Frday 10th July 2015.
Tregaron Turfs 2-4 Llanrhystud.
Tregaron Secondary School, Tregaron.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I absolutely love this time of year. The weather is lovely most of the time, even in rainy south Wales, everyone seems a bit more relaxed, Summer holidays pop around and better than all of these – pre-season friendlies start appearing on the calendar.
Pre-season friendlies are often a bit of a mixed bag and can throw up some pretty interesting fixtures to be fair. Pre-season is the only time of the football calendar where you will see fixtures such as: Blyth Spartans vs. Manchester United U18’s, Stalybridge Celtic vs. Real Madrid Youth Academy and Aston Villa vs AFC Porth. None of these are real fixtures, but if any of them actually happened then I wouldn’t be the most surprised man in the world.
As is the Roberts household family tradition nowadays we had spent the previous week holidaying in New Quay, a beautiful seaside town on the Ceredigion coast. New Quay is sandwiched between the bigger towns of Aberystwyth and Cardigan on the A487 coastal road.
I’d made a lot of friends on the Ceredigion GroundHop weekend in March, taking in games at the likes of Dewi Stars, Felinfach, Aberaeron, Newcastle Emlyn, Pencader United and Llanboidy, so I was very keen to try and take in a game during the week I was going to be in the area.
Unfortunately as I’ve come to learn on my many previous visits to Ceredigion, large parts of the county are not terribly mobile-friendly. This presented a bit of a challenge when trying to hunt through Twitter and Facebook for any potential fixtures. Luckily we made several visits to Aberystwyth throughout our week so we were able to get hold of just about enough internet access to learn that Tregaron Turfs had arranged a pre-season friendly against the nearby phoenix side Llanrhystud.
The fixture was initially scheduled for a Saturday afternoon kick off, which would have been too late for me as we would have already been back at our home in the Rhondda. Luckily for me, the footballing gods intervened and the fixture was re-arranged for the Friday evening instead.
The drive from New Quay to Tregaron was a very pleasant drive along some of the kind of roads you’d typically see on Top Gear car reviews, long winding country roads which are always fun to drive, even if you happen to be driving a fairly sensible Fiesta Diesel like me.
Having never visited Tregaron in the past (the nearest I’d come previously was a trip to Llandewi-Brefi for a Dewi Stars match) I was quite intrigued as to what the village would be like. I was quite pleased to find it was a fairly big village, at least in the scale of some of the surrounding villages.
Tregaron Turfs, ply their trade in the Cambrian Tyres Aberystwyth Football League, currently playing in Division One of this league. This league sits at Tier 5 of the Welsh Football Pyramid, in line with the nearby Ceredigion League Division One and the top level of the newly formed South Wales Alliance in the South, nearer my usual haunts.
Tregaron actually have a bit of heritage in the league having successfully won the league in the 2012/13 season and on first glance at their set up at Tregaron Secondary School, it seems clear that they have a fairly professional set up in place. Their players warm up for tonight’s match on a separate warm-up pitch 30 yards away from the main pitch and their warm up, for a pre-season friendly seems very professional.
Llanrhystud FC are a phoenix club of sorts, born from the ashes of Llanrhystud FC (wait a minute!), they are actually a continuation of the old club that folded a few years ago, representing the village that sits about ten miles or so from Aberystwyth on the A487.
Llanrhystud, like Tregaron, also have a bit of heritage in this part of the world. they were winners of the Aberystwyth Division Two title back in 2001/02.
Being technically classed as a “new side”, they were in the position, like many clubs before them, where their options were to either start up in the Aberystwyth League Division Two or the nearby Ceredigion League Division Two, at the bottom of their regional pyramids.
The village is one I’m quite familiar with, having made the journey from New Quay to Aberystwyth more times than I care to remember. We’ve always made the suggestion of stopping off in the village’s Black Lion pub every time we pass it, or popping into the Fantasy Farm theme park, but unfortunately as of this day, my only in-person experience of Llanrhystud was the one time I called into the village’s petrol station on the way back from Aberystwyth one night a few years ago.
