Tuesday 29th December.
Aberystwyth Town 1-2 Carmarthen Town.
Welsh Premier League.
Park Avenue, Aberystwyth.
Attendance: Circa 200.
This is a “Photos only” post for now… 🙂
Tuesday 29th December.
Aberystwyth Town 1-2 Carmarthen Town.
Welsh Premier League.
Park Avenue, Aberystwyth.
Attendance: Circa 200.
This is a “Photos only” post for now… 🙂
Regular readers will probably be wondering why I’ve been so quiet recently or wondering whether I’m still going to football matches or not.
You’ll be glad to hear I’m still attending plenty of football, I must’ve been to at least ten or more games this year but largely I’ve been concentrating on the fortunes of my team Pontypridd Town.
It’s been lovely to be able to follow Ponty Town both home and away which I wasn’t fully able to do last year due to the commitments of writing the blog.
So here are the couple of important bits of news for regular readers.
Thanks to everyone who read the blog for your support and friendship. When I started the blog in January of last year I created it purely as a way of trying to document teams, games, grounds, pubs and coffee shops I liked going to. I truly didn’t think it would be something that would become a blog with 40,000 readers during that year. I mean I haven’t put up a new blog at all this year but the blog has still somehow attracted 4,000 visitors?
Take it easy!
Saturday 26th December.
Port Talbot Town 0-3 Carmarthen Town.
Welsh Premier League.
Genquip Stadium, Port Tabot.
Attendance: Circa 150
When I walked in to Park Avenue on January 1st of this year having just set myself the challenging task of attending 100 Welsh football matches in a calendar year as some kind of sick, obsessive (and some might say.. sadistic) task – I honestly thought I’d fall way short.
“100 matches in 52 weeks! That’s slightly less than 2 a week! Easy to do!” most people exclaimed.
Yeah sure, then you consider the following problems. Hardly any football is played in Wales during May, June and July and the football season only really starts half way through August.
So make that 100 games in 8 months really…
It didn’t help that games started being called off on the first weekend of the year. It turned out to be a case of good fortune in the end as I accidentally stumbled upon Pontypridd Town, who I now count as my ‘club’, holding a season ticket at Ponty Park and getting to more of their games is something I’m certainly looking forward to once this year long foray into the Welsh game ends.
When I attended my 91st game of the year at Port Talbot (a victory against Bangor City) with almost 9 weeks of the year left, I was convinced I’d hit my 100 match target pretty easily. In fact, I remember cockily telling Pontypridd Town official Craig Morgan that my 100th game was probably going to be their scheduled 5th December match against STM Sports at Ponty Park…
..then the south Wales weather took its grip!
Games started being postponed all over the place. Double headers I had planned in Ceredigion (Felinfach at 2pm and Aberystwyth Town at 5.15pm) were called off at the last minute. Pontypridd Town matches fell by the wayside, left, right and centre.
Even matches in my home league, the Rhondda & District Football League. A league well known for viewing a sodden pitch as only a minor inconvenience that could never get in the way of a decent game of football, started calling games off.
I was in trouble. I knew that if I’d finished the year a match or two short of the 100 figure I’d end up kicking myself. I’d torture myself about matches I’d turned down going to watch or youth games I chose not to go to or even times I’d elected to do an hour or two of overtime instead of taking in the Bow Street Under 16s vs. Aberaeron Under 16s cup match that was apparently taking place on the West Wales coast!
On Tuesday 22nd December my wife and I found ourselves driving up the A470, hoping to go for a nice bit of food at our favourite Indian restaurant in the whole of Wales before taking in that evening’s Aberystwyth Town vs. Carmarthen Town fixture.
It would have been lovely really. Notching up my 100th game of the year at the same ground and at the same fixture that started it all back on New Year’s Day.
However, the rain had different ideas. This was after all a game that I believe had already been postponed twice before.
I spoke with Aber directory Thomas Venables over Twitter on the day and he let me know that there was a scheduled pitch inspection at 3.30pm that afternoon. This allowed us the opportunity to delay leaving the Rhondda until as late as possible.
We used the time to drop into our friends new clothing (and taxidermy) shop in Mountain Ash for an hour for a catch up chat and a bit of retail therapy as the relentless wind and rain pummelled down.
