Tuesday 21st April 2015.
Red Valley 9-1 Gilfach MODs.
Bridgend & District Football League, Premier Division.
Hendreforgan Park, Gilfach Goch
Attendance: Circa 50.
The first thing you notice in the midst of the vast mountains as you drive up to Hendreforgan from Tonyrefail are the numerous windfarms that dominate the Gilfach Goch skyline.
I remember the first of them popping up around 1992, when I was about ten years old. I was living in Edmondstown at the time – a small village about five miles away, up in the Rhondda Valley.
You could see the construction of the windfarms, I believe they were one of the (if not the) first in South Wales, from the football field where we spent most of spare time in the Summer holidays.
Over the course of the next year or two the windfarms started to take shape and people generally were split over whether they were a good thing or not. You have to remember that little was known of these windfarms back then. The windfarms looked alien to most people in the Valleys, who had only just started to acclimatize to the missing pit heads that previously dominated the Valleys skylines.
Windfarms in the Valleys are now a fairly common thing, almost ever village with a mountain has one and most new build houses have some form of solar paneling on their roofs. However in the early 1990’s these windfarms high above the hills of Gilfach, visible from as far away as Llanharan and Treherbert, caused a fair bit of controversy among local residents to say the least.
It’s an interesting turn around then that twenty years later the two football sides representing the village of Gilfach Goch have both incorporated the windfarms into their club crests.
Gilfach MODs in particular have chosen to use the diametrically opposed images of the past relic of the coal industry, once so rich in this village and the modern futuristic visual icon of the town.
I’d been invited up (or at least told about..) tonight’s match by Red Valley’s goalkeeper Daniel Price who had read my blog a few weeks earlier and gave me a heads up about a Gilfach Goch derby that he thought I’d enjoy.
Tonight’s game was my first foray into the Bridgend & District League. The Bridgend & District League sits at tier 7 of the Welsh pyramid in line with the nearby Rhondda & District League where I’ve watched a lot of games recently.
Gilfach Goch is a curious village for the Bridgend League. The village sits in the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area, actually on the border with the Bridgend County Council catchment area, where football teams at the lower end of the pyramid would line up in either the Rhondda & District League or the Taff Ely & Rhymney Valley League. However, Gilfach Goch is an exception to that rule due its relative closeness to the nearby town of Bridgend.
It’s even more curious for people who know the geography of Gilfach Goch (the village is essentially one big circular road, you exit the village via the same road that you enter it on, one big ‘No Through Road’ if you will? Or perhaps a giant roundabout) that the whole of Gilfach Goch sits in the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area, except for a small patch at the top of the village called Evanstown.
Evanstown is a smaller part of Gilfach Goch that falls in the Bridgend County Council area. To my knowledge it’s always been that way. The best way I can describe it is with the use of a poorly put together image I quickly made.
If you go on a drive through Gilfach Goch, whilst approaching from Blackmill, you get the strange experience of leaving Bridgend, driving two miles down the road away from Bridgend and then curiously entering Bridgend again!
I’m a big fan of the village myself, having attended nearby Tonyrefail School during my teenage years I made many friends from Gilfach and Gilfach Rugby Club was one of the first places that I’d go to regularly with my friends for a post-sixth form pint. I was never a fan of the egg-shaped game but I had many friends who played rugby for the side and I believe a handful of them still turn out for the side.
Red Valley and Gilfach MODs have had opposing fortunes this season in the Bridgend League and find themselves in almost exactly opposite positions in the league.
Red Valley went into tonight’s match in 4th place in the league. They sat behind leaders Brackla, Sarn and Maesteg Park (who many others of my age might remember from the League of Wales and/or Sensible World of Soccer).
Although they have only a very outside chance, mathematically Red Valley go into the final four games of the season still able to win the league (They are currently 11 points behind leaders Brackla with 4 games to go).
Gilfach MODs on the other hand find themselves second from bottom in 12th place, sitting one point above the struggling Llanharan in bottom place. Wins have been hard to come by for the MODs, with only two wins to their name all season.
I’m mildly disappointed to find that the name Gilfach MODs has nothing to do with Quadrophenia and The Jam and is simply an acronym. Any hopes I had of them taking to the field on mopeds in football kits reminiscent of Mod suits are sadly dashed very early on.
