Saturday 29th August 2015.
AFC Porth 0-1 Chepstow Town.
Welsh League Division Two.
Dinas Park, Porth.
Attendance: Circa 40.
…so I drove away from Brecon at speeds that I’m not really too proud of down the A470. After the planned Brecon Corries match was postponed at 2.30, a swift fifteen minute walk across town (Yes, I chose to park on the opposite side of Brecon for some reason unknown to me) meant I only got back to my car at 2.45.
Still without mobile reception, I debated going to a game close to Brecon. Well it’s surprisingly hard as Brecon is quite far away from other footballing towns in Mid and South Wales. Added to this was the fact that I didn’t have any mobile reception so I wasn’t able to log on to any of the league websites to check for fixtures.
Without knowing, I debated going to Abergavenny Town, after there was at least a 50% chance they’d be playing at home. I debated going to Merthyr Town with the same chances. I debated going to Rhayader or even making the slightly longer trip to Newtown, where at least I knew they were playing at home. Newtown however would have cost me at least another hour of travel time, which meant I would have only been able to catch the last fifteen minutes.
Then I remembered that my home town of AFC Porth were playing Chepstow Town at Dinas Park. They kicked off at 2.30pm, so I’d already missed most of the first half, but if I booted it down the A470 and didn’t run into too much traffic in Pontypridd I could probably make it for the second half. So I put the pedal to the metal and tried to achieve a record time of 35 minutes from Brecon Town Centre to Dinas Park.
It was quite frustrating actually, I’d worked out that the second half of the match would kick off at about 3.30pm and I actually left the A470 in Pontypridd at just before 3.10. I’d done the first 30 odd miles of the journey in 20 minutes. On this ratio, I’d be at Dinas Park before the first half even ended…
Then I entered Pontypridd and it seemed every traffic light was against me, every driver in front of me wanted to stick to a comfortable 16mph and admire the scenery of Pontypridd on a warm Summer’s day.
I pulled up to Dinas Park at 3.31pm just in time to watch both sides coming out for the second half.
I sheepishly walked up to a guy with a backpack in the crowd (My reasoning is that guys with backpacks at games tend to know what they’re talking about). I asked him what was the score was.
“One-nil to Chep” he replied.
He’s calling them ‘Chep’, so he’s obviously a Chepstow fan. I ask him “How’s it gone so far?”
“Ah, y’know. Bit equal” he quips.
A superb analysis if ever there were one. Before handing him the award for Most In-depth analysis of the first half of a game, I thanked him and made my way over to the other side of the field to try and catch up with AFC Porth secretary Huw Jones.
Out of the corner of my failing eyes I saw a familiar figure near the stand.
It’s Owain Morgan, Pontypridd Town player and his Dad Craig who holds a multitude of roles at the club ranging from club official, club media man, assistant manager when needed, club commentator, club kitchen staff when needed and as I’d come to learn a few days earlier, club bouncer when one team in particular were a bit outraged about a referee’s performance and demanded to be let into the referee’s dressing room to discuss some of the finer points of his performance, potentially with their fists!
Pontypridd Town’s planned home game against Tredegar Town was cancelled due to Ponty’s Ynysangharad Park ground also being used today for a ‘Summer Festival’, this coupled with the opening of the National Lido for Wales in the park meant that parking spaces were limited for the game. The park made a couple of parking spaces available for the referee and some club officials but the players were told they had to park their cars in a public car park just across the road from the ground. The clubs discussed it and came to a sort of mutual understanding to replay the game in three weeks time.
Craig showed me his brand new DSLR he’d bought for the purpose of taking better photos of the team so we had a few seconds of being nerds and comparing focal length and lens zoom size (ooh-er).
It was nice to finally see Dinas Park’s stand following it’s recent renovation. The club and Huw in particular have put in a great deal of work over the Summer months in renovating the ground and it’s been lovely driving past the ground (as I mentioned previously, I live about a mile down the road from the ground) every couple of days and seeing the progress and I know for a fact that Huw himself has undertaken a great deal of the work himself because I’ve often seen him near a cement mixer with bricks in hand from my passing car.
