Friday, 19 December 2008

Bitton AFC

One draw and two postponements later, Cogenhoe’s opponents in the Fourth Round Proper of the FA Vase are now known; they will travel to Bitton AFC after the Bristol side overcame Street on Wednesday evening. The teams failed in their second attempt to play their replay when it was called off last Saturday after torrential rains had saturated the South West. On Wednesday, the teams were still deadlocked 1-1 at 90 minutes, and it eventually took an extra-time goal from Bitton's Mark Reynolds to settle the tie.

So on January 17th, 2009, I will be off down the M4 to Bitton’s Recreation Ground. It will come as no surprise that it will be my first ever visit to Bitton.

I have struggled with my research on Bitton AFC; information about the club is sparse but I’m sure I will find out more during my trip. Up until the late 1980’s the club played in the local Bristol and District Football League with limited success. They were in the Senior Division in season 1989-90 and with two successive promotions they reached the Premier Division of the Bristol Premier Combination. In 1994-95 they won the Gloucestershire FA’s Senior Amateur Cup and finished in 2nd spot in the League. As a result they were promoted to the Gloucestershire County League. Two seasons later Bitton AFC finished runners-up in the Gloucestershire County League and were promoted to the Western League First Division. In 2003/2004 the club achieved its highest ever status, finishing runners-up in the Western League First Division with the reward of another promotion, this time to the Premier Division. This is where they remain to this day. Last season they finished 7th in the League.

Bitton AFC has relatively little FA Vase experience, having only competed in the competition since 2001-02. Their most successful season – to date - was in 2003-04 when they reached the Fifth Round Proper before losing 2-0 at Colne. This season they have seen off Poole Town and Street to get to this stage.

Their FA Cup experience is even more limited. They first entered in 2002-03 and have never progressed beyond the Qualifying Rounds. This season they were knocked out by Paulton Rovers in the Second Round Qualifying after disposing of Thame United, Bishop’s Cleeve and Beaconsfield SYCOB.

Nicknamed ‘The Ton’, Bitton AFC is managed by Andy Black. Black has been at the club since October 2006 and has had previous managerial experience with Cadbury Heath, Mangotsfield (where he spent most of his playing career) and Frome Town. Black took Frome to the FA Vase Quarter-Finals in 2004-05; a not insignificant FA Vase pedigree.

Bitton AFC it is then, one month on from now. We had to wait a while before we found out where the next leg of this journey would take us. And while all is now clear, the local media in Bristol have not quite got it right. In this week's 'Bristol Evening Post' it was reported that Bitton face "an FA Vase fourth round clash with Cogenhose United". Someone else who evidently struggled with the research.

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