Thursday 16th July 2015 (6.15pm).
Sporting Marvels 5-0 Treforest.
Sporting Marvels Pre-Season Invitational. Group A.
Cambrian Lakeside Sports Academy, Clydach Vale.
Attendance: Circa 20.
After Tuesday night’s action in this tournament was rounded off in superb fashion by the exciting and quite frankly, mentally tiring encounter in which Gelli Hibs were victorious over their local rivals Ton & Gelli, to say I was excited about this evening’s fixtures would be a bit of an understatement.
Tuesday’s conditions were a little more difficult than this evening. The misty rain and low fog replaced by unseasonable sunshine and almost no wind. This presented both sides with an excellent opportunity to play some attractive passing football on what is a brilliant playing surface.
Both Sporting Marvels and Treforest are new sides to me. I’d previously watched Treforest’s reserve side in the Taff Ely League but despite living in Treforest in five and a half years (I only moved from there six weeks ago) I’d shamefully never taken the time to pop up to the White Tips stadium to take in one of their games.
Sporting Marvels are an interesting concept to say the least. Birthed as a club from their roots in a local Christian charity. Their online history is a little hazy, so I’m unsure whether they started out in the local church leagues (South Wales has quite an active and competitive church football scene I’ve come to learn) or whether they started playing football in the Rhondda & District Football League.
What I do know about the Marvels is that I started noticing their name appear everywhere about five years ago or so, one of my childhood best friends even played for them for a while, so I’ve known of their existence for a fair amount of time.
The Marvels were quite successful in the Rhondda & District League (Now at Tier 8 of the Welsh pyramid), winning the title on a couple of occasions only to be denied promotion to what was then the South Wales Senior League after falling at the play-off hurdles. The Marvels coupled this success with several domestic honours including multiple Lucania Cup (Rhondda Cup) wins.
Eventually The Marvels found their way into the South Wales Senior League, winning promotion from Division 2 to Division 1 of that league at first attempt. A 10th place finish in last season’s Division 1 and the merger of the South Wales Senior and South Wales Amateur Leagues to form a unified South Wales Alliance has meant that this season Sporting Marvels will play their football in Division 1 of the South Wales Alliance (Tier 6 of the Welsh pyramid).
I’m also reliably informed that such is the strength in depth at Sporting Marvels and the quantity of players looking to compete at the club that they are also intending to field a second side in the Rhondda League this season.
Sporting Marvels are of course guilty of one of the biggest crimes to a groundhopper/football fanatic. They are guilty of the crime of not having a geographical name! It’s certainly a bug bear of fanatics like myself, not having a town or a locale to pin the team to.
The further you go down the Welsh pyramid you’ll stop running into teams like Aberystwyth Town, Pontypridd Town and Treforest and you’ll start knocking into teams affiliated with pubs like Penrhiwceiber Con Club, The Prince of Wales (Treorchy) and Trealaw Rez AFC. The pub idea I can get behind as the pubs themselves represent the community in which they belong. I myself once played for The Black Diamond, which is a small but lovely pub in my childhood hometown of Edmondstown.
I feel a lot easier about things because The Marvels have a well established home ground at The Ynyscynon Field in Llwynypia. Funnily enough a stones throw away from my birthplace, the old Llwynypia Hospital (don’t look for it, it’s been replaced by a brand new hospital just across the road).
Treforest are a club representing the surprisingly large town of Treforest, which is a university town that borders Pontypridd at the bottom of the Valleys. Treforest, as I always worded it to work colleagues when I described the town, is sort of a half way house between the comfortable familiar surroundings of the nearby Rhondda Valley and the bright, bustling lights of Cardiff.
Treforest’s vast student population (20,000 students attend the University) give it a very cosmopolitan feel, a place where people of all races, colour and creed for the most part seem to get along very well.
I lived in Treforest, as I mentioned earlier, for five and a half years and aside from having my car’s wing mirrors kicked off by rowdy drunken students a handful of times every year we generally found the place to be a lovely place to set up home.
Treforest are a well respected force at this level of the Welsh pyramid. They’ve made a home for themselves in Division 1 of the South Wales Amateur Leagues, finishing as runners up on two occasions in the last four years. Their fifth placed finish this season was a high enough accolade to afford them being entered into the Premier Division of the newly formed South Wales Alliance league.
Playing at Tier 5 of the Welsh pyramid means that aside from the Cambrian & Clydach Academy side also in Group A of this competition, that Treforest are the team playing at the highest level of the pyramid in this tournament.
