Wednesday 18th March 2015.
Aberbargoed Buds 4-2 Penrhiwceiber Rangers.
Welsh League Division Two.
The Recreation Ground, Aberbargoed.
Attendance: Circa 50.
I finished work at 6pm in Bridgend, so I just had enough time to get changed, grab a coffee for the journey and make the 28 mile journey up the Caerphilly valleys to the town of Aberbargoed for tonight’s match.
Aberbargoed is a town that I’ve only passed through previously on a couple of occasions, having played gigs in nearby Fleur-de-lis and Bedwas in my past life as a guitarist in a punk band. After spending a few minutes driving around Aberbargoed, the streets seemed very familiar to me, in a nice way. Everything reminded me of the Rhondda Valleys, the place I was born.
Aberbargoed is a small town that sits about six or seven miles away from Caerphilly. I’m lead to believe it has a population of about 4000 and for the fact fans out there, it was once home to the largest ever colliery waste tip in Europe (thanks Wikipedia).
I arrived in Aberbargoed with about twenty minutes to spare before kick off, so I made my way back from the ground on Bedwellty Road and went off in search of some sustenance, having not eaten such lunch time.
The main street that runs through the town centre plays host to a number of fast food establishments, all of whom look rather good. I opted for a simple cheese and chips meal from the fantastically named ‘Flamingo’, a fast food kebaberie with neon lights aplenty.
To be fair, or unfair, to the guys at ‘Flamingo’, the chips are lukewarm, the amount of cheese given with the meal makes me think there is a cheese shortage in the Caerphilly valleys and I sadly, end up putting about half of them in a bin near the ground ten minutes later.
The Recreation Ground is Aberbargoed Bud’s home ground. An impressive looking ground for this level of the Welsh pyramid. The Recreation Ground has a lovely playing surface, especially for this time of year, an impressive looking clubhouse with refreshments and a nice, friendly welcome on your arrival.
Admission for tonight’s match is £5, match day programmes were available, but I only had a fiver on me and with only a couple of minutes before kick off I decided against going back into town to find a cash machine.
The Recreation Ground boasts an impressive looking clubhouse, serving all manner of refreshments, and offers spectators on a bitterly cold night, such was the temperature, a temporary refuge.
Spectators can be housed in a small covered stand with standing room only. I’d estimate about 100 or so hardy souls could take cover under the stand. A concrete path surrounds about half of the pitch, the other half is surrounded with grass.
Much like AFC Porth’s Dinas Park ground, there is one dug out on each side of the pitch. Aberbargoed Buds use the dug out on the opposite side to the stand whilst their visitors tonight, Penrhiwceiber Rangers use the dug out next to the stand.
Given the arctic conditions this evening, coupled with the fact that a potentially more attractive Barcelona vs. Manchester City Champions League tie is being broadcast on TV tonight, the attendance is pretty impressive. It’s hard to estimate these things and I always find I’m a little off, but I’d estimate 50 or so spectators were here tonight.
Tonight marks only my second Welsh League Division Two match of the year. I’m unsure why I’ve seen so little football in this division? But I hope to combat that in the coming weeks with visits to Barry Town United, Caerleon and Llanwern planned in the not too distant future.
Tonight’s visitors, Penrhiwceiber Rangers, find themselves in a tricky position in the lower reaches of Division Two. They sit 5 points above Caerleon, who occupy the final relegation spot in the league. However, you simply have to assume that Caerleon will pick up some points from their games in hand they hold over both them and Tata Steel, who sit between them.
Aberbargoed Buds, on the other hand, are a team very much on the rise. With Barry Town United and Caldicot Town having pretty much guaranteed themselves 1st and 2nd spot in the league through both teams having excellent seasons, Aberbargoed Buds look the most likely to take the third and final promotion spot in the league. The amount of games in hand they hold over their nearest contenders Llanwern, means that promotion is firmly in the hands of the Buds.
Aberbargoed Buds, managed by ex-professional player and previous AFC Porth manager Adrian Needs, start the match in phenomenal fashion. They took the lead after what must have been a mere twenty seconds through their No.11, who had the confidence to perform a traditional Cruyff turn in the box and slotted the ball clinically around the Penrhiwceiber goalkeeper.
Things went from bad to worse for Penrhiwceiber almost immediately, as Aberbargoed found themselves with a 2-0 lead in 3 minutes. Rangers gave away a cheap corner, which resulting in Buds No.4 rising above his marker to head home from close range.
