Saturday 2nd May 2015.
Pontypridd Town 7-3 Panteg.
Welsh League Division Three
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd
Attendance: Circa 30.
When I started out with this crazy idea of trying to watch 100 live Welsh football matches over the year in January I must admit I stumbled across Pontypridd Town almost by accident.
Actually, ‘by accident’ would be doing the team a massive disservice but the story of how I first visited Ynysangharad Park on the first Saturday of the year came from a series of postponements in other matches on one wet January weekend.
You see, I’d lined up going to another match on that first weekend. I was driving back home from a post Christmas week in New Quay with my wife and heading to a Ton Pentre game would have been more convenient and lined up with my journey back over the Rhigos mountain at the head of the Rhondda Fawr valley.
The weather that day was dreadful, it had been for days to be fair. As I drove home down the M4 the violent rain falling on my windscreen didn’t fill me with confidence that any games were going to be played that afternoon and the whole 100 game challenge would run into difficulties on the first weekend of its existence.
Ton Pentre’s game was cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch, in fact about 95% of the fixtures below the Welsh Premier League were cancelled that weekend for the same reason.
As it happened, Pontypridd Town’s second round league cup tie with Caerleon had made it through the terrible weather somehow. I suspect the game had only made it because the third round ties of the competition were scheduled for the following Saturday and this game had already been delayed by nearly two months due to the congested league schedule. Any further delay would have knocked the already packed league schedule way off.
I’d always intended to take in a Pontypridd match at some point in the year but because their home ground was a mere mile from my house on Broadway, going to watch them as my second match of what was supposed to be a big ‘ground hopping adventure’ kind of defeated the object. This was supposed to be a big voyage of discovery, taking in games at all kinds of places far and wide, so the idea of attending a game in the park where I’d done my weekly parkrun wasn’t very adventurous to say the least.
What I saw on that January afternoon set me off on altogether different kind of journey.
Pontypridd Town, on that afternoon, played out of their socks. Every single player came off the field soaked in mud, sweat and even blood in some cases dripping from every pore in their body. They had professionally and efficiently played a Caerleon side, who plyed their trade in the division above Pontypridd, off the waterlogged Ynysangharad Park pitch that afternoon.
Along the way I’ve developed soft spots for certain teams I’ve encountered along the way. The likes of Llanboidy, Felinfach and Pencader United in the Ceredigion League, Red Valley in the Bridgend League all come to mind, but with Pontypridd Town something different has happened altogether. I’ve become a genuine bona fide supporter of the club, feeling a genuine sense of involvement with the club and the people running the side.
Unfortunately, as working in IT can quite often do, shit hit the fan at some point on Thursday. One of the biggest clients that my company support had a monumental issue with their Exchange server (email server) and being the only person in work who can sort these kind of issues out I spent the best part of Thursday night, Friday day and night and Saturday morning restoring corrupt mailbox databases.
It’s safe to say then that getting the chance to spend a few hours out of the house watching a game of football was welcome relief from the unwelcome overtime I was racking up by the hour.
The afternoon started out with a visit to Second Time Around in Tonypandy, which is just about my favourite record shop. Phil the owner is a guy I’ve known for the best part of about 15 years, an old school punk from Ystrad who infamously booked Manic Street Preachers to play The Star in Ystrad in 1990 and paid them £30 for a 30 minute set.
Phil’s store is a treasure trove for those with a penchant for vinyl, stocking probably the best part of about 10,000 records with everything from Spandau Ballet to Nirvana to Oasis to Little Richard on his shelves.
Phil, for all of his sins, is also a lifelong Cardiff City fan. He’s fifteen or twenty years older than me, so is a person I remember seeing a lot of on the train from Porth to Cardiff when I used to travel down to Cardiff games with my Dad in the early 90’s.
We chat about how crap the City have been this year and the things we’re doing this weekend to avoid having to endure another lacklustre City performance at Nottingham Forest. Phil is heading out to watch Ystrad Rhondda play rugby in the SSE Finals at the Millennium Stadium against Newcastle Emlyn. The ball is the wrong shape for me, but best of luck to any Rhondda side.
We come away with an exceptionally strange array of records including Morrissey, Queen, Bush, Tchaikovsky, The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson and UB40 among others.
We make a quick stop off at Conti’s on Tonypandy Square for some breakfast, a read of the papers and some storming coffee.
This afternoon’s game is the first match I’ve watched in the Welsh League for just under a month. The climax of the Rhondda & District League has been quite the attraction over the last few weeks, so admittedly my attentions have been slightly off the league if I’m completely honest.
Pontypridd Town are finishing the season in fine form. The same side who held 12th or 13th position in the league at the turn of the year are now consolidating sixth position with two games to go. They’re currently on a winning run, taking maximum points from their last six games with some impressive victories over the ‘all but promoted’ Ammanford, the ‘just out of the promotion places’ Tredegar Town and high flying Cardiff Corries.
