Saturday 29th August 2015
Brecon Corries P-P Porthcawl Town Athletic.
South Wales Alliance Premier Division.
Rich Field, Brecon.
Attendance: Circa 25.
After Pontypridd Town’s home fixture against Tredegar Town fell to a postponement (Pontypridd’s Ynysangharad Park was today the venue for a ‘Summer Festival’ which would have attracted a couple of thousand visitors. The council laid down the law and stated that players would need to park their cars across the road and walk over. Tredegar Town were not too pleased with this request so the clubs mutually agreed to replay the game when the park was less busy), I needed a game to fill my empty Saturday with.
A couple stood out as potentials but the newly empty Saturday only really had one potential suitor, a club I’d been looking to visit since the start of the year – Brecon Corries.
Actually when deciding this on Thursday, I hadn’t checked the fixtures first. So I logged onto the South Wales Alliance league website hoping, praying and generally hoping that Brecon Corries had a home fixture scheduled for today.
As luck would have it, they did and not only was it a home fixture, it was a fixture against Porthcawl Town Athletic.
Porthcawl Town Athletic are a club I only saw for the first time earlier this month but one that have quickly come to be one of my favourite teams in Wales. Their co-manager Jon McCarthy has been a big supporter of what I’ve been trying to do with the blog and has been exceedingly helpful to me and his knowledge of the Welsh football scene is something I’ve taken advantage of on a number of occasions this month already.
I was excited to get to a Brecon Corries match as the whole area surrounding Brecon is one that doesn’t tend to have a lot of football clubs around it. Clubs that play their football in the Spar Mid Wales League tend to reside a little more North, nearer a town like say Newtown than Brecon. Due to this there’s a large gap on my ‘Map of my Travels’ between roughly Merthyr Tydfil and Newtown.
I took the scenic route from my home in the Rhondda up to Brecon, driving through the Rhondda Fach valley, through Upper Rhondda villages like Tylorstown, Ferndale and Maerdy before taking the Cynon Valley mountain road into Aberdare and along the A4059 through Penderyn to eventually meet with the A470 near Storey Arms.
From Storey Arms it’s just another fifteen minutes or so until I’m driving into the centre of Brecon and being someone who hates paying for parking I choose to park about half a mile from the centre of town next to a BT telephone exchange building.
I only tend to visit Brecon once a year or so and aside from once visiting The Goblin pub before an Ash gig at the town’s Theatr Bryncheinog I’ve never really taken in any pubs in the town.
Call them soulless, call them boring, call them the McDonalds of the pub industry. I’ll take all of your insults and tell you that what I was really looking for in the town was a Wetherspoons. I’ve only ever met one football fan with as much of a love for the humble Wetherspoons as I do and that’s my friend Gibbo, a man who was so outraged by Wetherspoons to discontinue the Sweet Action craft beer that he took to Twitter to vent some of his anger.
Sadly, Brecon is a bit of a mobile ‘not-spot’ if you will. All attempts to bring up the Wetherspoons website on my mobile failed and after two or three laps of the town centre I settled on a pub near the ground called The Clarence.
Whilst in the beer garden enjoying my moderately expensive pint of Grolsch I was able to connect to the pub’s Wi-Fi and find all of my fears confirmed, Brecon in fact did not have a Wetherspoons.
After finishing my pint I had enough time to have a quick walk around the town again where I took a couple of photos. On taking a couple of photos in the middle of town an elderly woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come and see ‘The World’s smallest church door’. Now I’m not a religious man at all but I was at least a little bit intrigued.
So after sixty seconds of awkward conversation (“So what are you doing in Brecon?”, “Oh well I write a Welsh football blog in which I’m trying to do 100 games in a year and I’ve wanted to watch Brecon Corries for a while now”) I’m faced with what I’m lead to believe is the World’s smallest church door. I am always reliably informed that the door was made for dogs, as dogs were highly thought of in the church.
