Saturday 4th April 2015.
AFC Trebanog 0-8 Trebanog.
Rhondda & District Football League, Premier Division.
The Oval, Ynyshir.
Attendance: Circa 40.
This week has been a tiring week which included one night where out of hours work that only I could carry out meant I worked overtime on Tuesday until about 4am. As a result, I chose to forgo last night’s Good Friday local derby between Afan Lido and Goytre United at The Marston’s Stadium despite planning to attend up until the day.
Having recovered with a lie-in I decided to take in another keenly fought derby, this time in the Rhondda & District League with an intriguing match between two relatively new teams in the league from a village I’m more than familiar with.
The day started with a quick visit to Second Time Around in Tonypandy arcade for a spot of vinyl shopping. I always love a visit there and Phil who runs the shop is incredibly knowledgeable on the genres of music I tend to go for. He is also responsible for booking the Manic Street Preachers to play at The Star in Ystrad in 1989, to my knowledge the only Manic Street Preachers gig in the Rhondda Valleys. I think the story goes that he wasn’t overly keen on them, paid them £20 for their petrol back to Blackwood and they gave him a copy of Suicide Alley on 7″. I may have embellished that over the course of the last few years though.
Phil has thousands of records, all up for grabs at ridiculous prices. I haven’t gone there much since I moved from Tonypandy to Pontypridd a few years ago, but whenever I have found the time I always come back with a sizable wad of records.
Today’s splurge with my wife results in one of the more eclectic splurges we’ve made, taking home records from Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Madness, Duran Duran, Huey Lewis & The News, Spandau Ballet and a humorously entertaining jazz album called ‘Dixieland Dance Party’ by The Dixielanders.
My usual carriage is having its MOT and service done this morning so I’m borrowing my wife’s Clio for the short 5 mile journey from Pontypridd up to Ynyshir.
AFC Trebanog are a relatively new side in the scale of things. So new in fact, that I found myself struggling to find any information about them on the Internet. The name gives away their geographical location as being the small village of Trebanog, a town that sits at the higher reaches of the Rhondda Valley, bordering old Taff Ely.
I found some information on an old Facebook profile that suggested the side were built from a youth side representing the nearby village of Cymmer, but I’m unsure how true or reliable this information is.
AFC Trebanog play at The Oval in Ynyshir, approximately two to three miles from the village of Trebanog, a little further up the Rhondda in the Rhondda Fach valley.
The Oval is an old ground in the Rhondda, one that generation after generation of Rhondda kids have played football on. I remember vividly playing matches on this pitch in the early 90’s, likewise I also remember my Dad telling me about when he played on the same pitch in the early 70’s.
The one funny fact I have about the ground? It isn’t oval.
I’m genuinely tickled when I drive towards the ground and notice a street sign that grabs my attention, that of ‘Standard Terrace’.
I love the people of the Rhondda, I was born in the Rhondda myself and am intensely proud of the fact I come from the place and consider it to be such a massive integral part of the making of who I am as a person.
People of the Rhondda are some of the most self-deprecating people you will ever meet. The fact that whoever named this street ‘Standard Terrace’ just cracks me up. Other streets I remember playing on when I grew up included: Grand View, Pleasant View, Meadow Street, all street names that present a view of grandeur de normale if you will?
Standard Terrace? Well I guess the street naming officer was on annual leave that day.
The Oval is a small valleys ground that sits at the end of a series of terraced streets, sitting mere yards from the new Porth to Tylorstown bypass road, so close that an extended fence has been erected behind one of the touchlines to prevent flying balls from hitting cars travelling at 60mph on the bypass.
There is one main stand at The Oval. A small sheltered building that is more a shelter than a stand. It sits on one side of the changing rooms and welfare building. The rest of the pitch is surrounding by barrier fencing.
Such is the way in the Valleys that after Thursday’s terrible foggy and chilly conditions, a mere 48 hours later we are basked in Spring sunshine with the irresistible smell of barbecues grilling in nearby back gardens.
I often find with local derbies that the distance tends to dictate how the players and fans feel about each other.
Take Liverpool and Everton for example, Manchester United and Manchester City are a good example too. Liverpool and Everton occupy the same city, their grounds are a stones throw away from each other. Liverpool and Everton fans share offices, work vans and even households.
In this scenario, you can live too close to your rivals to make it a rival ‘blood and hate’ derby.