As we left the shop and got back into the car I checked Aber’s Twitter feed to find out what I think we both knew was always going to happen. The referee had called the game off, meaning that my 100th match would have to wait for a few more days yet.
As luck would have it, it actually worked out pretty well as both clubs ended up rescheduling their match for Tuesday 29th December, meaning I could still take that game in and in a nice way it would end up being my last game of the year. Allowing me the opportunity to start the year and end the year on the same exact fixture!
It worked out well for us, as Port Talbot Town are a club I have an awful lot of time for. Officials at the club have often spoke highly of the blogs I’ve written about the club and are always fair (i.e they tend to always re-tweet my blogs even when they are on the wrong end of a hammering – unlike some other clubs in the pyramid!)
This year has also given me ample opportunities to cover the infamous Port Talbot Ultras, residing on the left hand side of the McCreesh Stand.
These guys are an equal part of why I ended up doing this whole blog really. Football fanatics with a love of the game and their team.
I’ve objected to this view that the support of a guy who turns out every week at clubs like AFC Porth, Risca United, Barry Town United, Trebanog FC, AFC Gilfach and Ton Pentre is somehow less valid than the support of someone who holds a season ticket at Cardiff City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Rotherham or Wigan Athletic.
There’s this kind of atmosphere you feel at matches sometimes. As if people are a bit ‘too cool’ to chant, cheer and sing songs about their players. I don’t know whether it’s because some groups of fans feel embarrassed because there are a couple of hundred of them, rather than the multiple thousands at Old Trafford or similar or whether there’s another reason.
Throughout the year I’ve met some superb groups of fans in the Welsh pyramid. Barry Town United have a very passionate, large and vocal support that follow their club all over the place. Bangor City are another group of devoted fans I’ve had the privilege of meeting this year. In fact, they amazed me as a group when they managed to send down the best part of 60-70 supporters to Port Talbot a couple of months ago for a 5.15pm Sgorio kick off. This goes without even mentioning the likes of Taffs Well, Caldicot Town and Treharris Athletic Western, who themselves count a large vocal following behind them despite having relatively small numbers of supporters.
I’m pleased as I walk into the Genquip to see the Ultras in good number despite the obvious challenge of family commitments on Boxing Day. Indeed, as it’s Boxing Day I’ve brought my wife Lara and my father-in-law David to this afternoon’s match.
We’ve just had a lovely family Christmas, the first one I’ve hosted in our new Porth home.
It’s been a season of ups and down for the Steelmen thus far. It’s a weird one as every time I’ve visited the Genquip Stadium this season, they’ve been superb with strong victories over the likes of Aberystwyth Town and Bangor City.
However, in the games I haven’t been to (and I’m willing to accept I might be a good luck charm of The Steelmen) things haven’t seemed to click. In fact, they go into this afternoon’s game sitting in 10th place with relegation to the Welsh League being perhaps a bigger issue for the Port Talbot rather than the potential squeezing into the top half of the table prior to January’s ‘final third split’
Carmarthen Town have had a similar season. At times Mark Aizlewood’s men have looked brilliant, while they’ve been made to very ordinary at times. The last time I saw them, they struggled to put Welsh League Division Three outfit Pontypridd Town to the sword. They’ve got a decent squad and it is fair to say that there are at least a handful of their starting 11 who would easily get into most sides in the Welsh Premier League.
This was going to be a pretty intriguing match to be fair. Both sides a little off the pace in the hunt of getting into the top half of the table before the league splits, but both sides whose destiny lies in their own hands.
The match started slowly with both sides not looking like breaking the deadlock. It had the feeling of a typical Boxing Day game really, a bit of a slow start, both sides a bit hesitant to take the bit between their teeth.
It was The Steelmen who had the first real chance of the game when Jonathan Hood hit a decent effort towards goal that really seemed to trouble Old Gold stopper Lee Idzi, who did well to keep his side level.
Hood would later rattle the upright when a long range shot beat Lee Idzi, but agonisingly came back off the post to deny Port Talbot a 1-0 lead.
As we tucked deeper into our now infamous Port Talbot Town Chip Buttys, both sides went on the hunt for the opening goal.
It would be Carmarthen Town who would take the lead on the hour mark through Liam Thomas who found himself with space and time and was able to hit a superb volley past the flailing Steve Cann in goal for Port Talbot.
