Following five losses Manor Farm were finally handed their first three points in the league since a 4-2 victory against Barnstaple Town on January 12th. It took an injury time own goal at the end of the game to seal the win for the home side in what turned out to be an entertaining game for the 114 spectators present.
There was a minute’s applause before the game, in appreciation of Manor Farm’s Life President Lord Fred Wardle who died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday. It was a fitting tribute for a man who did so much to create the very essence that defines Bristol Manor Farm’s character. Fred has bequeathed us all a modern, ambitious football club that thrives on competition but is quick to extend the hand of friendship to the wider football world. Rest In Peace, Fred…
There was warm applause for Thatcham’s goalkeeper Chris Rackley, too, early in the game, as he pulled off a couple of great saves – denying Jordan Metters with his legs when the Farm midfielder had been put through after five minutes and on ten minutes Rackley produced an even better one to deny a stinging Lloyd Mills drive low to his left. It followed a superb breakaway from Jack Durrant out of defence, who sprayed a great searching pass into the path of Jamie Bird, flying down the right wing. Bird got the ball under control before screwing it back to the edge of the penalty area where Mills was arriving like an express train that had no intention of stopping at the nearby Sea Mills rail station. Mills connected sweetly, first time, with Bird’s reverse pass, fiercely driving the ball goalwards but Rackley threw himself down smartly to keep out the energetic midfielder’s effort.
Thatcham almost scored themselves when a long, searching ball was pumped up through the middle but looked to be heading harmlessly into the hands of Farm goalkeeper Ben John. Thatcham’s George Jeacock had other ideas however and managed to get a toe to the ball at the very last minute – diverting the ball past John but also wide of the right hand upright.
Manor Farm’s Chas Hemmings (who has been superb playing at the heart of defence since the early-season blow of losing Steve Kingdon and Jamie Turner to long-term injuries) broke the deadlock in the 20th minute, arriving late to smash home through a crowd of players from the edge of the box following a corner.
The goal stung Thatcham into further action and they got themselves an equaliser on the half-hour mark when centre forward Shane Cooper-Clark rose to meet a great cross from the left hand side and place a powerful, well-directed header into the corner of the net to beat Ben John’s despairing dive. Honours even at half-time.
Manor Farm started the second half well and both Jordan Metters and Lewis Bamford were denied by deflections that resulted in corners. But Thatcham really came back into the game at this point, going close themselves as they stretched Manor Farm down both wings time and time again.
With just over twenty minutes to play and Thatcham looking the more likely of the two teams to create a breakthrough, Manor Farm were gifted a 2-1 lead when the unfortunate Jon Beedon took a hefty slice at a simple clearance that spun wildly up and over Rackley and into the net. There was simply nothing the Thatcham goalie could do about it.
The visitors piled the pressure on the Farm defence in search of an equaliser and with just 2 minutes left of regular play Jon Beedon looked to have redeemed himself for his earlier mishap by getting on the end of a cross from the right to head emphatically past John in an almost mirror-image of his sides opener. The Thatcham players almost to a man ran to congratulate and celebrate the goal with him in front of the home dug-out. 2-2.
It was during the 3rd minute of injury time however that this to-and-fro match was finally settled with Beedon at the heart of the action once again. Manor Farm came alive right after Thatcham’s 88th minute leveller, forcing a succession of corners as the home crowd urged them on for a winner. It was from one of those resultant corners that Chas Hemmings once again found himself in a great position deep inside the visitor’s box – sending a firm header back across the goal that was was just begging to be put home by someone.
Amidst the panic that Hemming’s header created it was Beedon himself who met Hemmings’ cross. In attempting to clear the ball the Thatcham centre-half could only watch in horror as he inadvertently sent a thundering header past his own keeper to chalk up the most unorthodox of hat-tricks you are ever likely to see. As Manor Farm and their supporters celebrated the late-win wildly, the unfortunate Beedon was left face-down on the turf in agonies of embarrassment. At least he had the good grace and humour to seek out the referee and ask him for the match-ball shortly after the end of the game.
It was perhaps a strange but fitting send off for Lord Fred Wardle – an injury time winner for the side he did so much to fashion over the years. If he was looking down on this one, Fred would have been delighted enough with a last gasp win, but knowing how much he cared for Bristol Manor Farm, he would have been equally delighted to see the return of local boy Jamie Turner, restored to the heart of the Manor Farm defence after five months out through injury and picking up the man-of-the match award for a solid display at the end of an emotional night for Bristol Manor Farm.
(STAR MAN – Jamie Turner, Bristol Manor Farm)
1x Chas Hemmings
2x Own Goal