Tonight’s match is of course an all-Gilfach Goch derby. Red Valley play their football at Hendreforgan Park at the entrance to the village on a multipurpose park that also houses a rugby pitch, a skate park and a community centre. The pitch is overlooked by both an old council estate and a brand new Barratt Homes-style housing project built on the mountains that surround the pitch.
Gilfach MODs play their football about a mile away, further up the village in the grounds of Abercerdin School, nearer the village of Evanstown.
I once made an argument on this blog that sometimes inter-village derbies such as these are often not high-tempered affairs due to the relative closeness of the teams. It can often take a bit of distance for a rivalry to be a real ‘blood and hatred’ derby match.
Any thoughts I have to this effect are quickly dashed by Richard Walters, the Red Valley manager, who introduces himself as he recognises me as being ‘the guy from Twitter’ (I think my DSLR and ‘Postman Pat bag’ always gives me away at these games!). I suggest to him that the game might lack a little bit of the ‘blood and thunder’ you get with very close inter-town/village/city derbies and he disagrees.
“Oh there’s going to be plenty of blood and thunder on that pitch, don’t you worry” Richard quips. I smile and look forward to seeing what is to come.
I don’t know the dimensions of the playing surface at Hendreforgan Park. I know the life of a groundhopper is a fairly geeky one, but I admit I haven’t got to the level of taking down pitch measurements yet.
Hendreforgan Park is a tight and small pitch, which would hold the promise of a great deal of end to end attacking football. The surface is great with no visible mud patches and has certainly benefited from the lovely weather in the Valleys over the last two or three weeks.
Admission is free of charge and in being so tonight’s match attracts a fairly sizeable crowd, especially when you consider that most people here (myself included) only finished work an hour ago if that.
Despite being advertised as an 18.15 kick off, I make my way into the ground at 18:09 to find the game kicking off. It’s a common thing in league at this level. Referees want to take complete advantage of the time of day and try and get the game wrapped up before the sun sets. Especially when matches takes place in grounds like this which aren’t equipped with floodlights. Both sides, today included, often take only two or three minutes breaks at the half time interval to take full advantage of the daylight before the sun starts to set at about 19.30.
The match starts at a furious pace, much in the style of a boxing match (not in fighting terms of course!). I mean in the way that for the first ten minutes both sides trade blows. Gilfach MODs look like scoring one minute, Red Valley counter attack and come close, Gilfach MODs counter attack and look like scoring and then Red Valley send a long ball up to their lone striker who fires just wide. The pace of the game is blistering.
Gilfach MODs take the lead on ten minutes when their No.10 picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and beat his nearest man. Seeing the Red Valley goalkeeper off his line the No.10 fired home clinically from just inside the box to give his side a much coveted lead in this fiesty affair.
They say you are at your weakest just after you’ve scored a goal and this proves true for Gilfach MODs who went on to hold their lead for less than thirty seconds.
Red Valleys’ No.24, a creative player who seemed to be playing in a fairly free and fluid role broke free from his marker and sent a testing cross into the box. This is where my failing eyesight, the Gilfach low sun and the distance between my position and the goal all failed me. It looked like the cross went straight in, but I’m unsure of whether it took a deflection on the way in.
Either way, Red Valley found themselves on level pegging after just thirty seconds or of being behind in the game.
Three minutes later Red Valley would take the lead after a beautiful piece of play. A lovely piece of link up play and a one-two lead to Red Valley’s No.7 slotting the ball home into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box to give his side a 2-1 lead.
With goals on the scoreboard the intensity of the game grew and the frantic end to end action continued for the remainder of the half.
Gilfach MODs were unlucky not to level affairs after 25 minutes when a corner kick was floated into the box and their opening scorer No.10 made an attempt at an audacious back heel (much in the vein of an infamous Lee Sharpe goal against Barcelona 21 years ago) from 12 yards out. His effort, unlike Sharpe’s, was saved.
From here on in Red Valley made their dominance count and started to throw wave after wave of relentless attacks on their rivals.
The first of which came after 32 minutes when Red Valley’s No.7 failed to take advantage of a cross that alluded everyone in the box. When the ball fell to his feet a rush of blood must have hit him hard and he was only able to direct his shot over the bar into the surrounding car park.
