THE 2009/10 season was a remarkable, and so nearly glorious, one in the history of Bridgwater Town FC.

The Robins won 26 out of 42 games in Southern League Division 1 South & West that campaign, drawing 11 and losing only five.

A third place finish meant the play-offs, and after seeing off VT (Vosper Thorneycroft, now Sholing FC), they took on Cirencester Town in the final at Fairfax Park.

Bridgwater led twice, but ultimately lost 4-3 after extra time, and their promotion dream was snatched away.

This was a club in rude health; there was a crop of talented local players, crowds were large, and Bridgwater Town Reserves were a force to be reckoned with in the Somerset County League, too.

Bob Buckingham - father of Luke, back-up goalkeeper for the Robins that season - is now the club’s vice-chairman.

Going back to 2009, he recalls: “There was a good atmosphere around the place.

“We had a combination of local players and others from further away - and traditionally Bridgwater have done well when we’ve relied on talented locals.

“They had a good dynamic, and the players all wanted to play for each other.”

Right-back Jamie Price, now playing in Taunton Town’s defence, believes a lot of credit for that squad dynamic goes to boss Craig Laird, who was joined by Leigh Robinson to learn under him during the 2009/10 campaign.

“It was a brilliant squad, with great team spirit,” said Price.

“It was really enjoyable playing under Craig Laird, as he had a good footballing philosophy.

“Credit to Craig, he made sure his signings were good people as well as good footballers.”

Bridgwater had won promotion from the Western League in 2007/08, and finished seventh - a couple of places outside of the play-off spots - in 2008/09, so something was clearly building there.

Chris Young, the Robins’ all-time leading scorer and the captain that season, said: “I’m Bridgwater born-and-bred, and a lot of the first team and reserve team players were from Bridgwater, too.

“We all got on well and there was a diverse range of characters in the squad.

“Craig and Leigh did a very good job building a culture among the players.

“The group hadn’t changed much over the previous two years, which helped us.

“I was about 27 then, and was one of the older players, so it was a young squad as well.”

This is The West Country:

SKIPPER: Chris Young

Ben Kirk, who was a deep-lying midfielder within Laird’s preferred 4-3-3 formation, added: “What stands out about that season was the number of people who turned up for training every week - first team and reserve team.

“It must have been 30 plus who came regularly, because the training was so enjoyable.

“We had a good mix of Bridgwater lads, and some from Taunton, Yeovil and Bristol.

“We had a core of people who were passionate about doing well for their hometown club.

“We were happy and the lads got on - in all my years of football, that was the best changing room I can remember.”

On the pitch, says co-manager Robinson, the team had “a little bit of everything”.

“They had good team spirit, a lot of flair, pace, strength and aerial ability.

“There were a lot of young players on the way up, and hungry to do well.”

He added: “Craig was always the coaching type, and I did more managing of players.

“Craig had been there a while, and I was learning from him as I made the step up from [managing Wellington in] the Western League.

“I really enjoyed my time there.

“My wife had our first child that season, and the sleepless nights meant I was zonked after Christmas.

“So it’s probably a good job we were joint managers!”

Bridgwater made a patchy start to the season, with one win, one loss and three draws - although one of those was 1-1 away to eventual champions Windsor & Eton.

They exited the FA Cup at the third qualifying round, losing 3-2 at AFC Totton, and the focus was largely on the league from there.

Soon the goals were starting to flow, as the Robins beat Bracknell Town 5-0 and Cinderford 8-0 in the run in towards Christmas.

New Year’s Day brought a derby match against Taunton, watched by a crowd of 1,016 - the division’s highest attendance of the season - and Young scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.

Taunton would finish 18th that season, having been beaten 2-0 in the return fixture, with Price and Young scoring for Bridgwater.

Those players recalled a couple of different games as being particularly memorable.

