Bourton's Rissington Road ground is tucked away on the South-Eastern edge of the village behind the cricket club. It has been home to the club since their foundation in 1894. There is no parking actually in the ground itself (apart from players and officials). However, parking is available on the cricket club grounds as well as a fairly large car park on the opposirte side of Rissington Road. Access to ground for spectators is via the cricket field, through a gate. A very pleasant and helpful lady took my money while I signed the track and trace form. She also pointed me towards the club house where they helpfully display the teams on a whiteboard. All of the facilities are in the club house directly behind the Rissington end goal. Currently there are no covered stands at the ground but there are foundations already dug and concreted for a new stand on the far side of the playing area, opposite the dug outs on the cricket club side. Three sides of the pitch are backed by trees and shrubbery, adding to the rural feel. On a warm Summer's evening like today, with the sun just setting, it's a very pleasant place to watch football.
Bourton only gained promotion to Step 6 in 2019 and consequently have yet to play a full season at this level. Oddly in the two previous seasons to their promotion they finished top and second, missing out on promotion in 2017 because of ground grading issues. They then gained promotion with their worst league position in three years when they came fifth. Saracens have a much shorter history, founded in 1964, but entered the Hellenic League structure in 1986 and have played in the Premier League (Step 5) for six season spread over two stints. Consequentially the sides have only met once before in league action. This was a 3-1 home win for Cheltenham last season.
Before last season was abruptly cut short the two sides were at opposite ends of the table. Whilst Bourton had won just 3 of their 23 games and were hovering just above the bottom of the table, Saracens were going strong with 13 wins from 18 games, they sat in fifth spot but with games in hand that could have seen them rise as high as third.
This season Saracens have again started well in the league, beating Wellington 2-1 at home in their opening game. This game was to be the first league outing of the season for Rovers.
Within the first few minutes of the game it became apparent that Saracens were that little bit sharper than their opponents. Maybe it was because they had already got competitive football under their belts this season, or maybe they were just more up for it on the night? Either way, they were first to the ball on most occasions, winning back any loose balls very quickly.
That said, the opening encounters were certainly not all one way. Bourton showed that they could play the ball around too, certainly until they got into the final third there the bigger, stronger Cheltenham defenders held firm. Early on, Rovers did look as if they may pose a threat down their right,especially with the overlapping pace of Keegan Bowes, but this route was fairly quickly closed down by the Saracens backline.
Saracens took the lead after 23 minutes, and what a goal it was!
Iain Sercombe was set free down the right flank but there didn't seem to be any immediate danger until the Saracens winder unleashed an unstoppable cross-shot from all of 35 yards which Simon Flower could only watch as it flew past him into the far corner of his net. 0-1
Saracens continued to look the more threatening of the teams, despite losing their captain with a shoulder injury, without adding to their tally. This was until the closing minutes of the half when the home side seemed to find another gear for a short time, Connor Teague and Jack Morton both making a nuisance of themselves and finally giving the Saracens keeper something to do. However, they couldn't find a way to grab an equaliser before the break.
HT Bourton Rovers 0 Cheltenham Saracens 1. Both sides putting in a fair bit of effort on a warm evening. However, Saracens looked to be that little bit sharper in mind and body all across the pitch and deserved to be in front at the break.
However, their better start to the second half was dramatically halted just six minutes in, and it all started with them attacking the Saracens goal. A collision between two players left both down with the home player holding his head. The game continued though and Saracens broke down their right flank amidst call from the home side for the referee to halt the game for a head injury. The ball was delivered into the home penalty area where Paul Holmes rose highest to plant the ball past Flower and make it 0-2. A somewhat controversial goal that certainly annoyed the home side and support. I'm pleased to say that both players involved in the incident were soon up and able to play on, but should the game have been stopped before the goal was scored?
Conceding the goal certainly seemed to fire up the home side. They were showing far more endeavour than in the first half, getting close on a number of occasions but still not able to find a way past the Saracens keeper. Their efforts did, however, make the game much more of a spectacle for the neutrals in the crowd. If they had managed to get one goal back, things could have changed around dramatically. However, in the end it was Saracens who grabbed the next goal. With just under 10 minutes to go the ball was played into the home penalty area forcing Bowes into a rash challenge which left the referee with no option but to award a penalty. Iain Sercombe stepped up and made no mistake from the spot. 0-3
Three minutes later the icing was applied to the cake and Sercombe was laying claim to the match ball after a shot was spilled by Flower leaving the big Saracens number 11 with a simple task of slotting the ball into an empty net. 0-4.
FT Bourton Rovers 0 Cheltenham Saracens 4. Rovers upped their game in the second-half but, in actuality, the result never looked in any doubt. Rovers face a trip to bottom side Cirencester Town Dev. on Saturday whilst Saracens have a tricky looking FA Vase tie at Division One East pace-setters Wokingham & Emmbrook.
Bourton Rovers: Flower, Bowes, Smith, Galpin, Mills, Trott, Robotham, Way(c), Morton, Teague, Boote. Subs: Steele, Oakey, Larmer, Morse, Herbert
Ground Number: 242