Saturday February 14th 2015
Taffs Well 1-0 Ton Pentre.
Nathaniel Car Sales League Cup Quarter Final.
Rhiw Dda’r, Taffs Well.
Attendance: Circa 70.
I planned to head down to Afan Lido to take in their League One match with Cambrian & Clydach the night before, but my plans were destroyed when a waterlogged pitch in Port Talbot resulted in postponement of the match.
With last night’s cancellation, I was very eager to to watch some football this weekend. Conveniently I checked Twitter and found a tweet from one of my Cardiff City supporting peers who mentioned he was going down to Rhiw Dda’r to take in this afternoon’s League Cup quarter final between Taffs Well and Ton Pentre.
Ton Pentre, are a club I had a lot of exposure to in my younger days. I lived a couple of miles from their Ynys Park home ground as a teenager. They were also fairly high profile in Welsh football circles in the mid-90’s, representing Wales in Europe. They also, more memorably for me, appeared in arguably the greatest football computer game of all time, Sensible World of Soccer. I have fine memories of taking the side to Champions League glory in said game.
Conveniently, for me at least, Rhiw Dda’r is just a couple of miles down the A470 from my home in Pontypridd. So at half past one, I got in the car and made the ten minute journey down to Taffs Well.
Taffs Well is the most southerly town in the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area, bordering Cardiff, and is a bit of a commuter belt due to it’s location just ten minutes train journey from Cardiff City centre.
I arrive in Taff’s Well in a few minutes and I’ve got time to head to the Co-op on the main road that runs from Nantgarw to Cardiff, and take out cash before heading over to Rhiw Dda’r just in time for kick off.
Rhiw Dda’r is located in the middle of Taffs Well, accessible via a road bridge that runs over the adjacent A470. Admission for today’s match was £5, with a match day programme costing a further £1.
The match day programme was great and obviously put together by someone with a good sense of humour! Filled with all the necessary bits that you’d find in any program, but also full of some oddities and nice touches, such as two pages of puns, quizzes and even poetry!
Rhiw Dda’r is a charming little ground, but a very nice one for this level of football. On a football level, the playing surface is good for this time of year, the pitch has a characteristic slightly downhill hump from left to right, but the ball runs true. The South Wales valleys were battered by rain early this morning, but the pitch looks in good condition with no evidence of last night’s heavy rain that has already taken the Llanwern vs. Monmouth Town quarter final victim.
The pitch is surrounded by two stands. One of the stands, The Don James stand is the bigger of the two. Admirably, for this level of football, it offers wheelchair access and symbolizes the ambition and professionalism laid on by Taffs Well.
The other stand is a slightly older and smaller stand, which I later learn is lovingly nicknamed “The Shed”. “The Shed” is split with half seating and half standing room. It sits slightly further back from the field than its counterpart, and as such is largely empty this afternoon.
I’ve arrived with a few minutes to go before kick off, so I make my way over to the Clubhouse, located behind the goal. The clubhouse is housed inside the changing rooms building. A small room with a bar and a pool table. The clubhouse is a lovely little place, where if I had more time I’d loved to have sat down with a pint and taken the time to check out all of the football memorabilia adorning the walls, donated from clubs all over.
Unfortunately, this will have to wait for another time, as I have just about enough time to buy a can of Coke Zero, before taking my seat in the Don James Stand behind the Ton Pentre bench, for the first half.
The teams walked out onto the pitch and flanked the centre of the pitch to pay tribute to Michelle Edwards, the wife of Liam Edwards, Taffs Well physio and goalkeeping coach. Michelle, very sadly passed away a fortnight ago, after a long battle with cancer. As a fitting gesture, both sides, officials and spectators took part in a minutes applause in order to celebrate her life. A very touching moment indeed, especially for those present who knew Michelle.
It’s tough to separate today’s sides. Both teams play in League One and find themselves mid-table. Taffs Well sit in 9th position, while Ton Pentre reside in 12th, only six points separate the sides.
The match kicks off with both sides seemingly lining up in a rough 4-3-3 formation. Ton Pentre take the initiative initially, one of their strikers fire a wild shot over the bar with about five minutes on the clock.
