Talk about a game of two halves! This Boxing Day feast was a proper seasonal cracker and whilst for Manor Farm fans the first-half kind of resembled a church hall pantomime with the referee seemingly happy to cast himself in the role of arch-villain, the second half was full of razzle-dazzle and tip-top Christmas entertainment.
In the games opening minute, striker Lewis Bamford did well to win the ball back deep in the Slimbridge half before bustling to the byline and crossing low and hard for Jamie Bird, whose audacious back-heel screwed just wide of the post.
Lloyd Mills also saw a long-range effort flash wide after three minutes as Manor Farm exerted early pressure on their hosts. Moments later however Farm’s positive start hit a brick wall when Jack Durrant was booked for simulation although it clearly appeared he had been clipped by both defenders in a Slimbridge-sandwich as he advanced inside the Swan’s penalty area.
With a quarter of an hour gone and against the run of play, Slimbridge were awarded a ‘soft’ penalty of their own which Will Hawes duly dispatched for 1-0. Still reeling from the shock two minutes later the visitors defence seemed to stand still as Steve Jackson rose above everyone to plant a towering header beyond the reach of Ben John for a 2-0 Slimbridge lead.
Five minutes before the break, The Swans must have thought the game was put beyond The Farm’s reach when following a move down the right, the ball ping-ponged around the box before Mark McGhee got the decisive touch from a rebound off the post to send the ball trickling over the Manor Farm goal-line. Half-time and 3-0 to the hosts.
Undaunted, Manor Farm began the second-half in much the way they had set about their business at the start of the first, with plenty of pressure upfront.
The Portwaymen got their reward and a foothold in the game when Ashley Kington sent a well-placed header looping in from ten yards out in a crowded penalty area.
Manager Lee Lashenko then made a significant switch – bringing on John Lock for Stuart Tovey at centre-half and moving Tovey’s partner Chas Hemmings into a forward role and slotting midfielder Lloyd Mills back in alongside Lock at the heart of the Farm defence. Boy, did it work a treat.
Just past the hour mark Chas Hemmings sent Farm away on a good break with Lewis Bamford unselfishly squaring for Jamie Bird who slotted home to bring the game back to 3-2.
An attempted clearance by Farm full back Jamie Adams came crashing back off the crossbar from an increasingly rare Slimbridge attack but four minutes later Manor Farm’s comeback was completed when Bamford played a great one-two with Jordan Metters before taking a good shot which rebounded nicely for Jamie Bird who happily tucked the ball away for his second goal in five minutes. The Manor Farm fans chorused their approval.
It was all Manor Farm now with the skilful Bird tormenting the Swans defence time and time again and Bamford pulling the back four line all over the place with some excellent movement of his own. But despite all their pressure Farm could not find the crucial final touch that would have sealed all three points. Chas Hemmings came close with eleven minutes left on the clock when he turned and shot from the edge of the area and the Farm defence then had to scramble away a goalmouth melee with three minutes of the match to go, ensuring they left Wisloe Road with at least the point they had fought so hard to retrieve from what had looked an impossible situation at half-time.
STAR MAN (Lewis Bamford, Bristol Manor Farm)
Jamie Bird x2
Ash Kington x1