Saturday 12th September
Pontypridd Town 4-2 Sully Sports
FAW Welsh Cup Qualifying Round 2.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 20.
Here’s a question for you to throw out there next time you’re in the pub. What links the following clubs to each other? Shrewsbury Town, Chester City, Wellington Town, Crewe Alexandra, Oswestry United, Hereford United, Tranmere Rovers, Oswestry White Stars, Bristol City and South Liverpool.
Keep reading for the answer!
This afternoon saw the meeting of Welsh League Division Three pace-setters and South Wales Alliance Premier Division mid-table side Sully Sports at Ynysangharad Park.
Sully Sports progressed through the first qualifying round with a convincing 3-0 victory over Treforest at their Vale of Glamorgan home ground. Pontypridd Town faced a difficult test away at Canton Liberals, where they finally overcame their opponents with a 2-1 victory to progress in the competition.
I’ve covered a number of their games this season so regular readers will know that Pontypridd Town had been quite an impressive run since the start of the season. In fact, going into this afternoon’s match The Dragons had won every single competitive game since the season kicked off with a 6-0 victory over Treowen Stars.
Pontypridd Town will no doubt be aware, especially given their superb Word Cup victory over Division One side Taff’s Well earlier this week, that in cup ties the relevant club’s position in the Welsh football pyramid goes out of the window. More often than not, it just simply comes down to a case of 11 against 11.
Sully Sports, although sitting a little below mid-table at the moment in the South Wales Alliance Premier Division, could argue that their position in the league tells a somewhat unrealistic story of their actual form. Due to cup commitments and the unique way the fixture list is produced in the league Sully Sports have played just 3 league games so far this year whereas some of their opponents have played as many as 6 league games.
Being the first time I’d watched Sully Sports I was quite keen to check out what they were about. I’d heard a lot of good things about them through some of the Welsh League message boards and forums.
Pontypridd Town, perhaps through injury or just fatigue from the relentless Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday nature of the season during the August and September months found themselves in the position where they needed to leave certain players on the sidelines.
Current Welsh League top goalscorer and club captain Luke Gullick was present on the bench but only in a ‘coaching/advisory’ capacity, he was replaced by Gianluca Palladino, a player who has found himself on the periphery of the starting lineup given the somewhat phenomenal form of the striking options at Ynysangharad Park in the form of Gullick, James Hill, Matthew Hibbs and Omar Abdillahi.
This afternoon also saw assistant player-manager Dominic Broad make his return to the starting lineup after his absence for a couple of weeks due to holiday and managerial duties.
I arrived at the ground with about half an hour to go before the game kicked off. Taking the opportunity to grab a coffee before the match, catch up with some of my friends at the club.
My first quip of the game came when someone in the club house pointed out to me that the referee assigned to this afternoon’s game was busying himself inspecting, deconstructing and then reconstructing the nets behind both goals and raising concerns about the state of the corner flag on the far right side of the pitch.
“Your corner flag over on the far right is too bent” the referee quips to a Ponty Town official.
“What?” comes the confused response.
“It’s too bent. The corner flag needs to be straight” The referee howls.
Ladies and Gents, I have either just witnessed the strictest Welsh referee I’ve ever come across or a referee who gives human values to inanimate objects and is homophobic towards corner flags.
The referee also raised questions about the replacement corner flag (which although straight, was adorned with a ‘Graig FC’ logo), although common sense prevailed and the game did indeed start.
The match, when it finally started, started in furious fashion with Ponty Town almost scoring in the first minute when Dominic Broad picked up on a loose ball just outside of the box, hitting a decent effort at goal which beat the Sully keeper Solomon Borde but went just wide of the target.
A minute later The Dragons were awarded a penalty after the tricky Carlos Garcia ran into the box and pace and looked to have rounded Borde only to be tripped as he looked to poke home into an empty net.
The referee showed mercy towards Borde when some players were calling for him to face dismissal, Borde walked away with just a stern talking to from the official.
