Conviction above Belief: The A team did the club proud in Stroud.
(By Josh De Witt)
We didn’t hope, we didn’t believe. More so, it was a collective conviction that we were going to get it done. Never a doubt, never a whimper of uncertainty, this was our day and we were going to make it count.
Bristol & West A arrived into Stroud adamant of a result, much similar to the current prime ministers mantra pre-election, the message was very simple and clear, get promotion done.
After a rousing pre-match huddle lead by captain Si Barrett, in which fires were stoked and promotion-less bellies were taunted. The team took to the opening moments of the game mouths drooling with an infinite hunger to get a result.
It wasn’t long before the ravenous Bristol went in front, a Daniel Lusmore drag flick was met with a smart save by the Stroud keeper, which was in turn responded to with a plain rude upright reverse slammed into the bottom corner.
Lusmore, buoyed by his earlier goal, set about reeking further havoc in the Stroud defence. Running down the right, he put the keeper to the floor before slipping to an on-rushing Phil Brown who deftly lifted the ball over the keeper for Bristol’s second.
As the game intensified, temperatures rose. The match became a fiery contest that threatened to blow over at times, but thanks to cool heads, held tongues and some excellent umpiring the game was played with 11 players for both sides for large periods of the game. Bristol & West is of course notorious in the southwest for it’s friendliness!
With the game approaching the interval, the A team looked set to be tucking into half time oranges two goals to the good until a slice of good fortune for Stroud landed them a penalty flick. Despite keeper Richard (RJ) Johnson’s best efforts, Stroud put the ball into the back of the net - game on!
Sitting atop the table, with a 100% record from all their games Stroud came out all guns blazing in the second half desperate not to have any points snatched from their grasp so close to the end of the season.
Although Bristol & West continued to rebut everything Stroud threw at them from open play it proved to be the set piece that brought the game to level terms. A tidy routine just slid under the keeper and in between both post men to make it 2-2.
Bristol rallied back immediately as some fine work by Josh Tester earned a short corner to which Lusmore’s red-hot form continued as he dispatched the resultant drag flick the ball into the Stroud goal to pull Bristol back into the lead.
Stroud came back at Bristol, piling pressure onto the West Country travellers, attempting to locate any weakness in the Bristol defensive union.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, Bristol will surely look back upon what followed as season defining moment. Another smart short corner routine led to the ball hurtling to a seemingly open goal. Before any celebrations could be seized defender Andy Platt made a fantastic goal line save to retain Bristol’s lead.
Stroud smelt blood and continued to pound at the Bristol door relentlessly and eventually they found a chink in the mighty Bristol armoury. The home crowd roared once again, as another short corner routine, deflected from a Stroud stick into the back of the goal to once again draw them level.
A resistance and siege mentality saw Bristol through countless short corners that Stroud were awarded in the closing minutes. West swatting away everything that the game threw their way, RJ making save after save, holding the hosts at bay.
Despite Stroud chucking everything including the kitchen sink at Bristol, the visitors held firm to be the first side to take points from Stroud this season.
Bristol celebrated promotion on the final whistle of a game that they believed was inevitable before and throughout this game, the conviction to get this A team the promotion it deserves.
This season has had it all for Bristol & West A, at times untouchably great hockey, and at others resilience and character. Hopefully Bristol & West get the opportunity to finish off their campaign in their final match against Gloucester A at the Ridings in the near future.
Man of the Match: Andy "Platty" Platts - for a season defining defensive display.
D.O.D: "Little" Ross Osborne - for declaring himself unable to play because of coronavirus, but turning up anyway!
Videos by team mascot and official photographer: Joshie Tse
Match Report By: Josh De Witt