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Tuesday 3rd October 2017 - 19:30 k.o.
Winterfield Road, Paulton (view on map) - 19.4 miles round trip
Southern League Challenge Cup 1st Round
Admission: 9
Attendance: 168

Scorers: Paulton Rovers - Sims / Frome Town - Raynes, Mapstone
Yellow Cards: Frome Town - Davies

It always seemed odd to me that the village of Paulton in Somerset is frequently addressed as "Paulton, Bristol" - Bristol being a good 15 miles away along some scenic country roads. Perhaps the most recognisable, and certainly most visible landmark here is the slag heap which is evidence of a mining industry in the area that is sadly but unsurprisingly a thing of the past. The juxtapositioning of this next to the Tesco superstore is surely not lost on the locals.

I chose Rovers' match against local rivals Frome Town - now the league above their hosts - out of curiosity about the Southern League Challenge Cup. Admittedly not a competition I am familiar with, so I was interested to see what it meant to the clubs. The frugal newly ex-student in me was also predicting a reduced ticket price... I was to be disappointed in that regard! I took the bus from Bath which meanders its way through the pretty little villages to the south west of the city and arrived in good time to explore the ground. But this was not before I was charged the normal admission cost of 9. I can't have been the only one to be surprised at this but I was not about to hop back on the bus, plus evening kick-offs under the floodlights are one of my not-so-guilty pleasures.

So in I went. Winterfield Road is a good sized ground, particularly for essentially a village team (no offence intended). On the near side touchline are two separate stands, one raised a few meters above pitch level offering good views of the action. Next door is a lower, good-sized stand straddling a good portion of the far half. The far end has no terracing or stand to speak of, whereas the remaining two sides consist of narrow terracing covered by a distinctive, slightly retro roof. The ground was packed to the rafters 8 years ago when Norwich City visited in the FA Cup. This was the biggest match in the club's history but sadly finished 7-0 to the Canaries who boasted such players as Wes Hoolahan, Russell Holt and Chris Martin. The latter of who scored four of the seven. Slight panic came over me as I spotted the refreshment window was closed, but the obligatory condiment/sugar table was fully laden so surely a burger was still on the cards. It was.

On to the match. Both sides boasted players who I was relatively familiar - Frome with former Bath City striker/ midfielder/defender and - for some - cult hero Chas Hemmings as well as Jon Davies who was with the Romans for a few months several seasons ago. The home side's number 8 was Andrew Elcock who was also on the books at Twerton Park but failed to make an impact. The first half, in truth, was pretty dull. Other than three chances in three minutes for Frome in the opening ten minutes there was little in the way of goal mouth action. Davies was lucky not to be booked for kicking the ball away after 33 minutes, while 5 minutes later a rare pair of shots tested Hannah in the home goal.

Paulton started the second half well with a good period of pressure. A later tackle finally saw Davies enter the referee's notebook, and shortly after a good run into the box from Mario Mateus left the Frome right back Griffiths a scare. The diminutive striker decided to pass when surely shooting was a better option. His pass was duly intercepted and the danger was cleared. The breakthrough finally came on 57 minutes - the ball was put behind by the Paulton defence and from the resulting corner ex-Larkhall Athletic midfielder Joe Raynes smashed the loose ball into the middle of the goal. Just two minutes later the Robins doubled their lead through centre back Marcus Mapstone. I have to admit I missed this goal, but it was met with gasps of admiration and the Frome Town Twitter feed described it as a shot from the edge of the area, so it sounds like my concentration lapsed at the wrong time! There was hardly time for anyone to catch their breath. Rovers' Liam Monelle was caught offside and shortly after the home side halved the deficit. A lovely ball from substitue Josh Morgan-Williams was collected by Sims in the box. Monelle almost hampered his attempt but Sims did enough to hold his team mate off and smashed low into the corner. What followed was less inspiring - the ball spending much of the time in the midfield. Another good ball from Morgan-Williams found Monelle but he could only shoot wide. It was at this point that I had to leave to catch my bus back to Bath but I followed the clubs' Twitter feeds and the score remained 1-2.

I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Winterfield Road. The locals are friendly, the food is decent and the football is of a good standard. The stadium has bags of character and the surrounding area is picturesque Somerset countryside.

View the photos from this match.