Adventures in Football #37: Twerton Park (Bath City FC)
November 27, 2021
BATH CITY FC vs. DARTFORD (FA Trophy)
I’ve been to Bath before. It’s a lovely old Roman city with incredible looking bridges, archways and a Roman baths that feels like you’ve gone back in time. I’ve done all the sightseeing before, and quite a few tiny pubs down back streets. The Roman influence on Bath’s history is so strong that Bath City’s football club is nicknamed the Romans. Bath doesn’t have a rich footballing history. The team has always been non league. They twice came close to being elected to the league and competed in the Anglo-Italian Cup in the 70s, which means they have competitive victories over teams as diverse as Millwall and Parma.
When I was a kid Twerton Park was a league ground because it hosted Bristol Rovers for ten years. Bath City themselves have played at Twerton Park since 1932. I’ve seen Bath play before as they were a GM Vauxhall Conference team when Rovers were good. They were in the Conference for roughly the same length of time as Bromsgrove. They’ve dropped slightly since then, last having a top flight non-league run in 2010-12 but since 1986 have never dropped below tier 6 of English football. In the FA Trophy their best run came in 2014-15 when they lost in the semi-final on penalties.
This is probably my last game this year because of work being hectic over Christmas, although you never say never. I’ve picked a fantastically shitty day for it. It’s cold and there’s a weather warning for high winds. Ideal for driving down a motorway that’s raised with open fields on either sides and massive crosswinds. It seems to have caused some bother around Bristol as the SatNav re-routes us down the back lanes. I’m not going to lie here, I love going off the beaten track a bit. It happens that our new route takes us into Bath via interesting and scenic roads so I’m all for it. I did take some pictures but our windscreen needs a wash so you can’t really see.
We park up at the ‘overspill’ parking, which is at Curo. I’m not sure what they do at Curo but the parking is free, as is evidenced above. At some point it was £2 and the threat to lock the car park at 6.30pm doesn’t worry me as the game finishes at 5pm. We’re parked next to a fellow travelling fan who says he had snow flurries driving past Stonehenge. I’ve not quite nailed down the ‘chat to stranger about the game’ business. Some people find this easy, I’d rather just jot down notes and observations. Maria is freezing and needs to go to the toilet so we drop into the Old Crown. It’s quite a small pub to be the local for a football team and it’s pretty full. We sit out the back by the pool table.
Note: This is the last time I was warm on November 27, 2021
It promises to be a nice competitive game today with Dartford fans mixed in with the Bath City locals in the pub. There’s one particularly energetic Dartford supporter in a maroon tracksuit. He’s certainly nailed down the ‘chat to strangers’ aspect of football travelling. Arsenal vs. Newcastle is on the TV and people just seem to be enjoying themselves on what is a fucking cold afternoon. The game nearest my house was called off because the pitch was covered in snow.
It’s a two minute walk from the Old Crown to Twerton Park. From the car park it’s hard to see a good ground here. They’ve got the standard Vanarama welcome sign but it’s really small. The car park is a mess. It’s covered in potholes. There’s a club here called Charlie’s, which looks full as well. The pre-match pints are going down well.
We’re in the grandstand, because Maria wants to sit down, and I think we paid extra for the privilege. Aside from this entry point there’s no segregation though so I could have gone up there during the game anyway. Turnstile 13 is a bloke doing cash sales so we have to go through 14 where the chap has the QR scanner. Technology is slowly descending on Bath.
The steps up from the turnstiles is my first sense that I’m going to really enjoy the slightly faded nature of Twerton Park. Nothing seems to be level. I’m not sure who put these steps in but it’s a big yikes that there are so many issues with them. We take our seats up in the grandstand but photography is a bit tricky up there so I went for a stroll during the game. The ground has one stand for seating, which we’re in, and the other three sides are terraced. The end away to the left is particularly sparse. There’s no room to improve it either as it backs onto terraced housing.
