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Should Russell Slade be sacked?

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On my head, son…
On my head, son…

Project 3000

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 20/03/2011

MY wife Celine and I sat in Bath’s splendid Victoria Park and did an "evil" sudoku together. We have entirely different approaches, so when our combined brains and cultures are put together put together and attain the ultimately pointless goal of finishing a sudoku, it constitutes a great team effort. A bit like a football team being greater than the sum of its parts.

Actually, we messed up the sudoku. "Let’s go and see a great team", I proposed. So in this spirit of self-delusion we went from Royal Crescent to Twerton Park, the home of Bath City FC. After the splendour of the city of Bath, this was another world. From chintzy tourism to people with real accents. From museums to the museum-piece of Twerton Park where there were stewards talking about Wayne Rooney - and maybe today there were students and Polish people, having been enticed to come and watch The Romans vs The Mariners for £2-50 to boost the crowd. There was no sign of either when we arrived. "Please can I check your bag, sir?" asked a steward reticently. Aggression meets aggression so I responded by showing him the sudokus and the sandwiches which Celine had lovingly prepared. Twerton Park may be at the business end, being situated near the crematorium, the railway line and a retail park, but it’s a homely old stadium in a nice suburb. It’s a pleasure to visit, in common with all the Blue Square grounds I've visited this season.

Even the supporters’ banner had class: "Aquae Sulis: Terraces not Armchairs". (Aquae Sulis is the original Roman name of Bath Spa in Latin, apologies to those scholars who knew this already). The 400 odd supporters from "Great Grimsby: Haddock not Deep Fried Mars Bars" looked on. The sun shone and we basked in the gentility.

And oh, the game. It was strange to watch us playing a team wearing black and white stripes. What was not strange was the result. For those who don't wish to take the opportunity to look away now, it was: Aquae Sulis 2, Great Grimsby 1. I am writing this article to dispel the nightmare of a glaring miss by the lumbering Duffy after Coulson’s shot cannoned off the crossbar. Duffy had three options: (a) jump and head the ball down, (b) control the ball and slide it into the empty net and (c) miss ignominiously. The latter was chosen. Connell missed a great chance in the second half after taking careful aim 10 yards over the bar. Now this isn't the whole story. Town put a lot of moves together, and Coulson and Eagle were excellent. Leary had a good game too. Only good goalkeeping kept Coulson and Connell out in the first half and it was Coulson’s unstoppable free kick from 25 yards which brought about the equaliser in the second half. Town dominated the game and spent most of it in Bath’s half. There was a degree of misplaced passes, with Sinclair specialising in the art, and the Roman warriors were more up for it than the meek Mariners. Yet once Town got the ball upfield, we looked dangerous and caused problems for the defence. Bath’s goalkeeper had to be on top form, and was.

But hang on - didn't we lose the game? Yes, we did. Bath scored two goals from their rare attacks, save a spell of pressure towards the end. First the tricky Phillips found space and got behind Ridley to cross for Watkins to get past Atkinson and fire home. Then with Town pressing for a winner, Bath broke out and Croudson was clattered, allowing Mackie to seize on the opportunity to score. Town’s defence reacted like statues. To this point they had played well, especially the imperious and fine-tackling Watts who marginally lost out to Coulson as my Town Man of the Match. So let’s look at the facts again: Bath City 2, Grimsby Town 1. We messed up the sudoku. The season has no meaning any more. Even Town’s drummer did not drum today. We have found our rightful place. We have achieved mid-table mediocrity.

For all the bright aspects of the performance, there’s always something missing about this team. The sum of the parts is distinctly less than the whole. "Lack of concentration" and "inadequate midfield" would start the list. Players who take responsibility, a dose of aggression and a decent/fit hold-up player to support Connell would be nice too. We want a great team effort. Today there were positive signs but we lack the punch and co-ordination. The new manager has plenty of action to take.

Today marked the start of "Project 3000" at Bath City, referring to the crowd they hoped to generate as a result of various initiatives. They mustered 1400 home supporters. At this rate Project 3000 may refer to the next year Town have any success.

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