If you look at rivalries like Cardiff City and Swansea City, Manchester United and Liverpool and say West Brom and Aston Villa for example. These derbies tend to have a bit of distance between them, so they become a bit more tribal.
I’m a massive Cardiff City fan and I’ve experienced the thrill of being escorted into the ground on a bus by marked police cars, with no intention of causing any trouble, but I’d be lying if I said the hairs on the back of the neck weren’t rising as we drove into the stadium.
There’s that extra bit of spice when you play a rival like Swansea City.
Manchester United fans for example, cannot by their nature, chant that ‘Manchester is a shithole, I want to go home!’ when they play Manchester City away, unless they really are as self-deprecating as the people of the Rhondda are!
I also understand the irony of Manchester United fans singing ‘Manchester is a shithole..’ because the vast majority of Manchester United fans nowadays live hundreds, even thousands of miles from Old Trafford.
When there is a distance involved it makes things a little spicier. I have many friends who are Swansea City fans, some really lovely guys who have been friends for a decade or more. Some of these guys will truly refuse to even visit Cardiff for a shopping trip with their wives. Such is their hatred of the city.
I’m sure there are plenty of Liverpool fans out there who wouldn’t even entertain the idea of stepping foot in Manchester, and vice versa.
That little bit of distance allows a real hatred to build up. Something that is a bit different than a intra-village/town/city derby.
Which is why today’s game was played with no malice, hatred or dislike.
AFC Trebanog and their similarly named rivals Trebanog FC therefore are similar rivals to that of Liverpool and Everton. Both teams want to be better than their cross-town rivals, of course they do, but you’d probably find that players from both sides will be buying each other drinks at the Top Pub in Trebanog this evening and laughing over each other’s missed chances.
For the purpose of not causing any confusion during the rest of this blog entry, I’ll simply refer to AFC Trebanog as being ‘AFC’, and Trebanog FC as simply being ‘Trebanog’. A Trebanog midfielder said it best as the sides were about to kick off when he turns to the referee, about to whistle the match to start, and shouts:
“Boys, how many times are we gonna’ hear ‘Banog Ball’ now then?”
Trebanog went into this afternoon’s match no doubt hurting greatly following their defeat to fellow title rivals Gelli Hibs on Thursday night at home. This defeat handed the impetus back to Gelli Hibs, who were playing Blaenrhondda at home.
Trebanog started the match in furious fashion and could have taken the lead within thirty seconds of the kick off. Trebanog’s No.11 came exceptionally close with a long range shot that tested the AFC keeper but flew just over the cross bar.
After just three minutes, Trebanog, in clinical fashion took the lead through their No.7. He picked up the ball after a creative pass from the edge of the box. The No.7 made no mistake from close range and fired home past the flailing AFC keeper.
Not looking to settle on their laurels, Trebanog pushed forward in numbers and put AFC under pressure. This pressure was rewarded when Trebanog’s No.10 was forcibly barged off the ball by AFC’s No.5 when going through on goal.
The referee rightfully awarded Trebanog a penalty, but eyebrows were raised when the referee chose to send the AFC player off to take an early shower. Such was the surprise at this decision that even the Trebanog bench were found criticizing the referee for perhaps a little too gung-ho with his red card so early in the game.
Trebanog’s No.9, a player who I saw convert a penalty against Gelli Hibs on Thursday night, stepped up the spot and fired a well taken penalty into the bottom left corner of the goal giving the goalkeeper very little chance of making a save.
You would be forgiven at this point for thinking Trebanog would go on to win this game by a very large number of goals, such was the early dominance of the Trebanog side.
Trebanog were, as I previously mentioned, exceptionally dominant in the first half of this match. However it is worth pointing out that AFC did forge a number of chances. The best of which fell to their No.10 after seventeen minutes. The No.10 found himself in a one-on-one with the Trebanog goalkeeper, unfortunately for AFC, he was only able to put his shot just wide.
Three minutes later, Trebanog add a third through their No.9 who latched on to a loose ball being bounded around the AFC defence. The Trebanog player fires home clinically from about 15 yards out.
Being three goals to the good after twenty minutes and despite not really going any higher than about third gear it was clear for all to see how good the Trebanog side can be on their day. Their potential title credentials are there for all to see, especially on form like this.