The deadlock is broken after ten minutes. A seemingly nothing shot from a Taffs Well midfielder is fumbled by Neil Collins, the Ton Pentre goalkeeper, and the balls falls to the feet of Taffs Well’s No. 4 who slots the ball to the right of the keeper and into the net.
Ryan Jenkins of Ton Pentre comes exceptionally close on the half hour, as his spectacular overhead kick tests Steve Hall in the Taffs Well goal. Unfortunately his overhead kick goes agonizingly close, sailing just over the bar.
A moment of controversy follows a minute or so later, as a Ton Pentre striker beats his man and is taken down inside the box by a Taffs Well defender. The Ton Pentre players and bench remonstrate with the referee, who doesn’t see any infringement and chooses not to award the Rhondda men a penalty.
Jaymie Wearn comes closest for Ton Pentre, hitting a sublime volley from about thirty yards out. His shot beating the Taffs Well goalkeeper, but unfortunately not beating the cross bar.
At half time, Ton Pentre should consider themselves unlucky to be behind in this cup tie, they’ve just about been the better side, but the Taffs Well back four have defended resolutely, limited Ton Pentre to predominantly long range efforts.
During the half time interval, I amuse myself by taking a walk around the pitch and buying a coffee from the clubhouse. The coffee, is quite nice and sets me back £1, which is about your average for League One level caffeine.
As the second half kicks off, within a few seconds the Taffs Well goalscorer No.4 finds himself in a one on one with Neil Collins in goal for Ton Pentre. Unfortunately for Taffs Well, he scampers the opportunity to put his side 2-0 up.
At this point in the game, it starts to look like this is a case of the next goal takes the match. If Taffs Well were to snatch a second, they’d surely have the impetus to close the game out, however a goal from Ton Pentre would surely fire them up to win the match by a number of goals.
Ton Pentre’s Connor Berry finds himself on the floor on 55 minutes, as he is taken down by a Taffs Well defender. It looked like a foul from my position, and especially to the Ton Pentre supporters a few yards down from me. The referee again sees nothing wrong with the incident and play proceeds.
From here on in, the traffic in this match is pretty much all one way, as Ton Pentre push forward in their search for an equaliser, coming painfully close on the hour as Ross Fowler heads just over from a lovely cross.
Ton Pentre come closest to levelling affairs on 65 minutes when a free kick is awarded 25 yards out for a foul on their winger. The ball is crossed in and missed by all of the players, seemingly looking to go straight, it beats the keeper. Luckily for Taffs Well, one of their defenders clears the ball off the line and it goes out of play. After a series of almost comedic decisions, on both sides, the referee tops it off by giving a goal kick to Taffs Well after this. The Ton Pentre fans close to me are livid at this decision.
Taffs Well are very comfortable in possession of the ball, especially their defenders, who maintain an air of coolness and calmness in the face of heavy Ton Pentre attacking play. Ton Pentre, although arguably the better side today, are slightly too wasteful in the final third. A number of Ton Pentre efforts follow, but are either sent wide of the goal, or present themselves as easy saves for Steve Hall in the Wellmen’s goal.
As the match peters to an end, Taffs Well absorb Ton Pentre’s attacks and neutralise any pressure. Taffs Well play the ball intelligently down the channels, minimising further Ton Pentre pressure.
Ton Pentre look to have finally leveled the match in the last minute as they get the ball into the back of the net through a header by Jaymie Wearn. Unfortunately for Wearn, his effort was judged to be offside. I’m in an awkward position to judge, but he was probably right in calling offside.
Minutes later, the referee blows the final whistle and against the run of play in the second half, Taffs Well go through to the Semi Finals of the Nathaniel Car Sales League Cup, to meet either Caerau (Ely), Cwmamman United or Llanwern/Monmouth Town and fight for a spot in the end of season finale.
Ton Pentre can consider themselves very unlucky to be leaving the competition, after arguably dominating the match. Their slightly wastefulness in front of goal and the goalkeeping error in the first half has probably cost them a spot in the semi-finals.
If you find yourselves looking for a spot of football on a Saturday afternoon and are in the area, you won’t go far wrong with a trip to Rhiw Dda’r. A lovely ground, and a great day out.
Thanks to all at Taffs Well for your hospitality, and the very best of luck to both of today’s sides for the rest of the season.