Was any of this real? Who knows.
With half an hour before the 2pm kick I chose to stop looking at the World’s smallest church door and head towards the ground.
The Rich Field is located behind the Theatr Bryncheinog, a theatre/cinema/arts centre that also occasionally hosts gigs from some surprisingly big names. As I touched on earlier, I came here to watch Ash in December 2000. They set up a UK tour where they specifically made an attempt to visit towns and venues that are normally left off most artist’s tours.
It takes me ten minutes and three failed attempts to find the correct way into The Rich Field. The ground is partially hidden behind trees next to a smaller football field and a children’s play area.
When I eventually find the ground I instantly fall in love.
The Rich Field is a charming old ground with bags of character. The ground has a single stand with a zinc iron covering. The stand holds about sixty or so people and offers a great view of the game.
I arrived at the ground with about three minutes to spare before kick off so I was amazed to see both sides still out on the field taking part in some pretty intensive warm up sessions. Something seemed amiss.
I spotted Jon McCarthy, Porthcawl’s co-manager. Jon told me that today’s referee was running a little late and kick off had been moved back until 2.30pm.
This gave me an opportunity to quiz Jon on his side’s campaign so far without feeling like I was potentially getting in the way of his own preparations.
It seems Porthcawl Town Athletic are really going for it this year. Although the league campaign is only two games old, impressive victories against Pontyclun and Trefelin have given them a 100% record going into September, these coupled with a win in the first qualifying round of the FAW Welsh Cup have given this side the confidence to go to difficult venues like this and feel like the favourites.
Jon tells me that a few members of his squad struggled to make this game, their first choice goalkeeper had to convince his boss to let him leave work early at 1pm in Porthcawl and was not due to arrive until 2.30pm at the earliest but such was the commitment of his side, he was prepared to boot it up the A470 and possibly come on as a half time substitute.
I chat with Jon for about ten minutes before letting him carry on with his preparations. I get chatting to a Brecon Corries fan in the stand about his side to try and get an idea of what they’re season has been like. Unfortunately the Corries lost their two opening games of the season against Merthyr Saints and Penydarren BGC.
I’m amazed to find that the guy is another ground hopper so to speak. He tells me the most he ever achieved was 124 matches in the one season. We spend about ten minutes talking all manner of Welsh football, including the new South Wales Alliance, the reason Brecon Corries haven’t moved to the Mid-Wales League and Treharris Athletic Western’s new signings.
At some point just before 2.30 the man who took my £2.50 at the door starts walking around the spectators handing them their £2.50 back. A Brecon Corries club official steps in front of the stand and explains that after another phone call to the league it appears that the league have failed to assign a referee to today’s match, or that the referee pulled out of the game and the league failed to assign a replacement, meaning that this afternoon’s match unfortunately has to be postponed.
It’s a shame for both clubs and all concerned. Especially as Porthcawl Town Athletic’s goalkeeper skids into the ground at speed only to find that the game he’s put his driving license on the line for has just been cancelled.
It’s not the fault of either club, as recent as twenty minutes before kick off they were told by the South Wales FA that the referee was ‘stuck in traffic’.
The South Wales Alliance is a new league, formed after the merger of the South Wales Senior League and the South Wales Amateur League. There will always be hiccups during the first few months, but this takes the biscuit.
I’m stuck with the problem of potentially facing a Saturday afternoon without football, which to me is a disaster. Unfortunately I also struggle against the poor mobile reception in Brecon which renders me unable to search the Internet for fixtures in the nearby Mid Wales League or the Mid Wales South League.
I say my goodbyes to Jon and promise that the next time I see Porthcawl Town Athletic will definitely be at their Locks Lane ground.
I try to find out whether the relatively nearby Abergavenny Town or Merthyr Town are playing at home but without mobile reception I’m fairly stuck. So I trudge across town in a bit of a mood to get back to the car before heading back down the A470 to a place where my mobile will again provide me with Internet access…