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The evil of the Golden Valley Derby

One of the doubtful benefits of editing a website like this one is the regular emails asking you to take part in bizarre surveys of football life. In one recent survey I was asked who my club's divisional rivals were. I tried to summon up as much dislike as I could for the obvious candidates like Cinderford and Cirencester, but I simply couldn't get too angry. Evesham have got up my nose on a few occasions but don't quicken the blood, I don't even get heated up by Forest Green despite still having to pinch myself every time I see their results listed in the Conference reports.

For City only one match really lights the fuse - and that is a match against Cheltenham Town. 

The Bare Facts

P-141 W-35 D-26 L-80
Biggest Win: 6-2 (County Cup 81/82 and Southern league 57/58)
Heaviest Loss: 1-7 (County Cup 85/86)

Figures are for all post-war encounters up to 21/9/04 (stats updated although article written in 2003)
Two Ch#*tenham County Cup penalty shoot out wins are counted as draws.

The Background

Incredibly there are now a fair number of City fans who have never experienced one of these heated affairs. Even more frightening is that the vast number of Ch#*tenham's current supporters probably don't even know Gloucester has a football team, never mind regard as their rivals. The last few years have seen the fortunes of the two clubs take them on vastly different paths. City down a division to the SL Western while the Robins have reached the dizzy heights of the Football League.
The last derby was played on 4th May 1999, now over 4 years ago. That was a half-hearted end of season County Cup Final

It's probable sides from Gloucester and Ch#*tenham were playing each other almost as soon as football came to the area, but the first recorded meetings took place at the turn of the last century when the clubs were both plying their trade in the Gloucester & District Leagues. The progress of the two clubs mirrored each other as both headed into semi-professionalism during the 1930s and moved into the Birmingham Combination league, and then on into the Southern League.

Such a long gap between derbies is unusual, normally they have been frequent affairs with the clubs often in the same division. Ch#*tenham's previous time in the Conference brought 7 years without a league game, but even then there was at least one meeting each season in the cup competitions. 

The statistics above show that Ch#*tenham have normally come out of these battles the better, but often City's wins tended to be the more important. From recent years, 3 games will live long in the memory of Tigers fans as they wait for the County Cup, or even the FA Cup, to hand City a chance to start leveling up those figures.   

FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round, 1st October 1988 - Meadow Park

This was my first experience of a derby match and it would be fair to say I had no real idea why the rest of the 1729 people there were so excitable. I did understand that the FA Cup was important though, and I did understand that as Ch#*tenham were two divisions above us I wasn't to be too disappointed when we were comprehensively beaten.

The City players obviously hadn't understood their place though, as they went on to stuff their higher division neighbours 3-0 and teach them a few lessons on how to play as well. The visitors hoofed the ball aimlessly forward and then didn't get it back for 20 minutes as City played them off the park. Goals came from Mike Malpas, Lance 'Magic' Morrison and the star of the show - Wayne 'Bunter' Noble who was at the centre of all our best moves. It was our first FA Cup win against them since 1928, when the Robins were our first ever FA Cup opponents.

With Ch*#tenham so publicly humiliated by their local rivals manager John Murphy promptly resigned. The resulting upheaval led to Ch#*tenham striker Chris Townsend moving across the Golden Valley to join City and his goals helped fire City to the Title and promotion at the end of that season. 

SL Premier, 4th April 1994 - Whaddon Road

There's nothing pleasant about taking joy from others sadness, but when it came to events at this game it was difficult to disguise the sheer spiteful delight we all took from this win. City were drifting in mid-table, recovering from another financial hiccup and looking forward to next season. The contrast with Ch#*tenham was stark. Most of the 1806 fans who had come to Whaddon Road were there to see the home team yet again demolish their local rivals and in doing so all but surely claim back a spot in the Conference. 

We took an early lead when after a surprisingly sprightly City start Dave Porter was crunched in the area. He hobbled off while Bayliss slammed the spot kick into the net. Bearing in mid we had nothing to play for apart from keeping our rivals from the title the sight of Baylo keeping the ball by the corner flag before half-time has arrived made me almost weep with pride! We defended our lead against a barrage of attacks, ten men behind the ball and real blood and thunder determination kept the home side out.

At the final whistle the small band of City fans who'd bothered to take the trip simply exploded with delirium as the players joined us in the stand. For once, you imagined the Ch#*tenham fans felt the same resentment and pain for us that we felt for them.  

Won 1-0; Scorer: K Bayliss (pen) Att: 1806
City Side: S Crompton, M Saunders, K Willetts, S Crouch, P Bywater, G Kemp, T Callinan, D Webb, K Bayliss, D Porter, M Fishlock. Sub used: D Iddles. 

DML Premier, 26th December 1996 - Meadow Park

To fully appreciate why this was such a fantastic win you firstly had to have seen City disappoint season after season as they faced Ch@#tenham in home local derbies only to be embarrassingly humiliated with four home defeats including 4-0 and 5-1 putting salt into the wound of long standing resentment against the Robins. 

Ch@#tenham had been consistently close to regaining their place in the Conference, but this season City joined them as real contenders for one promotion spot. At this time in the season it was very close, and this was a real six pointer. 

Into all of this was pitched an 18 year-old keeper called Steve Phillips, on loan from Bristol City where he was later to become a first team regular. He was borrowed for one game as our regular keeper couldn't make it. The poor kid probably expected three men and a dog and instead found himself pitched into a feverish atmosphere that ended with him and the rest of the team being carried off the pitch.

It was an exciting match with plenty of chances for both sides, Phillips making several good stops. With a few minutes left the score was level and it seemed set to stay that way with fans and players alike exhausted by their efforts. Then with nothing on City striker Dale Watkins hit a looping shot goalward from an angle near the main stand and nearly 35 yards out. It seemed to me as if the ball dropped in total silence and even now if I close my eyes I can replay it as it seemed at the time, in slow motion.

City were playing towards the river end away from the T-end and the City fans. No-one seemed sure what had happened as they watched Dale ever so slowly wheel away and put his arms in the air. Then Meadow Park erupted.

There have been few better goals scored at the ground and certainly none as memorable. The irony is for that one season City were actually a better team than Ch@#tenham, and that was the crucial season that they pipped us to promotion and began their march to trophies and League status. To make it worse they pinched Dale Watkins and he played a vital part in their success. But nothing could take away that goal, and we all know he never wanted to leave Gloucester City !

Won 2-1; Scorer: D Watkins (2) Att: 2154 
City Side: S Phillips, J Holloway, D Johnson, S Fergusson, G Kemp, C Burns, A Kirkup, 
S Cooper, P Milsom, D Watkins, I Howell. Sub used: J McGrath.

Terrace Trash Article: December 2003