AFC found themselves now being limited to long range shots as their Trebanog counterparts defended effectively in quite an advanced position, which was a complete change of form from their relatively deep sitting position on Thursday night.
Trebanog were rocked by an injury to their No.10 after half an hour of the match gone. The player seemed to go down in a heap after what looked like a fairly innocuous challenge. The No.10 was treated on the sidelines for several minutes, grasping at his hamstring, before being replaced by a substitute.
The last three games I’ve taken in on my travels have been in the Rhondda & District League. These games are small games, so quite often I find I’m spending a surprising amount of time fetching balls that have gone deep into touch and booting them back on the pitch.
I don’t know if the players notice this and whether it’s something the Rhondda League officials insist on, but the footballs at this level are pumped up so hard that I feel it actually stops some of the travel that we’ve all come to expect of a normal football.
The balls are pumped up so much harder than they are in the Welsh League and even the Welsh Premier. You only have to listen to a goalkeeper take a free kick in the Rhondda League to hear the ‘off snare drum’ sound of a Rhondda League ball, inflated within an inch of its life, being booted up the field. Sounding not too dissimilar to Lars Ulrich’s drumming on the ‘St. Anger’ album.
Now I’ve slotted in the ‘Balls in the Rhondda League and Lars Ulrich snare drum’ comparison, I’ll continue with the rest of the match.
The AFC goalkeeper, who is by now visibly furious and frustrated with the three goals his side have shipped so far, pulls off two phenomenal saves in the closing stages of the first half.
The first of which comes by way of a close range shot from inside the box when he found himself staring down on a Trebanog striker, looking second favourite to win the ball.
The second great save comes after a powerful header by Trebanog’s No.3 which nine times out of ten would have resulted in him sprinting back down his own half celebrating a goal.
After holding the strong Trebanog strikers off for about twenty five minutes, the AFC defence buckled in a crazy two minutes for them.
A minute before half time, in a relatively comfortable position. AFC waited a little too long to deal with a ball that should have been sent as far from their own penalty area as possible. Unfortunately for AFC, Trebanog’s No.12 robbed the ball off an indecisive defender and fired past the AFC goalkeeper who stood little chance of stopping his effort.
With the score sitting at 4-0 and with what must have been seconds until half time, AFC would have been best advised to try and hold on to the ball and take it as far away from their own goal as possible.
AFC lost the ball almost immediately from kick off. A Trebanog player sent a long pass into the AFC penalty box, a ball which caught the AFC goalkeeper unaware. The ball took a cruel bounce a yard in front of him and chipped the AFC keeper who could do nothing to stop the outcome.
Trebanog’s No.9 shepherded the ball towards the goal. Sportingly, he attempted to leave the ball go in so the goal could be credited to his team mate. Unfortunately for his team mate, the ball looked to be going wide so at the very last second, the No.9 stopped the ball from going out for a goal kick and booted it home from a yard out.
The No.9 apologised to his colleague for scoring whilst his team mates mobbed him.
Having seen five goals go past him in the first half, the AFC goalkeeper seemed to ask for his manager to substitute him, or at least that was my understanding of the situation.
It was a difficult one really, no-one likes conceding five goals, but I think the AFC player was probably being a little hard on himself. Such was the form that Trebanog were in this afternoon that there wouldn’t have been many goalkeepers in this league that wouldn’t have seen their goal breached so many times either.
Whatever the situation was, AFC started the second half with an outfield player in goal. Memory fails me as to whether this player played the first half outfield or not. It was a little hard to decide as the makeshift goalkeeper was now wearing a baseball cap, which made it hard to recognise whether he had been on the pitch in the first half or not.
Sadly I missed the first five minutes of the second half as I took a call from my mechanic who sadly informed me I needed two new front tyres (I knew that I probably did), two new windscreen wipers (I knew that I probably did) and a new wing mirror glass (I knew I needed to fix that) to get my car through its MOT.
During my absence from the match I noticed that the Trebanog No.9 had done down injured and had been replaced by a substitute, No. 14.
Trebanog’s No.14 made an almost immediate impact, rounding the goalkeeper on the edge of the box and firing a shot that looked destined for the bottom corner of the net, only to find his shot blocked by a trailing AFC foot.
Three minutes after his blocked effort, No.14, who I believe to be Anthony Hares scored a lovely goal to make the score 6-0. His effort from close range, fired under the goalkeeper who could do little to stop his effort.