Luke Cummings scored a second for Carmarthen before Thomas scored a second with quarter of an hour of the match left giving his side an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
Port Talbot Town huffed and puffed but were unable to break down a disciplined and determined Carmarthen Town side who came away with the Genquip Stadium deserved recipients of the three points on offer today.
I’m afforded a truly beautiful moment in the closing stages that perfectly wrap up my year spent watching Welsh football as Port Talbot Town find themselves 3-0 down with little chance of getting anything at all from this game. In spite of all of this, the Port Talbot Ultras who have by now made their traditional second half voyage over to the Burns Road end of the ground behind Lee Idzi in the Carmarthen Town goal are still making their voices heard loud and clear despite the hammering their side has received.
Ultras – I salute you.
As always, I would like to give an absolutely massive thanks to all at Port Talbot Town, who have been superb hosts throughout the whole year. A massive best of luck and good wishes to both Port Talbot Town and Carmarthen Town and another big thanks to all involved with the Port Talbot Ultras, who have been massive supporters of the blog this year and have been nothing but great all year long.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve only got one game left on Tuesday before the year ends.
Saturday 19th December 2015.
Cambrian & Clydach BGC 4-4 Caerau Ely.
Welsh League Division One.
Cambrian Lakeside Sports Academy.
Attendance: Circa 60.
I’m going to admit that Cambrian & Clydach’s 3G pitch has been something of a saving grace in my hunt to watch 100 Welsh football matches this year.
A pre-season tournament held at the ground in the Summer bolstered up my figures and I’ve been guilty of using the games held at the ground recently whilst planned games on grass pitches have fallen by the wayside.
It was the turn of Pontypridd Town this afternoon, as their planned Welsh League Division Three clash with league newcomers Abergavenny Town fell by the wayside due to a waterlogged pitch at Ynysangharad Park. It gives you an idea as to how terrible the weather has been in south Wales over the last few months that the last time I managed to actually watch my newly beloved Pontypridd Town was nearly two months ago!
Having said this, I certainly wasn’t disappointed to be afforded the option of taking in a game between reigning Welsh League champions Caerau Ely and Cambrian & Clydach BGC.
The weather was terrible, you can tell when the weather is terrible when the water starts pooling on a 3G pitch as it was here today.
It’s easy to forget that Caerau Ely, being Welsh League champions, should really be plying their trade in the Welsh Premier League this season, fighting it out with likes of TNS, Aberystwyth Town and Bala Town for a place in the Champions League or the Europa League.
Due to the constraints of the ‘domestic license’ and the associated costs of running a team in the Welsh Premier League, Caerau Ely remained in the Welsh League, whilst second placed Haverfordwest County took their place in the Welsh Premier League after a last day of the season 5-0 victory at Aberdare Town that denied Cardiff Metropolitan University the chance to play their football at the helm of the Welsh football pyramid.
It’s also easy to forget that today’s home side, Cambrian & Clydach should also be playing their football in the Welsh Premier League, having won the Welsh League a handful of years earlier. In fact, their much coveted Academy side actually ply their trade in the Welsh Premier Development League and seem to be ruffling quite a few feathers in that league.
It is their youth system that has produced players of the ilk of Josh Maksimovic, Joe Evans, Dave Thomas and Samuel Jones. Four players who have featured heavily on this blog since I first saw them play in the Summer. Four very strong players who have forced their way through the superb youth system at Cambrian and made their mark as regular starters for the Rhondda side’s first string outfit.
Given the atrocious conditions, most spectators made their way to the single opened stand at the ground. I got chatting to AFC Porth secretary Huw Jones, whose side’s planned game at home, like so many this afternoon, fell by the wayside due to the terrible conditions.
Both of today’s sides played with such pace and it was good to see two sides playing lovely passing football.
It was the Rhondda side who took the lead on the quarter of an hour mark as their No.9 rocked the bar from the edge of the box only for his No.7 colleague to head home from close range.
Caerau Ely only found themselves behind for a mere ten minutes as they equalised midway through the second half from the feet of their No.6 who reacted quickly to a rebounded effort and slotted home from close range.