There’s an air of positivity surrounding Ynysangharad Park at the moment. As I’ve been witness to contest, the side’s form since the turn of the year has been great. They had a good cup run that only ended with a closely fought 3-2 defeat to last year’s Welsh League champions Monmouth Town.
Pontypridd’s opponents this afternoon were Panteg, a side I’d never watched before this afternoon.
Panteg, a Gwent-based side (I say this because there at least two other Panteg villages that I know of in Wales, one being not so far from our usual holiday retreat of New Quay in West Wales), currently sit around mid-table in Division Three.
The first thing I notice when the match kicked off was that Panteg were lined up in a blue kit, a kit very similar to Pontypridd Town’s away kit.
I checked the Welsh League club’s directory and that confirmed that Panteg don’t wear a blue away kit, however they do wear a black and white striped home kit – identical to that of Ponty Town.
It later transpired that Panteg borrowed Ponty Town’s away kit due to some confusion over the chosen kits for the day.
“I thought you’d stopped watching games in the Welsh League!” Danny Glorieux (Pontypridd Town media man) quips to me when he first catches eyes on my wife and I, referring to my recent courtship with the Rhondda & District league (Danny is a follower of the blog for all of his sins).
The first fifteen minutes of the match were rather entertaining, a pretty tense affair if I’m completely honest. The ball pinged from side to side and both teams had good opportunities to take the lead.
Panteg’s youthful side, who were slightly depleted in regular first team numbers I’m told, made a nuisance of their selves on more than one occasion and were unlucky not to score when Jon Butcher took on a couple of Ponty defenders and hit a testing effort from about 25 yards out. Ryan Griffiths in the Ponty goal saved well to keep the scores level.
A minute later, Pontypridd Town took the lead through a superb piece of play by striker James Hill. Hill picked up the ball on the far left side of the pitch, midway in the Panteg half. He moved forward with the ball at pace and hit a confident and powerful shot across goal into the far right of the Panteg goal, leaving Daniel Wise with no chance of stopping his effort.
Hill is a player I’ve seen a lot of this year and he has grown so much in stature and confidence over that time. One of the regulars I speak to at these games commented at the time that Hill wouldn’t have had the confidence to hit such a shot a few months ago, such is the form the lad is in at the moment you genuinely get the feeling that everything he hits would need a superb stop by a goalkeeper to stop it from going in.
Three minutes later, Ponty found themselves with a two goal cushion when a defensive mix up lead to the ball falling conveniently at the feet of Carlos Garcia who made no mistake from the edge of the box, slotting his effort past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Panteg’s problems were further compounded in the 21st minute when Ponty skipper Nyran Bird found himself unmarked at a free kick from just outside of the box. Bird connected with his head and his looped effort chipped the keeper and gave his side a three goal advantage.
The optimist among us would have said Pontypridd Town had wrapped up all three points in the first twenty minutes, but Panteg didn’t concede the game that easy and were unlucky not to pull back a goal in the 23rd minute when a cross was sent into the Ponty box. Ryan Griffiths could only punch the cross away, it fell to Jon Butcher again who fired a powerful effort at goal that beat Griffiths, but a brave last ditch header from Nyran Bird on the goal line stopped the Gwent side from getting a goal back.
Just after half an hour into the match Panteg were awarded a penalty. I must admit I completely missed the challenge that lead to the referee awarding the penalty, but others around me said it was a soft penalty at best.
Tom Wise stepped up to take the penalty and hit a well taken effort into the far left corner of the goal to give his side a glimmer of hope with the score at 3-1.
If Panteg entertained any hopes of a come back, these must have been surely dashed two minutes later when Pontypridd Town took a 4-1 lead after a mistake by Daniel Wise lead to Carlos Garcia picking up the ball inside the box in a dangerous position. Garcia hit a chipped pass to player-manager Dominic Broad, today playing in a more advanced position than I’ve seen him play in recent weeks, volleyed the ball home powerfully from six yards to restore his side’s three goal cushion.
Carlos Garcia, who scored a superb goal at Tredegar Town a couple of weeks ago that I referred to as a “world class goal” nearly scored an even better goal in the 40th minute. He hit a superb text-book overhead kick from about 12 yards out. Unfortunately for Garcia, his effort went inches wide and he had also been ruled offside. Some things just aren’t meant to be.
With seconds to go until the half time whistle, Pontypridd Town rounded off a terrifically entertaining first half when a powerful effort was fired towards Wise, who fumbled his saved and player-manager Dominic Broad sprinted in and fired home a shot from a ridiculously tight angle to give his side a 5-1 lead at the interval.
Being a surprisingly cold day for the first weekend of May, my wife and I headed for the clubhouse/changing rooms building for the half time interval for a couple of cups of coffee under shelter.
Today’s match, I’d come to learn, was the first match being commentated on over the internet airwaves by Craig Morgan, Pontypridd Town webmaster, match day programme editor and general club official in an experiment to broadcast commentary to Ponty Town fans all over the world.
