Thursday, 8 September 2016

Slimbridge - Thornhill Park

Slimbridge AFC
Thornhill Park
Wisloe Road

Ground Number: 616
Wednesday 7th September 2016
Slimbridge 1-0 Fleet Town
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay


SLIMBRIDGE were formed in 1902 and played in various local leagues, mainly the Stroud & Distict for most of their history. They moved to their current home, Thornhill Park in 1951 after former player Evi Thornhill left them the land in his will. It wasn't until 2001 that they could afford to upgrade the facilities to play at a higher level, but with everything in place they joined the Gloucestershire County League, gaining promotion at the first attempt after finishing runners-up behind Roman Glass St George.  2002/03 saw them join the Hellenic League, winning Division 1 West at the first attempt. They then had a run of excellent top 5 finishes before eventually winning the Hellenic Premier in 2007. This earned them promotion to the Southern League, but it turned out to be a case of 'what might have been'  after the club resigned from the league before the season had started - citing lack of loyalty from some club members, and severe doubts whether they were capable of making the step up.

They returned to where they had started, taking their reserve side's place in the Gloucestershire County League. History repeated itself, and after 2 quick promotions they were back in the Hellenic Premier. Again the finishes here were impressive, but due to geographical reorganisation, they were placed in the Western League for the start of the 2013/14 season. A tricky first season saw them finish 16th, but in 2015, a third-placed finish behind Melksham Town and Buckland Athletic was enough to see them earn promotion, as the 2 higher placed teams did not meet criteria. Safety was managed last year with an 18th placed finish and this season has seen them improve slightly, sitting 10th at the start of play.

In the FA Cup, Slimbridge first entered the competition in 2005/06, but it was the following season that saw them have their best ever run. It all started with an extra preliminary round trip to Westbury United where they won 3-2. They'd have to travel again in the preliminary round, this time, a long trip to Cornwall where they defeated Penryn Athletic which was the hosts play their only ever FA Cup game. A 3-2 victory was enough to set up yet another trip, this time against Southern Premier side Yate Town. Against all odds, they came away with a 2-1 win. The 2nd Qualifying Round saw them home at last, this time against another Southern League side in Chippenham Town. They won this 3-1 and faced a trip to Merthyr Tydfil. This game proved a step too far and they lost the 3rd Qualifying Round tie 2-0. In other cup competitions, they've lost every FA Trophy tie so far, but they did have a great run to the FA Vase 5th Round in 2006/07 where they lost 3-0 to Truro City. The club's record attendance of 525 came in a 2003 game against Shortwood United.


This trip was planned on Saturday night while I was sitting in the pub in Manchester. We'd originally been planning on going to a league game at Cornard, but my intention was always to do an FA Cup replay if one became available. Thankfully Fleet Town and Slimbridge obliged by drawing in the original tie on Saturday,and so we altered out plans. On the day of the game I worked until midday before coming home and having lunch and a bath. I'd various other things I needed to do, and true to form, time was against me as I left at 3 to meet Chris in Milton Keynes. A few things would have to wait until tomorrow, but at least I got to my destination in good time.

After meeting Chris at 4,  we got on our way. Today was to be a dummy run for Friday night where we would be going to Aberdare or Barnt Green Spartak,  depending on traffic when we got to a certain point. The journey went swimmingly at first, with nice, quiet local roads as found by Chris.  However around about Stow we had to hit the main routes and from then on the roads went to pieces with horrific traffic. It turned out to be a three-car smash. Thankfully everyone looked ok, but the 50 minutes delay had totally messed up the evening. We rushed to the ground, picking up a programme each,  before driving to the well regarded Tudor Arms. It turned out to be as good as the reviews said,  and so we both had a couple of halves of cider in the limited time that we had. I had 2 new ones -  Severn Farmhouse Dry and Sheppys Bicentennial. I enjoyed both, with the former being my favourite.

We made our way to the ground, parked up and paid £8 to get in. First priority was food, and we both had a bacon cheeseburger and chips which was made all the better for having real cheese as opposed to processed slices. No wonder it was voted BBC Radio Gloucestershire's bacon burger of the year recently! We eat these as we waited for kick off, and there was a good, friendly pre-match buzz developing, and I was hoping for a good game. What a shame it was a bore-fest then - plenty of hard work but little imagination in the final third. It was a bit like watching my team Wycombe play themselves. It became apparent very quickly that the game was going to extra time, and indeed it did, goalless of course. The game was won by a scrappy goal from Richard Thwaite, after he scrambled home from close range in the 100th minute.

Slimbridge were delighted with their win, and will go on to meet Taunton Town in the next round. It was time for me and Chris to leave. By now it was 10.30 and we were both keen to get home with work in the morning. It didn't start well with a couple of road closures within the first 10 minutes. We soon made good time though, and after dropping Chris off at 12.20, I got home myself at 1am. I couldn't drift off to sleep straight away of course, and it's nearly 2am before I gotta sleep. With me up at 4, I was going to suffer the next day. Though I felt awake at first, I soon tired and was glad when it was an easy day at work. I went straight home and slept for 7 hours, which did me a lot of good.


THORNHILL PARK is a smart non-league venue and is well kept and set in pleasant surroundings. There is a covered stand for around 100, and also a couple of covered standing areas behind the goal, with enough for a further 400. I didn't see any merchandise for sale apart from pin badges but the tea bar is excellent, which is good as I didn't see any takeaways nearby. Your best bet for a drink is the excellent Tudor Arms, but this is a couple of miles away. Back at the ground is a spacious clubhouse, with plenty of football related stuff on the walls, and the standard clubhouse range of drinks.

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