Saturday 7th March 2015 (4pm)
Aberaeron 1-2 Penrhyncoch.
Spar Mid Wales Football League Division One.
Cae’r Lli, Aberaeron.
The 15 minute drive from Felinfach to Aberaeron is a fairly pleasant drive through the Ceredigion countryside that takes in some marvelous views and it’s not too long before the familiar sight of Aberaerons’ pastel coloured streets open up in front of me.
I’m very familiar with the town of Aberaeron, having been holidaying in nearby New Quay for about 25 years or so on a regular basis since my childhood. Aberaeron is a very pretty Mid-Wales town, with plenty of effort being made by locals. The majority of houses that line the main streets in the town are all painted in complementary pastel colours and business in the town play their part as well in keeping up the beautiful appearance of the place.
I park up towards the far end of town and walk past Sgwar Alban, Aberaeron’s previous ground and the current ground of their reserve side. I vaguely remember watching a pre-season friendly at this ground in the early 1990’s with my Dad whilst my mother relaxed on the nearby beach, but my memories fail me in recalling the teams involved in that match or whether it even happened at all?
Aberaeron have moved into a new ground in recent times, as such I only have a vague idea of where they now play. So I make my way over to their new ground, which is confirmed to be on the same site as a rugby field, metres away from the seafront. With that in mind I head back into Aberaeron town centre to find some sustenance, it’s my third game of the day and after missing breakfast I find I am starting to flag.
I find a rather posh looking chip shop called The New Celtic next door to The Monachty, a Brains pub my wife and I found on my post-Christmas sojourn to New Quay. Annoyingly we only found it on our last night in New Quay, so were unable to make proper use of the facilities.
The New Celtic is a modern boutique of a potato eaterie if you will? It serves portions of chips in well decorated paper bags rather than cones and offers a pretty wide menu. Wanting something quick to tide me over until the end of the match I get a simple order of chips and walk with them back to the ground. The chips are pretty sensational to be fair and more far more decadent than their £1.65 price suggests.
Funnily enough, The New Celtic I later find out, are shirt sponsors of the current Aberaeron kit.
Admission for this afternoon’s match is a fair £4, with a match day programme setting me back £1. The club haven’t put anything special on for today’s groundhopping visitors like their colleagues at Dewi Stars and Felinfach, but they are selling some merchandise in the main stand. Aberaeron win the award for today’s widest selection of merchandise available for purchase. I spotted a club tie, a car sticker, a scarf and a golf umbrella among the products on sale. For the hungry among us, a burger van on the back of a HGV is also present. I make a wise purchase of a coffee from the van which sets me back 80p. It’s no Penybont FC Coffee, but it’s at least a 6/10.
Today’s teams, Aberaeron and Penrhyncoch, play their football in the Spar Mid Wales League, which is a level further up the Welsh football pyramid than the Ceredigion League, where all of the other matches this weekend are taking place. The Spar Mid Wales League acts as a feeder league for the Cymru Alliance in the North of the country, which in turn acts as a feeder league for the Welsh Premier League. The Welsh football pyramid is still a bit of a confusing thing to me, I’ve tried my best over recent months to get a decent grasp on it – but some things still confuse me to this day. How did Newcastle Emlyn drop from the South’s Welsh League Division Three last season, to play in the Ceredigion League this year, which is a feeder league to the Cymru Alliance, which is the North’s counterpart to the Welsh League?
Penrhyncoch are a strong side in the Mid Wales League, second only to leaders Llanfair Utd. who sit seven points ahead of them in first place. Penrhyncoch have made the quick 20 mile or so jaunt down the A487 to take on the Aberaeron side. Aberaeron, this season find themselves sitting in a consolidated 9th place. They find themselves in a position where they are, short of a monumental decline, safe from relegation but perhaps too far off the gas to offer a realistic attack on a promotion place come the end of the season, especially given the fact that I believe only one team, the league winners, can qualify for promotion to the next level of the pyramid.
Penrhyncoch attack their Aberaeron counterparts from the whistle, coming very close on 8 minutes with a good effort from Josh Shaw who saw his shot go over the bar by mere inches.
A contentious moment follows a few seconds later as a handball incident in the Penrhyncoch box is turned away by the referee, despite some fairly vocal claims from Aberaeron.
