Whilst we’re disappointed that today’s match has fallen victim to the recent downpours across the South West, we still think you’ll love Matchday Host, Kevin O’donohoe’s, excellent Life on the Farm feature that was due to be published in today’s Matchday Programme! 

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the BS3 Services Stadium – the home of Bristol Manor Farm FC – for this Pitching In Southern League Division One South fixture versus

Real Madrid. Check the date, just kidding – it’s Evesham United…

With just five games of our regular season left to play, we start this afternoon by facing our second round of ‘Robins’ in four days. Our game-in-hand on Tuesday night at Frome Town was one we had our eyes on as another ‘must win’, but in the context of the game itself – going down to ten men early in the second half – the single point gained from our goalless draw away from home must be seen as a positive result.

After encountering the North Somerset variety in midweek we welcome the Worcestershire breed of Erithacus rubecula to our shores today.

A warm welcome to the players, management, officials and supporters from Evesham United who’ve made the short flight down through the Cotswolds to be with us here this afternoon.

These Robins arrive here on fresh wings following the cancellation of a long flit to Willand Rovers on Wednesday night due to the wet weather and a water-logged pitch at Silver Street. The match had offered the prospect of swooping back into the promotion play-off places for Evesham, but despite that they’re still handily placed in 7th, just three points behind Tavistock in 5th and one point behind Bashley in 6th. They remain three ahead of Melksham Town in 8th who suffered a dent to their own play-off chances via a 5-3 home defeat to Hamworthy United in the only game left ‘on’ on Wednesday night.

Whilst also looking to take care of their own business here this afternoon, Evesham followers will be keeping a keen twitcher’s eye on events elsewhere. Tavistock travel cross-county for a Devon derby at Exmouth, Bashley face-off at home to Westbury whilst Melksham tackle Bishops Cleeve.

However – it’s the play-off picture at the other end of the table that concerns us most here in this part of Bristol right now – just a stones throw from Ashton Gate and the city’s own ‘Robins Nest’.

Cinderford Town ( in the automatic relegation spot of 19th and just one point behind us at the time of writing) played at Frome Town themselves last night, so fingers crossed that Frome were able to see The Foresters off.

That Frome were unable to against the ten men of Bristol Manor Farm on Tuesday night speaks volumes to the strong, fighting spirit still very evident in Lee Lashenko’s side. When midfielder Frankie Artus was unfortunately shown a second yellow card just ten minutes into the second-half (the first, in the opening 45, being pretty harsh) The Portwaymen were forced into tactical changes that somewhat thwarted the general front-foot approach. Farm had grown steadily into the game to this point and with the home side spurning some good chances of their own the visitors had begun to look the more likely team to go on and win it – and with it those three valuable points. Frankie’s unfair marching orders might’ve floored a lesser team but Farm adapted to the task and stood up manfully with some gritty and determined performances throughout the side.

Ben John was our ‘man-of-the-match’ once again – making a bevy of crucial saves in both halves, giving loud, clear communication and encouragement throughout and generally leading our defensive charge from the back. We could also well have nicked it twice through the ever effervescent Jayden Nielsen – one rifle of a shot whistled just over the crossbar and the other – a powerhouse drive – was so fiercely hit that it forced the Frome ‘keeper Phillips onto his backside after punching the ball clear.

So – not quite the Far/Fro Classico from a year ago at Badgers Hill that was attended by a crowd of fourteen hundred but still, another compelling team performance all the same (in front of 293) in our bid to fight clear of danger. Much to be further encouraged by.

The Farmy Army, it must be said, may not have been swelled by the huge numbers that supported the team in that historic promotion play-off semi-final, but they certainly turned up in good numbers to cheer the team on last Tuesday night. Not only that but they could be seen and heard, loud and proud all ‘round the ground and all throughout the game. Superb. With no official transport able to be offered by the club this time, it’s remarkable how many loyal fans made the short but awkward midweek journey – by bus, by train, by car – all to follow The Farm. We can’t thank you enough. Geoff Sellek would’ve been very proud of the turnout in the circumstances… “Our Supporters…”

A massive thanks also to the 150 people who tuned in to the live commentary from Badgers Hill via our Manor Farm Radio platform on twitter. Once again we were blown away by the numbers and the positive messages of support. Thank You.

Willand Rovers water-logged Wednesday means the All-Whites remain just two points ahead of us in the other play-off spot of 17th but now have a game in hand on us. Weather-permitting at Silver Street they face struggling bottom side Slimbridge this afternoon.

Despite their own dire predicament, The Swans have shown in recent weeks that there’s still some considerable flap in their own wings by beating promotion play-off shoe-in’s Hamworthy United 4-2 and sharing spoils with play-off hopefuls Bashley and Tavistock – drawing 1-1 and only conceding late on in both games – to Tavi’s Liam Prynne in the 88th minute and – agonisingly for the Gloucestershire club, by Jack Lovell’s super-late finish for Bashley in the third minute of added time at Thornhill Park last Saturday.

