Thursday 2nd April 2015.
Trebanog 1-3 Gelli Hibs (Hibernia).
Rhondda & District Football League, Premier Division.
Trebanog Playing Fields, Trebanog.
Attendance: Circa 120.
I felt a rightful sense of deja vu walking into Trebanog Playing Fields on Thursday evening, after watching Tonyrefail Welfare play out a fairly entertaining draw with Gelli Hibs on Tuesday night.
Gelli Hibs, found themselves this evening in the odd situation of playing two away games in three days at the same ground. Against Tonyrefail Welfare on Tuesday, Hibs were rightly shell shocked from the start, going a goal down after just 60 seconds. They dominated the rest of the action on Tuesday but were unable to convert their dominance into clear cut chances.
Gelli went into tonight’s match knowing that a victory would put them in a fantastic position in the league, which with eight games left is looking all the more interesting as the games pass.
Trebanog FC went into tonight’s match having played one game more than their opponents and needed a victory in order to maintain their title credentials.
Although not as bitterly cold as Tuesday night’s match, it was clear (or unclear) for all to see that the main issue the Rhondda evening weather had for both players and spectators was the heavy fog sitting atop Cymmer hill.
I was pleasantly surprised at the attendance for tonight’s match. As is always the case with these matches, predicting an attendance is such a hard thing to do. As a rough guess I would say there were probably around 120 or so people crowded in the ground.
Trebanog FC are a fairly new team in the scale of things. Established in 2013, the club has gone from strength to strength in recent years – looking more and more like candidates for the soon to be formed South Wales Alliance league every day.
The match started in a sombre tone as the teams, officials and spectators respectfully held a dignified minutes silence in memory of referee Darren Ould’s father, who sadly passed away very recently. This was a very touching and sporting moment, especially when I noticed earlier on in the day that it was actually suggested by a Trebanog player on their Facebook account.
As someone who lost my father at a very young age I have to say how admirable it was that Mr. Ould found the strength to carry on with his duties at such a tough time in the name of the sport. Match officials often get overlooked at this level of football unfairly. Mr. Ould can be incredibly proud of himself for what he did this evening.
The match that promised so much, between two likely title contenders, didn’t disappoint one bit. Trebanog came closest to opening the scoring after four minutes. Trebanog’s No.10, a pacey and creative striker with a keen eye for goal, beat the offside trap set by the Gelli back four and forced the Gelli keeper to pull off a phenomenal save to keep the scores level.
Such was the nature of the first half end-to-end action that four minutes later Gelli Hibs came within inches of opening the scoring. Jason Davies, a player who I saw clinically put away his first penalty on Tuesday against Tonyrefail Welfare, picked up a wayward pass about twenty five yards from goal. He dispatched a powerful shot which took a minor deflection along the way. The deflection threw the Trebanog keeper off, but it wasn’t a big enough deflection to be considered an own goal. Davies ran away and was mobbed by his team mates, clear for all to see how much winning this match would mean for the Gelli side.
Trebanog grew into the match after the opening goal, arguably having slightly more possession of the ball and the lion’s share of the chances in the first half. Trebanog’s No.10 found himself in a good position about forty yards from goal on seventeen minutes but he wasn’t supported by any team mates in advanced positions. The player having little option but to try a speculative long range effort, which went well over the bar.
Half way through the first half the game was still being played at a furious break neck speed with both sides having great chances to add to the single goal this match had provided so far.
Trebanog really started playing some lovely passing football, slicing through the Gelli midfield like a hot knife through butter. Unfortunately for them they were a little wasteful in front of goal.
Much like their game on Tuesday night. Gelli Hibs made a lot of headway when attacking the right wing with pace. Particularly through superb winger Josh Harding, who time and time again found space down the right flank, whilst also not being afraid to take a man on. Harding will feel he could have done better though when he looked down on the Trebanog goalkeeper in a one-on-one on the edge of the box, Harding unfortunately put the ball straight at the goalkeeper.
Aside from the single goal, the only thing separating both sides at this point in the game was that Trebanog were probably sitting a little too deep in their defence and were slightly inviting pressure when attacked at pace by a very quick Gelli side with two fast wingers.
Trebanog put further pressure on the Gelli Hibs goalkeeper as the half came to a close, putting some good crosses into the box that certainly questioned the Hibs man between the posts. One such cross lead to the keeper needing to punch a ball away when he was surrounded by three Trebanog strikers and looking like the fourth favourite to win the ball.
Josh Harding for Gelli was unlucky not to double his sides lead on forty three minutes, latching onto a loose ball from a Trebanog misplaced pass. Harding sprinted to the loose ball, beating the Trebanog keeper in a foot race but only able to fire the ball mere inches wide of the post.
The first half ended with two extremely good chances for Trebanog. The first of which coming from their No.5 who rose above his marker to send a strong header towards the goal. The Gelli keeper did extremely well to tip the ball onto the cross bar and over for another corner kick. Two minutes later, Trebanog’s No.10 went just wide with a shot from 10 yards out, hitting the side netting.
