With Dan Brownlie’s first defeat since taking over, we head back on the road/lane to the tiny village of Paulton, stuck in the middle of nowhere. Not only was it my latest ruddy birthday, but a lunchtime kick-off, which mean’t fans were on the road before 9am to get to an old mining village.
The game itself saw Aaron Kuhl have a large part of our play and his silky skills were for all to see. It was Stoke who were on the front foot playing down the slope, and two missed chances were punished on 12 minutes, as a free-header puts the home-side one up.
This was the game that Aaron Kuhl under the new kick-off regulations, straight from the kick-off thumped the ball towards the goal, with the keeper off the line, he laughed at the attempt first, then scuttled back and just tipped it over, from underneath the bar.
The rest of the half saw us miss three other good chances, whilst Rovers also missed some sitters too.
By this time the first-half downpour, sorry forgot to mention that had stopped, the game saw little goal-mouth action, until Paulton doubled their lead on the hour. We then make two substitutions in trying to change the game, and a few minutes later a lovely one-two move between Ben Wright and Zach Robinson allows Robinson to slot the ball past the keeper to pull a goal back.
Then a few minutes later, we draw level as a hopeful cross into the box, is again met by Robinson’s head before the keeper can get to the cross, and the ball loops over him and into the net.
At 2-2, we look to be the team on top, but with ten minutes remaining, a break down the left and a shot beats Rackley in goal and we trail again. We look to have the equalizer with minutes remaining, as a cross hits a defender and flies towards the corner of the net, only for their keeper to make a full-length diving save.
The game is then put to bed on 87 minutes, as another breakaway, and our lack of speed at the back, as the forward chips our keeper and finds the net. The game ends 4-2, and after a lot of recriminations in the clubhouse fans depart home, and a few of us commiserate in Bath on the way home.
The following Saturday we were due to host Thatcham Town, but with them still in the FA Trophy, we sat idle.
Up next was another long trip, this time into Devon, to take on another village team Willand Rovers, with the knowledge that both Collins & Robinson have returned to AFC Wimbledon.
If Paulton was bad, then Willand the other Rovers team in our league was worse.
This game for the few that travelled saw their keeper, run the game, with his constant complaints and more that the referee fell for hook, line and sinker. Anyway, after an initial assault on their goal, we fall behind as they break with ease and a shot can only be pushed into the path of a wide-open forward by Rackley, and we go behind. The lead is then doubled on 26 mins, as we give them time and space to create a free-shot on goal. That’s the halftime score and we still fail to trouble the keeper, when around the hour, Willand add a third, and Dean Stamp’s hat-trick. Note prior to this he had just one goal on the season. Minutes later it’s four and honestly more chances were missed, before we pull a goal back through a Ben Wright penalty, as the referee comically stops the game points the spot, and then states to the defender “You know what you did”.
It ends 4-1, when it could have been 7 or 8. Plus this was the third game we have lost to a team who were at the bottom of the league at the time.
A week later, we have the visit of our old friends Bristol Manor Farm to Winchester.
In the drizzling rain, we create the odd chance, yet again missed, and then fall behind, as a Farm player beats three players and then sends the ball across the face of the goal, for another tap in goal.
Numerous chances by us fail to go in, whilst Manor Farm, could easily have doubled their lead before halftime.
The second-half starts with the usual early goal for the opposition, as a Freddie Gee makes the initial save, but can’t stop the rebound. It’s Manor Farm who miss a sitter to increase their lead. Minutes later it’s Adam Everiss, who takes the ball down the left and sends over cross that falls to Dean Stow, who looks to shoot, but then turns inside an sends a curling left-foot shot in the far corner of the goal, and Stoke cut the lead in half.
Time is running out, then from a Herbert corner, the ball falls to the feet of Ben Wright, just four yards out, but his shot somehow hits the keeper in the stomach and the keeper drops on the ball.
Then with a minute of normal time, Jordan Edwards receives his second yellow-card of the match and he’s off.
Another half-chance for us, as the ball is headed away close to the goal-line and then deep into injury-time Manor Farm break and a lack of tackling or marking allows a Farm player a free-shot, who smashes it home, and they double their lead to 1-3.
A minute later the referee blows the final whistle and Stoke fall to their third consecutive defeat.
And then there was Frome!
With Chris Rackley off to Bracknell and Freddie Gee injured again, we bring Huw Holliman from Bracknell as a replacement.
Another ground in the middle of Somerset we took on Frome sitting in second place. The game kicked-off and with a cold blustery wind, we kick uphill in the first half. Well it does not take long for us to give away the first goal, as one of our defenders, somehow hits his clearance at the back of one of our own players, where the ball falls to a Frome forward, who turns and hits a first-time shot that loop over the keeper and finds the net.
We then have a chance for a corner, but Scott Armsworth’s hooked shot narrowly misses the far post.
Another attempted boot clear by a Stoke player again hits his own player and almost costs us another goal.
Then on 20 minutes, Frome are back on the attack, and an attempted cross, flies high up in the air, but comes down just underneath the bar, where Holliman in goal, can only palm it away straight to a Frome forward, who heads it back into the goal, and we trailing 2-0.
Further attacks by Frome are repelled, well until the 34th minute, when a cross from the left-hand wing, finds an open forward at the far post, who taps it in to make it three. Frome make it four, minutes later as our defensive clearance come block, goes straight to a Frome player who slots it away. Halftime and a few of our fans have seen enough and stay in the clubhouse, as the game gets back underway, and an attack by Bradley Wilson, just misses the far post.