Lymington, who prevailed 2-1 here last Saturday to extend their unbeaten run to ten games were upended 2-0 at home by Bideford in midweek and the two teams are now only separated by a single point in 15th and 16th (and safety) respectively. Bideford – those distant, North Devonian Robins – do have a whopping four games in hand over Lymington however and remain six points ahead of Manor Farm – for the moment.

Could The Linnets – so loud in their song at dusk here last Saturday – still yet be drawn into the tangled net of a relegation play-off? They visit Hamworthy this afternoon whilst Bideford host Paulton Rovers. We’re tempted to say there’s aviary good chance ( ok, that’s enough ‘bird’ jokes now – programme ed).

So – moving swiftly on – that about rounds up the play-off picture at both ends of the spectrum as it affects both today’s teams.

In the reverse fixture at the Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium what seems like an age ago now at the start of September, Evesham wanna cracker by the odd goal in five.

Jake Gosling opened the scoring just inside twenty minutes after some frantic opening skirmishes, dancing through the Evesham defence to slam fiercely home. Ben Whitehead equalised for Evesham just past the half hour mark, the linesman’s flag staying down as he sprang through to beat Ben John with a cool finish. Farm’s talismanic striker Owen Howe then restored The Portwaymen’s lead just four minutes later – sweeping home a sweet cross from Evander Grubb to net his fourth goal of the season and send Manor Farm into half-time fully deserving of their 2-1 lead (Howe sweet would ‘twenty-fourth’ goal of the season sound at the end of today, Owen?).

Both sides went back at it in the second half – with both keepers seeing plenty of action – Ben John performing flying leaps around his six yard box, both left and right, to parry, block and hook clear a barrage of efforts in an almighty goalmouth scramble before Evesham’s Fraser Barnsley tipped behind Evander Grubb’s powerful and almost certainly goal-bound header.

Just moments later the game turned when Chris Knowles dispossessed Josh Ford before setting up Kyle Belmonte to equalise for the home side. At 2-2, Howe then blazed over from close range and Barnsley was beaten by a shot from the edge of the box that only cannoned off the foot of the post and away to safety.

Manor Farm must’ve known it wasn’t to be their lucky day when a collision between Steve Kingdon and Mason Winter left Ford in a hopeless three-on-one as Evesham swept forward to capitalise heavily on the error – Owen James left with all the time in the world in the penalty area before choosing his spot and slotting home. Farm threw everything at their hosts in the closing minutes in search of a deserved equaliser but The Worcester Robins held firm to record the 3-2 comeback victory. For the travelling Farmy Army it was certainly a tough defeat to swallow. No-one was choughed.

Today’s Matchday Sponsors are THE STOKE INN – Lee Lashenko’s family village pub that serves Chew Stoke and its’ surrounding areas and certainly lives up to its’ reputation as one of the best pubs in the region. In these days of fierce competition, multiple village Post Office closures and generally dwindling local amenities, Lee’s pub has been thrust into the forefront of village life in recent years – catering for all tastes and ages at all times of the day and becoming just as much a vital social hub for the whole community as it is a popular ale house.

Our huge thanks to John ‘Scouse’ McIntyre from ‘The Stoke’ for organising today’s sponsorship and we look forward to not only welcoming him back to his favourite football ground after Anfield in what seems like a really long time since the last time, but also seeing what marvelous, colourful guests he’s brought along with him this time! Thanks John and thanks to THE STOKE INN – today’s matchday sponsors.

Before, during and after today’s game, we will also be promoting a £10 Raffle which could give supporters and/or sponsors the opportunity to win a VIP Hospitality Package for up to 6 people for our final Southern League home match of the season versus Hamworthy United on Saturday April 15th (kick off 3pm). This will include a matchday ticket, matchday programme, a delicious hot meal, an entertaining stadium tour and a full-time cheese board in the VIP function room. The winners will be announced on our twitter page @ManorFarmFC in the coming days.

Your participation in this end-of-season promotion can really help us finish our home schedule with a bang – and hopefully a survival party too – long into the night, and you and your friends or work colleagues could do it in style, so please look out for the raffle tickets being sold around the ground today and please help the club raise some much, much needed funds…

Weaver just two home games of the regular season left after today – Paulton Rovers on Easter Monday, 10th April, chicks, for a 3 o’clock kick off and just five days later we finale with that game against Hamworthy. Let’s help pack ‘The Creek’ for both of them – spread the message, social media, word-of-mouth, bring a friend, tell your family – ‘Manor Farm needs YOU!’.

The three points on offer to both clubs this afternoon represent a high value prize to be won – for contrasting requirements at both ends of the table. It promises to be another nail-biting and exciting afternoon of football here beside The River Avon and the Severn Beach line. We can’t wait.

With the high-flying Robins sporting their away colours as visitors, it’s time for the beating of some strong home hearts inside those red-chested shirts of Bristol Manor Farm today.

Get behind the team, enjoy the game, UP THE FARM!

Kevin O’Donohoe