Thursday 6th August 2015.
Brynna 2-2 Porthcawl Town Athletic.
The Welfare Ground, Brynna.
Every so often someone sends me a suggestion or invites me to come and watch certain games and usually, unless work, prior arrangements or another match gets in the way I’ll pay the game a visit.
One such suggestion arrived in my Twitter inbox from Jon McCarthy, manager of South Wales Alliance Premier Division side Porthcawl Town Athletic, who gave me a list of their upcoming fixtures and invited me to their Lock’s Lane home ground for a pint.
Porthcawl Town Athletic admittedly had been on the ‘wish list’ for a while. I’d planned to try and watch them towards the end of the Summer at their home ground, maybe going down from the Rhondda on the bus in the morning, having a few cold ones in one of the many lovely pubs dotted around the town, enjoying a spot of football on the coast and then catching the last bus back to the Valleys, sunburnt and wrecked.
However as it transpired, the only pre-season friendly of theirs I was able to make was an away match at the (relatively in the South Wales scheme of things) nearby Brynna. With this in mind I headed down to The Welfare Ground in Brynna straight from work.
I’ll admit before you go any further with this blog that prior to tonight’s game I knew very little about both clubs. I didn’t know what divisions of the South Wales Alliance either team played in, although I knew beforehand that they were both members of the league.
Porthcawl Town Athletic are an amalgamation of two clubs representing the seaside town. In 2010 a merger between two existing clubs Porthcawl Town and Porthcawl Athletic lead to the newly formed Porthcawl Town Athletic representing the town solely. As it happened both clubs shared their Lock’s Lane home ground, so neither side needed to move as part of the merger.
Brynna are a side who currently play their football in the newly formed South Wales Alliance Division Two having previously played in the South Wales Amateur League prior to the league’s merger with the South Wales Senior League.
Brynna play their football at The Welfare Ground in the centre of the village. The ground is tucked away on a side street behind the main road that runs through the village. The Welfare Ground is a small but quaint village football ground. The field runs parallel with what looks like a floodlit rugby field and a small community centre behind one set of goalposts.
Porthcawl’s manager Jon tweeted me on my arrival to the ground to let me know that he was caught in traffic on the M25 earlier this afternoon and is still on the other side of the Severn Bridge and will catch up with me at half time when he arrives.
The match started at a furious pace for what was essentially a pre-season friendly. Porthcawl Town Athletic won the toss of the coin before the game and sensibly chose to attack the first half away from the low sun, which was by this point of the evening causing a great deal of annoyance for players and spectators alike.
Despite the disadvantage of playing against the sun in the first half it was Brynna who looked the more likely to take the lead in this game as they pulverised the Porthcawl defence in the opening quarter of an hour. James Ward came close in the opening minute of the game but was unable to really test Brad Robinson in the Porthcawl goal.
Five minutes into the game, Brynna’s No.12 pulled off a piece of gymnastic excellence to attempt a spectacular diving header to get on the end of a wayward cross from a colleague, only to miss the ball by a matter of inches from close range.
Brynna for all of their dominance were unable to open the scoring, but came closest on ten minutes when their No.17 hit a decent effort from the edge of the box but dragged his shot a little too wide. The Brynna side by now should have been at least 2-0 up. The question was going to be whether they would live to regret their handful of missed chances when Porthcawl finally got started in the game.
Porthcawl finally awoke on the quarter of an hour mark when a deflection from a corner kick lead to the ball falling kindly to the feet of Tom Warren who went on to skillfully beat his marker but when put under pressure could only fire his shot two yards over the cross bar.
Midway through the first half, Porthcawl themselves were unlucky not to open the scoring with a free kick from Joe McCarthy which forced Matthew Evans in the Brynna goal into making a superb save.
The first half of this game was extremely entertaining for the neutral spectator like myself and the end to end action of this game was epitomized in a two minute phase of play in which Porthcawl Town Athletic came desperately close to scoring with a one-on-one involving striker Andrew Fisher going out for a goal kick. From the resulting goal kick, Brynna took the ball straight up the other end of the pitch and opened the scoring with a neat bit of play splitting the Porthcawl defence. Will Penniket was on hand to poke the ball with a neat chipped effort to put his side 1-0 up on the evening.
