Sunday, 5 September 2010

Winterbourne Utd

Saturday 4th September 2010
Hellenic League Division 1 West
Parkside Avenue

Today sees me catch up with a friend in Cheltenham, and it is the first time we have met up since April when we attended the Hednesford Town – Banbury United game. We agreed on this weekend as Cheltenham Town are playing away this afternoon @ Barnet and said friend is a season ticket holder down at Whaddon Road. Our original choice was to visit the nearest non-league club to his house, Cheltenham Saracens for their FA Vase encounter with Western League Hallen. Often though, and this being no exception plans change which isn’t helped due to my indecisiveness. The reason today though is that I had found out that Winterbourne United are vacating their ground in the summer and moving to Oaklands Park, Almondsbury. We had both visited Oaklands Park in the past and as I was going to be within an hours’ drive of Winterbourne, I checked the Hellenic League fixtures to see if they had a home fixture this afternoon and bingo!

Winterbourne is a large village / small town in South Gloucestershire just to the north of the M4 motorway and had a population in 2001 of 8,623. The town is 7 ½ miles north of Bristol with Swindon 37 miles to the east and Gloucester 32 miles to the north.

The football club were formed in 1911 as Winterbourne Wasps until the outbreak of the First World War. After the war the club reformed as United after joining forces with Watleys End, Winterbourne Down and Kendleshire. The club joined the Bristol & Suburban League and finished runners-up four times during the 1930’s. In 1950 they joined the Bristol & District League and after making steady progress they were crowned league champions in 1968, a season that also saw United become Gloucestershire Intermediate Cup and Berkeley Hospital Senior Cup winners. With this came promotion to the Bristol Premier Combination (BPC). It was only three years before they collected some silverware in their new surrounding when in 1971 they won both the division two title and Cossham Hospital Premier Cup. The BPC became known as the Avon Premier Combination (APC) and in 1992 they won the APC cup and also finished runners-up to Highridge United in the league. The runners-up spot was good enough for the club to be promoted to the Gloucestershire County League (GCL). Just four seasons were spent in the GCL before they were relegated back to the BPC, but they bounced back into the GCL after only one season away as they were BPC champions in 1997. Their fourth season back in the GCL saw them lift the championship trophy and promotion to the Hellenic League Division 1 (West). The club have been division 1 west winners twice (2005/06 & 2007/08) but were not allowed promotion to the premier division due to their ground not being up to standard.

The drive down to Cheltenham was easy with the motorways (M69, M6, M42 & M5) behaving themselves and I arrived around 11am, this included a stop in Bromsgrove for a breakfast at the Pit Stop cafe on the A38. We then met up with his dad and went to the Four Mile Inn between Gloucester and Stroud for lunch sitting outside in glorious sunshine, and then it was the final stint down the M5 and across the M4 to Winterbourne itself. I was expecting their ground on Parkside Avenue to be basic but not this basic – the pitch was railed off on three sides with permanent dugouts in place while the cricket side had a temporary rope along it. There is no hard standing, no cover and no floodlights while they have use of a small club room. To be honest it is the most basic ground at step 6 (level 10) that I have been to and is more akin to step 8 here in the midlands.

The game was Winterbourne’s first home game of the season and their four games on the road had brought a mixed bag of results with one win (v Launton Sports), one draw (v Easington Sports) and two defeats (v Headington Amateurs and Tytherington Rocks). Opponents Clanfield were unbeaten before today securing two wins and two draws from their four games played. The match started off with Clanfield taking the game to the visitors, playing some good football and creating the early chances. Winterbourne only had a few scraps but Ashley Knight forced the visiting keeper to make a good save when the tipped over a thirty yard shot. The visitors had a couple of penalty appeals turned down early on and a couple of efforts were cleared off the line. It was no surprise when Clanfield took the lead on the twenty minute mark when Dan Bishop hit a low shot into the bottom corner from outside the penalty area. Winterbourne woke up a bit and took the game a bit more to their visitors and deservedly took the lead four minutes from time when they hit Clanfield on the counter attack. Ashley Knight played a through ball to (?) who coolly slotted it past the advancing keeper. A minute later and the same player nearly put the home side ahead but his shot went wide of the post. The second half saw Winterbourne have more possession and take the game to Clanfield. They took the lead on 64 minutes with a goal of the season contender from Ashley Knight, who having seen the keeper off his line lobbed him from fully forty yards out - excellent vision and execution. Two minutes later and he made it 3-1 when his shot from outside the penalty area took a slight deflection and wrong footed the keeper. This knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and it was the hosts who completed the scoring fifteen minutes from time when Ben Dowdell was fed a square pass, took one touch into the penalty area and smashed the ball into the back of the net. No more scoring and we set off for the journey home, arriving back in Cheltenham around 5.30pm and I was back in Leicester around 7.45pm.

Admission: £3 (including programme)
Attendance: between 40 and 50
Match rating: 3*
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