As the sides came out for the second half the fog really started to take a hold, slowing the game down a little as visibility was reduced. I chatted with the young linesman about down the Gelli right wing about the conditions. He was a really nice guy, very knowledgeable about the players, always offering them constructive advice rather than simply blowing up for every single minor infringement. His fluid officiating helped keep what was an excellent game, flow well.
Despite coming out of the blocks sprinting, Trebanog found themselves in a dire situation within three minutes of the second half starting.
On the balance of it. The game would ultimately be won by Gelli’s dominant second half performance. Trebanog needed to come out of the changing rooms at the interval and really take the game to Gelli which they failed to do.
Trebanog gave away a needless free kick about thirty yards out from goal in a fairly central position. Jason Davies, a player with a superb foot for a dead ball, stepped up and scored a phenomenal goal, dipping the ball just under the cross bar. It may have even skimmed the cross bar on its way in. Despite placing the ball in the middle of the goal, such was the venom behind the shot, the Trebanog keeper stood little chance of stopping the goal.
Trebanog pushed forward in numbers, and their renewed urgency actually resulted in halving Gelli’s lead in this fiercely fought game.
The referee spotted a handball in the box after an attempted shot by a Trebanog striker. It was one of those handballs where there was no real intent, but it did block what may have been a goal, or at least a shot that would have forced the keeper to make a save. The referee sensibly only gave a yellow card to the defender for his part in the penalty.
Trebanog’s No.7 stepped up to the spot, looking away from goal to the opposite end of the pitch until the very last second. He ran up and fired home a very well taken penalty, slotting the ball home into the bottom corner of the goal. The keeper to be fair to him did guess right but wasn’t ever close to saving the ball from going in.
Controversy followed a few seconds later as the referee heard something untoward from Gelli’s No.2. The referee elected to award a second yellow card to the player who was given his marching orders.
With a half an hour of the match left to play and having to play against the ten men of Gelli, Trebanog would surely now feel that if there was ever a chance to go on and win the match, this would be that chance?
Trebanog immediately started trying to make their numerical advantage count, again holding the lion’s share of the possession. Unfortunately for the Trebanog side, Gelli were very well organised in defence and their more attacking players were never afraid to track back and make a defensive contribution.
Sadly for Trebanog, their numerical advantage last only eight minutes.
Gelli counter-attacked after a missed Trebanog chance. A good cross was laid across the box to Jason Davies, who fired a shot that looked destined for the bottom left corner of the goal. Trebanog’s Anthony Corey seemed to handle the ball and the referee was left with no option but to show the defender the red card and send him away for an early shower.
Jason Davies, the usual penalty taker for Gelli, had a chance to seal his hat-trick and surely win the three points for his side.
Davies, despite feeling the pressure from spectators behind the goal, made no mistake from twelve yards, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and slotting the ball far into the left corner of the goal.
With Gelli holding a commanding 3-1 lead, the match pace finally started to slow down and there was a sense that the match had already been won by the Hibs who had played their tactical game to a tee.
Josh Harding, who had impressed down the right wing earlier, was desperately unlucky not to add a fourth for his side when he took on a defender and fired a lovely shot goalbound. The ball, destined for the top corner but for a finger tip of the Trebanog goalkeeper who did superb to tip the ball over for a corner.
Trebanog ended the game with a lot of possession, but ultimately they were not clinical in front of goal to mount an attempt at a come back.
The joy the Gelli players felt as the final whistle was blown was clear for everyone at Trebanog Playing Fields to both see and hear. They surely must have felt that after beating fellow title contenders Trebanog, that they stand an excellent chance of taking the Rhondda Premier Division crown come next month.
Trebanog will no doubt feel this was a chance missed. All credit to them, they played some absolutely superb football at times throughout tonight’s match – to be fair to both sides, this was an incredibly entertaining match for a neutral.
Gelli Hibs now sit in second place, only one point behind leaders Penygraig United and holding two games in hand over them. With nine games to go, Gelli have their title destiny in their own hands.
With eight games left, it’s important for Trebanog to realise they are very much still part of the Premier Division title race. If we assume Gelli will win their games in hand, then Trebanog will still only potentially be five points behind them at the most. Any slip-up from Gelli could result in sides like Trebanog being able to rob them off the title at a late stage.
The sides will meet again in a few weeks to battle it out for the Lucania Cup at AFC Porth’s Dinas Park ground. Trebanog will of course have the taste of blood in their mouths as they seek to reverse the fortunes of this evening’s top of the table contest.
Best wishes to both sides for the rest of the season.
My Man of the Match: Josh Harding put in a superb performance, but (if I’ve got the right man and my goalcount is correct) Jason Davies scored a hat-trick and put in a great commanding performance.