Penrhyncoch take the lead after 6 minutes as Aberaeron’s defence are caught static when the ball is delivered into the box. Aiden Nyhus moves quickly and gets on the end of the ball, firing in a header from 12 yards out.
A few incidents occur in the short space of a minute or two as Aberaeron’s Sion Clarke finds himself in the referee’s book as he is judged to have deliberately blocked a Penrhyncoch defender. Matt Mousley of Penrhyncoch then gets himself booked a few seconds later for dissent.
The niggles between the two sides continue in the first half as Dylan James, playing left back for Penrhyncoch comes together on a number of occasions with Aberaeron striker Daniel James.
Penrhyncoch made their early domination count as they took a two goal advantage from a beautiful volley on the end of the box by left back Dylan James who made mistake with the ball at his feet.
The funny moments in this game are solely provided by the referee, who collides with James Hemming of Aberaeron and took a tumble. The referee takes it all in good humour and gives Hemming a fake ticking off for his foul.
Aberaeron went into the second half with renewed hope as they pulled a goal back in first half stoppage time with a lovely volleyed effort from Daniel James which left the keeper with no chance. Going into the second half with the score at only 2-1 would surely give Aberaeron some hope in this match?
The referee provided another moment of comedy when he lead the players out of the changing rooms for the second half, getting all of the players lined up and ready to kick off before sprinting back to the changing rooms with no explanation. He emerged a few seconds later, albeit his sprint had now subsided to a mild jog, with his referee’s notebook and his cards. With several bookings in the first half there’s every chance he’ll need those for the second half!
Steffan Gruffudd came spectacularly close to levelling affairs in the match with an amazing 50 yard shot, by all means audacious but it beat the goalkeeper, also sadly beating the goal by inches.
As the match went on, Penrhyncoch’s quality really started to show as they began to effectively close the match out and also coming close themselves on a number of occasions. Only some spectacular saves from Barry Edwards between the Aberaeron sticks stopped Penrhyncoch from adding to their two goals.
One performance in particular worth mentioning is that of Liam Jacques of Penrhyncoch who leads his side effectively. Jacques is a no-nonsense player from the old school, a tough ball playing midfielder who does the simple things very well. He is also a good communicator and shores his side through some of the more tense moments when Aberaeron threaten to level the scores.
I’m heartened to overhear a conversation in the dying minutes between two elderly gentlemen close to me. They are chatting regarding the Newcastle Emlyn vs. New Quay match later tonight.
“I’m really looking forward to the Newcastle Emlyn match later on” One of the men says.
“Oh yes. They’ve come down from the big league haven’t they?” The other replies.
The big league they are referring to is the Welsh Football League, the very same league most of these blog entries are based on.
To think the Welsh League is described somewhere as a “big league” gives you an idea of just how far down the pyramid some of these groundhop games go.
The match ends at 5.50 sharp and Aberaeron, for all of their efforts, are unable to score an equaliser to take something from the match.
As I make my way back to my car, I remember that the 1 hour and 40 minute break until the next game at Newcastle Emlyn is the longest break between any of today’s matches. With only a half hour or so’s drive down to Newcastle Emlyn to round off the long day, I choose not to risk searching for a resting place in Newcastle Emlyn, just in case I can’t find anywhere, so I go with the safe option and retreat to The Monachty for a quick pint of Strongbow to re-awaken the taste buds and to give my mobile a much needed charging boost, despite hardly touching it all day it has the audacity to report to me that it has a mere 37% of it’s charge left, despite doing nothing all day. The Monachty is lovely as always, I say this with a hint of sarcasm as this is only my second visit to the pub ever.
I call in the nearby convenience shop to pick up a bottle of water for the rest of the evening. I take part in my first ever adult conversation with a shopkeeper in Welsh, despite being Welsh by birth.
“Bore da” I say.
“Bore da. Saith deg pump ceiniog” The woman behind the till replies.
“Diolch” I murmur back. Am I doing it right?
“Diolch” She replies.
I walk away, in a proud haze. I get into my car and drive away down the A487 like I’ve really achieved something in my life. Finally speaking in my mother tongue, or at least the land of my father’s tongue? I don’t have the CD or MP3 to hand, so I imagine the Rocky theme tune playing in my head as I drive away from Aberaeron in a glorious manner.
My Man of the Match: Despite some very good performances from several players, I chose to go with Dylan James of Penrhyncoch who put in a great performance and scored a lovely goal.