Saturday 7th March 2015 (1.30pm)
Felinfach 1-1 Bargod Rangers.
Costcutter Ceredigion League Division One.
Felinfach Playing Fields, Felin Fach.
The drive from Llandewi-Brefi to Felinfach looks like it’s going to a lot easier than my previous journey from Pontypridd to Llandewi-Brefi. A mere 12 miles separates the two villages, a journey which puts me back on the A485 to head a little bit closer to the coast. I entertain myself by listening to The Rhod Gilbert Show on BBC Radio Wales, a weekly listen for me, especially when his set of revolving regular guests features the quite brilliant Lloyd Langford, whose deep Port Talbot twang forces me into guttural belly laughs on a regular basis.
After a couple of minutes of driving I’ve noticed that I’ve inadvertently joined a convoy moving on to the Felinfach match. I work this out by telling myself in my head “If he turns the same way as I do on this roundabout, I’m definitely in a convoy. If he turns the same way I do at this junction, I’m definitely in a convoy”. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these are the deepest and most intricate workings of my mind.
We arrive in the village of Felinfach at about 12.30, giving us about 45 minutes to make ourselves at home before the 1.30pm kick off.
I completely admire the effort being made by all of these clubs, don’t get me wrong. Dewi Stars earlier today put on a very impressive breakfast barbecue featuring all the porks of the world, tomorrow afternoon Llanboidy are apparently offering a full hog roast, whilst I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews so far about Newcastle Emlyn’s chicken curry and rice. As a vegetarian, I’ve typically got to cover myself just in case, so I walk down the village to pick up a Mars bar from a local garage, just in case.
As I walk back up the village to the ground I can see the Groundhop bus arriving. I increase my walk from a slow stroll to a brisk pace to try and get into the ground before the best part of 60 people depart the bus and my entry is delayed.
Admission for today’s match is £4 with a match day programme setting me back £1. Like the Dewi Stars programme, Felinfach offer a well put together programme which interests not only the groundhoppers amongst us, but also regular visitors to Felinfach Playing Fields.
The club have put on some good entertainment and the offerings are great. A refreshments tent near the entrance sells all manner of refreshments. The cawl on offer is pretty popular, with quite a sizable queue building up. I am delighted to see that a Cheese Roll is on offer for those of my variety and it’s lovely. I’m reliably informed that the cheese is from a local farm, which only adds to my delight.
I’m intrigued by another stall near the entrance, a stall selling all manner of Felinfach merchandise, including some old Felinfach match worn shirts from previous seasons. At only £5 a shirt the football hipster in me cannot resist making a purchase. After what seemed like about a quarter of an hour of deliberation I settled on what looked like an early 2000’s yellow away shirt, complete with Felinfach sewn-on emblem and the number 10. My wife back home loves all things kitsch and absolutely loves everything that could be deemed a “fashion disaster”. I spot the perfect gift for her in the form of an early 1990’s old Umbro style blue-with-white-flecks Felinfach home shirt adoring the “Wyn Thomas Heating” sponsorship. (A quick Google when I get home reveals to me that Wyn Thomas is indeed still practicing Central Heating and is apparently very reliable – Other heating engineers do exist!).
With my purchases firmly stowed away in my messenger bag (the bag of choice for all groundhoppers, it offers room for a decent camera, a notebook and other such tools that can used to efficiently commit social suicide) I make my way over to the pitch to take a look around.
Felinfach’s playing surface, although quite a good surface, is an interesting one to say the least. I pitch myself up on touchline and quickly realise that I am unable to see the other touchline on the other side of the pitch. There is a more than noticeable hump in the middle of the pitch where the centre circle is the highest point of the pitch and both touchlines lie probably a foot or two below.
It’s lovely, it gives the pitch character. I was born with an underbite, I had orthodontic braces for years in an attempt to correct it, they didn’t work such was the intensity of the underbite. I absolutely hated it, I’m still conscious about it today and despite this my wife and my mother both still tell me to this day that they actually like it. I liken Felinfach’s playing surface to my situation. It’s one of those things that I imagine when you play on it every week, you’d probably despise the humps, but when visitors come in to see the surface for the first time they love it.
Bargod Rangers have the better of the opening ten minutes or so. They come exceptionally close by way of a headed effort from Sam Skinner which goes so close. Minutes later they take the lead when Matthew Terry latched on to a pass and slotted home clinically into the far corner of the goal.
