I’m back again with another groundhopping report, and it’s safe to say that Tuesday nights really are the best for non-league football at the moment! It seems that whatever game I pick either has goals, controversy or nail biting finishes, or all of the above…
This week I decided to go down the A31 to Winchester City, for their home game against Bristol Manor Farm, the third biggest club in Bristol. This may make it seem as if they are the smallest club in Bristol, but according to Wikipedia there are 13 Football Clubs based in Bristol, so Manor Farm are actually one of the biggest!
I am not entirely familiar with the Southern League Division One South, in fact this was the first time I had ever seen a game in that division. But the reason I chose Winchester City was because my friend goes to University there, so why not kill two birds with one stone (I need more friends to live further away from me).
Anyway, I went down in the afternoon, met my friend and we went to the local Wetherspoons for a pre match Pint and Steak, very British I know but it’s all part of the experience…
We then made the short drive to the Simplyhealth City ground and strapped ourselves in for the thriller that we had manifested in the pub.
Winchester couldn’t have dreamed of a better start, and neither could I, a football romantic.
In what was probably the second minute, one of Winchester’s midfielders played the most delightful through ball, straight into the path of Olly Balmer, who rifled his finish in at the near post.
You very rarely see quality bits of play right at the start of games, but in all honesty this was the perfect goal, from the pass to the finish, the home side really set the tone for the game. The pass for the goal really reminded me of that Johan Cruyff quote below, as it quite literally went exactly where Balmer needed it (we could tell he loves his left foot!).
Last week I managed to get Zidane and Guardiola into my report, and I’ve already got Johan Cruyff into this one, who says non-league isn’t up to the standard of the Premier League!!
The farm responded pretty well to going a goal behind, and probably had more possession in the early stages, but it was actually a really even affair. However it did only take them half an hour to get back into the game, and their goal wasn’t quite as glamorous as the first…
A cross came into the Winchester box, and one of Bristol’s players was hauled down (I didn’t get a great view of it but it looked this way) and the referee pointed to the spot. Jay Adams thumped the ball home from the spot and we were back on level terms.
Winchester weren’t disheartened by being pegged back however, and they continued to look excellent going forward, even having a header cleared off the line just before half time.
The game was really nicely poised at the break, and both sides would have taken encouragement from the events of the first half.
During the first half we noticed that there were a fair few travelling Bristol Manor Farm supporters out of the 176 in attendance, so well done to them for making the 178 mile round trip!
But the away fans were soon in despair again early in the half as Winchester came out all guns blazing. The Citizens had men flying forwards from all areas, and I’m pretty sure all of their players (apart from maybe their two centre backs) had a shot in the game.
Their second goal came in the 52nd minute, and it was the result of a fantastic overlapping run by right back Josh McCormick who delivered a precise finish into the far corner after he was excellently picked out by Balmer, who drove past a few defenders.
The goal just proves how difficult the Winchester team was to handle, they were flying forward like the Harlem Globetrotters! McCormick stood out all night with his excellent defensive awareness and willingness to always get on the outside of his winger, great performance!
The away side needed to dig deep again to try and find an equaliser, but they also needed to contain this Winchester side who were really up for the battle. As we approached the hour mark, the tackles were getting harder and the stakes were getting higher.
But Bristol hung in there and took their chance when it was presented to them in the 64th minute. They took a speculative effort from about 25 yards which was well saved by the Winchester keeper, but he couldn’t stop the rebound from being converted from close range by Dan Spencer.
Bristol had really done well to stay in the game, and this goal once again gave them something to hold on to, but this was soon taken away from them again.
Yet again it was Olly Balmer putting The Farm’s defence to the sword and his second goal was another stunner.
The winger managed to get a bouncing ball under control, he then left his marker on the floor with some quick dribbling and lashed his second of the evening into the net. A wonderful goal, but for me the first one was only just better, that pass 😍 (sorry I’ll get over it soon).
So 77 minutes into the game Balmer had two goals and an assist, therefore contributing to each of the home sides goals. He was obviously man of the match, and he showed every single attribute necessary to be a great winger, pace, dribbling and finishing all in abundance, give yourself a pat on the back!
So with 10 minutes left Bristol Manor Farm were faced with coming from behind for the third time of the evening, and as the clock ticked on it was becoming more and more unlikely.
But the Winchester fans were feeling the pressure, and a few of them were almost begging for the referee to blow his whistle (by the way, prayers definitely don’t get answered if you use some of the words they did!). But soon after, the referee duly obliged and blew for the final time, bringing a wonderful game to an end.
Winchester took the three points and they definitely deserved it, their free flowing attacking play could have warranted more goals. They have made a solid start to the season and I’m sure they’ll be a tough nut to crack for a lot of sides in the Southern League Division One.
But this game wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining if it wasn’t for a valiant performance by Bristol, they were resolute and showed a lot of fight to get back into the game twice, they made it worth my tenner!
I whizzed back up the A31 and was home before 11, so all in all it was a brilliant day out.
Top marks for the Simplyhealth City Ground too, we were very kindly greeted in the car park, at the turnstile and at the bar, and the atmosphere was really lively. I have no hesitation in recommending a visit!
That’s all for this weeks report! See you again soon….
That pass 😍
- GROUND: Simplyhealth City Ground
- GAME: Winchester City 3-2 Bristol Manor Farm
- COMPETITION: Southern League Division One South
- GROUND NUMBER: 85
- WOULD I GO BACK: Yes!!
- TICKET PRICE: £10
- HOPPER: George
- DAYS SINCE LAST 0-0: 606