Sunday 22nd March 2015.
Tonyrefail BGC Youth 2-2 AFC Porth Youth.
Rhondda & District Football League Youth League.
Tyn-y-Bryn Park, Tonyrefail.
Attendance: Circa 30.
One of the better things about this whole football adventure I’ve set up for myself has been the discovery, or re-discovery in this case, of football leagues up and down the country that people outside of player’s family and friends rarely take in.
The Rhondda & District Youth League is the very same league I last lined up in as a ‘proper player’ in the late 90’s. So going back to watch a game in the league was something I’d been looking to do for a long time. The fact that the match involved a team I used to play for as a kid (AFC Porth) and the side a lot of my friends in school played for (Tonyrefail BGC) made things all the better.
I had planned to take in the fantastically named Pengam Pigeon FC take on St. James FC in the John Moses Cup Final in Llanbradach, Caerphilly. However, after spending several hours in Flagstones, Treforest’s finest Tapas bar sampling some fine tasting lagers, my wife and I woke up pretty late in the morning. Too late for me to make the 11am kick off.
Being an organised kind of guy, I always try and have options open to me. So whilst all of my friends, apparently everyone on my Facebook timeline and probably everyone with even a mild interest in the sport sat down on their settees to take in this afternoon’s ‘South Wales Armchair Fan Derby’ between Liverpool and Manchester United on Sky Sports, I chose to take in the fiesty local-ish derby between Tonyrefail BGC’s Youth side and AFC Porth’s Youth side in the Rhondda & District Youth League.
Tonyrefail BGC (Boys & Girls Club) are a long standing side who have represented the village where I went to secondary school for decades (representing the village for decades, not me going to secondary school for decades), calling Tyn-y-Bryn Park their home.
Tyn-y-Bryn Park is a fairly basic ground that forms part of a larger park made up of several rugby and football pitches. The ground sits next to the Rhondda Bowl 10-pin bowling alley (previously known as the Long Bowl, not due to the length of the alleys but due to the previous owners surname ‘Long’) and the Tonyrefail Leisure Centre. The ground is a stray goal kick’s length from the nearby A4119 Tonyrefail bypass road that cuts through the centre of the village.
The ground is fenced off, but like most matches at this level, admission is free of charge. The ground has a set of concrete dug outs, but this afternoon the dug outs are used by local teens to offer a better, more vertical, view of the game.
AFC Porth have a numerical disadvantage going into today’s game. Their manager, a friendly chap always open for a chat, informs me that they are playing today’s match with only 10 players, after six of their players failed to turn up at the meeting point this morning. Whether this is due to illness, injury or the unmissable Liverpool vs. Manchester United match that clashes with this afternoon’s match I’ll never know.
AFC Porth, prior to today’s match, found themselves occupying second spot in the Rhondda & District Youth League, having a big three games in hand over leaders Stanleytown who only sit three points above the Porth side.
Tonyrefail BGC sit one spot behind AFC Porth in third place, with two games in hand over Stanleytown. It’s safe to say therefore that this afternoon’s match is a bit of a top of the table clash.
Tonyrefail started the match the better side, making their numerical advantage count. Tonyrefail’s No.8 was very unlucky not to put his side ahead after three minutes as he delivered a looping shot from twenty five yards, only to see his shot go inches over the bar.
Minutes later, Tonyrefail’s No.11, a tricky and pacey youngster who always looked comfortable running at pace with the ball at his feet, had a good opportunity to opening the scoring for his side but put his shot just wide of the post when presented with an opportunity on the edge of the six yard box.
AFC Porth, after holding their decks and having to play a largely defensive game, began to take a foothold in the game after about quarter of an hour and were unlucky not to score through their No.10 who rose from a corner and headed the ball just wide. A minute later the same player would place a shot from close range into the Tonyrefail goal, finding his shot blocked on the line by a Tonyrefail defender.
The referee, Colin Williams, carried out his duties pretty well. When making a decision he actually took the time to explain to the young players why he had made the decision he did, in the hope that the youngsters would learn from their mistakes and in turn improve their overall game. At several points during the match, he would offer constructive criticism to players rather than continuously stop the game for minor offences.