A spot of goalmouth confusion between MODs goalkeeper and a defender lead to a Red Valley striker being given a glorious opportunity to extend his sides lead, unfortunately for him he saw his shot blocked on the line by MODs No.5 who got back in the nick of time to save his side.
A minute later however, despite MODs determined defensive performance so far, they found themselves going 3-1 down when the aforementioned No.24 for Red Valley unleashed a quite superb half volley which beat the goalkeeper to the left goal in fine fashion.
A corner kick was taken by Gilfach MODs well into first half stoppage time, Red Valley defended the corner excellently and broke in a furious counter attack. The ball fell to No.24, who was now on a hat-trick who beat a man before firing a lovely shot into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Before he could wheel away in joy his celebrations were cut short when the referee blew up for half time after the ball had left his foot and was just two yards away from crossing the goal line.
Gilfach MODs would surely come out for the second half with renewed intent, perhaps gaining an advantage in the second half as they would be shooting in the direction of the heavy wind?
The MODs side certainly showed a glimmer of that renewed intent when their No.8 tried an audacious long range shot straight from kick off when he spotted Daniel Price in goal for Red Valley a little off his line. The resulting shot, although catching Price a little off guard, didn’t really test the Red Valley keeper.
Five minutes into the second half Red Valley found themselves having another goal chalked off by the referee who judged their No.20 to be offside when he fired a clinical shot into the net.
Red Valley play a good brand of passing football, they build up play from the back effectively, but they’re also exceptionally good on the counter attack – having very quick midfielders ready to attack the middle of the pitch.
The Valley side wrapped up the three points on the hour when Gilfach MODs goalkeeper found a powerful shot from a Valley striker a little too hot to handle and spilled the ball to the feet of Red Valley’s No.20 who made no mistake from a few yards out to give his side a 4-1 lead.
Five minutes later, Red Valley attacked in numbers again and added to their lead with a sublime volley from their No.7 who fired home into the bottom right corner.
Only two excellent saves by the Gilfach MODs goalkeeper in just as many minutes saved his side’s blushes as Red Valley relentlessly pushed forward in search of goals to improve their goal difference in case it went down to the wire in their title campaign.
With ten minutes of the match left to play, you’d forgive most sides for maybe slowing down the pace, passing the ball around the defence, taking long range pot shots and generally killing the game. Red Valley do no such thing and it’s a credit to them that they still continue to take the game to their close rivals.
Red Valley’s No.20 took advantage of a brilliant long throw which went deep into the MODs penalty area, the ball took an awkward bounce and he scored a real poachers goal when he got his head onto the ball over the helpless goalkeeper to give his side a 6-1 lead.
No.25 picked the ball up around 30 yards from goal and unleashed a powerful but delicate lobbed effort that left the goalkeeper standing and just dipped under the crossbar at the very last split second. Cue scenes at Hendreforgan Park as he was rightly lifted aloft by his team mates for his spectacular goal.
Their eighth goal came from their No.7 who took a free kick from near the touchline about 35 yards out from goal. The goal, which looked for a few seconds to be a good cross, alluded everyone in the box, including the MODs goalkeeper and slowly found its way into the back of the net.
Red Valley’s final goal came from the right foot of their No.4 who picked up a rebounded effort that had been saved by the MODs keeper. He made no mistake from six yards and slotted his effort underneath the flailing goalkeeper.
To be fair to Red Valley, even with a 9-1 lead in the third minute of stoppage time, the side still pushed forward. You really got the sense that the team wanted to score a tenth and to be fair to them they would have deserved a tenth. Only a series of brilliant saves in the middle of the second half prevented the scoreline from bordering on silly numbers.
First placed Brackla now only realistically need two wins to confirm their championship and just a draw from their remaining three games would likely rule Red Valley out of the title race.
Red Valley however are definitely a side to keep an eye out for in coming years. They are a well run club with a good set of decent players for this level of the pyramid. They play an attractive brand of football that will surely win them fans along the way and if their community gets behind them who knows where they might end up. I’m certain that within 4 or 5 years they will be making an impact at a much higher level.
Best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season and thanks to all at Red Valley for your kindness and hospitality.
My Man of the Match: It’s always hard to pick one individual out, especially when realistically there wasn’t a Red Valley player out there tonight lower than an 8.8/10. However, I’ve gone for Red Valley’s No.24 who impressed me a great deal this evening.