Cambrian retook the lead in the game seconds before the half time interval as their No.9 hit a lovely deftly chipped effort over the helpless Caerau goalkeeper to give his side a 2-1 lead.
Cambrian were unlucky not to seal all three points in first half stoppage time as their No.7 beat the offside trap and ran in through the defence and rounded the Caerau goalkeeper at a wide angle but was only able to hit the bar. At this point Caerau Ely certainly looked to be on the ropes and were probably glad to hear the referee’s half time whistle.
If the first half was entertaining, the second half would massively surpass it in terms of entertainment.
Cambrian took a two goal cushion into the closing stages of the game when their No.7 poked home a third goal for the Rhondda side in the 48th minute after a defensive error.
Caerau’s goalkeeper, perhaps incorrectly, came to the edge of the box to head away a loose ball but unfortunately hit a very tame header that fell to the feet of Cambrian’s No.7 who clinically poked home from the edge of the box to give his side what they must have surely thought was an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
At this point, Cambrian took off defender Joe Evans, who had looked like a rock in the Sky Blues defence. I’m not sure whether Evans had picked up a knock, because it certainly seemed like a strange replacement to make.
From this point forward, and perhaps with little to lose, Caerau Ely pushed forward and began to grow into the game.
Midway through the second half, Caerau Ely pulled a goal back to make the score 3-2 when their No.10 picked up the ball about thirty yards out from goal and hit a speculative effort across the wet Cambrian surface that just about evaded the Cambrian goalkeeper to offer his side a glimmer of hope going into the closing stages of the game.
This appeared to be the bit between the teeth that Caerau Ely needed as they pushed forward in numbers and were rewarded for their persistence in the 76th minute when they were awarded a penalty for a foul inside the box by the Cambrian goalkeeper.
Caerau’s No.7 stepped up to take the spot kick and hit a lovely effort into the bottom right corner of the goal to put his side level.
Five minutes later, in what seemed so unlikely only half an hour earlier, Caerau Ely found themselves taking the lead in this game for the first time as their No.11 found himself set free in the box having lost his marker. He did well to hit a superb effort across the face of goal into the bottom left corner to put his side in the lead with only eight minutes of the game remaining.
This game, funnily enough being my 99th game of the year, was indeed turning out to be the best game of the year and it was made even better when a mere two minutes later, Cambrian levelled the scores to make it 4-4 on the day.
A long ball was hit into the Caerau Ely penalty area from the half way line and Cambrian’s No.8 took a gamble and beat the Caerau goalkeeper to the ball and was able to calmly knock the loose ball over the goalkeeper to level the scores.
Cambrian almost took all three points in stoppage time as a moment of madness in the penalty area as the Caerau goalkeeper was forced to pull out all of the stops as he grew an extra two or three inches to pull a ball back as it only partially crossed the goal line.
This was a scintillating and ridiculously entertaining game, something I’d never expected to see as my planned game was postponed.
I’d like to give a massive thanks to all at Cambrian & Clydach BGC for their hospitality, kindness and friendship throughout the year and wish both sides the very best of luck for the rest of the season.
Friday 18th December 2015.
Taffs Well 1-0 Aberbargoed Buds
Welsh League Division One.
Rhiw Dda’r, Taffs Well.
Attendance: Circa 100.
One of the stories of the year in the Welsh football pyramid this year has of course been the arrival of Darcy Blake at Welsh League Division One side Aberbargoed Buds.
Blake’s return to football after his disappearance from the professional football world after spells at Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle and Newport County has set tongues wagging throughout the football world.
Rumours of Blake turning out for his local pub side, scoring a hat trick as a striker for a Gwent County League side, working on the railways as an engineer, turning out for New Tredegar Reserves on the rugby pitch and turning down professional contracts at Newport County and Merthyr Town have all filled the forums and messageboards over the last year or so.
So it’s fair to say, more than a few people were surprised when newly promoted Welsh League Division One side Aberbargoed Buds made an announcement earlier this season that ex-Bluebird Darcy Blake would be joining the club as a player-coach.
Very few actually believed the story until photos surfaced from his first game with the Buds away at Ton Pentre.
With the 100 game figure to chase and very few matches left of the year, I took up the opportunity to watch Blake’s Aberbargoed Buds side make the trip to Rhiw Dda’r to meet high flying Taffs Well.