Tregaron’s pitch is in great condition and their ground, although small and quaint is lovely. Like a lot of grounds in this area, we’ve got two dugouts, some corner flags and two sets of goalposts and we’re good to go.
My wife and I take a walk around the pitch and indulge in the novelty of sitting on the grass near one of the corner flags to take in tonight’s game.
Having suffered, through stupidity, pretty painful sunburn from four hours of sunbathing at Mwnt beach the previous day, it took a few minutes to arrange my body in a position that didn’t cause extreme discomfort.
One of things I love at this level of football is being able to hear the chatter amongst players before and during the match, which always reminds me of when I still played the game and is always a constant source of entertainment.
One of the Llanrhystud players turns to one of his colleagues a few seconds before kick off.
“Remember, it’s rolling subs today. So if you’re fucked, just go off!” He quips.
“Yeah, no worries. You off out after this?”
“Definitely. I’ll have a pint or two!”
The match kicks off at 6pm sharp and immediately it’s clear to see that Tregaron are trying to stamp their authority on the game. Most of their initial runs come from their No.8, who is a tricky and pacey winger who looks exceptionally comfortable with the ball at his feet.
I comment to my wife that I’d be very interested in knowing whether Tregaron’s No.8 has played football at a higher level during his youth career, as he seems just a little too comfortable with the ball at his feet at this level and seems to ooze class.
The first real opportunity of the game fell to Llanrhystud’s No.8 who five minutes into the game took on a couple of Tregaron defenders and delivered a fine shot which beat the Tregaron goalkeeper but unfortunately rattled against the post, denying what would have been a beautiful opening goal for the newly formed side.
On 22 minutes, Tregaron had a great opportunity to take the lead, their No.12 beat the offside trap and found himself facing down on the Llanrhystud goalkeeper on the edge of the box. All credit to him, Llanrhystud’s goalkeeper made himself big and the striker was only able to place his chipped effort inches over the bar.
A minute later, Tregaron’s No.12 was gifted an almost exact chance at goal, this time he kept his cool and took the ball a few yard inside the box and was able to calmly slot the ball home to give his side the lead.
Two minutes later, Tregaron took a 2-0 lead after their No.11 broke free on the half way line after a defensive mix up. He ran at pace with the ball and unleashed a furious shot on the edge of the box which was well saved by the Llanrhystud goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the keeper, he was unable to keep a hold of the initial effort and the rebound fell straight to the feet of the same player who was able to convert his effort on the second effort.
Five minutes later, with about 32 minutes played, confusingly the referee blows up for half time. I’m confused, dumbfounded and come to the conclusion that maybe being a pre-season friendly quite early on in the scale of things, the sides are possibly choosing to play two halves of half an hour each?
One thing I’ve learned from watching football in this part of the world is that people in Ceredigion seem to hate a half time break. The quickest half time interval I’d previously seen was at Felinfach in March, where they seemed to take a 3 minute break, which wasn’t even long enough for me to buy a cheese roll from the snack shop.
Tonight’s half time interval, although not timed by me, could easily be a contender for such a title if one were to exist!
The second half starts with Llanrhystud looking a lot more positive in their play and are only stopped from scoring two quick goals by the superb defending of the Tregaron No.4 who is another Tregaron player who seems very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Ten minutes into the half, Llanrhystud’s No.14 picked up the ball thirty yards out from goal, he skillfully takes on a handful of defenders but unfortunately his shot doesn’t match the level of skill displayed seconds earlier and he fires well wide.
Llanrhystud’s No.8 comes closest for his side mid-way through the second half as he reacted quickest to a loose ball on the edge of the box and fired a superb effort against the crossbar.
Llanrhystud must have been wondering at this point what more they would have needed to do to get on the scoresheet with their dominance in this second half!
