Saturday 5th January 2019
Western League Premier Division
PLYMOUTH PARKWAY 2 CHIPPING SODBURY TOWN 3
Admission: £7 & £4 concessions
Tea Hut Stuff: Large looking pasty £2.50
Weather: Cold and grey, cloudy but dry
Parking: On the road adjacent to the car park
Match Rating: 8/10
I've been down the South West for three and a half years now (Cornwall based), this was my first ever Western League fixture and jolly impressive it was too.
I'd previously seen Parkway many times during that period in the South West Peninsula League which they ultimately won promotion from last season. Always a good football side, the hard work put in by the board, management, players, supporters & associated officials is clear to see. It has witnessed the infrastructure and development of the club taking big strides forward in advancing the Plymouth Parkway profile as an entertaining choice to watch good quality football. You could smell the pride and commitment as soon as you walked in the gate. Coming into the game Parkway were 6th in the league and unbeaten in the previous 10 games.
The Sods, which is one of the best acknowledged club nicknames I've come across, were visiting Bolitho Park in 15th position. Chipping Sodbury Town seem to have had a mixed bag of results ranging from the very good to worryingly indifferent. Today, their small bunch of supporters were obviously hoping for the former.
The Match Shed passed a fitness test early morning so it was a pretty uneventful journey along the A38 eastbound. I paid my £1.50 to the highwaymen at the Tamar Bridge Toll and tried my best to avoid undercarriage damage from the never ending speed bumps on the road up to the ground.
The area in and around Bolitho Park currently resembles a collection centre for civil engineering projects, there's building work everywhere which appeared to have a knock-on effect regarding the packed full car park. Options for street parking could be deemed busy. I luckily got the Match Shed tucked away in a tight spot just vacated across from the ground.
Woolly hat, scarf and gloves on I paid my admission at the entrance and appreciated the sociable remarks to "enjoy the game". I immediately came across a large gathering where a sizeable crowd were either eating or queuing for pasties at the Tea Hut.
Don't get me wrong they did all sorts of other stuff as well, I also saw people with curry and chips and bacon sandwiches but the main focus for the hungry hordes seemed to be the well proportioned Denzils Pasty. I joined the long line of dinner guests and eagerly awaited my turn with anticipation. I wasn't disappointed, don't think I've ever had a pasty with that much steak in it before, it certainly saw me through until tea time.
Bolitho Park is a nice little set up and the club are visually taking steps to compliment the existing facilities even further, the ongoing club house improvements are a prime example. There is a small seated stand alongside a TV gantry by the halfway line and there is a covered terrace opposite.
At the moment, possibly due to the ground improvements there is also one of those big white tents you see at fancy weddings.
This collection of ground-furniture goodies is enhanced by what appeared to be a well kept (flat) playing surface, which for this time of the year in our rather wet South West is something of a rarity.
I spent the first half behind the goal opposite the Tea Hut end. I got chatting to a friendly knowledgeable chap who once played for Falmouth Town. He gave me a great insight to the history of Parkway and what had been going on in the Western League this season. Neither of us were surprised when a dominant Parkway took the lead but (no disrespect intended) we were somewhat taken aback when Chipping Sodbury equalised, against the run of play was an understatement. One minute Parkway were happily coasting along the empty autobahn to 3 easy points, next thing the visitors grabbed the wheel and took the whole proceedings 'off-road'. The Sods (nickname) got another one and led 1-2, Parkway bobble hats were chucked to the ground in dismay, this wasn't part of the script?
Needless to say most folk reckoned the Parkway 11 would be getting the traditional Lee Hobbs rollicking in the half time dressing room. Sure enough the home side appeared a lot more focused and set about storming The Sods defensive line. It must have come as quite a disturbing surprise that Chipping Sodbury were not going to drown with the increasing tidal wave of pressure. They can play a bit and ripped Parkway apart on the counter attack with some sublime clinical finishing. The ground opened for Lee Hobbs home team bench, The Sods went 1-3 up.
Parkway threw the kitchen sink at the visitors as wave after wave of attacks battered The Sods end of the pitch, plenty of near misses and admirable last ditch defending kept Parkway to just one further goal. The Sods had survived and won the game 2-3. A very well executed away performance that soaked up the inevitable Parkway pressure and in response applied a ruthless counter attacking policy which fatally wounded the home side even before half time.
Awful for Parkway to take, deep joy for The Sods and a damn entertaining 90 minutes for neutrals like me.
Needless to say, nobody sneaked off early from this one. Good game.