Taffs Well themselves have had quite a good season. They’ve built up a good squad and they have started to play quite an attractive passing style of football after being perhaps harshly accused of being ‘long ball merchants’ by certain factions of Welsh League forums and messageboards.
I was interested to see whether the fact that this evening’s match collided with the infamous ‘Black Friday’ end of work drinking festival would have an affect on the attendance. When I arrived at Rhiw Dda’r, it didn’t appear to have made much of a difference as a relatively strong crowd turned up on the evening.
It became clear on my arrival that Darcy Blake was going to be fulfilling the coaching side of his role this evening as he put players through their preparation drills on the pitch just before kick off but it was clear to see that the man still has a phenomenal touch of the ball.
As for the game. It was Division One strugglers Aberbargoed who made the initial headway in the game. They went close to taking the lead after five minutes when their No.9 spun on a sixpence on the penalty area and volleyed just inches over the bar.
Such was the end to end nature of the first phase of the game that straight from this chance the Wellmen went straight down the other end and almost scored themselves.
Aberbargoed’s goalkeeper was forced to sprint out of his box and head away a loose ball, unfortunately his header was a little too meek to be considered a proper clearance and a Taffs Well midfielder hit a powerful header towards goal. It was left to the Buds’ No.4 to sprint back and clear the ball on the goal line.
Taffs Well took the lead after a quarter of an hour when their No.6 picked up the ball about twenty five yards from goal and had just enough time to pick his spot and hit a quite frankly, sublime effort straight into the top left corner giving the flailing Buds’ keeper little hope of stopping his effort.
The rest of the half was played out in much the same manner. Taffs Well dominated proceedings and would surely have gone into the half time interval a little disappointed they didn’t have more than their one goal advantage over their Aberbargoed counterparts.
As the second half started, the Buds came out with renewed intent and looked the more likely of the two sides to score if I’m honest.
Having said this, in a rare foray forward in the second half the Wellmen were gifted a golden opportunity to seal the game in the 65th minute when Taffs Well’s No.4 hit a beautiful pass into the box for their No.9 to rattle the post from 12 yards out.
Aberbargoed Buds pushed forward in numbers but despite dominating proceedings in the second half they were unable to convert their possession into clear cut chances and were largely reduced to taking long range pot shots following some disciplined defending by the Wellmen.
A little drama ensued in the 80th minute as Aberbargoed’s No.8 and Taffs Well’s No.2 were sent off after a moment of madness. It was all a little bit of nothing really. The Buds player was guilty of leaving his foot in after challenging the Wellmen goalkeeper for the ball and Taffs Well’s No.2 retaliated when he was probably best placed to let the referee deal with the incident. Nothing really malicious from either side, just something that tends to happen occasionally when a game is set on a knife edge like this one.
In the end Taffs Well came away with their three points and they sit 4th in Division One, looking very much like potential title dark horses – especially if they can carry their good form into next year.
For Aberbargoed Buds who find themselves second from bottom it’s a tough one, as no-one can really question their performance today and on another day they may well have scored a handful of goals. The question really is whether they can convert their possession in these types of games into solid clear cut chances?
I’d like to thank all at Taffs Well for their hospitality, kindness and friendship throughout this year and wish the very best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season.
Sunday 13th December.
Swansea City Ladies 4-0 Aberystwyth Town Ladies.
Welsh Women’s Premier League Cup, Quarter Final.
Evan Bevans Playing Field, Baglan.
Attendance: Circa 60.
One of the great things about my year spent watching Welsh football has been my eventual enlightenment into the world of Welsh Women’s football.
As I’ve touched on in previous blogs, I was a little bit embarrassed to say the least that until Spring of this year I’d never watched a game of women’s football live in person. My first experience of women’s football was a little fraught to say the least but since this one-off experience I’ve really enjoyed myself at women’s games.
My wife volunteered to dog-sit in Swansea at her mother’s house while she visited London for the weekend, which opened up the pretty convenient option of taking in a Swansea City Ladies match against Aberystwyth Town Ladies in Baglan on the way back.
I’ve got previous form with Swansea City Ladies, I took in their Welsh Women’s Premier League Cup Final against PILCS at the Genquip Stadium back at the tail end of last season where they were narrowly beaten by a dogged and determined PILCS side.
