Bowman on the road: Holiday Joe rescues Hillians’ gloomy week

The Army with chairman Kevin (on left). Picture by Colin Bowman
The Army with chairman Kevin (on left). Picture by Colin Bowman

Burgess Hill Town manager Ian Chapman would have driven back across the Queen Elizabeth Bridge a relieved man last Saturday after holiday returnee Joe Keehan snatched a late point at lowly Brentwood FC.

Up until that moment he would have been reflecting on three league losses in seven days!

Joe celebrates with a soft drink. Picture by Colin Bowman

Joe celebrates with a soft drink. Picture by Colin Bowman

Owing to rail replacements the Barmy Army were up early to catch an 8am bus from Burgess Hill to Three Bridges. Then Thameslink to Farringdon, tube to Liverpool Street. The occasion then started in earnest with a couple of nice ales in Dirty Dicks. Several of us were studying the form and had an outrageous tip for Pawn Star at 100 to 1 Ascot 4.10. After having some obvious banter with the name we got on for a £1 each way stake. I was then stunned later on as it made the frame and we were all £20 richer. From there we headed east to Brentwood taking in a Hammers pub The Brewery Tap just off the main street. Further beers and banter. The Arena ground is then quite a hike out of town but no problems after jumping in a cab arriving 10 mins before KO.

I have mentioned the Barmy Army a few times in this column. A group of around 8 die hard Hill supporters who follow theit team all over the South East. I thought it might be nice to give them a individual mention. There is Sponge aka Ian Gander, 57 ish, and his son Dan, 30, who have been following since the early 90s.

They both recall with fondness Hill’s historic FA Cup run in 1999 taking in Hereford Fc in the 4th qualifying round. Dan is fantastic at uncovering some magical drinking establishments.

There is Smirf aka Andrew Firth, about 45, a real character and spiritual leader. Also good at finding some decent pubs. There is Geoff in his 60s from Worthing. We haven’t seen him for a little while but he is the wordsworth and manages to capture the essence of a game with his on line match reports.

Sponge acts as ball boy. Picture by Colin Bowman

Sponge acts as ball boy. Picture by Colin Bowman

There Portsmouth Nick who is currently working Saturday’s so we haven’t seen him in a while. Nick is our talisman song singer, if he is around the Army are a lot louder and bolder. There is Jason Bugle Boy Randall, 30s, a good laugh and fun to be with and can half blow a good ‘last post’ on his bugle. Then there are two new comers who have fitted in very well. Steve Wright mid 30s and Dan Cross early 30s from Brighton.

Both seem to like having a beer on a Friday evening and Dan is usually a little delicate on Saturday mornings. He said that he really enjoyed his trip to Guernsey in 2014. Hill fans will recall that a huge storm over Sussex ruined travel plans that day and the team got to Footes Lane just mins before K.O and then understandably lost. The group mostly travel by rail, always trying to find a bargain fare but sometimes mid week cars are used. It’s really great to be involved and now think I am proud to be a fully paid up member.

As to the match itself there really isn’t a lot to write about.

Relegation threatened Brentwood got really stuck in and proved a hard nut to crack. They were solid at the back and in mid field which made it very difficult for us to get the ball down and play. Once again the Hillian’s defence was breached early in the 2nd half as the hosts, greeted with some muffled cheers, went one nil up. It looked as though we were heading for another moral sapping narrow loss. But on 90 mins Joe Keehan, back from a two week holiday, somehow made some space and headed home right in front of the Army.

Signage at Brentwood. Picture by Colin Bowman

Signage at Brentwood. Picture by Colin Bowman

Joe is a firm fans favourite, always plays with a smile and has 8 very important league goals to his name from mid feild. He is in player of the season territory!

The Ryman Premier League is entering the ‘business end’ and we are seeing a new dimension. As mentioned before there are several really talented players out their who can really hurt you, ie Andre McCollin of Kingstonians. However clubs are becoming much more stubborn and organised at the back. Its made it very difficult for our front men, Chris, Sam, Lee and Dan to get amongst the goals. (only 3 goals in the last 5 league games). With just one league clean sheet this season its proving very difficult to secure 3 points at this time.

Chapman has always hinted of a steep learning curve in this company and perhaps a mid table finish would be very acceptable. As usual he has proved to be spot on and with just 16 games to go hopefully we can turn the current 40 points to 60 and end up comfortably upper mid table. The club go again this Saturday at home 3pm against high flying East Thurrock FC.

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