Saturday 11th April 2015.
Blaenrhondda 4-1 Penygraig United.
Rhondda & District Football League, Premier Division.
Blaenrhondda Park, Blaenrhondda
Attendance: Circa 20.
I’m the first to admit that there’s a certain part of the Rhondda that I know very little about. I’m a very proud Rhondda born man, a fact I’ve attested to throughout this blog on a regular basis.
I’ve rarely visited the village of Blaenrhondda in my 33 years on this planet. In fact I’m so unaware of its existence that until I did a quick Google search in the morning of the match I believed Blaenrhondda was in the Rhondda Fach, nearer Ferndale and Tylorstown than its real location, a mile or so from Treherbert, a town famous of course for sitting at the end of the Valleys Line to Cardiff.
We chose to take in this afternoon’s match between Blaenrhondda, sitting mid-table in the Rhondda League and Penygraig United, title contenders in the league, due to the fact my cousin Gareth Povey plays for the Penygraig side. After 40 games I figured it was only right to put the family first and watch him play.
With a 2pm kick off time, we headed up to Treorchy at about midday and took my wife to Carpanini’s Cafe on the high street of the town that has become something of a ’boutique’ town in recent years.
Carpanini’s is a beautiful old busy Italian-Welsh cafe of the old school variety that I grew up with in the Rhondda. The cafe sells ‘no-nonsense’ meals at an offensive temperature. Faggots and peas, All day breakfasts, Curry and chips and Cheese on toast aplenty.
The cafe also finds room to sell beautiful coffees, ice cream, sweets by the pound and a wide range of cigarettes and tobacco products.
We found a vacant seat in the wood paneled cafe while we enjoyed our £1.60 giant mugs of chocolate covered cappuccino. As is the case with the rest of the offerings at Carpanini’s, the drink is unbearably hot for at least a quarter of an hour.
The drinks are beautiful and when drank in such a lovely setting it makes for an excellent experience.
We finish up our drinks, bid our farewells and make the five minute journey from Treorchy up to Blaenrhondda.
Blaenrhondda is a typical Rhondda Valleys village. It has one main road that cuts through the village and nearby Tynewydd flanked by row after row of miner’s terraced houses. The recent emergence of Treorchy as a shopping town has negated the need for people in nearby towns to flock to Cardiff on the weekend as much as in previous years.
As mentioned previously, I’m not overly familiar with Blaenrhondda – having only driven through the village once or twice over the years. I never played against any Blaenrhondda side when I played in youth sides in the Rhondda, so we make our way through the village looking out for anything that resembles a football pitch.
Eventually about half way through the village we catch a sight of Blaenrhondda Park. A small green space on the side of the village. The park has a green walk, a bowling green and a relatively large but ever so slightly sloped pitch.
Blaenrhondda Park is a good ground for this level of the pyramid, it’s one of the bigger grounds I’ve encountered in the Rhondda League. Three of the pitches four sides are surrounded by stands of some persuasion.
The main stand runs about a quarter of the length of one side of the pitch and probably offers shelter for about 200 spectators, not that it is needed this afternoon. Aside from a relatively strong cooling wind the weather at times is perfect for football.
The other two sides of the pitch are surrounded by concrete bankings offering a sunkissed view of the action with a good elevated view of the game.
Since I last took in a match in the Rhondda League it seems sides have missing opportunities to take the impetus at the head of the table like no-one’s business.
Gelli Hibs, who last week seemed to be champions elect, dropped points at home to Blaenrhondda, coming back from behind to draw 1-1.
With an opportunity to take advantage of this opportunity both Penygraig United and Trebanog came away with 1-1 draws in midweek, leaving us very much in a position of ‘as you were’ from last weekend.
Penygraig United would therefore go into this afternoon’s match knowing that a victory against mid-table Blaenrhondda was a must, if they intended to play a part in the final countdown to the Rhondda League title.
The match starts in fairly humorous fashion when referee Colin Williams forgets to bring his linesman’s flags out from the dressing rooms. He instructs the linesmen to “wave your hands” until a Blaenrhondda substitute can make his way back to the changing rooms to reclaim them.
Despite needing the victory to maintain pressure on the leading Gelli Hibs, Penygraig start the game poorly and were lucky not to be a goal down after five minutes. Blaenrhondda’s No.11 headed inches wide from a good cross.
The first moment of controversy in the match occurred in the tenth minute. Penygraig’s No.10 perhaps callously fouled his opposite No.8 close to the dug outs. Blaenrhondda’s No.8 arguably over-reacts and jumps on top of the Penygraig man. Luckily, players from both sides quell the fury before Colin Williams can get near the action.
Colin Williams is a referee I’m a big fan of. He officiated a youth game between Tonyrefail BGC and AFC Porth I watched about a month ago. He impressed me that day with his refereeing skills and his ability to inform players of why he came to the decisions he did, rather than simply telling them to walk away and not give any reasons.
Common sense prevails on this occasion and given that the incident occurs so early in the game, both players are giving a strong talking to, but no cards are brandished.
