Wednesday 15th April 2015.
Penygraig United 0-4 Treorchy BGC.
Rhondda & District Football League, Premier Division.
Ely Field, Penygraig
Attendance: Circa 30.
I always love coming back home to the Rhondda for football matches, whether that means taking in Welsh League matches at Ton Pentre, AFC Porth or watching matches like this one in the Rhondda League at grounds like Ely Field, in Penygraig.
A ground like Ely Field brings back so many memories from my teens.
The house I grew up in is about a mile from the ground in the nearby village of Edmondstown. I’ve long since moved out of the town, instead living in Pontypridd, a town about three miles outside of the Rhondda. Edmondstown, for me, will always be home.
The Ely Field is a relatively new ground in the scale of things. I vaguely remember the pitch opening in or around 1995. I remember squeezing through a small hole in the fence to play impromptu matches on the field as a youngster as it was one of the only pitches in the area that was kept under lock and key.
I’ve actually got a bone to pick with the ground, or at least with the council regarding the ground. The ground is listed as being in the village of Penygraig, but the more ‘picky’ and ‘loser-like’ among us, like me, would confirm that the whole of the pitch actually falls within the boundaries of the village of Williamstown, next door. Only the car park of the ground really falls in the boundaries of Penygraig. Worrying that I’m probably losing readers by the sentence here, I’ll carry on with the game.
Ely Field, being relatively new, is quite a nice ground for this level of the Welsh pyramid. The facilities are decent, the pitch is surrounded by fencing, in order to stop wayward balls from making their way onto the busy A4119 bypass that cuts through the village.
There’s a natural banking on one side of the pitch that makes for some excellent views. I remember being a twelve year old kid, playing on the pitch and debating with friends why they didn’t just pour cement on the hill to make a massive stand. This was obviously years before I understood how construction worked and that you can’t just pour cement on a grass banking to make a stand.
The title race in the Rhondda League has been heating up intensely over recent weeks, with four sides who have a realistic shot at the title, all dropping points. Gelli Hibs currently hold top spot in the league, but with only four points separating the top four the title could realistically be anyone’s come May.
Penygraig United played out a disappointing 4-1 defeat at Blaenrhondda on the weekend. A defeat which potentially cost them greatly in the title race. Given their result on the weekend it was obvious that Penygraig would need to get a positive result out of tonight’s game if they were to go some way to towards retaining their Rhondda League title.
Treorchy BGC are a new team to me, which is always great. They sit in sixth place in the league, so will be no walkover for Penygraig United.
Interestingly, Treorchy are sponsored by Admiral, which not only makes their kit look very similar to the Welsh rugby team, but must mean that one of their players works/or used to work for the motor insurance giant.
My wife once worked for the same company and used to tell me about guys who worked there and convinced the CEO Henry to sponsor their side in return for a new kit.
The game starts at a blistering pace, it’s clear to see that these are two of the better sides in the Rhondda League. The comment is not meant as a sleight against other teams, but in comparison to yesterday’s Tonyrefail BGC vs. Tonyrefail Welfare match, the game is played at a furious pace.
Penygraig have the better of the first ten minutes or so, making some real headway down the centre of the pitch. United play a very narrow game, preferring to work the ball down the middle of the pitch rather than using their pace down the channels. Unfortunately for Penygraig they fail to make their early dominance count.
The turning point came in the 12th minute. Treorchy counter attacked after a failed Penygraig attempt at goal. Treorchy broke away at pace which caught United unaware. Penygraig gave away a free kick in a dangerous area, which leads to a strange couple of minutes where Penygraig seemed to give away the same free kick, in the same area three times in three minutes.
On 20 minutes, Penygraig were very unlucky not to find themselves reduced to ten men. Another Treorchy quick counter attack lead to their No.11 knocking a looping header over the goalkeeper. I’m unsure whether the header was actually going in, I was too far away from the action to know for certain. There’s a chance the shot could’ve been going to hit the post or even go wide, which is potentially why the referee only gave a yellow card when Penygraig’s No.3 handled the ball before it went in.
Treorchy’s No.8 stepped up and to be fair to the lad, took a brilliant penalty. Some players go for power and send the ball twenty foot above the bar, very rarely does a player put so much power through the ball but maintain such great accuracy.
The goalkeeper made a valiant attempt at saving the penalty, and came close, but he was unable to get a hand to the ball and could only watch on in frustration as the No.8 and his team mates wheeled away in celebration.
After scoring their opener, Treorchy grew in confidence and stature and really started playing some lovely passing football. From this point on, they seemed to be a yard or so quicker than their opponents to almost every single ball.
Three minutes after the penalty, Treorchy were unlucky not to double their lead when a lovely free kick was delicately placed onto the head of their No.10 whose headed effort came back off the cross bar and fell to the feet of a Penygraig defender who cleared quickly.
Penygraig came close to leveling affairs on the half hour mark when a sojourn into their opponents half lead to their No.6 looking down on goal with a chance to shoot. He fired a powerful effort toward goal. The Treorchy goalkeeper pulled off a fine save but such was the ferocity of the shot that he was unable to stop it from falling to the feet of the advanced No.10 who poked home from two yards.
His celebration was quite short however when the referee judged him to be offside when the original shot took place.
In football’s almost cruel nature, it was written in the script that Treorchy would go down the opposite end almost immediately and score a second, and so they did.
In a moment of sheer brilliance, Treorchy’s No.11, with the ball at his feet about thirty yards from goal hit a shot towards the Penygraig goal that seemed to curl on it’s travel to the goal, catching the United goalkeeper unaware. The player was rightly mobbed by his team mates for what was a brilliant goal.
