Tuesday 1st September 2015.
New Quay 4-1 Felinfach.
Costcutter Ceredigion League Division One.
Parc Arthur, New Quay.
It’s funny. I found myself sitting atop a banking at New Quay’s Parc Arthur home ground as the failing sunlight started making my photographs come out blurrier and blurrier by the minute, it struck me that my whole Welsh footballing adventure and the blog as a whole had ‘come home’
You see, the whole idea for this blog came to during the days following the Christmas of 2014 whilst going through what was one part mental breakdown and the other part complete disillusion with my club, Cardiff City.
This all happened to occur whilst on a week long post-Christmas break in a lovely chalet with my wife Lara in New Quay. I’ve covered this holiday in many other blog posts so I won’t bore you all again with the details but it’s fair to say we drank many a drink, ate many a fine food and generally had a great time.
Whilst on this week long break we decided to take in an Aberystwyth Town home game on New Year’s Day that sort of started it all off really. It helped also that the game happened to be an end to end eight goal thriller. This was the game that started this whole blog off but the idea for the blog had been firmly conceived in New Quay, hatched as a potential idea whilst sipping pints in the town’s Dolau Inn, the Queen’s Hotel and the very Football Club that New Quay FC themselves call home.
So it was always a hope of mine to try and take in a New Quay home game at some point this year. I’d managed to catch an away game of theirs against the mighty ex-Welsh League outfit Newcastle Emlyn during the March Ceredigion Ground Hop weekend but this didn’t quite fulfil the desire to take in a home game at their Parc Arthur home ground.
With this in mind when the Ceredigion League fixtures were announced earlier this Summer I immediately marked this fixture off on my calendar and made plans instantly to finish work earlier on that day.
This also explains some of the desperate measures I took to get to a game on Saturday as I so desperately wanted New Quay’s home game to be my 75th game of the year to kind of mark off the ‘three quarters of the way there’ landmark in some form of style. Call me a perfectionist but doing New Quay as the 7th game just wouldn’t have worked for me!
It’s hard to explain to people who don’t quite get what I’m trying to do with this blog the reason why I woke up like an excited child on Christmas Day on the morning of the match. I don’t particularly know either the New Quay or Felinfach teams well at all, I don’t know any of the player’s names, anything in particular about the clubs other than what I picked up on the March ground hop. In reality, I’ve watched the national teams of Belgium, Germany and Andorra more than I’ve watched New Quay or Felinfach in the scale of things.
However, New Quay has, like it has for a lot of young Valleys kids of my age, been something of a haven since my youth. Coming from a family who could scarcely afford foreign holidays in the early 1990’s, my family and I would make the annual pilgrimage to New Quay every Summer which was at the time a much cheaper option than flying to Spain, Tenerife or other holiday destinations of that era.
We mostly stayed at the Quay West Holiday Park, a five minute walk away from the centre of the village but we also stayed in some of the other holiday parks in and around the town.
I think I worked out last year that I’d holidayed in New Quay something like twenty times and this is something that I’ve started doing again in recent years, always making a point of spending at least one week a year in the village.
The place actually meant so much to my wife and I that we actually got engaged on the harbour in the town in October 2013.
We drove up to Ceredigion via the slightly boring route of the M4, followed by the A48 to Carmarthen, then taking the A487 up to Aberystwyth for a quick look around a bite to eat before heading back to New Quay. I know! I know! Why didn’t I just go up the A470 and turn left? Well we had a bit of a nightmare doing that route back in July when we came up to New Quay last time and a two and a bit hour journey quickly turned into a three and a half hour journey after some cruelly placed tractors slowed down our journey horrendously on the way.
I’ve always sung their praises and I know some people hate the chain but we found ourselves walking into Yr Hen Osaf, or simply put ‘Aberystwyth Wetherspoons’ at about 4pm and ordering the standard Roberts family order of ‘Vegetable Burger and Beer’.
I was most gutted to find out that the rumours my groundhopping mate Gibbo were in fact true. Wetherspoons have phased out their craft beer selection which meant my request for a can of Budvar was sadly declined at the bar, having to instead make do with a pint of Tuborg.
After grudgingly sipping down my pint of Tuborg we made our way back out before heading back on to the A487 to make the quick half an hour drive back down along the coastline to New Quay.
The drive along the A487 is a pleasant one that takes in both retail outlets (Aberystwyth: Morrisons, McDonalds) and small hamlets with only a handful of houses. I’m always intrigued to spot villages and hamlets like Rhydfelin and Penygraig, both of which are names of slightly bigger villages near my hometown of Porth in the Rhondda.