Penygraig needed to make an early substitution after sixteen minutes. An innocent coming together of heads in a challenge lead to their No.11 receiving a deep cut above his right eye. The Penygraig staff tried for a few minutes to stem the bleeding, but it clearly required a stitch or two and the attention of a nurse at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. He was replaced by their No.15.
Blaenrhondda deservedly took the lead on 22 minutes after a long range shot from their No.11, a blonde, tall and pacey striker, was fumbled by the Penygraig goalkeeper and it rolled into the net.
Four minutes later Blaenrhondda added a second through their No.8 who picked up the ball about twenty five yards from goal. With time on his hands, the player placed a beautiful shot into the top left corner. The Penygraig United goalkeeper got a hand to the ball but was unable to stop the shot from nestling in the back of his net.
It took 32 minutes for Penygraig to get a clear sight of goal. The substitute No.15 had a weak effort on goal easily saved by the Blaenrhondda goalkeeper but at least it finally showed some sign of promise from the Penygraig United side.
The game was all but sealed nine minutes from the interval when Blaenrhondda’s No.11 found himself in possession of the ball on the far left corner of the box. He fired a powerful shot across the floor which hit the back of the net via the bottom right corner of the goal to give his side a 3-0 lead going into the half time interval.
Penygraig’s management team were furious with their side’s apparently sleepwalking into a 3-0 deficit. They marched their side into the changing rooms at half time, presumably for a traditional and old school “half time bollocking” whilst the Blaenrhondda side stayed on the pitch for the interval, relaxing and stretching.
Penygraig, to their credit, did come out for the second half with a renewed intent and for a brief time I genuinely got the feeling that the next goal would be vital in this match. If Penygraig could come out and score an early goal, given their league position they would surely fancy themselves to score a couple more before the match ended.
Penygraig’s No.5 fired a very powerful free kick goalwards two minutes into the half, the shot cannoned out for a corner after hitting the wall.
On 52 minutes, Penygraig’s No.15 scored a goal poachers goal by slotting the ball home from six yards out after a spot of pinball in the box. The player didn’t celebrate his goal and immediately picked up the ball from the net and ran back to the centre circle to restart the match and try and complete their come back.
Unfortunately for Penygraig United, this seemed to signal the end of their intended come back. Blaenrhondda refused to sit back and defend, instead going back to the default strong attacking football they played in the first half.
Blaenrhondda were rewarded for their attacking prowess on 62 minutes when they awarded a penalty when their No.9’s standing leg was taken from him by a Penygraig defender.
The Penygraig United linesman raised a complaint with Colin Williams, who explained the situation and how he saw the event. Penygraig’s manager who was sitting in the stand near us was somewhat frustrated with the decision and struggled to contain his anger, which he unleashed on Williams as he explained the decision to the linesman.
Williams took the brave decision to send the Penygraig manager out of the park. A decision which paused the game for a minute or two and threatened to put heaps of pressure on the Blaenrhondda penalty taker.
When the penalty was finally taken, Blaenrhondda’s No.11 stepped up to take the spot kick and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner with power. The Penygraig United keeper guessed the right way, but was unable to get down quick enough to stop the shot.
With the score now at 4-1, Penygraig surely stood little chance of getting anything from the last 25 minutes of the game.
Blaenrhondda went on to dictate the pace of the play for the remaining 25 minutes. They continued to attack, but didn’t feel the need to commit every player to their opponent’s half, leaving their whole back four in defence while they took corner kicks.
Penygraig were dealt a further blow with around ten minutes to go. Their No.6, who was playing a holding midfielder role seemed to go down with a groin strain. He clearly looked to be in some discomfort.
The player bravely tried to continue for a few minutes, positioning himself on the right wing, but whenever he attempted to play the ball with his right foot it was accompanied with a painful grunt.
The player, obviously wanting to continue given that his side had no further substitutions available to them, was persuaded by his remaining managerial staff to sit out the rest of the match so as to not further agitate an injury that could already keep him out for the rest of the season.
The match ended with Blaenrhondda deservedly taking all three points on this beautiful Spring afternoon.
Penygraig United will surely feel that this afternoon was a missed opportunity to take a big step towards clinching the Rhondda League title, especially when Gelli Hibs dropped more points with a 0-0 draw at Maerdy Social. Trebanog, after a convincing 6-0 victory over Cwm Rhondda go top of the league, albeit with second placed Gelli Hibs having a game in hand.
Gelli Hibs, although with a game hand, find themselves in stuttering form and will need to go to AFC Trebanog at The Oval, Ynyshir on Monday night and take all three points to regain their lead at the top of the table.
The pressure is on for all sides in the top 4 and any of them will feel that they still have a good chance of taking the title.
This league is definitely one to watch in the coming weeks.
You’re probably wondering “Nicky, what happened to your cousin. The one that played for Penygraig United, the one who you actually went to the match to watch?” and you’d be right to ask that.
He wasn’t there! Was he injured? I don’t know! I’ve asked his fiancee, and it turns out he is alive and well.
My Man of the Match: Blaenrhondda has several players who excellently to beat a side who went into the match 15 points above them. Their No.11 scored a hat trick and lead the front line superbly and therefore takes this dubious accolade.