Brynna’s lead didn’t last for long as four minutes later Porthcawl took advantage from a corner kick and after a long looping cross into the box found Andrew Fisher on the far right of the penalty area, Fisher dispatched a quite superb volley into the top right corner of the goal to level affairs for his side.
Five minutes later, Porthcawl would find themselves in the lead after taking advantage of a defensive mix-up in the Brynna back four. The Brynna back four unsuccessfully tried to catch Andrew Fisher who sneakily beat the offside trap and found himself looking down on the goalkeeper with an age of time to slot his effort past the flailing Brynna goalkeeper who could do little to stop his side from falling behind.
Andrew Fisher would prove to be a shining light for his team this evening, I’d later learn that he was actually Porthcawl’s first choice goalkeeper having a rare foray into the world of outfield football. Fisher was desperately unlucky not to seal a first half hat-trick with a decent effort from 10 yards out that was blocked by a trailing foot from a Brynna defender.
“I wish I could clone him and put him in goals and up front to be honest” Jon would later state to me. I can certainly see where he’s coming from with that thought.
Jon arrived at the match just before the half time whistle and spotting me at the ground, he made the time to have a quick chat before going to deliver his half time talk to his side. I was surprised to learn that the goal scoring hero Andrew Fisher was in fact, a goalkeeper. I also learned that Porthcawl were missing at least three players, all absent for varying reasons ranging from work commitments to Magaluf holidays.
With this being a pre-season game, league campaigns still being a fortnight away and the rising temperature it was likely that the frantic end-to-end nature of the first half would mellow a little in the second half and the speedy flow of the game slowed down as the second half progressed. The game becoming something of a chess-like tactical game rather than the furious kick and run nature of the first half.
Brynna gradually started to force their attacking game that we had all witnessed in the opening stages of the game and were unlucky not to level through their No.17 who hit a fine fizzing effort from about 25 yards out which beat the Porthcawl goalkeeper but went just over the bar.
Porthcawl almost sealed the game midway through the second half when Jordan Pugh hit a shot/cross into the box from the right wing which caught goalkeeper Matthew Evans out but a defender was perched on the goal line to boot the ball to safety.
Porthcawl Town Athletic played some really nice stuff down the wings throughout the whole game and a great deal of their attacking play was built up from the back. In particular full back Andrew Bowden stood out as quite an organised player who seemed very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Ten minutes from time Porthcawl Town Athletic had their final chance to settle the game when a chance fell to Andrew Fisher who latched on to a lovely cross hit into the box and hit a lovely effort towards goal, Evans somehow pulled off a great save to deny the stand-in striker what would have been a remarkable hat trick.
Brynna pushed forward in numbers in the closing stages of the game and after missing a number of chances to level affairs it was only inevitable that they would find a way through the Porthcawl barriers.
They finally levelled the scores in the 89th minute when Gareth James shimmied through the now tired Porthcawl defence and found himself facing down on goalkeeper Brad Robinson in a one-on-one. Robinson made a valiant effort to stop James’ effort but the striker was able to slot his effort just around the Porthcawl goalkeeper to level the scores with only seconds of the game left to play.
The game fizzled to a steady pace for the remainder of injury time with neither side crafting any chances to win the game.
All in all this was an extremely entertaining game for the neutral and will have served as a good workout for both sides in the rising heat. The first half in particular stood as being as entertaining as any game I had watched this year.
I’d like to wish the very best of luck to both sides for their upcoming campaigns and will make sure that I visit both sides at home in the coming months.
My Man of the Match: There were some good performances on both sides but the dubious accolade has to be awarded to Porthcawl Town Athletic’s goalkeeper/striker Andrew Fisher who put in a convincing striker performance and looked every inch to be a very decent front man despite apparently being a natural shot-stopper.