Oldland Common is a village on the far eastern outskirts of Bristol. Once completely separate from the city, a glance at the map shows that urban sprawl is rapidly consuming the village. However, Oldland Abbotonians ground, off Castle Road, still has a village feel to it. Situated at the end of a very narrow single track road, there is a small clubhouse and car park, with an adjacent field used for overflow parking. The ground itself is surrounded by a new-looking green meshed fence with a gate and small hut in the corner of the car park end. There are two covered stands. The Alan Bush stand which sits on the right hand side of the ground as you look from the car park, provides covered seating nestled under trees that run the full length of the pitch. On the opposite side of the ground, along with the dugouts, there is a small box-shaped structure providing sheltered standing. This is apparently the Reg Hamblin Stand although, it seems, it is rarely open to the viewing public. For the reason behind this follow this link (Two Toe Tony).
Oldland have alternated between good and bad seasons in recent years. A top four finish in 2016 was followed by a 17th spot in 2017. An improvement the following year saw the club gain 7th place before, last season, they dropped to third from bottom. This season, in keeping with the pattern, they have started well and, coming into this game, were top of the pile albeit having played a game more than most. Their only blip so far came in a 2-2 draw at Wincanton.
Hengrove lost a lot of players following last season's relegation from the top flight. This has meant that they have had to completely rebuild their squad and early results have reflected the Summer upheavals. Sitting second from bottom, they have massaged just one point so far, a 0-0 draw at Amesbury. They have also gone out of both the FA Cup and FA Vase. A trip to the league leaders is probably not what they would have wanted to face next. However, the game is a local derby and we all know that derbies can throw up some unexpected results.
The last time the sides were in the same league was Athletic's promotion season of 2016-17. Hengrove won 1-0 on their own patch before easing to a 4-0 victory in the corresponding fixture to tonight's game.
Under already darkening skies - Autumn really is upon us now - Hengrove, in their change kit of all grey, were actually quite hard to pick out. Their kit blending in with the background. Shades of Manchester United at Southampton a few year's back? However, unlike United, Athletic didn't need to blame their kit for the way they played. In fact, as we progressed into the first half it was clear to see that they were not just here to make up the numbers.
Neither goalkeeper was being unduly threatened but, despite the home side winning the possesion battle, it was Hengrove who looked slightly more dangerous on the attack.
Around midway through the half Oldland striker Joe Beardwell and Athletic defender Luke Crewe clashed whilst challenging for a ball in the air. The coming together left the defender on the ground and his team-mates claiming that Beardwell led with his elbow. The striker claimed that it was accidental and the referee agreed with him. I've definitely seen red cards brandished for less than that and the striker can count himself a little lucky to get away with it, accidental or not.
HT Oldland Abbotonians 0 Hengrove Athletic 0. Hengrove will be much the happier of the two teams. The rebuilding of their squad could well be coming together and they have more than held their own against the league leaders so far.
Oldland brought on winger Owen McCallum quite early in the second half and he immediately pepped things up for the home team. His runs down the right flank, unfortunately for him often missed by his team-mates, were worrying the Athletic defenders. Twice balls were played inside the full-back and twice the winger got past his marker and was able to put a cross in. One of these crosses led to oddly muted appeals for a penalty when the ball appeared to be blocked by an outstretched Hengrove arm. It was a clear hand-ball, in front of the assistant but not given and hardly appealed for by the home side. A let off for The Grove.
As the clock ticked onto the 90th minute, Oldland almost snatched the points when a dangerous ball was played deep into the Hengrove area. A group of players tussled for the ball, with a head making final contact directing the ball towards the lower right-hand corner of Bush's net. The keeper, however, was having none of it and threw himself sideways to make a brilliant save, parrying the ball away for a corner.
FT Oldland Abbotonians 0 Hengrove Athletic 0. A deserved point for the away side who, overall, probably had the more clear cut chances in a game that wasn't overflowing with goalmouth action. The O's stay two points clear at the top but, having played two games more than most, coudl be caught by anyone down to tenth.
Oldland Abbotonians: Carter, Hyslop, Mills, Symonds, Vinall, Robson(c), Summerhill, Beazer, Beardwell, Taylor-Fox, Hart. Subs: McCallum, Hoyle, Dempsey, Cains, Bright
Hengrove Athletic: Bush, Crewe, Lock, Shorney, Trott, White(c), Parsons, Bond-Kendall, Knight, Burton, Jones. Subs: Ratcliffe, Hubbard, Mancini
Ground Number: 211
Programme: Included in entry