Saturday 14th March 2015.
Pontypridd Town 1-2 Treharris Athletic Western.
Welsh League Division Three.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 80.
If you’ll excuse my Danny Dyer-pastiche level of Cockney parlance for a moment. It’s fair to say that this fixture has a bit of ‘previous if you catch my drift guv’na?
Now I’ve offended everyone who lives within the Greater London area, I’ll continue with my blog entry.
In the reverse fixture in late November of last year, whilst Pontypridd Town were holding a 2-0 lead deep into stoppage time through goals from Chris Vardon and Tom Rutherford, a rough tackle was made. Heads were lost and the match descended into a bit of controlled chaos. The referee decided in the 94th minute, to abandon the match completely. The result was in doubt, but was later judged to stand by the FAW.
It’s important to point out at this stage that I wasn’t present on the above mentioned date and my recollection of events is based on conversations I’ve held with players from both sides over recent weeks. One side recalls something, another side recalls another thing, which is natural really. The only thing really that both sides share is the belief that the referee on the day probably over-reacted in calling the game to a halt, especially so deep into stoppage time.
What adds more spice to this afternoon’s match is the precarious league position Treharris Athletic Western find themselves in going into the match. Having only escaped relegation to the South Wales Amateur Leagues the previous season by having a superior goal difference to the eventually relegated (and superbly named) Abertillery Bluebirds. With this in mind and finding themselves 12 points adrift of Bettws in the third relegation spot and with games quickly starting to run out, it’s clear that Treharris need to get points on the board swiftly to retain their Welsh League status.
Unfortunately I missed the opening 20 minutes or so, due to this afternoon’s family emergency, but I manage to get to the ground in time to still see Pontypridd Town’s usual ‘gate/ticket man’ near the entrance. A friendly chap who always has time for a chat.
Not that I’m telling people how to get into Welsh League matches for free, but I will mention that the volunteers running the gates usually give up after fifteen minutes or so, to find a better place to watch the match.
I’m an honest guy, don’t get me wrong, but if I find a fifty pound note on the floor the chances of me hot footing it to my local police station to hand it in for its rightful owner are very slim indeed.
Having said that, I hotfooted it to the usual ticket man, who is now walking back to the changing rooms and call out for him to stop.
I place a fiver and a pound coin into his hand, the usual admission fee for my wife and I. He fires me a look of bemusement. Twenty minutes of the match have passed and by this point it’s usually free entry for all.
“What’s this for?” he asks.
I struggle to find the words for a second, but murmur “Uh.. price, getting in?”
“Ah, don’t worry. Half way through first half” he replies, offering me the money back.
“Nah, if anything, just have it and put it towards the club” I firmly state back.
I’m not looking for an OBE or anything. I’ve had the opportunity to take in these games for free many a time before now. A hole in the fence here, an open gate there, a ‘ticket man’ gone for a walk. But I’ve always gone out of my way to find someone responsible for collecting the cash together.
Money at this level of the Welsh football pyramid is seriously short in supply, with clubs often having to pay referee’s and pitch hire fees out of their own pockets, with gate receipts only making the smallest of dents in such fees. (Interestingly for those who object to “paying for amateur football”, which is a sad excuse I’ve heard before. The Welsh League actually impose a rule that states clubs must charge a minimum of £3.00 for members of the public to attend – Rule 16).
I find out from speaking to someone that Pontypridd Town are winning 1-0, with the opening goal coming from midfielder Geraint Passmore. Unfortunately I have absolutely no description of the goal to give you, other than it wasn’t another 50 yard effort (Passmore has scored two goals in separate matches from 50 yards in recent weeks).
This afternoon’s Ynysangharad Park crowd is bolstered by some familiar faces, and more recently – familiar voices, making their first appearance at a Pontypridd Town home game.
Last Summer, Pontypridd Town made the ambitious move of playing Spanish La Liga and Champions League legends Valencia in a pre-season friendly. Colin Murray of TalkSport and Match of the Day 2 fame caught wind of the plan and ran with it. His plan was to invite listeners on a brief sojourn to sunny Spain in July of last year to support a fourth tier Welsh amateur side to drink a lot, party a lot and have the time of their lives.
Colin and friends have made their way down to this afternoon’s match and made themselves at home in the main stand at Ynysangharad Park, all resplendent in dafodil hats, dragon hats and with bunches of flowers, not unlike Morrissey of The Smiths. They all met at the town’s Wetherspoons at 11.30, and three hours of boozing with Pontypridd’s finest has lead to some hilarious and witty chants being heard in the ground, the likes of which have never been heard in any ground up and down the United Kingdom ever. Personal favourites of mine included:
“He took us abroad.
He took us abroad.
He took us abroad”
(An ode to Pontypridd Town’s player-manager Dominic Broad, who used his coaching connections in Spain to arrange the infamous Valencia friendly).
“Aaron Carew, Carew.
He’s smaller than me and you.
He’s only 5ft 2.