Steve Haggett, the Penrhiwceiber Rangers manager was visibly distressed on the touchline following his team’s immediate capitulation. “Show some pride! Show some enthusiasm!” he bellowed from the touchline.
At this point in this match, Aberbargoed looked so dominant that I seriously thought this was going to be a complete white wash, perhaps something like a 10-0 victory and at that point it truly didn’t seem like I was over exaggerating just how dominant the Buds were.
Aberbargoed were unlucky not to extend their lead in the following five minutes. The Buds’ No.7 latched on to a long ball and put the ball around the ensuing goalkeeper. Unfortunately the Aberbargoed man put a little bit too much on the ball and was unable to catch the ball.
For all of their dominance, Aberbargoed let their guard down on a number of occasions and were punished midway through the first half against the run of play as a shot from Penrhiwceiber’s No.9 from the edge of the box ran speedily across the floor, ending up in the far corner of the net.
The Aberbargoed bench rose to their feet in anger as a blatant sending off wasn’t given on 26 minutes. Aber’s No.9 turned his man just outside the box and had a clear sight of goal but was pulled back by Penrhiwceiber’s No.5. Neither a free kick, nor a caution was given to the Penrhiwceiber man, who was by now making his mark felt on the shins of several Aberbargoed players.
Aberbargoed claimed back their two goal cushion with eight minutes to go before half time. Their No.9 got on the end of a lovely cross and slotted the ball home from 6 yards out.
Just before half time, Penrhiwceiber’s No.5 made his presence felt once again when he used his elbow while contending for a header. The trailing elbow caught Aberbargoed’s No.4 square in the nose and the physio spent a good few minutes on the pitch trying to stop the blood from pouring out of the guy’s face.
Penrhiwceiber came out for the second half a different side, scoring almost immediately from the kick off. A long range cross into the box found the foot of their No.8 who made no mistake from close range.
With the score at 3-2, the previously dominant Aberbargoed Buds looked to be shell shocked for a period of about ten minutes or so and seemed to be very slow out of the blocks after the interval.
Penrhiwceiber’s best chance to level the scores came in the 52nd minute, as a long range shot from an unidentified player missed the post by inches.
Penrhiwceiber’s No.5 found himself at the centre of controversy once again as he contended for a loose ball with Aberbargoed’s No.8. Sensing that he had lost the chance of picking up the ball he was seen to push his Aberbargoed counterpart into the surrounding metal barrier. The Aberbargoed player, now falling by this point was lucky that he raised his hands to protect his face, otherwise the incident may have turned very nasty.
By now, Penrhiwceiber’s No.5 was beginning to rile up a number of the Aberbargoed bench. I’ve seen many a player act out the ‘hard man’ act before, but it’s a different thing when your physicality on the pitch becomes just plain bullying.
The infamous No.5 didn’t let the incident go without letting the Aberbargoed bench that he would knock out the Aberbargoed player “After the match, I’ll even let him have the first three punches”. I was simply amazed at this point that the player had even as much as a ticking off by the referee.
Aberbargoed were unlucky not to make the score 4-2 on 65 minutes, after a lovely cross from their No.9 was met by No.10 who could only watch his shot frustratingly come back off the crossbar and roll out for a goal kick.
Things threatened to spill over once again on 71 minutes as the Penrhiwceiber infamous No.5 once again elbowed another player. The Aberbargoed bench again were incensed that no caution is given to the man, who has by now, clocked up the best part of 10 fouls.
Aberbargoed make sure of the three points with a quarter of an hour left of the match, as their substitute No.14 picked up the ball from a bit of a goalmouth scramble on the edge of the six yard box. No.14 plods the ball home off the post and gave his side a 4-2 lead.
As the match came to a close, Aberbargoed’s No.3, who put in a brilliant performance throughout the 90 minutes, was unlucky not to get on the score sheet after showing some lovely pieces of tricky skill in getting around two Penrhiwceiber defenders. He placed a shot across the box which was blocked, ironically, by one of his own players.
Aberbargoed now go into their last nine games of the season knowing that promotion to Division One is in their own hands. Penrhiwceiber on the other hand will still feel that the threat of Caerleon’s games in hand near the relegation places will always be a threat to their Division Two status and will need to win at least another two or three of their remaining seven games to once again feel comfortable in the division.
An entertaining, albeit a very chilly night, at The Recreation Ground.
My Man of the Match: Aberbargoed’s No.3, although he didn’t get on the score sheet in the end. He provided a constant attacking threat down the left wing and always seemed steady in defence.