The side have garnered support from all sorts of places outside of the town following their Summer sojourn last year in Valencia and the club expect a similar amount of supporters to adopt them as their second club following this Summer’s trip to Deportivo La Coruna, so the club can only be applauded for such an ambitious effort. The commentary is definitely something I’ll be taking advantage of next season when I find myself unable to attend matches due to work commitments etc.
Some people would struggle with things like this but Craig takes it in his stride. We arrive just in time to hear him rounding up the first half action, describing all six goals we’ve witnessed so far and giving some of the club’s sponsors a bit of time over the airwaves.
Craig also kindly gives me and the blog a bit of a mention. I like Craig and he really seems to get why I’m setting out on this somewhat obscure adventure and when you hear someone like him describe the blog to his listeners in such a passionate way, it only validates why I’ve decided to do such a thing.
We sit around listening to Craig entertain his listeners during the half time interval until we see the Ponty players emerge back out onto the pitch before taking our coffees out onto the stand to take in the second half.
I have a laugh with Pontypridd Town linesman and media man Danny Glorieux as we walk back into the stand. When he can find enough half time scores on Twitter, he’ll often announce the half time scores over the tannoy.
Unfortunately this afternoon he was only able to find one or two half time scores so elected against doing a full run down of the scores. I update him the best I can with what I can find on Twitter, but aside from a giant Cwmamman United lead against Newport YMCA little else stood out.
Five minutes into the second half, James Hill hit a superb pass into the box for Dominic Broad who hit a fine half volley goal. The shot which seemed destined for the back of the net was stopped by a truly phenomenal save from Wise, the Panteg goalkeeper. Broad, who was on for a hat trick must have been left flabberghasted that he wasn’t being mobbed by his team mates.
On the hour, striker Luke Gullick had a goal ruled out for offside. His effort was well taken but cancelled out by the referee who deemed him to be a yard offside in the build up.
Three minutes after the disallowed goal, Pontypridd Town took a 6-1 lead through Carlos Garcia. Garcia took advantage of a mistake by Panteg defender Rhys Williams. Garcia robbed him of the ball and rounded the goalkeeper, seemingly taking an age to get his shot away, Garcia finally dispatched his shot from around six yards out which missed the post by centimetres before nestling in the back of the net.
Pontypridd were a little complacent in the build up to Panteg’s second goal. A spot of pinball ensued in the Ponty Town penalty area. I counted two shots on goal before the ball hit the bar and fell to the feet of striker Jon Butcher who calmly volleyed home into an open goal from six yards out to reduce his side’s deficit.
With a quarter of the match to go, Panteg were awarded a second penalty. The penalty seemed to be a bit of a softly awarded penalty, just inside of the box.
Tom Wise stepped up to the spot again and scored his second of the afternoon when he hit his effort firmly and powerfully into the left corner. Ryan Griffiths dived the right way but such was the power on the shot that he was unable to get a hand to the strike.
With ten minutes left in the game, Pontypridd Town were awarded a penalty of their own for a foul on the far corner of the box. Sadly I completely missed the incident as I was busy trying to find out the score of the Welsh Cup Final between TNS and Newtown!
Luke Gullick stepped up to the spot to take the penalty and fired him a text-book penalty down the left corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, giving his side a 7-3 lead in this ten goal thriller.
By now, admittedly I was willing either side to score a further goal for my own selfish reasons. Just to make this blog even sadder and more geeky, I have a Statistics page that very few of you actually visit (I know this because I see the blog statistics and for every 200 that view the main blog, about 1 of you clicks on any of the other pages! 🙂
Being a ten goal thriller, this afternoon’s match went joint top with two other ten goal games to become my joint highest goal scoring match of the year. However, having three games joint top is not good for anyone!
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, but you can imagine how close it came when James Hill picked up the ball on the right channel in the last minute of stoppage time and hit a superb effort at goal which beat the Panteg goalkeeper, but frustratingly went inches wide of the post.
Annoyingly, it wasn’t to be, but I wasn’t really that upset. After all, this afternoon’s match was probably one of the best I’ve seen this year and brought to an end for me what has been my first real season of supporting Pontypridd Town as my local club.
When I return to Ynysangharad Park in August, they won’t be my local club any more as my wife and I plan to move back up to the Rhondda in July, probably settling down in nearby Porth, but for me they’ll always be the local club.
I wish the very best of luck to both sides for whatever little remains of the season and especially want to wish the best of luck to Pontypridd Town midfielder Geraint Passmore. Passmore, who today played his last home game with Pontypridd Town has been offered a once in a lifetime opportunity in Dubai and he will move over there in the very near future bidding farewell to Ynysangharad Park.
Passmore has been superb whenever I’ve seen him play and scored a goal in the sides 6-3 victory over Ammanford in February that will be remembered by Pontypridd Town supporters for years to come.
This afternoon’s match was a superb, entertaining affair that was an excellent advert for the Nathaniel Car Sales Welsh Football League and a fitting way to mark my 50th game of the year.
Here’s to the next 50!
My Man of the Match: There were several brilliant performances on both sides, so it’s hard to say. James Hill edges it for me, for the second match running.