Wednesday 4th March 2015.
Caldicot Town 1-0 Croesyceiliog.
Welsh League Division Two.
Jubilee Way, Caldicot.
Attendance: Circa 100.
I’ve only been writing this blog for two months, tonight marks my 17th game (should be 18th but that’s another story) and one of the things that has made it so worthwhile so far is the amount of genuinely lovely people you tend to meet while going to all of these grounds. Having caught wind of what I’ve been doing, I’ve found some clubs have come out of the woodwork and hunted me out on Twitter and Email and invited me down to their ground to take in some of their games.
One of the first teams to do so were Caldicot Town, who left a comment on one of my earlier blog entries pointing out that I hadn’t visited Gwent yet and invited me along to one of their games. As heartened as I was to receive such a comment, I had funnily enough, already planned to attend this evening’s game before their message. I am sad enough to check a lot of the fixtures about a month in advance, noting any games that interest me – or places I particularly want to check out.
You see I must admit before writing the rest of this article that I do have a connection of sorts with Caldicot Town, albeit a very tenuous connection. I worked for an IT company in Newport for 18 months or so. During my time there I worked with two guys who played for Caldicot Town at the time. One of them, John Abbott, has since left the club in recent months and returned to his boyhood club Caerleon. the other guy, Simon Crook, still plays for Caldicot and is a first team regular. I had already handed in my notice at the company when Simon started working for us, so we didn’t get to know each other a great deal, but that doesn’t matter. It’s worth pointing that out before I carry on.
I must admit, I dread going anywhere in Newport that involves having to go through the Brynglas tunnels, due to the somewhat legendary traffic jams I’ve found myself during the rush hour in previous years. Tonight’s game had a 7.30pm kick off, so it meant I didn’t need to leave my house in Pontypridd until 6.45, by which point the rush hour traffic had subsided and was now watching TV on their collective settee.
The drive down to Caldicot on the M4 is a surprisingly pleasant one at this time of night. I must admit that prior to tonight I’d never actually been to Caldicot before and aside from having a vague idea that it was on the other side of Newport. Until I’d logged the postcode into my Sat Nav, I didn’t really know where it was. So I was a little surprised when the Sat Nav took me to the Magor Services roundabout, having previously thought it wasn’t that close to the Severn Bridge.
It would probably be fair to say that Caldicot, at least to a Rhondda boy like me, could be described as being “Posh”. Especially if “Posh” means not being likely to have your car stereo stolen from the car park, memorial flowers left at the side of the road not being damaged, bus stops not being filled with ‘Gemma Is A Slag’ graffiti or even just the fact that the ground is a stones throw away from a branch of Waitrose. It looks like a nice place to bring up a family, put it that way.
The ground is four miles or so off the M4, it’s just a case of going straight over a series of roundabouts. I’m not sure if its my imagination but I’m sure that as I drive closer to the ground and closer to the English border that the amount of bilingual signs slowly decrease in number. Although I’m not sure if that’s just my mind playing tricks on me?
The ground is conveniently close to the town centre and a car park is located just across the road from the clubhouse.. My colleague John, who coincidentally started working at my new company 9 months after I started here, advised me of a “lovely chip shop across the road”, but unfortunately I’m unable to see said chip shop in my immediate view, and with only 15 minutes to go before kick off I’m inclined not to do too much searching.
I make my way into the clubhouse, which is a warm, inviting, modern building. Knowing their audience well, the clubhouse is showing both the West Ham v. Chelsea and the Newcastle United v. Man. United matches on different screens at opposite ends of the bar.
The bar has a good range of drinks, so I get myself a pint of Carlsberg for £2.90 and take a seat to admire the impressive memorabilia that adorns the walls of the clubhouse. I spot signed Cardiff City, Swansea City, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales and Bristol City shirts amongst others.
I have little time left to admire any further as I manage to gulp down the rest of my pint and take my place on the touchline for tonight’s kick off. Admission is £4 and a match day programme sets me back a further pound, which seems to be about the norm for this level.
