Saturday 7th February 2015
Pontypridd Town 2-0 Lliswerry
Welsh League Division Three.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 30.
One of the things that greets you when you turn thirty are life-changing hangovers. All the way through your twenties, you can drink until four in the morning, drinking all manner of offensively coloured bottled drinks, partaking of cocktails that could strip paint off a bus stop, and wake up four hours later as fresh as a daisy.
Sunday morning I arise in pain. My head feels like a Stagecoach bus repeatedly ran over my cranium on a repeated basis at some point on my walk home from Pontypridd Town Centre. Every movement I make is met with a disapproving storm of pain by my brain. If I find the exact perfect position and spot, the pain subsides momentarily. If I even consider moving an inch, the shock from my head punishes me for having the audacity to consider moving.
Monday morning, and I’ve finally mustered up the strength to attempt writing Saturday’s blog, after spending Sunday eating paracetamols, drinking ten pints of squash and at my lowest point – devouring a pack of Monster Munch.
Rewind to Saturday afternoon for a moment. We had planned to spend the day in Reading, hoping to go to an Allen Seaby exhibition, but arriving home late the previous night after the Afan Lido vs. Haverfordwest County match, meant we slept in. With little to do this Saturday afternoon, I thought of nothing better than walking down to Ynysangharad Park to watch our friends at Pontypridd Town in Welsh League Division Three action against Newport outfit Lliswerry.
Last night, Haverfordwest County managed to become the first team I’d seen twice this year and today, Pontypridd Town became the first side whose ground I’d visited for a second time.
I enjoyed the last visit to Ynysangharad Park immensely (an impressive Pontypridd Town 2-0 victory over Caerleon) about a month ago, and was very much looking forward to Saturday’s match.
Lliswerry, by all accounts are a pretty decent side, and have had a good season so far. They occupied 5th position in the league prior to kick-off, while their Pontypridd counterparts sat a little further back in 11th place. A quick look at the player profiles in the match day programme reveals a Lliswerry squad with a lot of players previously spending time on the books of Football League sides like Newport County and Cardiff City.
Admission, as it was a month ago is still £3, but as a Welsh League match, a free match day programme is thrown in with the entry fee. Which to be fair, is exceptional value for 90 minutes of entertaining football.
The Ynysangharad Park surface is looking a lot better than it did in last month’s Caerleon cup tie. It’s obviously benefited from the relative lack of football played on it in the last month. The mud bath on the left wing has seemingly healed in miraculous fashion, and although the weather has been freezing for a number of weeks now, the rain has largely held off the South Wales valleys.
We just had time to grab a cup of coffee from the bar before taking our places in the main stand to watch the match.
Pontypridd Town line up in a familiar fashion, with only a couple of changes from the side I saw over-power Caerleon a month ago. Lliswerry have a familiar face in their starting lineup, not to most, but to me at least. Having not spoken to the guy in a few years, I’m pleasantly surprised to see my old work colleague, and team-mate from my previous works 5 a side team, Liam Screen lining up in defence for Lliswerry. Apparently, he’s just signed from Llanwern. He was a really nifty striker for our 5 a side team, so I’m puzzled as to why he’s holding fort in the back four, but I’m sure he can cut it anywhere on the pitch. He really was a stand out player at our level.
Pontypridd Town have the better of initial exchanges, looking comfortable in possession and playing the ball beautifully to feet. Their initial dominance is almost rewarded with a goal, unfortunately for them, Geraint Passmore’s edge of the box shot rattles against the crossbar.
After quarter of an hour, a Pontypridd attack is stopped by means of a foul. Geraint Passmore puts the ball down about 25 yards from goal and unleashes an absolute beast of a free kick straight into the top right hand corner of the goal, leaving the outstretched Ross Davis in the Lliswerry goal with little chance of saving the effort. A superb goal, and truly the best goal I have seen so far this year!
As the half progresses, Pontypridd continue to dominate proceedings, and they go in at half time, perhaps feeling a little frustrated that they go in to the changing rooms only one goal to the good.
The last action of note before the end of the first half is a decent attempt by Lliswerry’s Dan Edwards who places the ball just over the bar from the edge of the box.
At Division Three level, it’s quite common for linesmen to come from the two sides playing. Today’s linesmen duties are taken on by a Lliswerry substitute and Pontypridd Town official Danny Glorieux. Danny, is a lovely man who I know is a follower of this blog. So I will not make any mention of his unfortunate muddy slip just before half time when returning a stray ball onto the field.