One thing I’m hoping that people get when reading this blog is that AFC Trebanog are not a bad side by any means, in fact they actually have some decent creative players. Their league position shows that they are no mugs by any means. This afternoon is simply a case of Trebanog FC being so good, despite not really looking like they ever stepped above third gear.
AFC Trebanog are a very youthful side. I’m not sure of the players’ ages, but I probably wouldn’t be wrong to guess that more than half of them are probably still in their teens. Some of their players relative inexperience was shown no more so than when a young defender, perhaps not concentrating completely on a game that had long since been lost, picked up a goal kick from his keeper inside the box.
The referee correctly awards a goal kick, but one or two Trebanog players (and a fair number of their fans), perhaps unaware of the ruling, are amazed the referee hasn’t awarded an indirect free kick.
AFC were a lot tighter in the second half and genuinely looked at one stage like they could go the rest of the match without conceding another goal.
Trebanog’s No.16, broke through the AFC defence with about twelve minutes of the match left and found himself up-ended by AFC’s No.8 just as he was about to unleash a shot.
Anthony Hares, who looked most likely to take the penalty, very sportingly offered up the penalty to his team mate No.16, who would have probably scored had he not been taken down.
The referee had little option but to send the AFC No.8 off for his foul, giving him a straight red card for his mistimed tackle.
The tackle, to be fair to the AFC player, had no malice in it. It wasn’t that kind of tackle. It was more the tackle of frustration, the kind of tackle that sometimes happens in these matches when you find yourself losing by such a big margin.
Trebanog’s No.16 stepped up to the take the penalty and fired a relatively decent shot towards the makeshift goalkeeper’s left. The makeshift made what I would call “an outfield player’s save”, diving for the ball with his feet first, as if he was trying to block an opponent’s pass through the midfield.
However the save was made, it was made – and he was rightly mobbed by his team mates for keeping the lead down to six goals.
Unfortunately for the makeshift goalkeeper, he found his goal impeded once again a few seconds later from the resulting corner. Trebanog’s No.5, who had played a relatively low key game so far, given that he had little defending to do up the opposite end of the pitch got his head on the end of a looping pass into the box. He headed over the flailing AFC goalkeeper to give his side a seven goal lead.
You’d forgive a side for riding out the last ten minutes at a slow pace if they were winning 7-0, but such is the potential importance of goal difference in this league (the top 4 sides are separated by only 3 points, with 7 games left for most) that the Trebanog bench were urging the team forward to try and add to their goals, reminding them that they were now playing against nine men.
Trebanog added to their seven goals in the last minute of normal time. The ball pinged around the AFC box in pinball fashion following a series of attempted shots and clearances. The AFC defence were unable to clear the ball and found themselves punished by Trebanog’s No.12 who calmly placed the ball in the top corner of the net in a sublime style.
The referee blew the final whistle a few seconds later and Trebanog deservedly chalked up an 8-0 victory over their village rivals.
I do hope that when people read this blog, they don’t simply take the fact that this was an 8-0 victory and that one side ended the game with only nine players as being indicative of a poor quality and potentially dirty game.
Truth, be told, this was a very entertaining game – admittedly a little one sided but this was due solely down to the sheer dominance of the Trebanog side. AFC Trebanog, as I’ve mentioned earlier, are no mugs in this league.
As I walked out of the ground I walked past an AFC Trebanog official, helping take down the nets on the goalposts. I commented something to the effect of “Bad luck butt. Don’t worry too much, you’ve got a half decent side there”. I think the comment was lost on the guy, who was obviously hurting and frustrated with the nature of his side’s defeat.
Trebanog, and the other sides in the Top Four were no doubt delighted to hear that Gelli Hibs could only manage a 1-1 draw against Blaenrhondda, which re-opens the title race that as recent as Thursday night looked almost sealed and delivered to the Gelli Hibs side.
With only three points separating the top four and about seven or eight games to go for the teams, the Rhondda & District League looks like it may have a few chapters left before the book finishes.
My Man of the Match: It’s so hard to pick an individual, especially when some of Trebanog’s key players didn’t complete the 90 minutes for one reason or another. Therefore I’m going to completely sit on the fence and award Man of the Match jointly to both Trebanog’s No. 10, who went off injured in the first half and their No.12 who replaced him. Both players were excellent up front.