Tonyrefail opened the scoring in this afternoon’s encounter through a well worked goal from their No.7. He picked up the ball from a pass on the penalty spot, slotting the ball to the goalkeeper’s left.
AFC Porth, for their numerical disadvantage, didn’t look like a side who were playing with one less player and I admit that I had to hand count the players a couple of times to actually believe they were playing with one less man.
Porth would level scores a couple of minutes before half time after a superb cross by their No.5. This player would be a constant threat for the Rhondda side, he really does possess a cracking passing ability. He placed the ball right on the forehead of his colleague, the No.10, who glanced the ball past the Tonyrefail keeper to level the scores and send the AFC Porth bench into delirium.
AFC Porth were unlucky not to go into the half time break with the lead as their No.10 got his foot on the end of a corner and challenged the Tonyrefail goalkeeper with a decent half volley. The resulting bounce on the shot beat the goalkeeper but fortunately for him the bounce also beat the crossbar.
As the sides emerged for the second half, Tonyrefail with their extra player looked to be the less tired of the two sides. This showed in the early stages of the second half as they came close to re-taking the lead through a close attempt by their No.9, who latched on to a looping pass but was only able to guide his shot wide of the post.
A few minutes later, Tonyrefail’s No.7, an impressive and skillful playmaker in the centre of the park laid a beautiful pass on for his No.9 colleague. Unfortunately, the No.9 put a little too much power on his shot, which went well over the bar.
For all of their possession in the opening stages of the second half, AFC Porth, still a man short, defended resolutely and never really looked like they would concede a goal.
Tonyrefail’s No. 7 whom I mentioned earlier to be quite the player, was unlucky not to put himself on the score sheet mid-way through the second half as he rounded two Porth defenders and tried an audacious lob from about thirty yards out. His shot unfortunately was sent well over the crossbar.
AFC Porth’s goalkeeper had a great game, always looking comfortable making saves. He produced a superb save with a quarter of an hour of the match left, saving with his feet as the Tonyrefail No.9 beat the offside trap to find himself looking down on the goalkeeper in a one-on-one.
With ten minutes left to go in the match and against all odds, based on their numerical disadvantage, AFC Porth took the lead for the first time in the match as a superb cross from a corner kick by their No.5 was headed passed the goalkeeper by their No.10, scoring his second goal. The AFC Porth bench again went crazy. Could they pull off a relative upset by winning the game with one less player?
Unfortunately for AFC Porth, they would have to eventually settle for a point they would have probably been happy with going into the match. With four minutes left on the clock, the referee adjudged one of the Porth defenders to be pushing a Tonyrefail striker as a corner was delivered into the box. The referee perhaps controversially awarded the Tonyrefail side a penalty kick.
Tonyrefail’s No.5, who had until this point taken all set pieces for the side stepped up to take the kick. He confidently placed the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal. The Porth keeper chose the right side, but with a little too much venom on the penalty, he was unable to get a hand to the shot.
As the referee took the game into injury time, Tonyrefail were reduced to ten men as their No.3 was shown a second yellow card for a deliberate handball. So for the remaining two minutes of injury time, numerical parity was restored between the two sides.
The referee blew the final whistle a few minutes later, closing the curtains on what was a very entertaining local derby between two excellent sides.
With the senior Welsh League’s relegation from Division One of the Welsh League confirmed the previous day, some of these young AFC Porth players are very likely to be making some headway into forcing their way into the thoughts of Richard Haig, managing the senior Welsh League side for their Division Two campaign next season.
The game might not have had the same glamour and attractiveness that this afternoon’s Liverpool vs. Manchester United Sky Sports showdown had, but I’d hazard a bet that this game was far more entertaining than the dour non-event of only experiencing football sitting on an armchair, watching through an LCD screen.
My Man of the Match: AFC Porth’s No.10. In a game where the odds were stacked against them, No.10 did an excellent job of not only scoring both of his sides goals, he also did an excellent job of tracking back and taking on defensive duties.