I was beginning to think I may not get chance on Wedneday either. My journey to Somerset was made in pretty awful conditions and, although the rain slowed for a while, when I left for the journey through Bristol to Gloucester, it was still comign down quite hard and showing no signs of stopping. Despite that, the pitch had passed an inspection, so I continued my journey, fully expecting a late postponement. Even after I arrived to find the teams warming up, I was still sceptical. Obviously, I wasn't aware of the excellent drainage at Quedgeley.
Quedgeley play at The Waterwells Sports Centre situated in the Southern reaches of the city of Gloucester, in an area that is a bit of a non-league hotspot with Tuffley Rovers, Tredworth Tigers and fellow County League Hardwicke, all very close by. The ground, just off the A38, is in the midst of a business park, bounded on three sides by businesses and on the other, by housing. There is a reasonably large car park and parking on Stephenson Drive. The clubhouse, a sports hall and players changing facilities are situated between the car park and the main pitch. There are also a number of small-sided pitches and another full size pitch as well as a floodlit astro 5-a-side pitch just to the left of the club house. There has been a huge amount of work done on the ground in the past decade or so - Google street view still shows a photo from 2009 when there was little but a small part of the clubhouse building in place.
The clubhouse has a tea and snack bar from which you can see most of the pitch. The staff were very welcoming and helpful (thank you for the team sheet), and they do a very good cup of tea. They also sell a nicely produced match day programme. At £1 it's well worth getting a copy.
As I mentioned above, I was not aware of the excellent drainage in place at Quedgeley. In fact, I was only told about this when chatting to a former club chairman during the half-time break. It had clearly done its job today because the surrounding area was absolutely sodden but the pitch looked to be completely playable, as shown when the referee went out to do a final check just before kick-off.
One of the most noticeable things about Waterwells is the sheer number of advertising boards surrounding the pitch. There doesn't appear to be any spaces, except directly behind each goal. I've not seen this level of advertising at a Step 7 ground before and have rarely seen it higher up the pyramid. Whoever arranges this for the club is doing magnificent job. I speak from experience when I say that attracting this level of investment into a club takes an enormous amount of work. I have to say, all in all and despite the appalling weather on the day, Quedgeley Wanderers is a great club to visit. It has the air of a well run, loved, club that clearly enjoys plenty of local community support.
At the start of pay there was no doubt which team needed the three points more. Sharpness sat comfortably in 10th spot with 29 points from their 19 matches. However, Quedgeley's position was not so secure. They occupied thee 15th place in the league, second from bottom. They had a single point advantage over bottom side Henbury but had already played a game more. After this evening, they would only have seven games remaining, none of which feature teams currently in the lower half of the table. Last Saturday Quedgeley's game at Wick was postponed whilst Sharpness went down 2-0 at Cheltenham Civil Service.
The sides have met twice this season already. The league encounter at Hamfields on the opening day saw Sharpness run out 4-2 winners, both Quedgeley goals coming from Oliver Curtis. The cup match, also at Hamfields, finished 3-2 to Sharpness with, once again, both the visitor's goals coming form Oliver Curtis. Clearly a player that The Sharks needed to keep an eye on.
Recent history was also not on the side of the home team. last season's two fixtures saw heavy defeats both home and away for Wanderers. They went down 5-1 at home, thanks largely to a Will Lacey hat-trick for Sharpness. Another Sharks player, Harrison Jack Reeves, scored three in the reverse fixture as Sharpness went one better, running out 6-1 winners.
The game got under way a couple of minutes ahead of schedule, much to the relief of the 72 hardy souls present who, even at this early stage, were probably already thinking about the warmth and dryness of the clubhouse as the rain comntinued to hammer down.
Almost from the first whistle it was clear that the visitors were not only up for this game but also had a style much more suited to the conditions. Short, accurate passing with an assured first touch, exactly what was needed on a very difficult playing surface. Sharpness got their just rewards for their good start after only 8 minutes. Callum Dummelow delivered the ball in from the right-hand side and Tom Frankham was on hand to smash the ball past Nathan Charnock. 0-1
Only a minute later th Sharks doubled their advantage. Thsi time the cross came in from th left, low and driven across th six-yard box for Marley Thomas to clip past Charnock for 0-2.
