Wednesday 8th April 2015.
Pontypridd Town 2-0 Treowen Stars.
Welsh League Division Three.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 40.
I’ve had a good week or two on my travels, taking in some absolutely brilliant matches along the way. The football calendar is always pretty busy at this time of year. The good weather at this time year typically makes for a good time for postponed Winter matches to be replayed. The clocks going forward an hour allows games in the some of the grounds without floodlights to be played mid-week. This has meant that I’ve been lucky enough to watch seven matches in the last eight days.
Having made a pretty decent dent in the South Wales football calendar, it’s definitely time for a couple of days rest – at least until Saturday. I’m also going to watch McBusted in Cardiff on Friday, a fact which seemed lost on Danny, Craig Morgan and Owain Morgan, all representatives of the Pontypridd Town side in some form or another, when I told them of my plans while waiting for the match to kick off.
There are few better ways to start a couple of days break from the finest sport in the land than taking in a night game under the floodlights of Ynysangharad Park, especially when the weather is as lovely as it has been of late.
I was a bit worried that the sudden appearance of a fun fair in the field next to the ground would disturb the game somewhat (think loud and obnxious clown music playing in the background while a player takes a 93rd minute penalty with the game stuck at 0-0) but by the time I arrived at the park, it seemed the funfair had enough fun for the day and was in the process of closing down for the evening.
“Bit weird having the fun fair next door isn’t it?” I asked the man taking the money on the gate.
“Yeah, bit of a nightmare to be honest. Not to worry though, our hot dogs are cheaper than theirs!” He replies, and I can’t argue with his logic.
There’s an air of positivity around Ynysangharad Park at the moment which radiates around the side. Pontypridd Town’s players seem to be really enjoying themselves and its clear to see by the beaming smiles on players faces as they warm up for tonight’s match. They’ve had a good couple of weeks, taking three points away from promotion chasing sides like Ammanford, Tredegar Town, Cardiff Corries and Lliswerry. Coupled with the confirmation that they intend to repeat their Summer sojourn to Spain for a friendly match with La Liga side Deportivo La Coruna, there’s certainly an air of positivity around the place.
Their opponents tonight, Treowen Stars, are a new side to me so I went into tonight’s match looking forward to seeing what they were all about. They currently sit 14th in Division Three, a good ten points or so above the relegation places, so they are probably safe for now, especially when you consider that the bottom three or four sides are struggling to pick up points.
Pontypridd Town initally take to the pitch with ten players. Tom Rutherford, midfielder for Ponty would take to his place a couple of minutes later after running into the ground resplendent in a suit but shoe-less while his colleagues walked out onto the Ynysangharad Park pitch.
While Rutherford was probably undoing his tie and hanging up his jacket his colleagues were already a goal to the good.
No more than fifteen seconds were on the clock when James Hill, Pontypridd striker, picked up the ball about 35 yards out from goal. He moved forward with the ball at pace and hit a lovely half volley from about 25 yards out which Asa Kirkwood in the Treowen goal could do little about despite making a brilliant gymnastic effort to save the shot.
Pontypridd Town pushed forward in the search for a second goal to double their lead early on and were almost rewarded from a powerful header by captain Nyran Bird who headed from close range only to see his effort saved by Kirkwood on the goal line.
Minutes later, James Hill was presented with an almost exact replica of his chance in the opening seconds of the game. Hill arguably hit this effort better than the first, but Kirkwood pulled off what was quite frankly a brilliant save to keep his side in the game.
You got the feeling from the opening quarter of an hour that Treowen Stars were a little shell shocked by the early goal and the opening onslaught. It wasn’t until the 16th minute that the Treowen side had their first effort on goal.
Shane Brewer, midfielder for Stars picked up a loose ball about thirty yards from goal. He took on a defender or two before firing a cannon of a shot towards the Pontypridd goal. Unfortunately for Brewer and his side, his shot was placed a little too centrally for it to be a real threat to Ryan Griffiths, keeping goal for Pontypridd Town this evening. It did however show that the Treowen side still showed signs of intent and were always going to be a threat in this match and for a period in the middle of the first half they showed a lot of signs that they were growing into the game.
Midfielder/Defender and Player Manager Dominic Broad was left frustrated on the half hour mark when a crafty attempt at a corner placed across the goal line was evaded by all of the Treowen defenders. Unluckily for Broad, the corner also evaded all of his team mates who were unable to get any form of contact with the ball to direct it into the goal.
James Hill, a player who has impressed me greatly in recent Pontypridd performances had a great game, especially in the first half where he seemed to always be able to find space and time despite being marked by a number of defenders at times.
