Sunday 8th March 2015 (2.30pm).
Llanboidy 3-3 Maesglas.
Costcutter Ceredigion League Division One.
Cae Dandre, Llanboidy.
All good things must come to an end they say, and I’m genuinely gutted as we drive away from this morning’s Pencader United vs. Ffostrasol match, knowing that this afternoon’s match in Llanboidy would be our last 90 minutes of action in the Ceredigion League…at least until my next visit!
We left Pencader in an involuntary convoy, so again the Sat Nav isn’t needed for this last trip. The journey takes us back down to the A48 and then along what I’ve always called “The road to Tenby”. A funny moment happens about five miles outside of Llanboidy when the Sat Nav leading the convoy has an issue and six or seven us are stupid enough to all go the wrong way like sheep. Queue hilarity when seven drivers try and perform a U-turn on a small country lane.
We quickly make our way back on the right road and in a few minutes arrive in the village of Llanboidy. Llanbody is a small village, Wikipedia estimates its population at 988. It’s a nice place with some impressive looking country retreats lining the roads leading to the ground.
As one of the first cars at the ground, we’re offered a car parking space next to the pitch by the club’s friendly volunteers. Admission for this afternoon’s game is £4, and as with all of the matches this weekend, a match day programme is £1.
I have to admit that Llanboidy was probably the ground I was looking forward to visiting the most and I’m not ashamed to admit that it pretty much rested all on their cute badge. Their badge is made up of a cartoon fox, in replica kit, standing proudly with a football at his feet. Earlier incarnations of the badge have included a more realistic fox.
One of the reasons I was most excited about the visit was the fact that Llanboidy had previously tweeted that they were going to be selling some old replica shirts, complete with the cute fox character. Being desperate to get a lovely shirt I made a beeline for their indoor sports hall where a market of sorts had been set up.
The stall sold an impressive array of replica shirts from the past, including some pretty lovely/garish designs (delete as per your taste). After debating for a minute or two, I chose to purchase an early 2000’s (I believe) gold and black striped effort with the older incarnation of the Llanboidy badge. My wife went for a slightly newer red Nike goalkeeper jersey with the newer, cuter version of the badge.
I asked the friendly woman selling the badges about the history of the fox and if he or she had a name. She said that the town used to have a very rich heritage of hunting and that a monument of a fox sits atop the town church at the top of the hill. Sadly, he didn’t have a name. I was hoping he’d be called something like Foxy, Boidy the Fox or even something really normal like Colin. Colin the Fox sounds dashing.
Other stalls in the hall included the hog roast, some impressive looking and tasting sweets and a very impressive and informative history desk. The desk had book after book after book detailing the results and lineups of what seemed every Llanboidy game for the past 30 years and included photo albums and old match day programmes.
What made me chuckle the most was a handwritten notepad from 1986, probably written by the manager of the side at the time. He listed every single player that played a game, the goalscorers and most humorously, gave his team a “Performance Rating” for each game. I gave out a guttural belly laugh when I read the “Performance Rating” for a game in which they walked away 8-0 winners..
..He only gave them a 9 out of 10 for winning 8-0! Poor guys, I wondered what they would have had to have done to achieve a seemingly impossible 10 out of 10 from the tough leader? Beat Liverpool 4-0 in the 1989 FA Cup Final? Beat Brazil in the 1994 World Cup? Beat Arsenal on their 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ season? I bought a bag of home made fudge and we made our way outside to explore what else the club had to offer.
The club had made an exceptional effort this afternoon. A portable P.A system outside of the sports hall played ‘The Pretender’ by Foo Fighters at exceptional volume as we made our way into the Llanboidy clubhouse.
Inside we found a pretty impressive clubhouse, offering a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. But more importantly than all of this, knowing their audience well, they were showing S4C’s Sgorio match of the day, Carmarthen Town vs Rhyl, on the TV. I recognised the unmistakable dulcet tones of Nicky John as I ordered our drinks at the bar.
We sat down just in time to see Cortez Belle take a massive kick to the ‘male area’ and go down for a penalty. He slotted home from 12 yards but Carmarthen Town would later go on to lose 2-1 and exit the Welsh Cup at the quarter final stage.
After finishing our drinks we made our way out to the ground where the teams were being introduced onto the pitch by loud entrance music of the sort that a WWE wrestler would be proud. I commented to my wife at the time that I loved the ambition of the club.
It was a sensible decision for the league to schedule today’s match as they did. Both Llanboidy and Maesglas haven’t had the best of seasons, in fact going in to today’s match both teams were already mathematically relegated from Division One. Both teams have had a difficult season with poor records so far. Llanboidy have played 17 games, losing all 17. While their Maesglas colleagues have played 17 games and lost 16, winning 1 single game all season, a 5-3 victory against today’s opponents. Maesglas unfortunately were given a 3 point fine for postponing a match without proper notice. As such, both teams went into today’s match on 0 points after 17 games.