The previous stand, having been in place for about 20 years or so has been renovated with a new roof, lockable shutters to prevent ne’er-do-wells from the local area sheltering from the rain and generally starting fires and causing mischief and most importantly has included the addition of seats that will be a welcome relief to many come the Winter months.
AFC Porth looked a much changed side to the last time I saw them only a month earlier at friendlies against Ton Pentre and Pontypridd Town. Previous manager Richard Haig left the club following a heavy opening day defeat at Undy Athletic and the club brought in experienced Welsh League referee Gareth Morgan, previously of Llanwern.
Morgan seems keen to stamp his own mark on the side and has made a number of impressive signings, including previous Pontypridd Town midfielder Nyran Bird and Welsh League veteran left sided player Liam Screen, whom I’d previously seen play for Newport side Lliswerry and also interestingly enough used to play for my work’s 5-a-side team ‘Real Madras’ back in 2007.
Chepstow Town were a new side to me having never seen them play before so I was quite intrigued to see what they were going to be about. A heavy opening day defeat to title favourites Llanelli Town seemed to spell out a long season ahead for the team but a strong 6-0 victory over Dinas Powys restored confidence. A close 2-1 defeat to local rivals Caldicot Town meant that they went into this afternoon’s game on the lower side of mid-table.
I only watched half of the match so it was hard really to kind of run with the normal match reports that I tend to write. The reports from people around me tended to go with the view that the first half was very split in terms of possession and chances. Chepstow Town scored an early goal, although I’m still yet to find out who scored said goal or even what it was like.
AFC Porth dominated proceedings in the second half and I would definitely say on the balance of things they were unlucky not to at least take a point from this affair. Liam Screen in particular looked very lively down the left hand side, a full back in the vein of someone like a Gary Neville, a very attacking full back who will take the opportunity to bomb on and provide crosses when he can.
In particular Nyran Bird also showed his experience at this level and looked very comfortable in possession of the ball.
One comment that I repeatedly heard from those around me was that Porth looked indeed to be struggling in front of goal. Some of their build up play at times was sublime but they just seemed to lack that killer instinct in front of goal and I believe I heard someone mention that they were actually playing their substitute goalkeeper up front to make up the numbers.
It’s a very tough thing for a side like Porth. Their Twitter feed this week alluded to some players dropping out and declaring themselves unavailable on the morning of the game and in those situations it’s so hard to plan for a match like this. However, the new manager is visibly making big improvements to the side which was obvious for all to see and they looked to be a completely re-invigorated side to the one I saw earlier this year lose heavily against Haverfordwest County.
The game fizzled out as Chepstow Town intelligently run down the clock with a series of passes down the channels to try and exploit holes left in the Porth defence while they went in pursuit of that elusive equaliser.
Admittedly, watching only half of a game doesn’t give you the full picture and for that I do apologise. I did the best I could with the time available.
Chepstow Town seemed delighted with their victory which was easy for all to see when several members of their lineup made howling cries upon the referee’s final whistle. It certainly makes something of an attempt to silence some of the naysayers who have been talking the side down in recent weeks on several of the Welsh League forums and messageboards.
For AFC Porth, they go another week without that elusive win but there are definitely more positives than negatives to take from today’s performance. I don’t think anyone would call me crazy if I were to say that if Porth had a proven 25 goals a season striker starting for them today then there’s every chance they would have come away from this afternoon’s game with all three points.
It’s a long season and both sides still have another 26 games to prove themselves. AFC Porth are still in the hunt for that much needed win that has eluded them in the league since the 2013/2014 season but I for one am convinced that once they get over that hurdle they will start winning games left, right and centre.
Gareth Morgan has stated that his ultimate goal for the club is to 1) Stabilise their position in Welsh League Division Two, and 2) Eventually return to their Welsh League Division One Top 6 spot, which until their squad exodus a couple of seasons ago seemed to be their usual home in the Welsh League.
I’d like to wish both sides the very best luck for the rest of their Welsh League campaigns and do hope to see both sides at their home grounds sooner rather than later.