It’s also great to pass through the pastel coloured town of Aberaeron, which for me always marks the point when New Quay is only 4 miles away.
We arrived in New Quay just after 6pm so had enough time to pop into the town’s Creme Pencei shop which has always been our ‘go to’ ice cream place. Feeling quite adventurous this time, we settled on a Jaffa Cake ice cream before driving up the hill to New Quay’s Parc Arthur ground.
Parc Arthur is located at the top of New Quay’s infamous Church Street hill next to a car park and a community hall. I’ve always known of the pitch’s location but shamefully had never gone up to have a look in the past twenty five or so years of holidaying in the village.
The ground is of a good standard for the Ceredigion League. A league whose First Division actually sits at Tier 5 of the Welsh Football pyramid. Promotion to and from this league is a bit ad-hoc. Cardigan won the league last season and did not go for promotion, or they did and simply didn’t meet ground requirements of the fourth tier or they did and lost a play off (I’m still unsure myself).
You see, there doesn’t appear to be a hard and fast rule for promotion like in the South or the North of the country. Promotion from the Ceredigion League subject to meeting ground criteria would normally for most teams result in promotion to the Spar Mid Wales League 2, to which the Ceredigion League is a feeder league. The Spar Mid Wales League then acts as feeder league to the Cymru Alliance up North, which then acts as a feeder to the national Welsh Premier League.
However since the Ceredigion League has such a vast catchment area it can make sense for some of the more Southerly clubs (see: Llanboidy, Newcastle Emlyn and Pencader for instance) to consider the Welsh League as a viable alternative.
Of course, with football comes confusion. For instance, current Ceredigion League side Newcastle Emlyn previously played their football in the Welsh League, typically the reserve of teams from the South Wales population hot spot areas of Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and the surrounding valleys.
On the club’s relegation from Division Three of the Welsh League, instead of moving down to the South Wales Amateur or South Wales Senior League as the vast majority of sides do (now read as: South Wales Alliance) the side chose to play their football in the Costcutter Ceredigion League at the same level of the tier, just in a different region.
The question still remains whether Newcastle Emlyn would seek a promotion back to the Welsh League or move up to the Spar Mid Wales League if they ever won the Ceredigion League again?
Do you see what I mean now about confusion? When I think I’ve got a firm grasp on the Welsh pyramid I confuse myself further!
If you would allow me to go back to my original point for a brief moment. The Parc Arthur surface is lovely, it looks like it’s been well maintained and the ground overall comes to a pretty high standard. I especially like the obscure stanchions (the curly bit at the top corner of the goal that pulls the net back a bit) in the goals which have a little bit of an Eastern European flavour to them.
I arrive just in time to watch both sides finishing their preparations, undertaking final team talks and limbering up for the match. We take our place on the opposite side of the pitch to the changing rooms and position ourselves in the Felinfach half for the first 45 minutes.
Today’s opponents for New Quay are fellow Division One side Felinfach who made the half an hour journey from further into the mainland. Felinfach as I mentioned earlier are another side I quite warmed to during the Ceredigion Hop earlier this year.
On that day they drew 1-1 against Bargod Rangers in a game which I seem to remember was fairly evenly matched to be honest. What struck me most about the club on the day was their professionalism in setting up the occasion and they offered one of the better snack hut/sales areas that I came across all weekend. I actually made a point of buying one of their old yellow shirts for my collection back home, one that I debated wearing tonight before realising that turning up to a Ceredigion League match after travelling 100 miles to be there whilst wearing a early 2000’s shirt of one of the teams playing was probably a bit too far down the ‘football hipster’ route if I’m completely honest with myself.
What I also loved about the side was the infamous hump on their Felinfach Playing Fields ground. It was one of the highlights of the weekend. Nature had taken its course over the years meaning that the centre circle of their home ground stood about 5ft higher than either touch line. This of course resulted in pretty much every single ground hopper that weekend taking multiple photos of the touchlines, where you’d only see the forehead of a winger on the opposite touchline. It was really something to see.
I recognised a few players from both sides on that day, unfortunately without the helpful lineups written on whiteboards that ground hop games provide, I had to make do with going back to recognising players as “No.7” and “No.9” rather than their actual names. I’ve since got hold of a list of players for Felinfach, so I’ve added these in.
The Ceredigion League season is still young and today’s match marked both sides third games of the season. So it was a bit premature to use current league standings as a reliable method to show team quality and form.
Based on last season’s final league table 7 points separated the two sides with New Quay (29pts) finishing in 7th place (out of 12) whilst Felinfach (22pts) finished in the final safe spot in 10th. Both sides were confirmed as being safe from relegation with a fair amount of games left as last season’s strugglers Llanboidy and Maesglas finished with 5pts and 4pts respectively and were formally relegated with a month or two of the season to play.