This was a good decision by whomever scheduled this game, as would provide an entertaining “nothing to lose” game between two teams of a similar level. We all love games with goals, as the earlier ten goal thriller in Pencader proved – but no-one wants to see the ground hop weekend rounded off with an already relegated team being hammered by a team in the higher reaches of the league.
The playing surface is difficult in parts, in the typical areas such as the goalmouths, around the corner flags and in the centre circle.
Initial exchanges are pretty mixed with both sides showing some attacking promise. Both sides will feel unlucky to not take the lead in the first ten minutes after some good saves from both goalkeepers.
Matthew Roche of Maesglas opened the scoring on 17 minutes with a beautifully taken free kick from about 20 yards out which beat the goalkeeper to the centre of the goal. Joey Roscoe, in the Llanboidy goal will certainly feel disappointed he was beat in such a central position.
Llanboidy came close on 23 minutes through a Dai Thomas header which looked like it was destined for the back of the net only to be blocked by a Maesglas trailing leg.
Llanboidy forced a break through moments later from the resulting corner as Jonathan James got lucky in that a header from a Maesglas defender cannoned into the net, rebounding off James’ head on the way. James deserves to, and will rightly, claim the goal as his own.
Eight minutes later, James added a second by capitalising on a defensive mix up and slotting the ball home from close range to make the score 2-1 to Llanboidy.
The very same Jonathan James rounded off a perfect half for him by sealing his hat-trick after a defender completely misses a cross he should have sent into touch and James slots the ball home with no qualms.
Maesglas pulled a goal back just before half time as Kieran Harman robbed the ball from a defender in his own box and put the ball into the back of the net from a ridiculous angle, managing to slot the ball home just inside the far post. A superb goal from Harman.
With the score at 3-2 to the home side going into the break, surely Llanboidy would go on to win their first game of the season and claiming their first points of this long season?
When the ball was returned to play and the car alarm was stopped
At half time, we made our way back up to the sports hall, where I finally purchased the copy of ‘Welsh Football’ magazine I’d been meaning to pick up all weekend. I also ran into a familiar sight, a dog I’d seen at every stop of the weekend. A friendly looking dog called Ben. We got chatting with the owner and Lara made close friends with Ben. I do hope to see Ben at another Welsh ground hop in the near future!
Llanboidy started the second half much the better side, forcing a series of good saves from Maesglas goalkeeper Emyr Davies time after time. If Maesglas were to get a goal back, you feared that Llanboidy would capitulate and potentially draw, or even lose, this game.
This matches’ humorous moment occurs with a quarter of an hour of the match to go as a long clearance into touch by a Llanboidy defender went straight into the nearby car park and set off a car alarm, which got a fair few laughs among the 219 spectators at Cae Dandre this afternoon.
Harman would add to his earlier goal with a quarter of an hour of the match to go. The referee bravely awarded a penalty kick to Maesglas after he judged a Llanboidy defender to have pushed an attacker in the box. Harman stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Joey Roscoe the wrong way.
Maesglas will consider themselves unlucky not to take all three points in the closing stages when a beautiful goalmouth scramble lead to a Maesglas striker almost putting the ball in the back of the net.
Llanboidy substitute Dafydd Williams would be kicking himself if he saw a replay of his close range shot with two minutes of play left, as he came within inches of sealing his side’s first victory of the season, only to see his shot go just wide of the post.
In stoppage time, Llanboidy again go painfully close with a glorious opportunity presented to Hefn Harries who rose to meet a cross in the six yard box. Harries didn’t make the best contact with the ball, when any header on target would have beaten the keeper. Unfortunately his effort is well off target and with that any chance of a Llanboidy victory is dashed.
As the referee brought the match to end, it brought an end to my first real foray into the world of professional ground hopping. I was very sad that this little mini adventure in Ceredigion had come to an end. I liken it to the way you feel when you come from an excellent holiday. You just can’t imagine not lying on the beach all day, or going for a swim every day, or just drinking your own body weight in Fosters. I couldn’t imagine going back to work tomorrow and not just going to watch another four football matches.
We said our goodbyes, had another last look around the sports hall and eventually made our way out of the car park and left Llanboidy. We stopped off in nearby Carmarthen for a fuelling stop, taking in a Toby Carvery for the two hour drive home to Pontypridd.
In fact, the only down point of the weekend was returning home to Ponty on the Sunday night to find our boiled had packed in and the circuit board had burned out. A swift call to the landlord tomorrow morning should quickly put paid to that problem thought! (One of the only perks of renting over buying).
A big thanks to all at Groundhop UK and the Ceredigion League for putting on this spectacular show and most importantly, a big thank you to all at Dewi Stars, SDUC, Felinfach, Bargod Rangers, Aberaeron, Penrhyncoch, Newcastle Emlyn, New Quay, Pencader United, Ffostrasol, Llanboidy and Maesglas for your kindness and hospitality. I hope to see you all again in the near future.
My People of the Match: I’m awarding today’s Man of the Match to everyone involved with both Llanboidy and Maesglas football clubs. You truly put on a superb event that will live in the memories of everyone visiting the club today.