Charnock ws called into action again on 17 mintes whe his fingertips were all that came between Sharpness and a third goal. Sadly for the Wanderers stopper, it was a shot-lived reprieve as the resulting corner was met by the head of Callum Dummelow and it was 0-3 with less than 20 minutes played.
At this point, with Sharpness knocking the ball around with plenty of confidence, it looked as if the evening could become a nightmare for Quedgeley. However, credit to them. They were reeling form the three goals but did manage to steady the ship somewhat and managed to press forward a few times themselves towards the end of the half, without unduly worrying Gough.
HT Quedgeley Wanderers 0 Sharpness 3. Some great football from Sharpness early on, easing themselves into a three goal lead before the twenty minute mark. They dominated play for much of the half, especially in the midfield area where Tom Paterson seemed to be everywhere for them.
Almost immediately after the penalty Charnock had to be at his best again to keep it at three. Then, with the game now looking a little more open, Harry Reynolds saw his speculative effort deflected by a Sharpness defender and roll agonisingly wide of the post with Gough scrambling across his goal.
As the rain began to slow and eventually stop, the game descended into a scrappy affair. Sharpness, maybe due to being three up, had completely lost the snappiness of their first-half play. Passes were going astray and first touches were eluding them now. This was allowing Quedgeley to come into the game more but, unfortunately for them, they still could not manage to muster a goal back. maybe if the penalty had been converted it could have been different. As it was, they had to thank goalkeeper Nathan Charnock again in the 70th minute when he produced the fourth excellent save, this time preventing Marley Thomas from notching his second of the game.
Six minutes later though, Charnock was powerless to prevent The Sharks grabbing their fourth goal. Tricky winger Will Lacey, who came on as a substitute for Sharpness, drove up the left and drilled a low cross into a dangerous area. With Sharpness attackers lining up to finsish it the ball was diverted into the net by a home defender desperately trying to clear his lines. 0-4
Once again and to their credit again, Quedgeley didn't let their heads drop. Twince in the close ten minutes Jamie Gough was calle dupon to keep his sheets clean, once from Luke Holder and the second, a superb stop as he sprinted off his line to block from Ollie Curtis.
There was still time for Lacey to almost grab a fifth goal when he sprinted clear before sliding the ball past Charnock only to see it come back off the foot of the post.
Then the referee blew to signal the end of what had been, given the conditions, a decent game of football.
FT Quedgeley Wanderers 0 Sharpness 4. The damage was all done in the early stages of the first half. Sharpness settled well and played some great stuff to put themselves pretty much out of site before the halfway mark in the first period. Quedgeley never gave up the game but were beaten by the better team on the night.
The result sees Sharpness climb to 7th spot ahead of two matches in four days, both against the team one place above them, Little Stoke. They have met in the cup already, a 1-1 draw that saw Sharpness edge through 4-3 on spot-kicks. Meanwhile, Quedgeley are in a spot of bother near the bottom of the table. Bottom side Henbury are just a point behind and now have two games in hand. To add to that, Wanderers face a tough game at home to league leaders Cribbs Reserves at the weekend. The reverse fixture ended 4-0 to Cribbs but Quedgeley will be desperately want to put that right in their quest to avoid the bottom spot.
Quedgeley Wanderers: Charnock, Taylor, Webb, Holder(c), Bright, McLean, Rory Hunt, Cummings, Colling, Reynolds, Curtis. Subs: Woodland, Ryan Hunt, Wright, Cooke
Sharpness: Gough, Cooper, Priday, Dummelow, Rouse, Thomas, Cawkwell, Paterson, Thomas, Frankham(c), Turner. Subs: Lacey, Hewer, Hodges, Higgs, Bennett
Ground Number: 356