New Quay do have quite the heritage in this league however and as recent as the 2012-13 season they actually won the league with a convincing seven point lead over runners-up Lampeter. Whether the side actually applied for promotion I’m uncertain as of yet.
This evening’s game started in a fairly slow manner with the ball getting stuck in the middle of the park for the majority of the opening quarter of an hour whilst both sides got a feel for each other’s tactics.
The first real opportunity of note in the game fell to Felinfach’s Aled Davies who made an attempted break through the New Quay defence on the counter attack. He looked to be in a great position to run down with the ball on the goalkeeper but a superb last ditch tackle by New Quay’s No.5 halted his progress into the penalty area.
A minute later, New Quay took the lead in the match with what must have been their first real chance of the game. An immediate counter attack from Felinfach’s attempt at goal lead to them being outnumbered at the back. New Quay’s No.9, a tall player with a hint of a look of Jonjo Shelvey (please don’t hurt me!) latched onto the ball just outside of the box and knocked a fine effort past the flailing Felinfach goalkeeper Owain Evans who could do little to stop his side from going behind.
With the lead in hand, New Quay grew in confidence and really started to take the game to their opponents and were unlucky not to add a second goal in quick succession when their No.7 hit a powerful shot from the edge of the box that looked to have all the speed on it but unfortunately for New Quay his shot was always rising and in the end didn’t require the New Quay keeper to make a save as he watched the shot go a yard or two over the bar.
Felinfach pushed forward in numbers and although they found a lot of joy in playing the ball down the centre of the field they rarely had any clear chances at goal in the first half against a fairly resolute New Quay defence.
With a few minutes to go before the half time interval I noted in my phone that the best players on the field up to this point looked to have been the No.9’s on both sides.
With a couple of minutes to go before the half time whistle, Felinfach let their defensive guard down and allowed a long looped ball to beat the offside trap. New Quay’s No.11 found himself staring down on the Felinfach goalkeeper Owain Evans about 25 yards out from goal. He dispatched a skillful lobbed effort that beat the goalkeeper and trickled home to give his side a 2-0 advantage going into the interval.
Felinfach were unlucky not to at least get a goal back going into the break. A bit of a goalmouth scramble ensued on New Quay’s six yard box. Felinfach’s Rhys Jon James was able to hit two efforts at goal but found both of his efforts snuffed out by the brave New Quay goalkeeper who put his body on the line to maintain his side’s clean sheet.
During the half time interval we moved from our position on the side of the field to take up a more raised position sitting down behind the goal New Quay would be attacking in the second half which offered some superb views of the field with the Ceredigion coastline in the background.
Felinfach were caught guilty of falling asleep immediately from the second half kick off and were exposed by another looping pass to which New Quay’s No.9 latched onto the ball and chipped Felinfach’s goalkeeper from about 25 yards out in what was a replica copy of the second goal to give his side a three goal cushion.
It was key now that Felinfach started attacking New Quay and turning their superior possession of the ball into tangible chances at goal and they were unlucky not to get a goal back in the 51st minute when their bright looking substitute William Roberts caught out the New Quay defence looking for the offside flag and was able to hit a decent lobbed effort towards the New Quay goal. Unfortunately his effort went a yard over but showed great intent to get something from this game.
Which brings me on to another change in the Ceredigion League this season.
The Ceredigion League is one of a couple of leagues in Wales who have this season introduced ‘rolling substitutes’ into normal play. Some clubs supported the idea, some ridiculed the idea but the fact is, the league have chosen to run with the idea. So it was intriguing to see how the game would flow with such substitution rules in place.
I’m naturally a little bit skeptical of the rule if you’re forcing me to give my personal opinion on it. I feel it’s a bit open to abuse by teams (see: teams bringing on 4 defenders in the 89th minute when defending a 1-0 lead in a cup final, see: teams bringing on 5 attackers in the 89th minute when chasing a 1-0 deficit in a cup final).
On the other side, I can of course see many benefits to the rule. It’ll lead to more players (especially young/youth players) getting game time when they wouldn’t have had a chance at game time under the old ‘three subs’ rule. So it’s a bit up in the air for me.
Felinfach’s opening goal finally came on the hour mark through the previously mentioned substitute William Roberts. Roberts caught hold of a free kick that looked to be destined to be picked up easily by the goalkeeper (NOTE: You can see this towards the end of the video) and redirected the original shot into the back of the net from about eight yards out to give his side some hope in this game.