Swansea City Ladies indeed used to play at Port Talbot Town’s Genquip Stadium but they appear to have now made the Evan Bevans Playing Field in Baglan their home ground.
The Bevans Field is a fairly large complex attached on the back of a Baglan Boy’s Club building, made up of a full sized football field, a couple of five/six-a-side pitches, a 3G football court, an indoor cricket field and a small restaurant/refreshments area.
The ground is conveniently located between the nearby A48 and the Swansea to London train line and is a mere stone’s throw away from the adjacent M4 motorway that flies past overhead through Baglan, Briton Ferry and nearby Port Talbot.
I’ve got to admit beforehand, I have a bit of a soft spot for Aberystwyth Town – as regular readers of the blog will no doubt be more than aware of. This of course transfers over to the club’s female counterparts and so I must admit that despite trying my hardest to remain impartial, I did come into this game hoping for an Aberystwyth victory.
Any hopes of an Aber victory were quickly dashed as Swansea City took an almost immediate lead when a defence splitting pass straight from kick off by their No.7 put the ball right into the path of their No.5 who slotted home from 12 yards after what must have been just 15 seconds or so to give her side a 1-0 lead.
Swansea City had a lot of joy down the left wing, particularly from creative winger Katy Hosford who showed for the whole 90 minutes why she is so highly thought of within Welsh Women’s football and for large parts of the game simply looked a class above.
The Jacks doubled their lead midway through the first half when Hosford beat two markers and dispatched a lovely cross into the box that was met by Swansea’s No.6 deep in the box who slotted the ball home calmly from twelve yards out.
Five minutes before the interval, Swansea took a commanding 3-0 lead into the interval as they scored an almost identical goal to their 2nd when Hosford and their No.6 teamed up again to seal all three points for their side.
The second half started as the first half ended with Swansea City dominating proceedings. Katy Hosford was unlucky not to get on the score sheet in the 50th minute when she hit a stupendous effort at goal from outside of the penalty area that managed to hit both the cross bar and the post before agonisingly rolling across the goal line and being booted out into safety by an Aber defender.
Aberystwyth Town put up a spirited fight but were ultimately stifled by a very effective and disciplined Swansea City side who for most of the game played the game out in Aber’s half.
One chance of note for Aberystwyth came in the 70th minute when their No.26 who tested the Swansea City goalkeeper with a volleyed effort from just outside of the penalty area.
Swansea City wrapped up the game in the 80th minute with a superb goal from their No.7 who latched onto a beautiful cross from their No.5 and headed a looping effort into the top right corner to give the Swans a commanding 4-0 lead.
Katy Hosford, who had performed brilliantly for the whole 90 minutes was again frustratingly kept off the score sheet in injury time as she beat two markers and hit a cross/shot into the box only to be denied again by the upright.
This afternoon’s performance was all about the skilful but disciplined performance of the Swansea City side but all credit must go to the Aberystwyth Town Ladies who did well to limit the Swans’ chances in front of goal where some sides would have come away bruised and battered from a 10-0 hammering.
Their determination to keep fighting on and even carve out chances having spent large periods of the game pinned back on their 18 yard box was admirable.
Saturday 12th December.
Tonyrefail Welfare 0-4 Gell Hibs.
Rhondda & District Football League, Premier Division.
Trebanog Playing Field, Trebanog.
Attendance: Circa 10
As I admitted last week, for someone who lives in the Rhondda. The amount of Rhondda football I’ve covered over the last few weeks has been shameful really. So as soon as I heard Pontypridd Town’s away game at Treowen Stars fell foul of the dreadful weather that hasn’t seemed to stop for the last six weeks, I made plans for another Saturday spent up the Rhondda.
Fantastically convenient for me, the three games I could find that weren’t called off in the Rhondda all fell within a stones throw of my house (admittedly you’d have to be quite the stone thrower!).My choices were to take in either Ynyshir Albion of the South Wales Alliance Division Two’s home match against St. Joseph’s, the intriguing Division 1 encounter between AFC Porth Seconds and Tonypandy Albions (which would later turn out to be an enthralling 4-4 draw) or the game I ended up picking, Tonyrefail Welfare’s home game against last season’s Rhondda & District Football League Champions, Rhondda Cup Winners and South Wales Intermediate Cup winners Gelli Hibs.