Opposite us is the main terrace, which looked to be particularly popular as it’s a) covered and b) has a snack bar built into the back of it. The bulk of the standing crowd stood there and moved along depending on the direction Bath were playing. You can see from the following photo that the terrace weirdly goes up at the one end. Presumably as that’s a more popular part of the ground to stand in as it’s nearest to the ‘away’ section. There’s a big yellow gate at the end of here and it’s the one part of the ground that you cannot walk through.
To capture the right end of the ground I had to take a walk. This also reveals how close the housing is behind the main terrace and I spotted multiple people watching during the game. The bitterly cold end to the right housed away supporters in the first half. There’s about 17 of them but Dartford fans mixed in with the home fans on the grandstand side as well. Some were quite vocal. The best part of Twerton Park is the views of the countryside you get over the top of the stands. From the far side you can probably see right across Bath due to the elevation. There are rolling hills out behind the grandstand too, which I couldn’t see. Also, the day was miserable so it didn’t look quite as stunning as in the photos I’ve seen of it. You can see a picture of the ground, looking quite incredible, in Mike Bayly’s book “British Football’s Greatest Grounds”. Twerton Park was at #7.
Just as everyone is settled in for their freezing afternoon at the football the captains make everyone change ends. It’s a good bit and the opening few minutes feature a parade of fans heading to their new respective ends. Maroon tracksuit man is giving it the “everywhere we go” bit. I respect it. This being a cup tie you can throw league form out of the window but they are in the same division. Dartford are top of the National League South and contenders to make it into the top tier of non-league next season. Meanwhile Bath lie in P16 some 13 points adrift of today’s visitors.
Form doesn’t help Bath either as they’ve lost 9 of 11 played against Dartford. The statistics do not favour them. The weather doesn’t help either and it takes a while for both teams to get warmed up. Bath have the best of it in the first half. They somehow miss two easy chances. A one-on-one is fired straight at the keeper and a second clear cut chance is somehow missed entirely. Dartford’s website, writing up this match, pointed out that Bath had improved greatly since their last encounter. Bath hit the post and the bar and while Dartford looked dangerous on the break Bath were the better side at half time. 0-0.
The second half was very similar. The start was sluggish but picked up into the final 15 minutes. Dartford somehow managed to miss an open goal. Tyrique Hyde hitting the post with the keeper out of play. Dartford sub Luke Wanadio almost won the game, and deserved to, with an absolute screamer that was tipped over. Bath claimed a goal late on as a right wing cross was fired home only to hit the bar and bounce on the line. The players seemed adamant it gone in and controversy reigned. I wasn’t in a good position to see but Bath needed a Russian linesman.
Full time and the teams couldn’t be separated at 0-0. This is the FA Trophy and we don’t bother with replays so it went straight to penalties. No messing around. Eight of nine penalties were despatched with the unfortunate Alex Fletcher seeing his saved by Dartford keeper Dan Wilks. Dartford win on penalties and Bath were left to rue hitting the woodwork three times and missing two sitters. I passed a Dartford fan on the way out as he consoled a neighbouring Bath fan. “You were the better team”. He wasn’t wrong.
I really enjoyed Bath. Twerton Park is my kind of old fashioned ground. It’s falling apart but in an endearing way*. It has a lot of character. Sitting in the grandstand isn’t the ideal way to watch a game there and if I’d been with Josh we’d have moved around the standing areas. There were 736 people in attendance and the cold definitely killed the mood a bit. The lack of reactions were telling and I have been reminded why football in the winter can be a bit miserable at times. I do love Twerton Park though and it’ll probably make my top ten grounds for the season. I had a burger just after half time too, which is the first time I’ve gone for a burger this season but the smell of cooked meat just wafts up into the grandstand and it warmed my insides. It was good too. Very basic but edible. I went 7/10.
*I know I’m likely to catch some flack for saying St Andrews is a shit hole while praising Twerton Park for being quirky and nice. Birmingham City play in the Championship and have the same standard of facilities and the same level of crumbling infrastructure as Bath City who play in the National League South. Bath do a far better job of accommodating people on match day. No rude stewards to deal with here.