With the cricket season already under way, Tredworth have had to find a temporary home for their remaining fixtures, due to sharing with Gloucester Cricket Club. Consequently, this evening's fixture had been moved out of the City to the Dowty Sports & Social Club, in Down Hatherley a village between Gloucester and Cheltenham. The club is a large facility that provides sports and leisure activities. There's a large main hall, a lounge and a bar, that can be used for events and conferences. Outside, there are multiple football pitches both full-size and small-sided, a bowls club and a couple of tennis courts. Tredworth had been allocated the pitch directly in front of the main clubhouse building. The pitch itself slopes from right to left as you look from the clubhouse and was in dire need of a trim. Not the greatest surface for football, but I guess it's the same for both teams. Obviously, as a community pitch, there is no spectator shelter around the ground. However, there are some benches outside the club, which provide a view of the match action.
Thanks to some postponements, this would be the first league meeting between the sides, with the reverse scheduled for next week. However, as a pointer, there was a cup meeting back in the early days of the season. That day, in Cheltenham, Tigers came out on top by four goals to two. Matt Pegrum and Jamie Moore scored for CCS. A Lee Smith hat-trick and another from Jacob Rogers sending the visitors how victorious.
At the start of play Tredworth sat in second spot, 10 points adrift of champions-elect and already promoted, Tewkesbury Town. Tigers also held an eleven point gap to fourth-placed Falcons and, with three to be promoted, only required a single point from their five remaining fixtures to guarantee a place in Division 1 next season. Having won the Stroud & District Division 1 title last season, Tredworth were looking to gain a second consecutive promotion.
Cheltenham came into the game in fifth spot but were a few points short of being capable of catching third placed Bibury.
The full league table statistics provided an interesting insight into the way this game could go. Tredworth have by far the most impressive scoring record in the league, having already amassed 93 goals in 23 games prior to kick-off. They also had the second best goals against record with 25. Cheltenham certainly could not match Tredworth for goals scored, having only notched 39 times, but they did boast a very credible gaols against tally, only 28 conceded in 24 games and only 12 of these had come on the road.
Consequently, despite only needing a point, Tredworth could certainly not expect the ask to be made easy for them. To add to Tredworth's wish to get the job done as soon as possible, they had seen two red cards in their prvious game and were set to lose captain Courtney Hamilton and Dave Rich to suspension after this game.
As always, great to meet up with Tredworth's coaching team, Adam Dix and Lee Smith, before the game. Thanks also to referee Andrew Leeds for letting me take photos of the team sheets prior to kick-off.
Tredworth almost got off to the perfect start when within the first minute Corey Hill was played in on the left side but failed to get a clean strike on the ball, possibly the first of what would be many mis-controls from both sides, caused by the length of the grass.
The home side continued to have the lion's share of possession. On 12 minutes Lee Smith's through ball almost put Hill in again but visiting keeper Finley Ray was very quick off his line to smother the ball. A minute later, as Tredworth started to ramp up the pressure, Corey Warrington slipped a ball across to Lee Smith on the edge of the box. The striker cut back onto his left foot but put his shot wide of the mark. Three minutes after that, it was bodies on the line time for Cheltenham. First of all a defender threw himself of a goal bound effort from Hill before Hamilton's follow up effort was saved well by Ray.
Of course, with Tredworth holding sway in such a way, the first goal of the match went completely against the run of play. With 19 minutes gone Cheltenham pressed forward, winning a throw-in deep into Tredworth territory on the right. The initial throw was cleared back to Cole Hallam, way out on the touchline. He immediately volleyed a superb dipping effort over Adam Fenner into the far corner. A superb strike, almost van Basten-esque. 0-1
Tigers tried to step it up after conceding but found it increasingly difficult to find the ball to break down a very well-organised and disciplined Cheltenham defence. The visitors were very quick to get men behind the ball if the conceded possession, restricting the space for Tredworth to work in, on a narrow pitch.