Price scored both goals when Bridgwater beat Windsor & Eton 2-1 at Fairfax Park in the spring, with the would-be champions having not lost a single league match up to that point.

“That stands out, with them being unbeaten and us beating them,” Price said.

“That was a massive game.

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MASSIVE GAME: Jamie Price heads in against Windsor & Eton

“I also remember winning 3-2 away to Uxbridge.

“We were under the cosh for the whole of the second half, but we defended so well.”

(The game at home to Uxbridge was decided by a 40-yard lob from Young, which made it seven wins in a row for Bridgwater.)

Young, meanwhile, recalled the home win over Paulton Rovers.

“It’s a game we might not have won the year before,” he said.

“But that year we had that winning mentality.”

That winning mentality helped the Robins wrap up a play-off place with three games to spare, but injuries were starting to take their toll.

They’d already lost Nat Pepperell to shoulder surgery, and in the final game of the regular season - a dead rubber - Steve Orchard and Young both picked up injuries.

Young ruptured his ACL, and now he admits: “It was hugely frustrating, and one of my biggest regrets not to have played in the play-off semi-final and final.”

Even without their captain, Bridgwater eased past VT 3-0 in the semi-finals, which meant a final against Cirencester - played in front of 771 fans at Fairfax Park.

The hosts went ahead on 29 minutes - Graham Mercieca scoring from 25 yards - but Carl Brown levelled before half-time, and Tom Etheridge put Cirencester ahead in the 56th minute.

Bridgwater soon equalised, as Mercieca’s long throw broke for Kirk to slot home, and Marcus Duharty made it 3-2 by heading in Matt Beadle’s corner.

The Robins could not hang on, though, as Neil Griffiths forced extra time.

The winner came in the 110th minute, Bridgwater failing to clear a free-kick and Etheridge smashing the ball into the bottom corner to win it for Cirencester.

Cirencester had finished fifth, well behind the Robins in the league table, so what had gone wrong on the big occasion?

“Chris Young getting injured was a massive loss for us, but we were still confident going into the play-offs,” Price said.

“We saved one of our worst games of the season for that final.”

Clearly the injuries had not helped, nor did the fatigue.

“The season caught up with us a little bit,” said Kirk.

“The weather was so wet that winter, much like this year, that games were postponed and we had to play Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday just to fulfil our fixtures.

“We had players playing out of position in the final as well, due to the injuries, and the goal that made it 3-3 was a knockout blow for us - we couldn’t recover.”

Robinson added: “Cirencester seemed to have our number that season [they won 3-2 at Fairfax Park during the regular league campaign].

“They were really physical and direct, and we seemed to struggle against them.

“We were winning [the final] with 10 minutes to go, but both teams were out on their feet.

“If we could have got balls in behind their back four and made them chase back, maybe we would have won promotion, but we couldn’t hit it far enough and it kept coming back at us.

“The whole season came down to a few kicks, and having to kick the ball five yards further.”

The coaches and players had to pick themselves up for the Somerset Premier Cup final, just a few days later; they drew 0-0 against Welton Rovers and lost 4-2 on penalties.

Both co-managers departed that summer - Laird going to Weston-super-Mare and Robinson to Wellington, with a chunk of the squad following the former to Weston.

Rob Dray, who had led Bridgwater Reserves to a Somerset County League Premier Division and County League Cup double in 2009/10, took over.

But with the likes of Kirk, Young and Price going to Weston, the Robins sank to 18th (fifth from bottom) in the 2010/11 season.

“The players showed they could compete at a higher level at Weston,” said Young.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Bridgwater could have made that step up.”

The club is back in the Western League now, but challenging at the right end of the table for a return to the Southern League.

Young said: “I’m very fond of the club and I hope to see it do well in future.

“It’s good to see the crowds coming back to support a winning team.”

Kirk added: “I’ve never stopped following Bridgwater’s results and it’s great to see local players there again, and doing well.

“Bridgwater is a town of people who will get behind those local players.”