Jubilee Way is a lovely little ground with a lot of character. A small single stand houses spectators along one touchline. It is standing room only with a couple of crush barriers and even better – a couple of patio chairs for those who wish to give their feet a rest.
The playing surface looks in good condition, which is great for this time of year and lends itself to being an excellent host for some good passing football, which I look forward to seeing tonight.
Despite this being my 17th game of the year, tonight marks the first Welsh League Division Two match I have seen this year, spending a lot of time watching Division One and Three matches so far.
Caldicot Town, going into tonight’s match find themselves in a great position in the league. Second only to Barry Town United, who short of a monumental slide in form, look certain to find themselves back in their rightful place in Division One next year. With the runaway success of the Barry side this season, little fuss has been made of Caldicot Town who look very likely candidates for Division Two’s top three come the end of the season.
Initial exchanges in the match looked to be fairly equal on both sides with both Caldicot and Croesyceiliog both missing good opportunities in the opening quarter of an hour to take the lead. A good cross by a Caldicot winger lead to a good chance for David Lloyd, who could only scream in frustration as his header went a good foot or so over the bar.
The first quarter of the match passed by very quickly, both sides played some absolutely lovely football through the midfield. Unfortunately, as would be the case for the rest of the match, both sides were a little off-kilter in the attacking third.
The first incident of note came on 27 minutes. A Caldicot Town striker found himself on the deck following a head on collision in a challenge, nothing sinister, just one of those things that happen in most games. The referee unfortunately was very slow in stopping the action so that the striker could be assessed. David Lloyd took exception to this delay and remonstrated with the referee, and found himself receiving a yellow card for his troubles. A little harsh I though, as although Lloyd had over-reacted a little, he only did so in the first place because the referee did leave play continue for a good 20 seconds or whilst his colleague was sprawled on the floor clutching his face.
A Caldicot defensive error on the half hour gifted Jamie Arnold of Croesyceiliog with a golden opportunity to put his side ahead just before half time. Unfortunately Arnold was unable to control the ball with the goal in his view, he was robbed of possession a few seconds later by Simon Crook. Croesyceiliog players surrounded the referee as they believed they saw a foul on Arnold but the referee did not budge on his decision to allow play to continue.
The first half ended goalless, an interesting match between two Gwent sides. A frustrating half for both players and spectators, both sides offering plenty of attractive passing football (in fact I’d say that tonight’s side are probably among some of the best sides I’ve seen this year for attractive football), but being unable to capitalise on any of the chances being created.
The second half started with a couple of chances for both sides, Caldicot Town in particular came very close to opening the scoring with an effort from David Jenkins which went just over the crossbar.
A contentious moment occurred on the hour mark as Croesyceiliog defender Jake Hayward went into a challenge very heavily, taking his man out in the process. The referee gave a yellow card immediately, which diffused any potential boiling over amongst the players.
As the match went into its closing stages it became more and more apparent that Caldicot Town were really starting to take hold of the game, perhaps sensing that a single goal could take all three points. This was shown when a Caldicot defender attempted to muster up his colleagues by shouting “Come on boys! We can win this one 1-0!” repeatedly whilst waiting for a wayward ball to be returned from outside of the park.
Croesyceiliog, for all of the beautiful passing football they had played up to this point, defended resolutely to keep the game goalless. You got the impression towards the end of the match that they would have been very happy to come away from tonight’s match with a point and given Caldicot Town’s league position, this would have been quite an achievement.
Caldicot went painfully close again with just under twenty minutes left in the match. A well worked piece of play resulted in David Lloyd seeing Simon Crook free and unmarked just outside of the box to his right. Unfortunately Lloyd’s pass had a little bit too much zip on it and Crook was unable to keep the ball in to either take a shot or lay a pass across the box to one of his strikers.
One thing I really love seeing at this level of the game is a good vocal following, I love seeing people who are passionate about their clubs and attempt to inject some noise, chants and celebrations into this league. Caldicot Town have a great following, a group of about 40 or so guys who make the spot behind the goal they are attacking in the second half their home. It’s great to hear them almost trying to suck the ball into the net, the noise increases greatly when Caldicot bring the ball to the Croesyceiliog penalty box.