I was talking with Porthcawl Town Athletic manager Jon McCarthy on Saturday with another coach about what scoreline truly dictates when a game is killed off and dead. We each came to the agreement that a 4-0 lead, or any four goal advantage usually kills off game. It’s the scoreline where all hope is generally lost and defensive heads drop and players start feeling sorry for themselves.
Conversely when a game is sitting at 3-0 and the losing side get a goal back, you can usually tell by their nature of their reaction to the goal how the rest of the game is going to shape up.
In this case, Felinfach were straight on the case and picking the ball out of the net and running at speed back to their own half to restart the game, perhaps the right kind of reaction to show their New Quay opponents the game wasn’t quite over yet.
Felinfach would have felt more likely to make a comeback in the game in the 68th minute when New Quay’s goalkeeper looked to have twinged a muscle when running out to clear a loose ball just outside of the box. The keeper managed to clear the ball successfully but immediately went down in a heap before requiring a couple of minutes treatment on the goal line.
Eventually, being unable to continue he was replaced by a ‘roll-on’ sub, which was one of the New Quay outfield players.
With a perhaps ‘unorthodox’ goalkeeper between the sticks for New Quay, Felinfach would surely stand a chance going into the last twenty minutes if they could pepper a few testing efforts towards the New Quay goal?
Unfortunately for Felinfach, the loss of their opposition’s goalkeeper only forced New Quay to reawaken and take control of the game once again as they had done for the first half.
Felinfach had a chance or two, particularly one that fell to Aled Davies but the replacement New Quay goalkeeper played his role as ‘hero of the day’ perfectly and he did enough on the six yard line to put the Felinfach player off his shot and edge his effort just wide of the far right post.
In the last minute of the game New Quay broke forward at pace and were rewarded with a fourth goal that put the game beyond all doubt.
New Quay’s No.9, a strong candidate for man of the match went on a bit of a mazey run across the Felinfach defence and broke into the box at speed. He unselfishly hit a lovely pass across the box to his No.11, positioned in a better potential goal scoring position who calmly placed home his effort from a couple of yards out (NOTE: see the last clip of the video for this goal). This was admirable of the No.9 as many players with two goals to their name would have decided not to pass the better position player and instead gone for the personal glory of a potential hat-trick.
A minute or two later the referee brought this entertaining game to a close and New Quay took all three points to take them up to 4th place going into the next round of games.
Felinfach can hold their heads up high with their performance this evening, they were beaten by a side who were on the balance of things a bit more clinical in front of goal and a side who made their experience count.
Felinfach on the other hand still await their first points in this season’s campaign after three opening defeats. Goal difference puts them in 8th position (out of 12) in the league but they will be keen to start turning their high possession rates into points in the near future.
With work in the morning we decided against having a drink in one of New Quay’s finest establishments and started out our 100 mile journey back to the Rhondda following what was an entertaining and intriguing encounter.
We made our way back down the A487, A48 and M4 after a brief stop in Carmarthen for a McDonalds coffee. Our entertainment on the tedious journey back home was broughy by Radio Wales’ DJ Chris Needs.
For those unfamiliar with Chris Needs, he hosts a nightly radio show on BBC Radio Wales that tends to appeal to a more senior audience than my wife and I. He tends to play music of the more gentler variety for 70-90 year olds looking for something soothing to ease them into a gentle slumber.
He’s a lovely guy and he does an awful lot for charity but I thought I’d test my luck and maybe text the show and ask if he’d play my ludicrous request of ‘Wait and Bleed’ by Slipknot. I don’t think it’s a great song in particular it’s just the ludicrous-ness of the situation really.
Imagine my surprise 30 minutes later when just outside of Port Talbot, Chris Needs read out my text stating that we were driving back to Porth from New Quay after a night at the football and asking whether he’d consider playing Slipknot.
Fully expecting him to decline our request immediately he only went and played the whole song in full much to our laughter and amazement as we struggled to control our laughter as we drove the rest of the way home. He followed up Slipknot with a couple of gentler numbers by The Beverley Sisters.
All in all, there couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate hitting my 75th game of the year.
I’d like to thank all at New Quay FC for their kindness and hospitality and all at Felinfach for their ongoing friendship and their support of my blog. I would like to wish both sides the very best of luck for the rest of the season. I do hope to bump into both sides again before the end of the season.
My Man of the Match: Both sides had good performances throughout, however after scoring two and creating two I had no choice but to award this dubious accolade to New Quay’s No.9 who had an excellent game. Special mentions go to Felinfach’s Rhys Jon James and their substitute William Roberts who changed the complexion of the game on his arrival.