After Bargod’s opening goal, Felinfach arguably have the better of the rest of the half in their search for an equaliser, coming painfully close through efforts by Denzal Davies, Gareth Evans and a one on one effort by Keiron Boyes which beats Ollie Humpfries in the Bargod goal but runs painfully wide of the goal.
These groundhops are run ever so well and I’m so impressed that the GroundHopUK guys and the Ceredigion League manage to sort out so many games in such a small amount of time. With four matches lined up in 12 hours or so, the potential for something to go wrong is always present. An accident blocking the roads? A breakdown on a team bus? Players not turning up? It’s all too much for me to think about.
One such disaster nearly occurred as the scheduled referee, Rhys Steadman, got his timings mixed up and thought the game kicked off at 2.15. A 2.15 kick off would have given this game a rough finishing time of 4pm, which was the scheduled time for the later Aberaeron vs. Penrhyncoch kick off, you can see where this going can’t you?
Luckily, a hero in the form of Ceredigion League fixture secretary Aled Davies, who it transpired was also a qualified referee, stepped up to the plate and offered to officiate the first half while Steadman made his way up the A487. Aled Davies managed to borrow just enough spare kit, a stopwatch and a whistle from the Felinfach changing rooms and saved the day for the best part of 200+ groundhoppers!
I must admit I originally misunderstood this scenario, thinking that due to the fact the stand-in referee was wearing Felinfach shorts and socks that he was a Felinfach substitute who also just happened to be a qualified referee, and I actually published that version of the story initially. So thanks to all who pointed this out to me!
Rhys Steadman, the ‘official’ referee turned up after 41 minutes of the match, which lead to a pretty funny situation whereby the match referee was stood on the sidelines, watching the match he was supposed to be officiating as a spectator.
As the stand-in referee brings the first half to a close I make my way back over to the refreshments tent to pick up another delicious cheese roll and a coffee for the bargain price of £1.50. The cawl is once again very popular and the queue builds up very quickly and it’s all hands on deck behind the counter with vials of this Welsh delicacy flying all over the place.
Being used to fifteen minute half time breaks in the Welsh League I found myself running back into place after a mere five minutes as the referee started the second half very early.
As the second half progressed Felinfach continued to just about shade things in the match but seemed to lack a bit of attacking guile to level the scores. They displayed some good passing football and kept cool calm heads, despite being a goal behind. In particular, players like Denzal Davies put in a very assured performance, reminiscent of the Roy Keane of old.
Felinfach finally levelled the scores with twenty minutes left on the clock. Bargod failed to mark their man at a corner and Kevin Taylor stole in to head home being unmarked. With the scores level and the momentum in their hands, Felinfach would surely fancy themselves to take all three points in the closing stages of the match?
Bargod Rangers took advantage of some defensive mix ups, in particular they came ever so close to retaking the lead on 80 minutes after a powerful shot by Robbie Jenkins was destined for the back of the net until it was deflected behind the goal for a corner.
The match didn’t end without some sort of controversy and Bargod will feel they should have been given a chance to win the game in stoppage time as Ryan Price was brought down in the box on what must have been the 93rd minute. The referee turned down the appeal. I turned to another spectator and said “He was unlucky there. Any other minute, bar the last minute in that match. It’s a stone wall penalty” He agrees with me.
The referee blows for full time and brings and end to this entertaining encounter which on the balance of things was probably a fair result. Both teams played some nice football on a difficult surface with a few individual players putting on brilliant performances. What’s more important is that there was a real community spirit to today’s match and as a visitor you got the feeling you were a temporary member of the Felinfach community, even if just for 90 minutes.
The ground announcer tells us over the makeshift P.A system that today’s attendance of 245 is the biggest attendance in the history of the club and gets a few chortles when he says “..and we hope to see you all again for our next home match on this coming Saturday”.
There’s a smile on every single face leaving Felinfach’s ground this afternoon. I for one with my Felinfach shirt taking pride of my place in my messenger bag will ensure that I visit the club again in the future, albeit probably being the sad effort on the side of the pitch with a replica shirt from the early 2000’s.
One of the only things I dislike about today’s games is the relative lack of time you get to spend in each town following the game. It’s understandable due to the amount of games in such a short space of time, but I would have loved to spend a bit more in Felinfach.
Here’s to my next visit!
My Man of the Match: Both teams had some players who put in some pretty good performances. Denzal Davies of Felinfach however probably edged this in my books. A good performance from a leading character. Some good passing moves and some assured tackling.