Simon Crook, kept himself busy throughout the whole match, adopting a wing-back role and using his pace throughout the match. He was very unlucky not to get his just rewards with a goal as he unleashed a furious cross from the edge of box on 72 minutes, which troubled the Croesyceiliog goalkeeper.
As the match drew to a close, it seemed ever more likely that despite the increasing pressure Caldicot put on their opponents that the game would end goalless. Caldicot pushed forward in their numbers, making some tactical changes to try and force the issue.
In pushing numbers forward, Caldicot Town found themselves caught out in the last minute of time as their numbers in their own box were short and Matt Trotman was left in a difficult position as a Croesyceiliog header beat his goalkeeper. He handled the ball although I am unsure whether the ball was going in or not as I was right down the other end of the pitch. I quickly made my way up to the other end of the pitch to try and photograph the resulting penalty, so I missed the referee’s reaction to this. I didn’t see anyone leave the pitch but I searched Twitter after the match and someone said that Trotman did indeed receive his marching orders. If he didn’t, then I wholeheartedly apologise.
Croesyceiliog striker Zac Osbourne stepped up to take the resulting penalty. He slotted the ball to his right but his effort was saved excellently by Ben Davidson in the Caldicot goal who picked the right side and parried the ball around the post for a corner.
As the ball rolled out to touch for a corner, something must have been said between the players or tempers flared as Zac Osbourne made his way for a Caldicot Town defender. Pushes are exchanged and players rush in to try and separate the players. It all threatens to get silly for a moment, but tempers soon cool and the referee finally regains control of the match.
The referee took his time in making a decision but chose to send Zac Osbourne to the changing rooms for his part in the melee. As Osbourne walked down the touchline and as Caldicot Town players surrounded their heroic goalkeeper and congratulated him for his excellent penalty save, you got the impression that this perhaps wouldn’t be the last action in tonight’s match, despite the game now going into stoppage time.
Caldicot Town, perhaps having the scent of blood at their noses pushed forward one last time in a desperate search for the three points that would further consolidate their position in the promotion places.
After some quick paced build up play the ball fell to Simon Crook on the right wing, who did like he had done all game and delivered a testing ball into the box. Substitute Mitchell Slape rose above his marker and got his head to the ball, exercising just enough strength to direct the ball into the net, inches from the reaching goalkeepers arm. As the ball nestled into the back of the net the masses behind the Croesyceiliog goal erupted in celebration. The relief on the Caldicot Town bench was clear for all to see, as the management team took the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the Alex Ferguson/Brian Kidd celebrations at the Man Utd vs. Sheffield Wednesday match all of those years ago.
Croesyceiliog barely had time to restart the match before the referee blew the final whistle and brought this intriguing affair to a close. Caldicot Town players and management team embraced in the centre circle, perhaps realising that their promotion dream has been done a world of good with this win.
Croesyceiliog, although losers on the day, can be extremely proud of their efforts today. They played some really lovely attractive passing football, and if it wasn’t for a beautiful penalty save by Ben Davidson in the dying seconds they may have come away from this tricky away day with all three points.
Caldicot now go into their remaining seven games of the season knowing that their promotion destiny is in their own hands. Technically at the moment they need another 20 points to mathematically secure promotion, but in practice they are probably looking at another 4 wins to secure their Division One status next season.
I’ve enjoyed tonight’s match, met a lot of nice people and had a cracking night at the football. I’ll certainly be back in the near future, hopefully if Caldicot Town find themselves promoted next season!
I make my way home, popping in to Magor Services for a quick Caramel Latte to tide over the half an hour journey back through the Brynglas tunnels to Pontypridd.
My Man of the Match: It would be easy for people to call shenanigans because I knew the guy before the match, but Simon Crook pretty much covered every blade of grass for the Caldicot cause and superbly crossed for the stoppage time winner.