Shortwood play their home games at The Meadowbank Ground on the outskirts of the picturesque Cotswold town of Nailsworth. It's certainly a rural location, perched quite high above the town, and is accessed by means a few very narrow lanes. I wouldn't want to try to get a coach up there. Even on a cold, wet March evening with the threat of Storm Gareth looming over the ground, it's quite a pleasant place to be. I would imagine (and I intend to find out at some point) that on a bright, warm Spring afternoon it would be idyllic. There is a reasonable amount of parking at Meadowbank, all very close to the neat and well kept turnstile which takes you into the ground behind one of the goals. The gentleman on the gate greeted me cheerily, welcoming me to the ground. This was to become a feature of the ground, cheery people. Immediately to your right as you enter there is a brightly painted hut that acts as the snack bar. To the left of the entrance is the main building, incorporating the players and officials facilities as well as the club house, which features a patio area with tables looking out over the pitch. Having not eaten , I decided to get a burger and a cup of tea before kick off. Once again, the gent in the snack bar was cheery and happy to engage. I'd only been in the ground for 5 minutes but I was already really enjoying the experience.
The ground itself, as suggested by the name, is cut into the side of a hill. As you look from the entrance, the walkway and stand to your left are raised a good few feet above the playing surface with a grass bank and trees as a backdrop. Opposite the main stand are the dugouts, a smaller covered seating area and a covered standing area, again backed by trees. It's only when you stand on this side of the ground that you fully appreciate the way the pitch slopes from the main stand down towards you. All in all it is a well kept ground with good facilities.
One of the reasons that I had this match on my list was that Shortwood, stranded at the foot of the table and looking doomed, had picked up two good results on he bounce in recent weeks. A brilliant 1-0 win at high-flying Westbury United had been followed by a solid 1-1 draw at mid-table Bridport. Now they were looking for a third consecutive game without defeat at home against a Brislington team that were not completely safe themselves. Shortwood had also not won at home all season (in fact that win at Westbury was their only three-pointer so far) and were nine points adrift of second from bottom Hengrove Athletic. Could this two game run be the start of the unlikeliest Great Escape ever?
Shortwood had gone down 3-0 at Brislington last November and the Bristol-based side would be looking for a similar result that would almost guarantee Premier League football next season, but having only won 1 of their last 10 league outings, they weren't exactly in sparkling form.
Before kick-off the sides gathered around the centre circle to observe a minute's silence for former Shortwood player and local football stalwart Nick Ackland who sadly passed away earlier in the day. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Although Storm Gareth had not hit Shortwood before kick-off, there was still a gusty wind blowing across Meadowbank as we kicked off. The wind was mainly blowing into the faces of Brislington in the first half, although it was swirling around somewhat, making judging high balls quite difficult.
As early as the 11th minute we saw an example of the uncertainty caused by the wind when a looping ball back into the Brisligton box was held up, causing confusion in the defence. Shortwood's Ross Langworthy was first to react, eventually bundling the ball over the line to give his side the lead. 1-0.
The goal was no more than Shortwood deserved given the way they had tried to take the game to their opponents. They continued to do this after the goal, although Brislington did look dangerous when they had the ball, especially down their left flank where Jayden Neilson was looking lively.
Just past the 20 minute mark Brislington managed to grab an equaliser, somewhet against the run of play. A break down the right led to a deep cross where the unmarked Nielson was able to rise and head the ball back into the danger zone. Centre-forward Neikell Plummer reacted sharply to nip in front of Clarke, poking the ball past the goalkeeper and leaving himself with the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net. 1-1
Unperturbed, Shortwood continued to apply pressure to the Brislington goal, despite being pulled back to level terms. Blammon, in the Brislington goal, was certainly the busier of the two stoppers, more than once having to get his knees dirty to keep the home side out.
Then, with less than 5 minutes to go before the interval, Brislington broke quite swiftly. Plummer was played in and, when he went around Clarke, was clipped by the keeper sending him sprawling. From my vantage point I actually thought that the striker was looking for the contact and I was a little surprised that there wasn't more complaints from the home players. The referee had a decent line of sight on the incident, although, because the break was fairly quick, he was some 20 yards behind the ball. When he blew, I must admit, my first thought was that he was going to show Plummer a yellow card for simulation but he pointed to the spot and the penalty was given. I'm in no way condemning Plummer by these comments, by the way. I think there was contact. However, the fall was quite theatrical and the striker, no doubt, had the penalty in mind as he went for the ball.
Plummer duly got up, dusted himself off, and planted the spot-kick wide of Clarke to make it 1-2.
HT. Shortwood United 1 Brislington 2. Despite the home side having the lion's share of possession and creating most of the chances, they find themselves behind at the break. Brislington look dangerous when they do attack, especially down the left. A highly entertaining first half from a neutral's perspective.
It was quite clear that Brislington were happy to protect what they had in the second half. They did try to break when they could but did not commit players forward. Even when they won a corner of free-kick in a dangerous position, they kept three back at all times. You can't blame them for that. Three points here would be massive for them. Shortwood huffed and puffed, switched things around a little and continued, as in the first half, to have the edge possession-wise.
Then, just when it looked like Shortwood would be consigned to a 26th defeat of the season, they snatched a very, very late equalising goal. By my watch we were already 4 minutes into added time when a driven cross from the left was finished at the far post by Lee Bowles to make it 2-2.
There was barely time for Brislington to kick-off before the referee blew for full-time.
FT Shortwood United 2 Brislington 2. Shortwood make it three without defeat but it is probably too late for them to achieve the greatest of great escapes.
I always try to remain impartial at games but, I have to say, I really like Shortwood as a club. I was impressed by the set-up and by all of the people that I met at the club. It really looks as if they will get relegated this season but I really hope that this is a temporary blip and that the club can get back to a level that the ground and club volunteers deserve.
Brislington probably thought they had done enough to get all three points, which would probably have guaranteed their safety. However, on this performance, I don't think they are in any great danger of relegation.
Shortwood United: Clarke, Bebbington, Tryner (c), B. Langworthy, Hoskins, Leonard, Gardner, Bowles, Kalnins, R. Langworthy, Marsh. Subs: Basana, Matthews, Walker, Bainbridge, Tustain
Brislington: Blammon, Thomas, Llama, Saunders, Harvey, Peart (c), Dagger, Smyth, PLummer, Biggins, Neilson. Subs: CHandler, Shearer, Ayaabah, Taylor
Ground Number: 188