However, yet again with five minutes of the restart, another tap in makes it five.
The sixth goal comes ten minutes, but actually miss it as I’m texting the score to another fan, and have to change the number.
The referee who has been far from helpful, awards them a penalty a few minutes later and it’s slotted away for the seventh.
We then have a few minutes of play, but nothing is going right, and we can’t put a shot on goal.
Ten minutes to go, and Frome make it eight, from a swift passing move and finish.
The referee blows the final whistle, on a poor day for the club.
We enter December with a home game against Bideford, whose away record is no better than ours, and after half-chance by both sides, we take the lead, when Aiden Harris sends in a lovely low-cross that Bradley Wilson slots it home.
We double our lead on 20 minutes, as the ball is slid to Ben Wright down on the left wing. Ben takes two touches, then cuts inside on his right and then hits a 30yd screamer into the far corner of the net.
We then make it 3-0, when Wilson finds Wright on the six-yard line, who sweeps it home. We miss further good chances, and Freddie Gee in goal, makes two good saves to keep the clean sheet as the crowd are jubilant at the halftime break.
The first part of the second-half, has very little goalmouth action, as Bideford have stopped the damage and are trying to push forward, and Gee makes two further good saves.
We make a couple of changes and things are looking good, but out of nowhere the visitors pull a goal back with five minutes to go.
Suddenly, it’s all Bideford, and we forced back into our own third of the pitch and are under intense, and Bideford snatch a second goal deep into injury-time. It’s action station at the back, as we head into the 7th minute of added time, but one final boot clearance sees the referee blow the final whistle and Basingstoke have picked up three valuable points with a 3-2 win.
Back on the winning way, we re back on the road to a new club, Worcestershire based Evesham United. Those fans who travelled by train, then found getting from there an adventure, as there appeared to be only taxis in the town, to get to the ground, which is situated two miles away all up hill or so it seemed.
Now in the middle of December it was a quite a bright sunny day, as we kicked off with hope, but a Stoke attack on 3 minutes, which is quickly turned into an Evesham attack, and they break down to our byline, send the ball across and yet another tap-in, sees us trail 1-0.
But Stoke are straight back on it, and a Jordan Edwards shot from 20yds is fluffed by the keeper, as he fails to hold on to it and it rolls back into his own net and we are back level. The small away supporters group, not only give their keeper some friendly advice about goal-keeping, but also wake up the non-existent home crowd, who must be out Christmas shopping!
Evesham break again but Kuhl coolly intercepts a pass and then Gee makes a fine save low-down minutes later.
Stoke then have their next chance as Bradley Wilson is put through, but his shot hits the keeper. Gee with two more key saves, sorry make that three, as we are holding on as we move to the halftime break, which we reach level-pegging.
The second-half yet again sees us concede an early goal, as the ball from their goal finds their leading striker wide-open at the back
Further attack by both sides, go unrewarded, but then we should be back level, as a Ben Wright turn and shot hits the keeper and the ball rolls to Wilson, who has the whole goal in front of him, only to hit it straight back at the keeper.
Two further keys stops by Alfie Saunders and Aaron Kuhl keep us in the game, and we should be back level as the linesman in error cancels out our goal for offside, when a cross is met by Herbert’s head just in front of a defender and the outcoming keeper, but as the ball rolls towards the goal, Ben Cook taps it home, and the linesman’s flag is up. The goal kicks us in the teeth and when things are not going well, they go from bad to worse, as Evesham with just minutes to go, double their lead, as another attack and cross beats our defenders and it’s yet another free tap-in.
The game now dead finishes with another defeat on the road this time 3-1.
So, we move to the last game before Christmas, as we are back on the road once again, and back to Cirencester Town, another place where the nearest train station is miles away from the town.
Whilst Basingstoke was gripped with all-day showers, Cirencester was blessed with a warm sunny day, and the game sees the first ten minutes being a midfield battle, which creates no goalmouth action. The game continues, and Cirencester squander two good chances.
Then, on the half-hour, we break and a Kuhl to Herbert, back to Kuhl move who then finds Wilson, whose shot takes a fortunate deflection off the defender, past the keeper into the net, and we lead on the road.
We then double the lead just two minutes later, as goal-scorer, turns goal provider as Wilson’s header over the back four, finds Herbert on his own, and as the keeper comes out to narrow the shooting options, Claudio Herbert’s lovely chip beats the keeper from 20yds and it takes one bounce before hitting the back of the net.
We hold out till halftime, and the home fans are not happy with this.
Surprise, surprise, we concede goal within five minutes of the restart, as a neat fast break allows the ball to be planted in the back of our net (1-2).
A mix-up between our forwards in Cirencester’s box, ends with us failing to punish the home-side. We are made to pay for this just two minutes later, as the Centurions win back-to back corners, and the second corner allows them to equalise from a far-post header.
The first-half attacking play has disappeared and it’s back to the wall time, as Cirencester attack at will. Two further stops by Gee in goal, count for nothing as another attack and cross, is somehow forced over the line and we trail 3-2.
The last ten minutes we make some substitutions, but we create nothing of note, and we go down to yet another defeat on the road.
Not much to celebrate, so we commiserate in various groups on the extended way home.
We therefore sit bottom of the table at Christmas, ahead of what was the Boxing-Day game against Moneyfields game that gets washed out.
Up next Part 4 – New Years Day to the day we went to fog-bound Cinderford.