With one game taking place just over the road from me (Ynyshir), another five minutes walk away (AFC Porth) and the other at the top of the giant hill I live at the bottom of (Tonyrefail Welfare – they play at Trebanog’s home ground) this allowed me maximum time to lay around the house recovering from the almighty hangover I had been suffering following The Pop Factory’s Christmas party the evening before.
Gelli Hibs have featured on this blog a fair bit, I watched a lot of them towards the end of last season when they overturned league favourites Trebanog’s lead and went on a run that saw them beat their title rivals Trebanog twice in as many weeks in both league and cup competitions to seal their path to glory.
The side played such fluid and attractive football that they garnered absolute rave reviews on my blog. I grew a soft spot for the side and even better than that, upon meeting a few of them over the Summer, they turned out to actually be really good boys.
The Hibs moved into the first ever South Wales Alliance play-offs at the end of the season. Unfortunately I couldn’t make any of the games as I was away with work at the time.
The side, who had already played something like 15 games in the last six weeks of the season, struggled in the play-offs coming off the back of such an intense period of football and sadly just missed out on promotion to the South Wales Alliance.
Gelli Hibs looked strong in pre-season as they brushed aside teams from the South Wales Alliance in a pre-season tournament I last watched them play in. They’d signed a couple of new players and looked for all intents and purposes like they were going to be competing in the play-offs again come the end of the season.
However, something hasn’t quite clicked yet this season for the Hibs. Something I’ve noticed as I kept a close on the Rhondda League despite not taking in many games in the league this season.
Every side in the league has suffered from a number of postponed matches, meaning that despite the smaller league sizes meaning each team now plays 13 matches less than last season, the likelihood of another March/April fixture pile-up now seems inevitable.
The biggest casualties of the dreadful Winter we’re suffering at the moment are probably Trebanog, who have still only played a mere six league games since mid-August. If they win their three games in hand over current leaders Penyrenglyn Penguins they will lead the table with a four point gap over the upper Rhondda Fawr side.
However, games in hand, as Trebanog will be more than aware of after last season, mean little unless you can go and win your games.
Gelli Hibs on the other hand have had a bit of a surprising start to the season. They actually went into this afternoon’s game in the relegation zone in the Premier Division. I’m told that somewhere between the Sporting Marvel’s pre-season tournament and the actual start of the season they lost a handful of regular starters which has lead to a bit of disruption in the starting 11.
This actually means that the Gelli Hibs side who went the whole of last season with only one defeat to their name actually went into this potentially tricky fixture with Tonyrefail Welfare with three league defeats from six outings already to their name.
It was key therefore that the Hibs took something out of this game with fellow strugglers Tonyrefail Welfare.
This isn’t of course the first time this year I’ve taken in a game between these two sides. My first game I ever encountered involving these sides came earlier this year at the same venue, when both sides fought out a pretty scrappy 1-1 draw.
The dreadful weather meant that a fair few less than the 40 or so who took in that previous encounter were here today. In fact, attendance was pretty much limited to those with either A) Waterproof clothing people had obviously come straight from work in, or B) Football losers chasing down their 100th game of the year with only two full weeks left to do it in. With my non-waterproof parka jacket and jeans on, I painfully obviously fit into the second category.
I was very pleased to see this afternoon’s match being officiated by Colin Williams, a man who I’ve seen referee at least a handful of times this year. I first saw Colin referee an Under 18’s level match between Tonyrefail BGC and AFC Porth and he officiated the game with such class and style, letting the youngsters know when they were likely to make fouls. rather than just blowing up for anything and everything.
For my money, he’s the best referee outside of the Welsh League.
My coat was already seeping water through onto my skin before I’d even made the 30 second walk from my car over to my preferred spot around the half way line. The heavy winds throwing my camera from side to side. I gave up at one point and just chucked the camera back in my bag as shot after shot came out looking like the game was being played in a swimming pool rather than a football pitch.
The old adage of ‘playing against the wind’ or ‘with the wind’ didn’t really apply in this game as the horrific conditions lead to both sides being technically ‘against the wind’. I don’t think a single goal kick entered the opposing teams half all game, such was the strength of the wind attacking Trebanog this afternoon.