With a deserved two goal lead, Treorchy looked every inch like a well organised team who seemed to understand Penygraig’s tactics and neutralise and frustrate any attacking plans they had up their sleeves.
Penygraig had one final good opportunity to get a goal back before half time. United’s No.10 found himself in a spot of good fortune when his two markers seemed to collapse on the edge of the box as he tried to find a way around them. In a cruel and ironic twist, as he lined up a shot on goal his feet too failed to do their job and he was unable to get a decent shot on goal.
Penygraig seemed to be struggling with just how high the Treorchy defence were sitting. For large portions of the first half, the Treorchy back four sat just outside the centre circle, which stifled Penygraig attacking play and although Penygraig did beat the offside trap on a number of occasions, they would find themselves so far away from goal that a defender would often recover quick enough to regain posession.
At half time, a substitution or two was made by both sides in order to freshen things up a little.
As the second half kicked off, I had the opportunity to speak to a friendly guy walking a Labradoodle who seemed to be involved with the Treorchy management staff in some capacity. Being intrigued by my DSLR at such a low-profile game he asked whether I was taking photos for a website or a local newspaper or similar.
I gave him the “100 Welsh matches” story and explained how sad it was and much to my delight he actually said it sounded like a bit of fun and wasn’t ‘sad’ in the slightest. I jotted down the address of the blog for him, so hopefully he’s found his way here. If you have, hello!
Treorchy came out for the second half with a view of confirming their victory as soon as they could and I was very impressed with the manner in which they played the second half. They maintained their high defensive line, while throwing a mix of both direct and long passes across their midfield.
Penygraig United were left frustrated by their apparent struggle to make any decent inroads into the Treorchy half, and what few opportunities they did have in their opponents half they found themselves quickly surrounded by numbers.
Treorchy had several good opportunities to put the game to bed in the early stages of the second half and for all of their dominance it would count for nothing if they were to let their concentration slip and allow Penygraig back into the game.
Their constant stifling of any attempt at a Penygraig attack lead to them holding a lot of possession in the Penygraig half, increasing the pressure on their opponents.
Treorchy would finally confirm the three points in the 50th minute when they added a third through their No.8 who beat two men before firing home an audacious half volley that left the sprawling goalkeeper little chance of stopping his effort.
With the score now at 3-0 to Treorchy, it seemed like Penygraig’s hopes of retaining their league title were quickly slipping away.
Treorchy were unlucky not to add a fourth to their tally in the 70th minute when a good effort from their No.10 was helped on its way towards goal by No.6 whose effort went mere inches over the cross bar.
I made my way over to the other side of the pitch to have a word with my cousin Gareth, who made it to tonight’s match just in time to see the penalty being awarded.
Gareth is a great guy, he’s always made me laugh. We grew up 18 houses away from each other and we’ve had a strong bond since we were kids. Adulthood and moving away has its affects and we don’t see each other nearly as much as we should, but whenever we do – things just lock back into place as they always have done and the preceding years are often missed.
At mine and my wife’s wedding reception in October of last year we ran a little pub quiz all about us, with all manner of questions ranging from what degree my wife studied, what celebrity I’ve got tattooed on my arm and other incredibly random multiple choice questions. Gareth captained his table to victory on that night and took the grand prize of some champagne and some plastic medals and trophies.
He’s getting married himself in a month or so’s time in the luxurious surrounding of Oxwich Bay which is something I’m massively looking forward to. His fiancee Sam’s family are mostly from Gilfach Goch and most of our family come from Edmondstown and the surrounding areas, so the prospect of the best part of a hundred Valley Commandos in a posh hotel in the Gower is quite frankly superb.
I give Gareth the run down of some of the matches I’ve been to this week and he tells me mad stories about how an un-named team came to the ground last season and turned on their manager, attempting to knock him out and leaving him with a bloody nose and mouth. He had to run over to the Penygraig bench and ask for help restraining his own team!
Admittedly whilst catching with my cousin, I do miss a little of the action, but we are paying enough attention to see Treorchy score their fourth and final goal of the evening through their No.9 with ten minutes of the match left.
Penygraig threw a lot of men forward to try and make a break through and force their way back into the match. Unfortunately upon losing the ball they found their open spaces exposed at the back. Treorchy’s No.9 was afforded a great deal of time as he ran towards the goal and the United goalkeeper was left with little chance as he struck the ball past him and into the net.
With the score now at 4-0 to Treorchy, they stook the sting out of the remainder of the game, slowing the pace of the game down to a stroll and neutralising any further attacking prowess the Penygraig side had.
The referee called a halt to proceedings after a couple of minutes stoppage time and after Gelli Hibs convincing 7-2 victory over Llwynypia, Penygraig found themselves 7 points behind the leaders with only three games of the season left.
It’s not mathematical yet, but Penygraig’s second defeat in a row surely left the players convinced that they were not going to have enough left in the thank to threaten Gelli Hibs, who after today’s results look ever more likely to be crowned Rhondda League champions and potentially win promotion to the newly formed South Wales Alliance league.
In other results that have an impact on the title race, possibly playing into Gelli Hibs hands, Maerdy Social and Trebanog played out a 2-2 draw, leaving Gelli Hibs top of the table with 72 points and a now superior goal difference of +112.
The title certainly isn’t sewn up yet and Gelli Hibs’ name certainly isn’t on the trophy yet, but I would hazard a guess that the engraver is at least stencilling their team name out, ready for when the probable title win is confirmed.
My Man of the Match: Treorchy had several excellent performances and it is always hard to try and pick one particular player out, at the risk of offending others who did well. For me, I have to give this to Treorchy’s No.11 who had so much joy exposing space down the wings and also scored quite a phenomenal goal in the first half. This dubious accolade could quite easily have gone to a handful of players.