It took until three minutes before the break for the home side to finally break down the visitors and, when it came, it took a great piece of individual skill to create the goal. Corey Hill brought down a crossfield pass on the left hand edge of the penalty area. He then wriggled through a couple of challenges before firing a shot across Ray. The keeper got a hand to it but could not prevent it from going into the corner of the net. 1-1
Almost on the stroke of half-time, Cheltenham had a golden opportunity to get their noses back in front. Riley Greenwood just about got his toe to a cross ahead of Adam Fenner. The Tredworth keeper was left in a heap, with no foul given, Greenwood was up quickly to get onto the loose ball, but could only screw his effort wide of the far post. A let off for Tredworth.
HT Tredworth Tigers 1 Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves 1. Tredworth had more of the ball but, at times, struggled to break down the Cheltenham defence. Cheltenham, after getting ahead with a wonder goal, were happy to get behind the bll and play on the break. To be fair, when they did break, they always looked dangerous.
The goal settled Tredworth and, at the same time, seemed to knock some of the stuffing out of Cheltenham. Hamilton ws starting to pull the strings in midfield. Just under ten minutes into the half, the Tigers captain again threaded a lovely pass through, this time for Corey Hill, who struck his effort well but not accurately enough. The pattern continued for the next 20 minutes or so. Tredworth continued to look the better of the two sides but could ot find the killer third goal. At the same time, Cheltenham had shown what they could do, so the home defence were not given an opportunity to relax too much. That was until the 72nd minute when, with Tredworth again inside the Cheltenham box, the refree pointed to the spot after what looked to be a fairly innocuous challenge from where I stood. However, trhe official was much closer than me and, in his defence, there didn't seem to be too much in the way of complaints from the Cheltenham players.
Tyler Hll stepped up to take the spot-kick but Ray guessed correctly, diving to his right to make the save. Unfortunately for the keeper, he could only parry the ball back into the path of Hill, who stroked the ball into an empty net. 3-1
There was no way back for Cheltenham now. Both sides had made a few changes, one of those for Tredworth was the introduction of Nick Musty on the left. It was he who had the last big opportunity of the game, bursting through a couple of challenges, he looked as if he had done the hard part but, when one on one with the keeper, he smashed his effort well wide.
FT Tredworth Tigers 3 Cheltenham Civil Service 1. Tigers dominated the second half after going ahead only three minutes in. Tredworth confirm their place in Division One next season alongside Tewkesbury Town and one from either Bibury or Falcons. Bibury's 3-2 defeat to Barnwood United this evening has put the matter into the hands of Falcons who are five points nehind with two games in hand.
On Saturday Tredworth entertain Frampton United Reserves at Dowty's, whilst Cheltenham have the day off. Bibury face the reverse fixture with Barnwood united and Falcons are at home to league leaders Tewkesbury Town. All matters could be resolved come 5pm on Saturday afternoon.
Many (including my wife) may think I am crazy for making a three hour round trip to watch a Step 9 league game. Nonsense, this is what football is all about to me. Besides, the journey to and from Cheltenham takes me through the Cotswolds, so not really a great hardship. On the way home, whilst randomly clicking on Spotify tracks, one of the first to be thrown up was The Beat's Mirror in the Bathroom. Quite apt when I was heading back from Gloucestershire. Back in the dim and distant past (now really showing my age), my first holiday romance was a girl called Sarah from Twyning in Gloucestershire. She had one of those two-tone dresses, and Mirror in the Bathroom was one of her favourite songs. 40-odd years on, I was transported back to Brean Sands and the Summer of 1980. Either massive coincidence or Spotify's algorithms are getting scary.
Tredworth Tigers: Fenner, Foster, Morgan, Whereat, Rich, Dyer, C.Warrington, Hill, Hamilton(c), Smith, Hill. Subs: James, R.Warrington, Barney, Spear, Musty
Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves: Ray, A.Greenwood, Sheahan, Davis, Griffin, B.Greenwood, Fivash, Jones, R.Greenwood, Hallam, Pegrum. Subs: Campbell, Jenkins, Shore-Nye, Edgington
Ground Number: 363
Att: c30 (manual count)