Bath City defeated St Albans City 2-0 yesterday in a decisive victory. This should not be a huge surprise to anyone: City are a better side than their record would indicate, and St Albans' have now lost four games on the trot. Perhaps it wasn't a surprise, but it sure was a relief to City supporters everywhere. Last Saturday's squandering of a two goal lead to Bishop's Stortford had been discouraging to say the least. A quick glance a City's fixture list will reveal several winnable matches coming up. After today's victory there is a real sense that City's playoff aspirations are back on track.
Really? If ever there was a need for evidence that football supporters aren't operating with all pistons firing, this is it. Just seven days ago the the talk on the Bath City forum was all about how the playoff chase was over and it was time to concentrate on next year. This was despite the fact that there were eighteen games left in the season and City were only eight points off the pace. The second half of the Bishop's Stortford game was so depressing the idea that City were playoff contenders seemed impossible, even though it should have been obvious to anyone with a little bit of perspective and a copy of the fixture list that it wasn't. Well, obvious to anyone except me or anyone I knew. I was feeling pretty down. Now after a win, even one I didn't see, I am looking forward to the beginning of a run of victories. Experiencing the entire gamut of human emotion over a week's time due to irrational mood-swings is one of the many benefits of being a football supporter.
So, how did our newly-rechristened, world-beating Bath City boys fare against their inevitably doomed opponents? Very well as a matter of fact. Initial reports began filtering through on the internet soon after kick-off. I was replacing the safety net on the family trampoline in the garden at the time, but I was able to think up a long list of excuses of why I needed to go into the house every few minutes. Mrs Nedved wasn't fooled, but since some of the excuses began with, 'would you like a cup of tea dear?' she turned a blind eye. If you've not replaced a trampoline safety net before, you'll just have to trust me that it is thirsty work.
On only my second visit inside I learned that City had taken a 1-0 lead. Lewis Hogg's corner was knocked away by St Alban's keeper Paul Bastock. Unfortunately for Bastock he knocked it near enough to Chris Holland that 'Dutch' was able to drive the ball home. I learned later that this had been the second Hogg corner followed by a shot from Holland. The first one was deflected over the crossbar by the veteran keeper.
I remember Bastock from St Albans' visit to Twerton Park last January. Even though he was playing for the opposition, he was a player I couldn't help but like. Not because he is a former Bath City player (playing in a single game on loan from Cambridge United in 1988 - 1988!). Not because at thirty-nine years of age he is the same age as me and still managing to play semi-pro football. No, I found him to be likable because he is one of those keepers who single-handedly keeps his side in a match even when the outfield players are going to sleep. He made a half-dozen quality saves in that match last year, keeping what should have been a runaway victory a nervy 1-0 affair for City. Every match report I've read for this Saturday's match cites Bastock as being the main reason Bath City did not win five or six. Let's hear it for thirty-nine year olds!
Things out in the garden were making me feel my thirty-nine years. Did you know that trampolines not only have safety nets now, but it is also possible to buy circus tents to go over them? Why? I don't know. One of the disadvantages to being thirty-nine is that many of the things that appeal to my children I now find baffling. Like Richard Hammond's Blast Lab, for instance. Is that really meant to be entertaining? Is it really so engrossing that when it comes on telly you need to stop whatever you are doing, slump into a nearby chair, drool and dilate your pupils until it is over? I digress. Mrs Nedved, who has a sixth sense for what is on-trend for the under-tens, purchased a circus tent that is designed to slip over our trampoline. She informed me, just as I was getting the new safety net in place and getting ready to settle down in front of the computer for some more Bath City updates, that it would be really nice for the Nedved Juniors if I put it up right away. 'The instructions say it only takes ten minutes,' she explained.
Maybe the people who designed the darned thing, with a few weeks practice, might eventually manage to errect it in ten minutes. Considering that it is supposed to be a two-man job and I was doing it by myself, that said instructions had been misplaced and/or blown away by the time I got all of the poles assembled, and that by the time the second half kicked off twilight was fast approaching, there was no way I was going to get back to the computer in ten minutes. I rushed out the door into the garden dragging a long trail of multicoloured nylon behind me. I was so intent on getting the thing assembled that I never stopped to question why exactly my children would want to jump on a trampoline inside a tent. Am I alone in thinking that this is contrary to the free-spirited nature of the act of trampolining? Is the fact that I have asked a question beginning, 'Am I alone in thinking...' a sign that I'm getting really old? Does Paul Bostock ask this sort of question?
After a rushed job that would pass for complete in the approaching darkness, I ran back inside and refreshed my computer screen to find...nothing. Sean, our intrepid online match reporter, later confessed his hands were so cold he was strugling to send out texts about what was happening. There had been a light dusting of snow and ice the night before in the Bath area the night before, but St Albans had been hit harder. The match had only gone ahead due to the hard work of the St Albans' supporters. Even then one of the terraces had to be closed for health and safety issues. Considering how much bad luck Bath City has had with cancelled matches, we all owe the St Albans' volunteers a big thank you.
I later learned that City's dominence lasted through the second half. St Albans did manage the occasional raid on City's goal, especially a blistering shot at fifty-six mintues from Chris Sullivan. For the most part, though, City kept up an intense pressure, and Bastock managed just enough to keep out a second goal. It was not until there were only ten minutes left in the match that he finally relented and City put the game away.
It started with Darren Edwards. After being removed from the Bishop's Stortford match complaining of blurred vision, Edwards had suffered an excruciating headache which got so bad he ended up in Frenchay Hospital for two nights. He was cleared for release after a brain scan. He wasn't expected to travel Saturday, but he came along anyway. It was only fitting he be involved in the best play of the match. Edwards passed the ball to Kaid Mohamed on the right. Mohamed could have taken a shot on goal. Instead he crossed the ball to Lewis Hogg. For the second consecutive match Hogg scored City's second goal with a header. Hopefully it is a run he will extend for several more games.
I sat at the computer and waited for full time. A quick glance at the league table revealed that the three points had not lifted City above tenth place, but it had put them only only five points away from the playoffs. A win against free-falling Weston-super-Mare on Tuesday night could lift them as high as seventh. In fact, if you assume that City were to win its two games in hand (come on, we don't admit it but we do always count games in hand as three points when we look at the standings, don't we?), then City would be in an exilerating fourth! There is still a long way to go, but things are looking positive enough I wonder how anyone could have been discouraged by the draw against Bishop's Stortford. Right?
Little Nedved Junior loves his new circus tent. He thinks its the coolest thing ever. I took all the credit.