Kayte Lane is within a short head of Cheltenham racecourse a venue that I know well from years
of donating cash to poor bookies on Gold Cup day. The ground nestles in the shadow of Cleeve Hill about 3 miles out of Cheltenham itself. First impression as you enter through the single turnstile is that of a tidy little stadium. The official capacity is around the 1500 mark but there were just 57 there for this match, including a reasonable Bridgwater contingent.
Behind the turnstile end goal are the main facilities, clubhouse, bar, toilets, changing rooms and refreshments all set behind a large, paved patio area. To the left of the goal is a small seated, covered area, The Tai Stand, named one of the Directors. On the right hand side of the clubhouse is another covered, seating area. The rest of the ground consists of hard standing although behind the far goal is a sign that reads West End Stand. Not sure if this is tongue in cheek or a sign of future development.
Bishops Cleve, the Mitres, did not start the game like a team one lace off the relegation zone. From the first minute they were sharper, quicker to the ball and more accurate with their passing than Bridgwater. Maybe the away side, safe from relegation but adrift of the playoffs, were 'on the beach'
already or maybe Cleeve were up for it. Having not seen either teams before it was hard to tell but either way, the home team were definitely on top. To be fair to Bridgwater, when they did break, they looked useful up front. Their captain and centre forward both caused the home defence a couple of problems, but the keeper was not really tested.
Bishops Cleeve took the lead after only 3 minutes When a near post cross was forced over the line. Maybe that knocked the stuffing out of Bridgwater, but they didn't really threaten to equalise.
The away side's frustration was not helped by some odd decisions from the referee, who always seemed to be slightly off the pace of the game to me. I don't normally knock referees because it is a hard job that most of us couldn't do. However, the inconsistency of this particular referee was causing a few problems with the players on both sides. This bad decision making would come to the fore
in the second half.
At halftime, with the score at 1-0, I was expecting a Bridgwater reaction in the second half. However, when the teams returned, it was again the Mitres who controlled the game, forcing Bridgwater back with some quick passing moves. Then the moment that could have changed the game in the away teams favour. Diminutive home midfield, Oldham, flew into a 50-50 challenge and, in my opinion, clearly got the ball. The referee saw it differently and produced a straight red. I found out shortly afterwards that this was the players third end in five games so maybe that swayed the referees decision. Regardless of his previous disciplinary record, he can count himself extremely unfortunate to have been sent off for this tackle. Not even a yellow from where I was standing, only 10 yards from the incident.
Cleeve, instead of folding at this point, continued to press Bridgwater and duly got their reward when captain Matt Williams scored with just over 20 minutes remaining. The drama was not over though. When one of the assistants signalled that he had a problem and couldn't continue it looked, for a short while, that we may see an abandonment. With not fourth official present and, after much discussion, the flag eventually went to one of the home substitutes.
That was enough excitement for one night and, after a lengthy delay, the Mitres saw out the rest of the game to deservedly take a vital 3 points.
Bridgwater Town - @officialbtfc84