It was good to see that Gelli Hibs had kept hold of a strong core of the side that looked so impressive in the pre-season tournament during the Summer. The likes of Leon Kisby, Garin Hughes, Jordan Gibbon, Gary Jones, Shane Lewis and Gareth Jones all held a firm backbone through the Hibs side.
Hibs took a deserved 1-0 lead in the 12th minute as their No.10 skilfully beat the offside trap and managed to get in just behind the Welfare defence to chip the goalkeeper from just inside the box as the ball slowly rolled into the far left corner of the net.
Tonyrefail Welfare pushed forward in search of an equaliser and to be fair to the side they gave Gelli Hibs a bit of a scare for a period of about a quarter of an hour following Hibs’ opening goal.
Welfare’s No.8 almost scored a sensational goal from 40 yards out, only to see his shot curl slightly wide of the post.
Ten minutes later, Tonyrefail Welfare had the ball in the back of the net as their No.11 ran through the Hibs’ defence and slotted home from the edge of the box, however Welfare were left frustrated as their striker was called offside about five seconds earlier.
A moment of hilarity ensued on the half hour mark as Welfare’s No.9 who provided us all with a moment of sheer brilliance a minute earlier as he nutmegged a Gelli Hibs defender, took what I have to describe as the worst foul throw I’ve seen this year. Referee, Colin Williams, who had already awarded two foul throws this half and had on both occasions replicated what the players did to be judged to have taken a foul throw (usually one leg off the ground), had to do something half way between a ballet move and a move that wouldn’t look out of place at a rugby line-out to show the Welfare man the error of his ways.
Given Tonyrefail Welfare’s dominance in this period of the game, they surely would’ve been kicking themselves that they didn’t go into the half time interval at least level, if not winning the game.
In the 38th minute, Welfare’s No.11 found himself through on goal with only Jamie Ranford in goals to beat after a Hib’s defensive mistake. Unfortunately for Welfare, he was only able to direct his shot towards Ranford’s midriff.
Two minutes later, perhaps with Hibs’ on the ropes so to speak, Tonyrefail’s No.10 rattled the post with a thumping shot from just outside the box to which the Welfare bench arose, convinced they’d scored an equaliser.
Against the run of play since their opening goal, Gelli Hibs doubled their lead and took a two goal cushion into the half time interval as a beautiful pitched cross from Hibs’ No.11 seemed to float in the air for an age before their No.9 jumped high at the far post to head home comfortably into the top right corner of the goal.
As the weather settled a little, I say settled – it didn’t really get any better, the rain just calmed down a bit, the violent wind remained. Gelli Hibs came out for the second half with renewed intent and didn’t really look like conceding at all.
Hibs’ pushed forward in numbers and had great joy down the left wing from the likes of Leon Kisby and Shane Davies who gave the Welfare defenders turmoil all second half.
Gelli Hibs sealed the three points in the 75th minute when they awarded a free kick just outside of the box in a prime position. Up stepped Gelli Hibs veteran Gareth Jones, who had seconds earlier been chastised by his manager, who commented to me “I’d better let him have it, or I’ll never hear the end of it!”.
Jones, stepped up for the free kick and to be fair to him, pulled out a scorcher as he placed the ball superbly into the top right corner of the net and let out an expletive filled celebration, predominantly in the direction of his manager and his apparent lack of belief in his set piece talent.
Gelli Hibs rounded their impressive performance off with a fourth goal in stoppage time after they were awarded a penalty for a foul just inside the box. Hibs’ No.11 stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted the ball home into the bottom right corner of the net to give his side a deserved 4-0 victory in extremely difficult conditions.
Gelli Hibs have a difficult month of football coming up, which could either see them going back to the helm of the Rhondda Premier Division or see them playing out the last half of the season in the lower half of the table. A ‘day after New Year’s day’ match away at title contenders Blaenrhondda is followed by matches against title favourites Trebanog, current league leaders Penyrenglyn Penguins, Maerdy Social before entertaining today’s opponents at home.
I’d like wish the very best of luck to both Tonyrefail Welfare and Gelli Hibs for the rest of their campaigns and their hospitality and friendship shown throughout the year. If this is to be the last Rhondda match I take in before the end of the year and the eventual death of this blog, I’ll have taken in quite the send off.