Saturday 1st August 2015.
AFC Porth 1-1 Pontypridd Town.
Michael Sobell Leisure Centre, Aberdare.
Attendance: Circa 25.
AFC Porth vs. Pontypridd Town was a fixture I’d been looking forward to for weeks. It stood out for me the moment Ponty Town announced their pre-season fixtures a few weeks ago. It presented the perfect opportunity to do two things I’m a big fan of.
- Drinking to extremes before lunch time.
- Watching football.
Unfortunately I’d learned earlier this week that the match was due to take place at the Michael Sobell Leisure Centre in Aberdare instead of AFC Porth’s Dinas Park like I thought it was going to be. Porth’s home ground is currently undergoing renovation works and is not due to re-open until next week with a grand opening fixture against Afan Lido.
This news meant that my plans for an early alcoholic start in the beer garden at The Rheola in Porth were sadly to put to bed for a week (until the Afan Lido game..) and we headed down to Pontypridd for a bite to eat and a quick look around town before heading up the A470 to Aberdare.
Wetherspoons in Pontypridd on a Saturday (especially when the Big Eat Festival takes place in nearby Ynysangharad Park) can be quite the spectacle. I’m a big fan of the Wetherspoons brand and I won’t have a bad word said about it. It offers me as a vegetarian a pretty good menu and the relative security of knowing that you can get a pretty much uniform meal regardless of which branch you pop into.
Whoever decided then that Wetherspoons in Pontypridd should share their building with the Probation Office then was clearly having a laugh on a Friday afternoon.
I jest of course. I love the place but it is fair to say that on a Saturday afternoon it’s not the greatest place in the world. As it happens, the vegetable burger is superb and the pint of Tuborg goes down a treat.
As I mentioned earlier, this afternoon’s match took place at the relatively new Michael Sobell Leisure Centre in Aberdare. I’m still gutted as Porth’s Dinas Park ground is a gentle ten minutes stroll from our new house in Porth, but it’s always nice to get a new ground under your belt.
As I’ve also alluded to in previous entries, this was always going to be a special game for me, regardless of whether it was just a friendly or not. As of this season my wife and I are season ticket holders at Pontypridd Town (joining such illustrious company as radio broadcaster and former Match of The Day presenter Colin Murray and sprinter extraordinaire Darren Campbell, who are both fellow season ticket holders) and I came away from last season with a real love of the club and the people involved with the club. They also held a special place for me as I lived in the town for the best part of six years.
During the pre-season my wife and I moved home, back to the Rhondda to the valleys town of Porth. It made sense for us. My wife works at what used to be The Pop Factory as an artist in the basement of the building and commuting for her is now a two minute walk down the road rather than a fifteen minute train ride or a four mile walk. Added to this although I work from home most of the time in my new job, it makes my journey to the office in Bridgend a little easier too when I need to go in a couple of times a week.
AFC Porth are a team I’ve got a soft spot for as well, I think I’ve said that or alluded to it more than once on the blog. I played for their junior teams as a teenager, going back to the early 90’s and growing up in nearby Edmondstown meant that for a long time they were my ‘local team’.
Upon walking into the ground it was great to catch up with faces I hadn’t seen over the Summer months and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Craig Morgan, one of the officials at Pontypridd Town had arranged to bring our season tickets and a commemorative program from their recent Deportivo La Coruna friendly for me, which was massively appreciated.
After last year’s Valencia trip in which they put in a good defensive performance and came away with a respectable 3-0 defeat, Ponty Town travelled to Spain for a pre-season friendly with the mighty Deportivo La Coruna of La Liga fame and were unlucky to lose 4-0.
Craig gives me the full report on the game and it sounds very much like the boys gave a great account of themselves, they were apparently only one goal down with just ten minutes of the match left to play having dominated periods of the second half. Unfortunately in the desperate hunt for an equaliser they let their defensive guard down and came away with a 4-0 defeat.
Against a young side filled with professionals training twice a day and destined for Champions League football in the next year or two, the Pontypridd side can certainly be proud of their achievements. No doubt, they’ll attempt to go again next season in pursuit of that first ‘overseas goal’, something that almost fell to striker James Hill (or so I’m informed) if it weren’t for the Spanish goalkeeper making a seemingly impossible save.
A friendly match two days after their Deportivo La Coruna match was always going to present some logistical challenges and this is notable as a slightly unfamiliar Ponty Town starting XI take to the field. Some players were on different flights, some chose to extend their stay in sunny Spain to include this weekend and some simply haven’t arrived home yet. It’s also apparent that manager Damien Broad has given starting roles to some of the players who didn’t start in Spain in order to give them an opportunity to sharpen up on their match fitness in preparation for the start of their Welsh League campaign in a fortnight.
One of the surprises I find on the pitch comes in the form of winger Aaran Caffell, a familar face to say the least. Caffell is a tricky little player who played for Treharris Athletic Western last season and put in a relatively ‘super-human’ performance in the ‘Ponty Party Reunion’ match in March of this year and spoiled the party for Ponty Town by scoring the winner in what was admittedly a bit of an off-day for the Ynysangharad Park men.