On 55 minutes, Llanrhystud finally made the breakthrough against some fairly resolute defending by their Tregaron counterparts when their No.10 opened the scoring for the side bringing the score back to 2-1. Llanrhystud carried out a superb piece of play, passing the ball effectively back and forth before the No.10 slotted the ball home to the goalkeeper’s left hand side.
A minute later, Llanrhystud were very unlucky not to find themselves level when their No.8 looked to have beat the offside trap. He fired home past the flailing Tregaron goalkeeper to find his effort ruled out for offside.
To be fair to the referee, it’s very challenging refereeing at this level, often with no linesmen, or quite often, an unwilling volunteer from each side who often has no experience of officiating at any level, so whether this was the right decision or not we’ll never know.
Another minute later Llanrhystud find themselves scoring another goal which is chalked off by the referee. Llanrhystud’s No.4 wins a header from a corner kick and looked to have equalised, but the referee disallowed the goal.
Incorrectly assuming (as in about 99% of these cases, it seems) that the referee had given a defensive free kick, I turned away to change some settings on my camera. Imagine my surprise then, when a few seconds later I looked up just in time to see Llanrhystud’s No.14 stepping up to fire home a penalty kick to put his side level!
With the score now level, Llanrhystud seemed to grow into the game and their dominance appeared to grow minute by minute. Every pass seemed to find its target, every player seemed to run into the right area when needed and Tregaron’s complete dominance of the first half started to seem like a long time ago indeed.
With a couple of minutes left in the second half, Llanrhystud’s No.12 broke free and got on the end of a chipped pass, facing down on the Tregaron goalkeeper on the edge of the box he remained calm and placed a lovely chipped effort over the goalkeeper and into the goal to give his side the lead for the first time in the game.
Seconds later, what I believe to the the final whistle blows. My wife and I get our stuff together and start to walk over to the other side of the pitch towards the car park. It becomes pretty much immediately clear that both sides have remained on the pitch and look to be undertaking in a further team talk.
It then all comes clear to me. The sides have chosen to play the game in three thirds of a half an hour each! It all makes sense now.
So, in my twenty five or so so years of watching football, this Friday night in Tregaron, I’m finally watching my first match of three thirds!
Tregaron, perhaps after an intensive team talk, start the final third the better side and were unlucky not to score an equaliser from a superb volleyed effort by their No.11 who volleyed a sublime effort from the edge of the box, only to see his effort quite improbably saved by the Llanrhystud goalkeeper.
A similar effort is saved from very close range by the Llanrhystud keeper after a 6 yard volleyed shot from Tregaron’s No.4.
The game is finally put to bed by Llanrhystud’s No.10 who breaks free on the half way line, beating the offside trap and runs down on the flailing Tregaron goalkeeper and slotted home clinically to give his side a 4-2 lead with only minutes left on the clock.
With just seconds left in the game, Llanrhystud were unlucky not to take a 5-2 lead when a cross/shot from the tricky No.5, who seemed to be playing in a left wing/wing back position, caught the goalkeeper off his guard and rattled the cross bar.
Moments later, the referee brings this entertaining encounter to an end and my first experience of a game of three halves comes to a close.
We make our way back to the car and travel ten miles along the A485 to Aberystwyth to partake of some culinary delights at The Light of Asia, our favourite Indian restaurant in the whole of Wales. A lovely little place we found almost by accident on our last visit to New Quay last Christmas.
All in all this evening’s match was a great way to finish our holiday in Ceredigion. I always love coming to watch football in this part of the world and have made a lot of friends in this area in the past through the beautiful game and would love to catch up with both of these sides in the future.
I would like to wish all the very best to both sides for the upcoming season. Llanrhystud, if they play like tonight’s match for the rest of the season should find themselves having a very successful stint in the Aberystwyth League’s Division Two.
You know what they say about football?
It’s a game of three halves…
My Man of the Match: A lot of players put in sterling performances, including a couple of Tregaron players who were unlucky to be on the losing side. Llanrhystud’s No.12 just about put in the best performance though, acting as a link between defence and attack and linking up play across the park effectively all night.