Sunday 8th March 2015 (11am).
Pencader United 7-3 Ffostrasol Wanderers.
Costcutter Ceredigion League Division Two.
Pencader Park, Pencader.
“Where the hell is Pencader?” I asked myself as I left the office on Friday afternoon. I’d printed the rough directions off and it was the only town that still alluded. I’d had a vague idea of where all of the other matches were taking place, but still couldn’t fathom in my head where Pencader was, despite being a mere 20 or so miles from New Quay, where I’d holidayed for the last 25 years.
My wife Lara joined me for these two matches, feeling rather chuffed with her new Felinfach 1990’s Umbro home shirt which she wore with pride. We headed to McDonalds in Nantgarw for an Egg McMuffin breakfast and a quick coffee before heading off down the M4.
This journey down the M4 is becoming a regular one in recent months, having spent a week in New Quay for the New Year, visiting family in Swansea recently and spending part of last weekend in Aberystwyth for a flying visit with my wife and father-in-law doing a photography walk along the seafront. So it’s safe to say we did most of the first part of the journey on autopilot, only stopping at Pont Abraham services at the end of the M4 for a quick comfort break.
The same Sat Nav that let me down so cruelly on the way to Newcastle Emlyn has been entrusted with the all important role of getting us to Pencader, a place which I’ve admitted I know even less about. So today the Sat Nav has to come out onto the pitch and put in a good performance, else it will be dropped for the next game.
We question ourselves when the Sat Nav takes us on the familiar “scenic” route to New Quay, a route we’ve taken ourselves a couple of times when we’ve taken a slightly wrong turn and gone the long way to Synod Inn.
We pass through a village we’ve passed through many times before, a village I’ve always known as being “the village with the war memorial and the bargain shop next door”. No more than a minute later the Sat Nav tells us to pull over as we have reached our destination.
“Is this Pencader? We’ve been here tons before” I say.
“It must be” Lara replies.
We walk up the road and spot the official Groundhop bus and deduce that it must be Pencader. Further up the street, next to what I’d always assumed was a community centre, is a football pitch, Pencader United’s Pencader Park ground to be precise.
Admission to today’s opening game is £4 with a souvenir programme for all spectators. We purchase an additional two raffle tickets to try and win one of the impressive prizes up for grabs. The star prize I believe if memory serves me right, being a Pencader replica kit and a £40 prize – although I do apologise if this incorrect.
We make our way in to the coffee bar and buy two cups of coffee, at £1 each. As we start stirring our sugars a presentation is just about to start. A lady who I believe to be the local councillor is officially re-opening the ground in a presentation with a member of the Pencader United staff.
Pencader have a rich history as a club but disbanded two years ago, returning as Pencader United earlier this season and entering the Ceredigion League’s Division Two as a new team.
The councillor mentions in her speech that whilst growing up in Pencader she always remembered the football pitch and the team being at the very centre of the community and that games were always well attended when she was growing up. She went on to thank the groundhoppers for including the team in their annual visit to Ceredigion and went on to say that she hoped big attendances like this would be a regular occurrence at Pencader Park and that she hoped the club would again become a key part of the community.
These were quite moving words and there were several watery eyes in the room as the presentation took place. It felt great to be involved, if only in a very small way, in playing some part in such an important in the club and villages history.
In another part of the coffee room a makeshift car boot sale of sorts was taking place which I took great interest in. The guy selling badges at the Dewi Stars match had found his way to Pencader United. My wife and I looked on in amazement as we tried to find the smallest club with a pin badge, I struggled to find any smaller than Tonyrefail Welfare but my wife, on a side note, found a badge for Cadbury Athletic, a works team associated with the chocolate company, a team who actually play in Cadbury’s corporate colours!
The club were also selling some cakes, snacks and most interestingly to me, a collection of old replica kits from their past. My eyes were immediately attracted to the most beautiful early to mid 1990’s Lotto Italiano shirt, adoring the sponsor ‘ATP Pencader’, who if I’ve Googled correctly, are a cable plough specialists now called Aneurin Thomas Ploughing. I desperately hope that this is true. I immediately handed over my fiver to make the shirt mine before any other style conscious groundhopper purchased the shirt (The friendly man selling me the shirt told me many others had been attracted to the shirt also).
I made my way outside to do a traditional “Pencader Utd. unveil new signing” photo, ironically whilst still wearing my Felinfach shirt purchased the day before, so at best I looked like either the biggest football hipster in Mid Wales – or the biggest glory hunter in the Ceredigion League.
Pencader Park is a small, but charming ground. The ground has a single stand that sits atop a small banking. I say stand, I really mean a shelter. It’s raining heavily in Pencader and by all reports it has been doing so all morning, so it’s fair to say the shelter/stand is a very popular choice today.
