Bishop’s Cleeve Vs Willand
Brian Clough was once famously quoted as saying that “If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there”.
This isn’t a universal truth of course and many fans remember the infamous John Beck era at Preston, when he allegedly let the grass near the corner flags grow longer to slow the ball down when launched skyward by North End’s defensive unit.
My point isn’t to argue what defines a ‘good’ style of football (spoiler – Clough was correct), but rather to illustrate the importance that pitches play in our footballing lives, and how in turn the great British weather can hold the beautiful game hostage with its inconsistencies.
It’s as difficult to play free-flowing football on a muddy pitch as it is to watch a midfield become redundant by a barrage of long balls, but mother nature, and a packed fixture schedule, sometimes precludes an alternative.
Other that the dreaded #GAMEOFF announcement.
For a football fan there’s no feelings that can match the highs of victory or the lows of defeat, but the long wait on a winter morning for the results of the pitch inspection can come pretty close; Another Saturday watching football, or a trip to Asda with the family. The stakes are always high.
By way of example, before today’s kick-off, 7 games were postponed in the Southern League Division One South. There have been 16 league games postponed since the start of the year. And it’s noticeable that none of which have been at Kayte Lane, home of today’s opponents Bishop’s Cleeve.
Since the invention of Astroturf back in the 1960’s (so named as it was created for the Houston Astros who played at the Astrodome fact fans) the surface has enjoyed a mixed reputation.
Artificial pitches made their way into English football in the 1980’s with Loftus Road, Kenilworth Road and Deepdale all being early adopters. The pitches quickly became notorious for the bounce of the ball being more artificial than the pitch, meaning that those proponents of the beautiful game usually left games disappointed, and artificial pitches were banned by the FA in 1988.
With the advent of the 21st Century, and with new technologies coming to the fore, 4G pitches as they have been re-christened, are making a comeback. While they can never provide an absolute substitute for a grass pitch, they do offer something more akin to an authentic playing surface, and the quality has reached the ‘squint and you’ll never notice’ stage. They also offer something which clubs, especially in non-league, wouldargue was more important. Reliability and revenue.
Not only can you be certain that a game is going to be played on a Saturday, but you can also hire the pitch out on a Sunday without fear of having a mid-season quagmire to deal with.
Bishop’s Cleeve added their pitch in 2022 during theimpressive redevelopment of Kayte Lane (and it’s worth noting here, it really is a fantastic ground). They subsequently went on to win the Hellenic League last season to secure their place in the Southern League, where they currently sit in mid table having won their last three fixtures.
It was a much-changed Willand starting eleven that stepped onto the 4G pitch to face them, with Kempster filling in at left back and recent signings Rodgers and Griffith leading the Rovers line.
Cold and blustery conditions ensured that it was a cagey start to the game as both teams struggled to find any rhythm, and it was no surprise that the first chance of the game came from an under-hit back pass rather than a moment of magic, with Burton in the Willand goal doing well to smother the ball before the Bishop’s Cleeve striker could stretch his toe towards it.
The first Willand chance came a few minutes later following good work down the right between Camilo and Lilley, with the ball eventually falling to debutant Rodgers who saw his well struck shot fly over the bar.
As the game progressed Willand began to take control, the new additions to the team finding their feet quickly, and it soon became one way traffic for the visitors
In the 21st minute a sublime touch by Griffith saw the ball fall into the path of Kempster whose shot was well saved by Clayton in the Bishop’s Cleeve goal.
This was followed by more good work from Willand that saw a Kelly shot blocked as it headed towards the bottom corner and minutes later a shot from distance from Rodgers was again parried away from the goal by Clayton.
The hosts still posed a threat on the break though and they came close to taking the lead in the 35th minute when Burton was full stretch to push the ball around the post, and the Mitres striker will still be asking himself how he missed the target from the resulting corner.
It was Willand continued to dominate play though, winning the ball high up the pitch and attacking fluidlydown both flanks, and they nearly took advantage of the pressure in the in the 38th minute following another delightful move involving Kelly and Rodgers, before Lilley fired in a shot which Clayton again saved well.
The Bishop’s Cleeve keeper was quickly becoming the easiest MOTM winner that the sponsors would ever choose, and he was in action again minutes later when he superbly tipped a Griffith header over the bar from close range to keep the teams level.
Despite Willand being on top for long periods of the first half they fell behind in the 45th minute in bizarre circumstances when a cross from Waugh somehow evaded both Burton and the crossbar and found itself nestled in the back of the net.
Half Time – Bishop’s Cleeve 1 – Willand 0
Willand started the second period as they finished the first, with some good football down the left being rewarded with an opportunity that Camilo slashed past the post.
It was a different Bishop’s Cleeve team that came out from the half–time team talk though and they were only prevented from extending their lead moments later when Burton saved well from close range, and the Willand defence found itself under pressure again in the 60th minute with Burton making another good save, tipping the ball around the post.
The second half played out as a much more even contest, and where in the first half Rovers were able to dictate the tempo of the game, they were harried and hustled as the half progressed by a much-improved opposition who controlled the play.
When Willand did create a chance late in the game, a beautifully struck free kick from the impressive Rodgers, Clayton was again on hand to tip the shot onto the bar.
In the end there will be a lot of positives for David Steele to take away from the game. The addition of Griffith and Rodgers gave the team much more balanced look going forward, and the first half was some of the best football that I’ve seen from a Willand side in a long time.
What will disappoint the manager however, even more so than the goal they conceded or the fact that the team couldn’t produce a similar display in both halves, would be that they couldn’t take advantage of the long periods of dominance.
In reality the game should have been over as a contest long before Waugh’s cross found the back of the net.
But as no lesser than Thierry Henry noted, ‘Sometimes in football you have to score goals’
Full Time – Bishop’s Cleeve 1 – Willand 0
|Private: Bailey Kempster|
|Private: Ben Griffith|
|Private: Adam Kelly|
|Private: Michael Lilley|
|Private: Gabriel Roger’s|
|Private: Lewis Hill||Sub|
|Private: Sully McKenna|