Hill broke free of his markers with five minutes to go in the first half. His header from a lovely pass looked goalbound but was stopped by Kirkwood, who again made an absolutely sublime save.
The first half closed off with a free kick inches outside of the box for Ponty Town after a handball just outside of the box. Broad put a testing cross into the box which was missed by mere inches by Tom Rutherford who attempted the spectacular and executed a superb overhead kick on the penalty spot. Rutherford’s contact wasn’t completely clean and he was unable to make a strong enough contact to test Kirkwood.
During the half time interval, with the fun fair next door closed for the evening, we were treated to the dulcet tones of Pontypridd Town media man Danny Glorieux who updated the Ynysangharad Park crowd of the half time scores around the rest of the Welsh League, including the shock of the day that Treharris Athletic Western were seemingly pummeling the promotion chasing Cardiff Corries away from home.
I know some clubs are bit ‘off-ish’ about doing this kind of thing, but from my perspective and those of others I’ve spoken to along the way is that people want to feel the familiarity that they do when they go down to watch Cardiff or Swansea. They like the half time score updates, the attendance announcements, the selling of raffle tickets, the fact you can buy a coffee or a hot dog from the clubhouse. All these little things, for a lot of people, validate their match day experience.
It’s hard to convince people with season tickets at Cardiff or Swansea, or even Sky Sports armchair fans to take an active interest in Welsh pyramid football for the 90 minutes of football alone, especially when you have the hundreds of slow motion action replays, phone-ins and discussion panels to contend with.
Pontypridd Town, as I’ve commented previously, are a club who do a great deal to try and attract the community to their ground and they make a real effort, which should be applauded.
Back to the matter at hand, the second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with an early chance falling to striker James Hill. Hill with the ball at his feet on the edge of the penalty area hit a very powerful shot towards the Treowen goal but saw his effort deflect off a Treowen defender’s leg, stubbing out the power in the shot. Kirkwood was able to easily collect the now pacified ball.
A defensive mix up from the Pontypridd defenders presented Ricky Amos of Treowen Stars with a golden opportunity to level affairs on the hour mark. Amos dispatched a fast and furious shot goalbound, but as with his sides previous effort, the shot was too central to really trouble Griffiths in goal for Ponty.
Pontypridd Town gave themselves breathing space in the game on 65 minutes when they counter attacked following a failed Treowen Stars attack. James Hill set off on a pacey run down the left wing beating the Treowen right back. Hill looked up and saw Dominic Broad advancing in a superb position around the penalty spot and laid the ball on perfectly for Broad to fire home past the ensuing Stars goalkeeper to give his side a 2-0 lead. It was one of those goals you love to score on FIFA but your friends disown you if you score more than one of them.
With twenty minutes left to go in the match and two goals behind, Treowen appeared to switch to a more offensive formation and pumped the ball down the channels far more aggressively than they had done for the rest of the match.
Treowen were almost rewarded for their attacking prowess when Christopher Jones latched onto a pass from a free kick. An advancing Ponty defender was already down his throat by the time he positioned to shoot, left with little time to execute an effort Jones was only able to fire his shot high, wide and handsome.
James Hill was presented with one final chance for his side with twelve minutes left in the match but he appeared to take a knock on the shin when he was about to pull the trigger. It wasn’t a foul, it was one of those awkward coming together incident. Hill still managed to execute his shot, but it never troubled Kirkwood who saved.
Hill needed a couple of minute’s treatment from the physio before continuing. Hill was substituted late on in the game to an applause from the assembled Pontypridd Town support.
Having more than a soft spot for the Pontypridd Town side, I was very pleased with James Hill’s performance this evening. I’ve always felt for the guy because he’s never really put in a poor performance when I’ve seen them. In some games he’s quite often run whoever I’ve judged to be Man of the Match to within a millimetre of getting the dubious accolade.
Tonight, Hill had an absolute stormer of a match and this was noticed by others stood around me who voiced similar opinions to mine and I’m glad for the guy, he deserves it.
I made the short walk back to Broadway with a brief stop off at Pizza Plus on Taff Street for a quick spot of cheese and chips for the one mile walk up the road. The police were pre-warned of my arrival and were there to greet me as I walked through the door.
It seemed a group of about thirty or so kids who make the spot across the road from the town’s police station (Trouble making kids these days eh? Outside the police station? Crazy fools!) their hangout had taken the time, effort and money to burst into the pizza shop and throw coins at the guys behind the counter relentlessly until they called the police.
My food was ready just in time to watch the police car pull up and throw the two main perpetrators into the back seat for a once around the block drive before spending a night in the cells, followed by an almighty bollocking from their parents.
My Man of the Match: James Hill, what a performance! He covered every blade of grass for his side and scored the first and set up the second.