At half time we take refuge from the freezing conditions and partake of another coffee in the bar, taking the opportunity to check out how our accumulators are doing (why are Hull beating Manchester City!?). As mentioned in the previous blog, the bar/clubhouse is a warm and welcoming small room and the coffee is lovely.
As the second half starts, it’s clear that Lliswerry come out with renewed intent, keeping hold of the ball far better than they did earlier in the match and holding possession of the ball in the Pontypridd half for good spells.
On the hour, Lliswerry’s Josh Browe beats a defender and finds himself in a one on one with Ryan Griffiths in goal. Nine times out of ten, he would have probably nestled the ball in the back of the net, but Browe can only put the ball well wide, and Pontypridd Town can consider themselves let off the hook.
With twenty minutes to go Pontypridd regain the impetus and substitute James Hill breaks free of his marker and chips the goalkeeper from the penalty spot. Unfortunately for Hill, his shot although chipped brilliantly, lacks power and is cleared off the line by a Lliswerry defender.
Pontypridd Town must surely have been wondering what more they needed to do to close this game off with no more so than with 15 minutes left on the clock, as midfielder Nyran Bird turned on a sixpence and unleashed a furious shot from 12 yards out, only to see his shot cannon off the post and fall to the feet of an oncoming Lliswerry defender, who clears to safety.
The worry here for Pontypridd Town, was that the fact they dominated the match would count for nothing if Lliswerry managed to grab an equaliser in the last few minutes. You would worry that if an equaliser was found, then Lliswerry would go into stoppage time with the bit between their teeth and perhaps go on to find a winner.
Pontypridd Town made sure of the three points late on, with a strikers bread and butter goal from Luke Gullick, who found the ball at his feet six yards from goal, managing to slot the ball through the oncoming keeper’s legs and into the back of the net.
Lliswerry pushed their defenders forward in stoppage time, but were unable to make it count. Pontypridd counter-attacked their Newport counterparts several times as the match ebbed away, but were unable to increase their lead any further.
A well earned three points for the Pontypridd boys, who impressed against a Lliswerry team who still look very strong candidates for promotion come the end of the season. The three points for Pontypridd guides them closer to safety in Division Three, looking all the more likely to retain their Welsh League status. Another brilliant performance from a team who are officially now my second side (sorry boys, I’ve been a Cardiff City fan longer than Pontypridd Town as a club have existed).
Pontypridd Town’s press man, Danny, whom I mentioned earlier, hunts me out in the stand after the final whistle and introduces himself and thanks me for the previous blog entry about the club and offers some kind words regarding the whole idea. As a thanks for that, I’ve gone gentle on him regarding the mud slip incident earlier!
In order to celebrate Pontypridd Town’s victory, my wife and I make our way to The Bunch of Grapes pub across the road, a nice little pub which we’ve criminally overlooked in our five years of living in Pontypridd, having only visited there once on Christmas Eve as part of the “Twelve Pubs of Ponty” circuit. The Bunch of Grapes is an Otley-owned pub, which means they are a Real Ale stronghold in the area. They serve a wide variety of drinks, and very little of the FostersCarlingStrongbow variety, which can take you a little out of your comfort zone, but is great. The pub is lovely inside, and we pitch ourselves up in the conservatory/library.
We move on to the Maltsters Arms, a pub which admittedly has changed hands so much in recent years you have no chance of actually getting to know any of the bar staff. Although tonight is the second or third time we’ve visited in the last month or two and as such, the same faces are behind the bar. The Maltsters serve a pretty fair range of drinks, including Brothers in bottled form, which goes down spectacularly with my wife Lara.
Our final stop for the night is Clwb Y Bont in the centre of town. Positioned conveniently behind Boots The Chemist. Clwb is a nice little drinking hole that we’ve found ourselves spending many a night, either having a quiet drink in the main bar, or watching bands in the other room. Multiple nations flags adorn the ceilings and a lone piano sits in the corner of the main room. When we turn up at about 8pm the place is dead, with only another couple in, by the time we head home at 10pm or so, the main room is standing room only, and I feel a moment of sorrow the covers band in the function room who are playing to a couple of their friends, whilst the best part of a hundred drinkers fill out the main room unaware of what is going on there.
All in all, another excellent day spent in Pontypridd.
Thanks to all at Pontypridd Town for your hospitality!
My Man of The Match: Geraint Passmore, not content with scoring the most beautiful goal I’ve seen this year (and I include TV goals in that), he played superbly in midfield and showed true class against a tough Lliswerry side.