4/9/21 Bath City v Dartford, National League South. The Search For The Soap Continues.

Two nuns sharing a bath….. Not going to complete the rest of the joke because basically it’s a play on words and doesn’t work written down. It was though, the first ‘clever’ joke I understood when I was a kid. So why Bath? That’s the place, not the two nuns thing. Well at one point, Bristol Rovers were having to share (no no, not a bath.) Bath City’s Twerton Park, due to inept club ownership. Just as I was embarking on the toxic relationship with Mandie, Blues played Bristol Rovers on Boxing day 89. I had secured myself a lift to the game and so bought a ticket. Games there were all ticket for matches against Blues. To cut a long, boring story short, I missed my lift and so never made it to Bath. I have though, always harboured ambitions of doing the ground that I missed out on. I changed trains at Bristol, and headed into Bath. it wasn’t the first time I’d been to the place. The last time we played away at Bristol Rovers in the League Cup, me and a mate of mine at the time, drove down, stopping in Bath for a couple of beers, before continuing on to Bristol. These days, I’d get the train down to Bristol and just stop at a hotel. Back then, my mate was very much a Carling drinker, and would drink any old rubbish. Even back then, I was ale trailing. I managed to get in 3 pubs in Bath before 1 pub near the Rovers ground. My mate was also a sponge when it comes to alcohol. It takes an awful lot to take any affect on him whatsoever. I would say he drinks like a fish, but I’ve never understood that analogy, so I won’t. On the way from Bristol to Bath, the train passed the ground. It was to prove useful for my lack of directional sense. Touching down in Bath, it was immediately apparent that Bath is a tourist attraction/trap. I already felt out of place. I was there early, so I headed for Bath’s only Wetherspoons. The King of Wessex is nondescript. Not the worst, but there wasn’t any of the features of some of their more lavish conversions. The breakfast would set me up for the day though. Walking to the first on the itinerary, it didn’t feel like a Saturday. Whether that was the Bank holiday still messing with my thought process, or the laid back slow movement of the tourists, I don’t know, but it didn’t feel like a match day.

“Not your tower blocks of Chelmsley Wood”

Just like Monday, the first on my itinerary wasn’t open. Is this setting a precedent for future trips from now on, or just my paranoia creeping in? The Raven was open though, and was a cracking little boozer.

“A place proud of its history”

Bath is an old city, it’s a city that doesn’t like using helpful street signs. It doesn’t take much for me to get lost as it is, so no surprise that I got lost trying to find the next place.

“Yep, another place where egg chasing takes over”

I wasn’t impressed with Beercraft. I was really looking forward to it if I’m being honest. I was bitterly disappointed.

“This notice was on every table. I’m only surprised it wasn’t etched into the surface”

A shop cum bar, they’re still scared of the virus. Either shut the place down and hide behind the sofa until it’s all over, or just get on with things. Seriously lads, there’s more chance of you catching an STD than the virus, and there’s no chance of that either. Garrick’s Head was next. This place was definitely one for the tourists trade. A GBG entry but I haven’t a clue how. If an entry is determined by beer quality alone, then well done, because my beer was excellent. The staff were pleasant enough, but the system they have in place, is ridiculous. It’s possibly the worst system I’ve ever known. Virus or no virus, it needs sorting out. So on to the Bath Brewhouse, another place I was really looking forward to doing. Another place I was disappointed with. I suppose I should’ve expected it really, it was after all, Bath, but I wanted that ‘lived in’ feel, operated by beer lovers. It was too clinical, too clean, too ‘hip’. Not worth a photo…….ok, I’m lying, here you go.

“How good would he have been, had he been an ale drinker?”

Being the oike I am, I didn’t feel like I fitted in, in Bath. It’s more a place you’d take your girlfriend, wife or maybe even both together, for a weekend. It certainly isn’t a football town. Talking of football, I got the train to Oldfield Park. I didn’t fancy getting the bus. it takes too long. Touching down, I went in search of the Royal Oak. Now this place was more me. They even had a picture of Tony Routledge’s ‘Disco bus’

“Altogether now, ‘As you walk through life_’. “

The old Blues player, Jerry Gill is manager of Bath City. I didn’t realise that until I got a programme. I’ll do the photos first, get them out of the way.

