Thursday January 1st 2015
Aberystwyth Town 5-3 Carmarthen Town.
Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League.
Park Avenue, Aberystwyth.
As my wife and I walked away from the Park Avenue stadium into the misty Mid-Wales rain after this match, we both commented that:
1. We couldn’t have picked a better match to start this year long voyage.
and 2. We couldn’t have picked another match to start this year long voyage anyway, due to how far we found ourselves from any other match occurring this afternoon.
We were in the middle of a quick post-Christmas holiday in nearby New Quay (around 20 miles south of Aberystwyth, further down the Ceredigion coastline) – a beautiful harbour town that is relaxing and peaceful in the Winter and bustling and busy in the Summer as tourists swell the town’s population from 1000 to reported figures of 20000.
We holiday in New Quay on a fairly regular basis, and this current visit is our 4th in the last 18 months. We actually got engaged on the town’s magnificent harbour in 2013, but that’s a story for another day.
On each of these visits, we’ve always made a point of spending a day or two in Aberystwyth, which is a beautiful town with a rich academic history – especially in our family as my father-in-law David is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. It’s safe to say the town holds a special place in the family.
I digress, needless to say – with little to do on New Year’s Day I made the suggestion of going to watch the Aberystwyth Town match against (somewhat – what’s 60 miles or so between friends?) local rivals Carmarthen Town. We put some fuel in the car and headed up the A487 to Aberystwyth.
After waking up a little worse for wear following many, many celebratory drinks to ring in the new year in The Dolau Inn in New Quay the previous night, we chose to head for the Starbucks in the middle of town for a couple of Caramel Macchiatos rather than a couple of pints in the Wetherspoons pre-match as would be the usual pre-match ritual.
After dropping a few bits of shopping back to the car, we walked the short distance to Aberystwyth Town’s ground Park Avenue, a hop, skip and a jump away from the town’s train station and even more conveniently located right next door to a retail park where I’ve breached the “two hour parking limit” on a handful of occasions (the letters stop arriving after a while…).
We were greeted by a friendly gent who informed us that today’s admission fee was £5 (Incidentally, Concessions are £3 and I believe kids tickets are £1). We took up our seats high in the Main Stand above the half way line.
To the left of the main stand, behind the goal Aberystwyth are defending in the above photo you find the Dias Stand – which the Aberystwyth Town website informs us hosts the “more vocal” element of Aber’s support. Directly opposite our stand we found a TV gantry with executive boxes below. There are a smattering of green and black seats to the left of these buildings. The area behind Carmarthen’s goal (in the above photo) is the only side of the ground that has not been developed. (and there are plans afoot to completely redevelop the ground so I must say, I’m glad I got to visit Park Avenue prior to this work starting).
Our stand was shared between Aber and Carmarthen supporters, but it was fair to say that Aber fans outnumbered their Carmarthen counterparts. It was also very nice to see a fair number of Aber replica shirts and scarves on fans of all ages and sizes.
The Main Stand started to fill up as the teams took to the pitch and when the match kicked off only a few single seats remained. A terrace right from the ‘old school’ that reminded me of my days spent at Ninian Park, dodging around the odd retaining post and pillar here and there, blocking my view of another Robert Earnshaw goal.
Aber kicked off the match and had the best of the first five minutes. The teams actually met on Boxing Day earlier in the week and the spoils went Aber’s way in a 3-1 victory at Carmarthen. However, against the run of play it was Carmarthen who broke the deadlock as Kyle Bassatt ghosted through the Aber defence to calmly place the ball around the keeper to make it 1-0.
Aber soon responded when livewire Luke Sherbon popped in from close range during a goalmouth scramble, however parity was short lived as Liam Thomas scored for Carmarthen to make it 2-1.
What amused us and several others around us was the constant lambasting of the referee by the Carmarthen Town manager. My wife asked me who he was, and I checked Wikipedia on my mobile phone to find that they were managed by none other than ex-Cardiff City defender Mark Aizlewood, he of the 39 Wales caps! I remembered actually watching him line up for us and I was amazed I didn’t recognise him!
The last action of note to bring the first half to a close was a superb headed conversion by Aber’s Luke Sherbon who cancelled out Carmarthen’s lead.
At half time I chose to visit the Park Avenue refreshments stand where I was pleasantly surprised to find the alluring (and I’d say addictive) smell of chips, and even more pleasantly surprised to be charged only £1.00 for a portion! Maybe it’s the multiple seasons of buying nPower Championship and Barclays Premiership Chips at £2.80 a go at the Cardiff City Stadium that leaves me amazed?! To celebrate my fiscal find of the year (at this point the year was only 15 hours old) I also indulge in two cans of Diet Pepsi for £2 and dance up the stairs back to my seat and recall my amazement to my waiting wife.
The second half carries on much the same, the action is frantic, the Park Avenue surface starts to cut up in the unrelenting Aber rain. As the action migrates to the wing below us, the squelching sound of the players boots in the ground show just how difficult this surface is.
Aber take the lead for the first time in the match as a furious shot was saved superbly by the Carmarthen keeper, only for the resulting ball to fall to Craig Williams who slotted home to make it 3-2.
A few minutes later, midfielder Geoff Kellaway slotted in another to make it 4-2 to Aber. Luke Prosser replied within 60 seconds to make the match a contest again and bring the score back to 4-3. However, Aber managed to kill the game over the remaining five minutes by playing intelligently with the ball and not taking too many risks in attacking. Carmarthen’s desire to score an equaliser later proved to be their downfall as Aber scored a fifth through substitute Cledan Davies who scored a superb goal to make it 5-3 to Aber.
This was an absolutely superb match, which offered excellent value for money and was an absolute credit to both clubs and an excellent advert for the Welsh Premier League.
I hope to visit Park Avenue again before any redevelopment plans, however even if I don’t – I don’t think there will be many better matches than today’s match to be played on there before the bulldozers come in.
My Man of the Match: Geoff Kellaway of Aberystwyth Town. A quick player whose masterful control of the ball and ability to orchestrate play was noted by more than one spectator in our stand.