(An ode to Pontypridd’s Aaron Carew, a player of a similar build to Paul Parker).
“9 all, we’re gonna draw 9 all”.
(A rather ambitious ode to the potential scoreline, or a prediction of the Wales vs. Ireland Six Nations final score).
To say it was very surreal would be a criminal understatement.
The remainder of the first half was played out in a fairly low key manner with neither side really taking hold of the game. Treharris’ Keiron Jones would probably feel he could have done better with a decent opportunity on the stroke of half time, but his shot went over the bar by mere inches.
At half time we made our way into the now bustling clubhouse for a coffee. Some of the more yolk-challenged among us were watching the closing stages of the Wales vs. Ireland Six Nations showdown on the television. I feel a tap on my shoulder and a familiar sounding Irish twang from behind me.
“Are we still losing?” Colin asks.
“Who is ‘we’?” I reply and laugh.
He goes in for a closer look at the TV screen and sees that Wales are beating the Irish by five points or so. He hugs me and says “Ah well”, before making his way back to the makeshift bar at the other end of the room.
The effort made by some of these guys to get here today is incredibly admirable to be fair. As we mull around the room we overhear one guy tell another that he has made a 900 mile round trip to take in today’s match and the associated after-party on the streets of a Saturday night in Pontypridd.
Say what you like about Colin Murray, some people love him, some don’t, but I’m certain that Adrian Chiles wouldn’t be seen dead at a fourth tier Welsh League match.
As the second half kicks off Treharris come out with renewed intent, such is the cliche in these type of matches. They seem to be a little quicker to every loose ball and have a little more intent in their tackling play.
Pontypridd Town don’t go the whole half without having chances to put the game to bed though. Matthew Escott, a player I haven’t seen line up for Pontypridd Town for a few matches now, takes on two men before hitting a cross slightly too far for his attacking colleague who was in a great position.
Just after the hour mark, a Pontypridd Town player handles the ball and the referee awards Treharris a free kick in a dangerous position about 25 yards from goal. Geraint Corkrey lines up the free kick and probably catches Adam Webb a little by surprise as Corkrey looked to be shaping up for a cross in his run up. His free kick is both powerful and well placed and beats Webb to level the scoring.
At this point in the match it seemed like some Pontypridd Town heads dropped a little and Treharris took advantage of this lack of confidence and attacked in numbers.
Treharris’ David Mitchell came very close to putting his side ahead with ten minutes or so to go, as he gets on to a corner with his head, sadly putting the ball just wide.
At this point in the match, the game looked for all intents and purposes to be closing out slowly to a 1-1 draw. Both sides perhaps becoming a little hesitant to throw too many men forward and risk losing the match.
Adam Webb in the Pontypridd goal was put under great pressure by one of his defenders as a backpass was played a little too short, with seven minutes of the match left to play. Impressive looking Treharris striker Aarren Caffell latched onto the short back pass and personified coolness and calmness when he placed the ball around Webb, despite the angles looking very tricky at the time, to put his side 2-1 ahead.
Caffell by now was attracting attention from Murray and his throng of friends, with chants such as “Ponty, sign him up” and “Can you please play 20% worse?”.
As the minutes ticked by, Pontypridd Town threw men forward in search of the equaliser and they came extremely close to levelling affairs when a looping header from striker James Hill went inches over the bar.
As the game came to a close Treharris played the ball intelligently down the channels and minimised any pressure their close rivals exerted upon them.
The Pontypridd Town side will be disappointed losing the match, not only losing to close geographical rivals but also not wanting to let down their long distance supporters making the long pilgrimage this afternoon. As it would transpire, the long distance supporters actually had a great time, regardless of the result. Especially if the photos that graced Twitter and Instagram later that night were anything to go by.
Treharris now sit 9 points behind Bettws in the final relegation place. However it must be pointed out that Treharris have a game in hand over Bettws who occupy 16th place.
Is it too late to suggest that this might be the start of another famous Treharris escape from the inevitable? If this afternoon’s form is anything to go by, don’t be surprised if you see Treharris lining up in mid-August with their Welsh League status intact.
A great deal has to be made of Colin Murray and his colleagues appearance at this afternoon’s match. His efforts in helping Pontypridd Town make a name for themselves in the last year or so is admirable and Colin and his friends’ presence this afternoon certainly made for an interesting 90 minutes, especially when chants were exchanged between Pontypridd Town fans on one touchline and Treharris fans on the opposite touchline. All in good nature (“Sing when you’re drawing. You only sing when you’re drawing!”), which made for an excellent atmosphere.
It’s always good to see passion among spectators at this level of the game and both sides certainly had some great support. It’s heartening to see a league that means so much to me being supported in such a way.
My Man of the Match: Young Aarron Caffell troubled the Pontypridd Town defence all match and showed some brilliant attacking prowess in latching on to the short back pass for his winner. If you want my verdict? Watch out for this lad in future years, don’t say I didn’t say anything when he finds himself playing at a higher level in the game.