“Yeah I know, pink.”

No, the bloke in the first photo wasn’t a Dartford fan, although there were a few in the small band of Dartford followers, who were wearing the away shirt. The game went off like a firecracker. Both sides had gilt edged chances within the first few minutes. In Dartford’s case, despite of the hideous pink playing kit. The game was going to continue in the same vein. A mistake in the midfield by the men in pink, led to a through ball and a glorious chance to put the home side in front. Although by hitting the outside of the post, he made it look impressive, the Bath striker should’ve scored. The game was end to end. I glanced at the time, I was amazed that after 25 minutes, there hadn’t been a goal. I had a sinking feeling that it was going to degenerate into a boring 0:0 draw. Especially when the referee called for a drinks break. If you’re looking incredulously at your device, then don’t forget that we are in the middle of July and we’re at the height of a heatwave. The tarmac is melting on the roads. Straight after the restart, the deadlock was broken. I can only assume that one of the Bath defenders had burnt his mouth on his Bovril and so lapsed in concentration. It was a classic cross/head/goal. Bath continued to search for the opener, correction, equaliser. Dartford were by no means, sitting back on their lead. This really was a good game. A great save from the Bath keeper was for nothing as the rebound fell to a Dartford attacker who put the ball back across for his better placed colleague who made it 2:0. It was harsh on the home side. Although the game deserved goals, neither team deserved to be losing. Halftime, the second half would never compare with the first…..or would it? Well understandably, Bath stepped up the pressure. What surprised me was that Bath could actually find more pressure to put on Dartford. It hadn’t been like they’d been shrinking violets in the first half. Bath got closer and closer to getting one back. Never mind getting one back, they should’ve had two and been back on parity. The laws of physics were being totally ignored. It’s either that, or they just weren’t working. Maybe it was Dartford’s pink kit that was putting physics off making an appearance. The upshot, Bath weren’t getting any of that luck thing that is so sort after in football. As I looked round at the ground, I couldn’t resist the urge to go and stand where I would’ve stood, had I not missed my lift all those years ago. The bizarre thing, I could picture myself being there, wondering why we weren’t beating Rovers. Curiosity now put to rest, I walked back to where I’d been originally standing. Just as I was in the process, Bath finally pulled a goal back. Dartford retaliated. One of the Dartford forwards was set up with a one on one. They missed it. That’s being disrespectful to the Home keeper, who made a good save. The Bath pressure intensified even more. A jink of skill, and a sharp cross was met almost perfectly. It went just over the bar. The equaliser wasn’t just knocking on the door, it was attempting to smash it down to gain entry. The door not only remained reluctant to open, but several heavy items of furniture were placed behind it. Dartford broke and with the ratio of attackers to defenders very much in favour of the men in pink, the away team tucked the duvet around the game, and turned the light off. 1:3. It had been an absolutely brilliant game. Although there’d been 4 goals, it could’ve been double that and you’d have still come away from the ground thinking it hadn’t been enough.

I went back to the Royal Oak. I can honestly say, I did like the Oak. It was my kind of pub. If I ever find myself having to live in Bath, which I probably won’t, but if I did, it would be in Twerton, I’d watch Bath City and I’d drink in the Royal Oak. I’m so glad that it’s extremely unlikely that’s ever going to happen. I got the train back into the city centre and went round the corner to Graze. Yet another false feeling, sparkly venue. At least the pint was decent. I got the train back to Bristol, and went in search of the pub on the station for a quick half. I found it locked up and in total darkness. A victim of Covid? Probably. Getting back in Brum, I met up with Daryl in the Post Office Vaults. He was back from a ground hop at Wimbledon’s new ground. We shared our experiences from the day, before splitting to catch busses home.

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