Ribbesford Meadows is literally on the banks of the River Severn with just a few yards separating the dugouts from the water's edge. The ground is situated on the Southern edge of Bewdley and is wedged between the B4194 and the river. Even on a dark January evening it is still a picturesque place to watch football, with the steep wooded bank looming up behind the main stand and the treeline depicting the boundary of the river on the opposite side. With the ground being well below road level, finding the entrance to the long, dark, access road at night could be a bit of a challenge if you don't know the area. However, once you have found it, there is ample parking either at the ground or at the Anglers Association club which is also accessed via the same service road. At the entrance to the ground what looks like a converted shipping container acts as the entrance and tea bar, staffed by a very jolly lady who greeted me with a smile and some friendly chit-chat. She also served me with a cup of tea later in the game, with the same friendly demeanour. The club should be happy that she is their public face. I came away with the feeling that it was a very friendly club. This was enhanced when I asked a club official if he there were any team sheets. He immediately went into the official area, found their stadium announcer and pointed me out so that I could get a photo of the team sheets. It's little things like this that leave a lasting, good impression of a club.
This was a clash between the top two in the West Midland Regional Premier League. Shifnal lead the way having won their opening 15 games and establishing a 9 point gap at the top. However, their 100% record had been ended at the weekend with a 3-2 home defeat to Black Country Rangers. So a trip to second-placed Bewdley, fresh from a 5-2 River Severn derby thrashing of AFC Bridgnorth, was probably not the best place for them to be visiting.
Up to last season, in the last 10 league meetings, Bewdley have definitely had the upper hand overall, winning 8 of the 10 games, scoring 28 goals, with Shifnal taking the other 2 and scoring 12 times. The clubs had not yet met this season, but last season saw a 2-2 draw in this fixture with Bewdley edging a narrow 1-0 win at Shifnal. However, these results happened in a season where Bewdley finished 6th and Shifnal were second from bottom. Shifnal's lowly league finish prompted a change in management with joint managers Danny Carter and Andrew Carrier coming in. The change seems to have worked wonders with the team going from relegation fodder to title contenders overnight. Combine these facts with Bewdley's 100% home league record and the night was setup to be a cracker.
Unsurprisingly, both side started the game quite cagily as they took stock of each other. I can imagine that both team talks contained the phrase "keep it tight for the first 10 minutes". As the game began to open up a little, it was Shifnal who made the first move, creating the first big opportunity. However, some stout defending, including a last ditch clearance off the line kept the score sheet blank.
After 26 minutes it looked like both sides were having to make an early substitution. Ashley Bellingham, Shifnal's big centre half, had taken a knock and Bewdley seemed to also be signalling that they were going to replace Sam Lester. However, although Bellingham went off, Lester stayed on the pitch.
The goal served to both give confidence to Bewdley and visibly shake Shifnal. Maybe finally losing their unbeaten streak and then going a goal down had rocked them? Whatever the case, they were left on the back foot for much of the remainder of the half.
HT Bewdley Town 1 Shifnal Town 0. After the initial sparring it was Bewdley who took control of the half and they deservedly lead going into the second period.
Bewdley were back on the front foot in the second-half, sensing that they had the leaders on the ropes. Sure enough, after 56 minutes, they doubled their lead with probably the best move of the game. Attacking down the right flank the ball was played between defenders to set Matt Kerby free. His low, driven cross was met by Luke Morris to smash home his and Bewdley's second. 2-0
Still Shifnal seemed unable to get up to full speed, although they were slowly but surely beginning to look a little more dangerous. Even then they were not unduly troubling Joe Sidaway in the home goal. That was until the 82nd minute when substitute Brad Sharman crashed a superb effort past Sidaway only to see it come back off the post and be cleared. It was clearly not going to be Shifnal's evening.
FT Bewdley Town 2 Shifnal Town 0. A thoroughly deserved three points for Bewdley which moves them to within 6 points of Shifnal. After going four months without dropping a point, Shifnal are beaten twice in three days. However, no need to press the panic button just yet. On Saturday they have a home game against eighth placed Pershore Town, who they have already beaten 2-1. Bewdley make the short journey to Worcester Raiders hoping to keep the pressure on at the top.
Bewdley Town: J.Sidaway, Clarke, Seekings, Priest(c), Prescott, Beardsmore, Lester, Rudd, L.Sidaway, Morris, Kerby. Subs: Ribiero, Smith, Worthington, A.Stubbings, E.Stubbings
Shifnal Town: James, Uppal, Pinnock(c), Perks, Bellingham, Jones, Lloyd, Franco, Hill, Montague, Westwood. Subs: Radford, Smith, McCarthy, Sharman, Holdcroft
Att: 75 (ish) by my count
Ground Number: 225