The weather, as I previously mentioned, is dreadful. The pitch is holding water on both wings, the centre circle is quite muddy and the goalmouths are pretty treacherous. It’s probably fair to say that had this match not been a groundhop match, it would likely have been postponed, however with 188 paying spectators, common sense dictates that the game goes ahead.
The first incident of note is quite a geeky one from me, but something important none the less. The club are using an Adidas Tango ball, which like many other people of my age, is the ball of my youth.
Adrian Hazelby came close for Pencader after ten minutes with a powerful effort from the edge of the box which is saved by Ffostrasol goalkeeper Carwyn Thomas with his feet.
Against the run of play, Ffostrasol took the lead a minute later through striker Aled Rumble, who finds himself with a clear view of goal and beats Chris Stevens in the Pencader goal to his left.
Pencader play some sublime stuff, especially considering the terrible conditions the game is being played in. You do however, worry that they are trying to hard to score the ‘perfect goal’ and run the risk of losing the match to a Ffostrasol side who are less concerned with passing the ball into the net.
Daniel Sears levels affairs for Pencader after 22 minutes with a lovely long range effort from outside of the box. One of his team mates runs to collect the ball from the net in order to restart the match as quickly as possible.
Pencader take the lead on 33 minutes through a simply beautiful goal from Adrian Lazenby. Lazenby, personifying cool and calm picks up the ball on the edge of the box and opts for poise instead of power, floating the ball into the top corner to make the score 2-1 to the home side.
Not more than a minute later, Mike Taw picks up the ball 25 yards out from goal and slots a shot across the slippery surface. The ball surprisingly beats Carwyn Thomas in goal, who can only watch the ball slide into the net.
At half time, whilst the players make a vain attempt to dry themselves off in the warmth of the changing rooms the club put on some decent half time entertainment in the form of a penalty kick challenge with some of the clubs younger players. We decide to brave and make the treacherous walk down the muddy banking to the safety of the tarmac area behind one of the goals to watch the rest of the match.
Pencader come out for the second half with the same ferocity to their attacking game, attacking more sensibly now and taking shots, instead of attempting to walk the ball into the net as they did on occasion in the first half.
Dean Jones of Pencader was unlucky not to find himself on the score sheet early in the second half and could only watch as his shot rebounded back off the woodwork.
Pencader let their opponents back into the game about ten minutes into the second half and started to lose their grip on the game. Twm Jones was very unlucky not to score for Ffostrasol early in the second half. His shot beat the keeper but was stopped short of the goal line by a puddle in the goalmouth that stopped the ball in its tracks.
A few minutes later, Ffostrasol were awarded a penalty for a foul on Jones in the box, coincidentally this was the first penalty of the groundhop weekend.
Gethin Davies bravely stepped up to take the resulting penalty and made no mistake from 12 yards out, sending the keeper the wrong way and making the score 3-2 to Pencader. This goal perhaps giving Ffostrasol hope to carry into the rest of the game.
Ffostrasol gave away a needless free kick on the edge of the box and were punished when Hazelby challenged the goalkeeper and won, slotting the ball home from close range to make the score 4-2 to Pencader.
Mere minutes later, Pencader put the game beyond doubt as Hazelby sealed his hat trick as he latched onto a cross from the other side of the box. Hazelby made no mistakes with the ball at his feet and thrashed the ball home to make the score 5-2 to Pencader.
Pencader, again, failed to shut up shop in their defence and were made to pay again with a quarter of an hour to go as Rhys Befan, seemingly from nowhere, picked up the ball about 25 yards out from goal and with no options open to him from his team mates, chipped the goalkeeper with a perfectly executed lob. Would this third goal give Ffostrasol the impetus going in to the last ten minutes?
Unfortunately for Ffostrasol they failed to make any further inroads into the game and the last ten minutes were dominated by some sublime passing football from the Pencader side.
Mike Taw added his second and Pencader’s sixth goal with about eight minutes left, replicating Rhys Befan’s earlier goal by executing a perfect lob of the keeper from the edge of the box.
With five minutes left of the match, Haydn Morgan scored his first and Pencader’s seventh goal by capitalising on a series of defensive errors and slotting home from ten yards out to make the score 7-3 to Pencader United.
The referee brought the match to an end a few minutes later and Pencader United took the three points, consolidating their position above Dewi Stars in third position. Pencader now sit only 5 points behind league leaders Cilgerran with a massive six games in hand over them. With an impressive performance like today’s behind them, it must surely be the case that Pencader United stand a great chance of winning the division at the first time of asking and should, if all goes to plan, find themselves contending with the likes of New Quay and others in Division One next season.
We make our way, in a convoy, towards Llanboidy for the final game of the weekend. With my replica shirt in hand, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pencader, despite the horrible conditions and will make it my mission to ensure I come back again for another visit. Perhaps when it isn’t torrentially raining?
My Man of the Match: There were several excellent performances from the Pencader side but Adrian Hazelby, the hat trick hero for Pencader, must surely take the accolades in this game.