused Odd Down defender.
The modern day Battle of West Wansdyke at Odd Down will be remembered for a long time by the twenty or so Moneyfields fans that had travelled up from Portsmouth on the fun bus. Crunching tackles, sledging, no-nonsense heading duels, a broken nose for a brave yellow-shirted defender caught in a painful sandwich between Odd Down's enormous centre-half and his own team mate. And five goals - three times Moneys took the lead, twice Odd Down equalised.

It was minute number eighty on the clock before Moneys scored what proved to be the winner, a powerful header by Steve Hutchings from a corner on their left (see the photo below). Imagine the fist-punching rapture, the shrieks of glee, the utter joy. And that was just me, transfixed by this tremendous game, willing the boys from Pompey to triumph in the gloom.

Ten minutes more to hang on. And hang on they did. Just. It's not like the fiery Celts from the old border country didn't try. Spears, chariots, barrels of boiling tar...none of these were used in their assault on Moneys' goal.

A match report from Odd Down can be found here. Moneyfields' perspective on the game was reported in The News here.

In final news from Bath, there were a pair of small dogs being taken for walkies around the pitch several times, which brings my total of FA Vase dogs up to around 15 in four matches - two each both here and at Bracknell, five at Kidlington, and at least six at Hythe & Dibden. A pretty good canine haul.

Steve Hutchings heads the winning goal for Moneyfields in the gathering gloom.
Of the clubs that I'd written about in previous rounds, Hartley Wintney crashed out 5-1 at Erith Town in Kent. Meanwhile, Oxfordshire's Kidlington progressed to the last 64 with home victory over Torpoint Athletic.

Other Hampshire sides that failed to progress on Saturday were Fareham Town, Cove and Folland Sports, which left me with five clubs to follow in the Third Round Proper - the final regionalised round before it goes national in January. The draw looks like this:

AFC Portchester v Blackfield & Langley
Saltash United v Alresford Town
Moneyfields v Bitton
Reading Town v Sholing

Kidlington have a tough match at home to Bodmin Town.

So, four matches to choose from. I haven't a hope of getting to Saltash in time for kick-off, so I shall be at one of the other three games on December 7th. Not sure which yet, but there's three weeks of thinking time to make up my mind.

A stanchion, high above the city of Bath, last Saturday evening.
I was going to finish with a rant about Tottenham Hotspur's heavy-handed approach to Fleet Spurs' copyright-infringing badge, which has been all over the local and national news this past week. However, compared to the slavery conditions of the workers building Qatar's World Cup stadiums under the system of kafala, it really is insignificant. So, breaking with tradition, I'm not going to go off on one about Spurs' legal and marketing departments and their waste-of-space bully-boy non-jobs.

Against Modern Football. So many reasons, but the FA Vase isn't one of them.


  1. Another great match-report. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to be more exciting watching teams from Hampshire take on other clubs outside the county - I was actually willing on Moneyfields as I was reading!

  2. Thanks Neil. I definitely feel more involved if I'm willing one of the teams to win, even if I don't "support" them. I'm veering towards watching Moneyfields again in the next round because of this (and the fact I have to be home by 6pm, which probably means Reading is out of the equation). Plus, the two matches I've seen between Wessex and Western League teams have been terrific entertainment.

    Come on you Moneys! :-)

  3. Andrew , another most enjoyable read. :)


  4. Thanks OB! I'm back at Moneyfields again today - looking forward to another great Vase tie!