Aaron was mentioned on Colin Murray’s TalkSport show (Colin was also in attendance on the day) the following Monday morning and pleas were made from Colin to then-manager Dominic Broad to ‘sign him up!’, so it’s pretty good to see young Caffell in Pontypridd colours.
The Michael Sobell Centre ground is a relatively new pitch with a decent surface. There are no dug outs, no fencing surrounding the pitch and no stands for spectators so it doesn’t meet Welsh League or South Wales Alliance ground criteria which goes some way to explain why no Aberdare-based sides have opted to stake a claim for it as their home ground as of yet.
The game starts slowly initially, both sides play the vast majority of their football on grass surfaces and both appear to be taking some time to get used to the 3G surface at the Michael Sobell Centre, several passes are laid wayward by both sides and it takes 11 minutes before the first real opportunity of the game falls to AFC Porth’s No.11 who hits a powerful volleyed effort from 25 yards which was well saved by Ponty goalkeeper Ryan Griffiths.
Ponty’s first chance fell to newly appointed skipper Luke Gullick, a fine striker who impressed me several times last season. Gullick hit a testing shot from just outside of the box which beat the Porth goalkeeper but went agonizingly wide of the far post.
The action moves from goalmouth to goalmouth for the first half hour with both sides enjoying spells of pressure but neither really testing the goalkeepers on this surface.
New signing Aaron Caffell’s first chance of the game almost ends in a goal for his efforts. Only a superb save from his headed effort just inside of the box stops the young Ponty side from taking the lead just before half time.
With the scores level at half time, several substitutions are made on both sides as Ponty Town bring on the highly rated goalscorer James Hill, recent youth team graduate Owain Morgan and the newly appointed Assistant Player Manager Dominic Broad.
The Broad Brothers, are a well respected managerial team at this level and until now have always worked with older brother Dominic holding the Manager job title whilst younger brother Damien held the Assistant Manager role. That is until this season where the brothers have opted to reverse their roles, with the elder Broad concentrating more on his playing role and leading charge on the pitch whilst Damien formally takes over control on the touchline, which was the case for most of the times I watched the team last season.
The changes have a positive affect on the Ponty side who really start to take the game to their Porth counterparts and they were very unlucky not to take the lead on the hour when a beautiful cross into the box from Dominic Broad was met by both James Hill and Owain Morgan who unfortunately went for the same ball and neither were able to make a decent connection.
The breakthrough goal came for Pontypridd Town midway through the second half when striker James Hill beat his marker and broke free into the box, sending a testing pass into the six yard box. Unfortunately for AFC Porth, their No.6 was only able to guide the ball into his own net such was the venom on the pass from Hill. It was one of those unfortunate instances where any sort of touch from a Porth defender would have lead to the ball going in.
New signing Caffell went off soon after as a precautionary measure after what looked like a pulled muscle or a minor knock to the knee.
AFC Porth were unlucky not to level affairs with a quarter of an hour of the match left to play. The ball fell kindly to their No.9 deep in the penalty area. The No.9 unfortunately had a lot more time than he first thought he had and rushed his shot only to fire a poor effort well wide of the post.
With 83 minutes on the clock, a well worked free kick from Porth lead to the aforementioned No.9 stealing into the box and being gifted a great opportunity from six yard out, again his header was a little rushed and he hit his effort just wide of the far post.
Have you ever heard the cliche ‘He scored with the last kick of the game’? Well for the first time ever I saw a goal that was scored with the actual last kick of the game! AFC Porth won a throw in deep into injury time. A long throw was dispatched into the Ponty penalty area only for AFC Porth’s No.7 to rush in and volley home from the penalty spot to level affairs for his side.
As the Porth player ran away celebrating the referee blew up for full time. Confusion reigned for a few seconds. Had the goal been allowed? Doesn’t the referee have to allow the game to restart before blowing up? Who knows?
Both sides had their spells in the game and on the balance of things this was probably the fairest result for all concerned.
AFC Porth continue their preparations for their upcoming Welsh League Division Two campaign with a friendly against Afan Lido which should mark the official re-opening of their Dinas Park ground and Pontypridd Town carry on their pre-season build-up with matches against the likes of Division One’s Aberdare Town and local rivals Graig.
Our evening finished with us taking the train back to Pontypridd with a few drinks in town taking in a comedy night at the town’s Clwb Y Bont venue, where hilariously the host picked on the fact we lived in Porth (to be fair, he also lived in Porth) and told me that being a ‘Technical Architect’ I was probably the most successful person to ever come from Porth (for the record I beat a Social Worker and a man who worked at Sainsburys) in this apparent ‘competition’.
We ended the evening where we’d started it, walking into Wetherspoons to find that in the seven hours since our last visit it had become an obnoxious ‘pumping house music’ venue. Upon finding that the bar was at least fifteen people deep we decided to run across the road and get the last train home to Porth before making our own entertainment with YouTube on the big screen.
I’d like to wish both sides the absolute best for the upcoming season. With my new house being a ten minute walk from Dinas Park and my season tickets at Pontypridd Town I think it’s fair to say you’ll be reading a lot more about both clubs on this blog in the coming months.