Treforest have been knocking on the door of the Welsh League for a handful of years now and this season with the merger of the two leagues comes the added benefit of the removal of the dreaded end of season play off between the winners of the South Wales Amateur and South Wales Senior leagues. They will certainly be aiming for promotion to the Welsh League this season.
The earlier games in this tournament seem to be preferred by the players. There’s a heavy gnat presence around the field due to it being an off target free kick away from a huge lake. It’s quite usual to see players in the later/evening games running over to their bench during stoppages in play asking to borrow a long shirt to stop these parasites from slowly killing them.
The game, although slow to start, was an intriguing encounter for the first quarter of an hour. Both sides took their time in their build up play, trying to get a feel for how their opponents chose to line up.
The first real chance of the game fell to Sporting Marvels about twenty minutes into the first half. They were awarded a free kick in a dangerous spot about thirty yards out from goal. Marvels’ No.7 stepped up to take the kick but was unable to really test the Treforest goalkeeper who picked up the ball fairly easily in the centre of goal.
Sporting Marvels took the lead two minutes later after a lovely piece of play from their No.16, a tricky and pacey winger who had a great game down the left side of the pitch. He picked up the ball on the half way line and skipped past his marker and exposed space down the left channel, running into the box at pace and dispatched a lovely short pass to Marvel’s No.9 who fired home from close range to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Treforest, following the opening goal, started to look they felt a little sorry for themselves and at times tensions flared over as some players started arguing among themselves. They eventually put this aside and started growing back into the game towards the close of the first half and started playing some nice football in the Marvels half.
The last action of note in the first half was an absolutely sublime piece of play by Marvels’ No.16, who trapped a 60 yard long ball at his feet in a manner that wouldn’t look out of place at Wembley Stadium. He went on to beat his marker skillfully but unfortunately his resulting effort on goal was a little meek following a loss of balance in the build up.
Treforest came out for the second half with a renewed intent and were unlucky not to level affairs on 52 minutes when their No.10 got his head on the end of a beautiful testing cross. The Marvels goalkeeper pulled off a great save to push the ball around the post at the last second to deny the Treforest side an equaliser.
Early in the second half I noticed the arrival of some familiar faces who came over to chat. Several of the Gelli Hibs side whom I watched on Tuesday night and many times previously came over to chat, give me a run through of the history of their club and their own individual involvements in Welsh football and also offered an informal run down of some of the players that would be taking to the field this evening.
They would point to a Blaenrhondda player who had just turned up for the later game that evening, “See that guy there? He’s an absolutely phenomenal player. Keep an eye on him later” The Hibs lot would then turn my attention to some of the players on the field in the current game, “See that guy there, down the centre? He played for us before, he’s awesome” By the time they’d given me their run down, I must have had a list of about ten players to keep an eye on!
To be fair to the Hibs lads, they’re a cracking bunch of guys and it was really nice to find they were all a friendly lot, with an unbelievable amount of passion that they invest in the club.
When my attention returned back on the game a few minutes later, Sporting Marvels really started to turn on the style on this encounter. On 58 minutes they opened up a two goal advantage when their No.13 ran at pace into the Treforest defence and hit a powerful shot along the floor that rustled in the net leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
Five minutes later, The Marvels found themselves 3-0 ahead after a few moments of pinball hilarity before the ball fell kindly to their No.11 who hit what I noted as a “violent shot” into the back of the net, hit with such ferocity that I genuinely thought the net might have needed repairing.
Treforest, now sensing the game was beyond them, ironically started playing their best stuff of the game in the preceding fifteen minutes, holding a lot of possession in the Marvels half and coming up with a few chances that a poorer goalkeeper would have conceded.
Unfortunately for Treforest, The Marvels ended the game in a furious fashion, scoring two goals in quick succession in the last five minutes. The fourth goal being a calamitous incident where the Marvels’ No.9 collided in a heap with the goalkeeper, only to get up off the ground a split second quicker than his opponent and poke the ball home.
The Marvels’ fifth and final goal came in what must have been the 89th minute when their No.16 displayed some exceptional skill in beating a defender or two before rounding the Treforest goalkeeper on the edge of the box and placing the ball home into an empty net to round off a great night for his side.
Treforest continue their pre-season preparations with a difficult fixture on Saturday 18th July against Cambrian & Clydach’s well respected Academy side who have acquitted themselves excellently so far in this tournament.
Sporting Marvels also play on Saturday with a tough Rhondda derby against Blaenrhondda and a fixture midweek against Bridgend League outfit Red Valley to finish their group campaign off.
My Man of the Match: It’s a tough one, Sporting Marvels had a handful of players who put in sterling performances. Marvels’ No.16 takes it for me though. He laid on a number of goals before scoring himself.