Wednesday 18th February 2015
Pontypridd Town 6-3 Ammanford
Welsh League Division Three.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 60.
Tonight marked my third visit to Ynysangharad Park in recent months and a game I had been looking forward to for a number of weeks. A chance to experience an Ynysangharad Park match under the floodlights. I always find that night games tend to have a different atmosphere to them, the players react differently, the crowd react differently to how they would on a Saturday afternoon. It all adds up to something that is usually quite special. Plus it means coming to the match straight from work, being only able to grab a quick Mars Bar on the way home from a petrol station to stave off the hunger.
After last night’s snooze-fest at the Cardiff City Stadium (on a serious note, if you or any member of your family has been suffering from insomnia recently, prescribe them a ticket to any Cardiff City home game. I guarantee they will be cured within 90 minutes, or your money back) I was looking forward to a game between two attacking sides who play attractive football with the ball at their feet.
Ammanford, it must be said, have had an impressive season so far. Starting later than everyone else due to the controversy surrounding the club’s relegation from Division Two last year, despite the side finishing fourth from bottom (the usual situation is that three teams are relegated from each Division, however Afan Lido’s relegation from the Welsh Premier with no willing volunteer to replace them, lead to the Welsh League needing to juggle things about). They have managed to put their off field problems behind them and came into today’s match with a record of 15 games, 14 wins and 1 loss. Their only loss, coming at the hands of fellow promotion rivals Llanelli Town on the weekend in a closely fought 5-3 defeat.
Despite finding themselves in 2nd place, going in to tonight’s match Ammanford are only 6 points behind Llanelli Town, with a massive 5 games in hand to make up the gap. You’d have to say therefore, on the balance of probabilities, Ammanford are favourites to take this seasons Division Three title and take up residence back in Division Two next year. Pontypridd Town, despite some brilliant performances of late, find themselves sitting in mid-table.
The Ynysangharad Park crowd seems to be a good turn out tonight, perhaps something to do with the fact that a lot of those present today (a very big young following it must be said) are often playing matches themselves on the Saturday afternoons when Pontypridd Town usually turn out. As an estimate, I reckon there are probably about 60 or more here tonight (I must point out, I’m terrible with estimations and I refuse to let myself go down to the anorak level of taking a counter to matches) This includes a group of about ten or so who take comfort in watching from the central heated refreshments bar behind the goal.
I’m delighted to find that my last blog entry (the Lliswerry league match from a fortnight ago) has actually made it into tonight’s match day programme, which is a lovely touch by the club and very much appreciated. A lovely surprise, even if I did know the day before that Craig, one of Pontypridd’s officials intended to include it.
We take our position in the stand and we’re welcomed once again by Club Official/Linesman Danny Glorieux, who has time for a quick chat before kick off and asks about the games I plan attending this week. It’s always nice to find someone interested in what you’re doing, even the actual art of going to all of these matches is inherently deeply unsocial and potentially geeky (scrub that, it is geeky).
Ammanford have brought a healthy following with them up the M4, which only adds to tonight’s excellent atmosphere in the stand.
Dominic Broad’s Pontypridd Town side took the game to Ammanford from the start. The men from the West, until the weekend’s top of the table defeat at the hands of Llanelli Town, had a 100% record in Division Three, taking 14 victories from their first 14 games. Despite being underdogs in this affair, Pontypridd Town took the lead through a neat chipped effort from striker Andy Coleman after 8 minutes.
Teams don’t win 14 consecutive games without a certain quality and Ammanford’s quality showed as they equalised moments later through a beautiful lobbed effort from the edge of the box by their sharp centre forward Brett Enoch. Enoch, a useful striker, who would prove be a tricky character for the Pontypridd Town defence to contend with for the evening.
Pontypridd Town’s Tom Rutherford cut an imposing figure in the Dragons back four, although he was very lucky to escape a booking in the first half as he went in very tough on an Ammanford striker, leading to some Ammanford fans calling for a sending off. The referee, choosing instead to give Rutherford a firm word instead.
Pontypridd Town dominated proceedings for the remainder of the first half. Well taken goals from recent Spanish signing Javi Garcia and player-manager Dominic Broad put the Dragons 3-1 ahead. Garcia’s strike being a nice six yard poke in, and Broad’s being a lovely chipped shot from distance.
Dominic Broad again, displayed a moment of pure individual brilliance on 40 minutes, managing to score a goal directly from a corner kick, a feat which brought the assembled Ynysangharad Park following to their feet and cheering in amazement. I’m still questioning the physics of that one.
Ammanford came within inches of pulling a goal back on 37 minutes, as striker Craig Frater beat the Pontypridd keeper with a neat chipped effort from ten yards out, only for his shot to be saved off the line by a Pontypridd defender.
With the score at 4-1, and with only minutes to go before half time, Pontypridd Town failed to clear the decks as Brett Enoch headed home from a good cross to give Ammanford some hope going into the break.
Ammanford came out for the second half with renewed vigour. Brett Enoch added another, sealing his hat trick with an effort neatly slotted home from the edge of the penalty area. With the score at 4-3 and the second half only moments old, the Dragons were in danger of sleep walking their way out of the game against the run of play.
The Dragons went along with the old adage that attack is the best form of defence and proceeded to push forward in attack and put pressure on the Ammanford back four. They were rewarded after 55 minutes as Andy Coleman beat the offside trap and slotted the ball under the ensuing goalkeeper to give Pontypridd a two goal advantage and a bit of breathing space in the game again.
Dominic Broad, lining up in a more defensive role than his usual midfield position, got forward effectively on more than one occasion. He was denied a hat trick on the hour as he was put through on goal. With only the keeper to beat, he was called back by the referee as he was judged to be just offside when the defence splitting pass was put through. 15 minutes later, the same man would latch onto a long pass across the box in Marco Van Basten/Euro 88 style, only to see his shot go inches wide of the far post.
Pontypridd Town showed bravery and moments of individual brilliance to stop Division Three’s second highest goalscorers from adding to their three goals, excellent performances in particular from Geraint Passmore, Aaron Carew and Javi Garcia should be mentioned.
The Dragons made sure of the three points with ten minutes to go. Geraint Passmore picked up the ball just inside the Ammanford half, seeing the goalkeeper off his line, he launched a vicious volley skywards which lobbed Jamie Rano, who could only watch the ball nestle in the back of the net.
In the last minute of the match, Ammanford’s Craig Fater, already the target of some well mannered and good natured banter from the younger section of the Dragons home support, put a free kick from the edge of the box some distance over the bar.
Despite coming into the match as second favourites, Pontypridd Town bettered their Ammanford counterparts on all areas of the pitch and can be very proud of a spirited performance against a side who will still more than likely be playing their football in Division Two next season, despite these two slip ups in a row.
The Dragons surprise victory leaves them in a healthy 9th position in Division Three and with just under half of the season remaining, supporters will surely be starting to hope for a late surge towards the promotion spots.
After recent excellent victories against the likes of Lliswerry and Caerleon of Division Two in the Welsh League Cup, Pontypridd Town seem to have the impetus and the form to mount a late effort towards their ultimate goal of promotion to Division Two of the Welsh League.
Another superb night out at Ynysangharad Park. Thanks again to all at Pontypridd Town for your ongoing hospitality, support and friendship.
My Men of the Match: A highly debated one in our household, so to save any further arguments – a split decision. My wife chose Aaron Carew of Pontypridd Town, who put in a brilliant performance down the channels. Whereas I chose Pontypridd player-manager Dominic Broad, who put in a sterling performance in an unfamiliar role, whilst still managing to come agonisingly close to bagging a hat trick. A further special mention must be made for Ammanford’s hat trick striker Brett Enoch, who barely put a foot wrong all night for the visitors.