With usual spot kick specialist Luke Gullick on the touchline, it was left to set piece specialist Danny Hooper to step up to take the penalty and put his side ahead with a calmly taken left foot placed effort that rolled underneath Borde’s right hand side.
Sully Sports went on the attack and immediately and Christopher Rees tested Ryan Griffiths in the Ponty Town goal with a slightly unorthodox but none the less effective top poked effort from the edge of the box which forced Griffiths to throw his body to the ground at speed to stop.
Pontypridd Town looked to have lined up in a 3-5-2 formation of sorts and played a very attacking style of football, so much so that even Centre Half Scott Hillman came within an inch of scoring in the eighth minute with a lovely powerful shot drilled in from 25 yards, which like Broad’s earlier shot, beat Borde but went agonizingly wide of the post.
The game slowed down for periods, with the next real chance falling to Ponty Town midfielder and Welsh Futsal international Danny Hooper who picked up a neat pass from Matthew Hibbs to hit a superb curling left foot effort which trickled into the right hand side of the net past the sprawling Solomon Borde to double his side’s advantage in the Welsh Cup tie.
Sully Sports, again to their credit, attacked the Ponty Town defence and were unlucky not to score their first in the 38th minute when striker Alex Long looked to have split the Pontypridd defence only to see the referee judge his run to be marginally offside.
The referee’s whistle blew a second or two before Long was able to get his shot off, but his effort cannoned back off the cross bar.
Current man of the moment Danny Hooper was unlucky not to seal a first half hat trick when he latched on to an over hit corner kick and dispatched a powerful effort from the right corner of the edge of the box which really tested Borde.
As a couple of spectators started to make their way to the club house Sully Sports broke on the attack. The ball fell to Christopher Rees who looked to be running towards the box at pace. He made a deep run into the Pontypridd half alongside defender Sam Graves who was running in close parallel with the Sully striker.
A yard or two outside of the box, a brief shoulder to shoulder lead to the Sully striker Rees taking a tumble, a tumble which started outside of the box.
The referee, admittedly being thirty yards further from the incident than he probably wished to have been, made probably the wrong call and awarded Sully Sports the penalty despite the minimal contact and the incident occurring just outside of the penalty area.
Team captain Sam Graves was given his marching orders following this and Sully Sports were awarded a chance from the spot to perhaps find a way back into this match.
To be fair to Sully striker Alex Long who took the penalty kick. I’ve seen an awful lot of Ponty Town goalkeeper Ryan Griffiths this season and it takes a hell of an effort to get the ball past him at the moment and such was the ferocity of Long’s shot that even Griffiths got a firm hand behind the ball it was still not enough to stop it from hitting the back of the net, giving his side something to take into the second half.
As the teams emerged for the second half I wondered whether Sully Sports would change their tactics to make the most of their one man advantage on the pitch?
Pontypridd Town stuck to their guns and still looked to be employing their 3 man defence for large parts of the second half.
The Dragons were rewarded early in the second half when a loose ball in the Sully penalty area was played around like a pinball for a period of thirty seconds before falling to the feet of Matthew Hibbs who slotted the ball home to restore his side’s two goal cushion in the tie.
Two minutes later Pontypridd Town arguably sealed their spot in the draw for the first round proper with a superb goal from hat trick hero Danny Hooper who dispatched a quite brilliant 30 yard free kick high into the Sully Sports goalkeeper that left the flailing Borde with little chance.
In what wrapped up a mad five minutes in the game, Conor McInery scored a second for Sully Sports when a testing cross from Wesley Lamb was sent deep into the six yard box for McInery to poke home clinically to reduce the deficit.
With the pressure off them, Sully Sports actually played some really nice stuff in the second half, playing some neat passing and attractive football and getting a fair few chances to reduce the deficit.
What followed was a crazy closing ten minutes where arguably more incidents occurred than the previous eighty minutes!
In the 82nd minute, Pontypridd Town defender Ilias Doumas, who scored a brace last weekend against Garden Village and opened the scoring against Taff’s Well on Tuesday showed more of his attacking prowess and attempted a spectacular overhead kick from 12 yards out which was sadly blocked by a defender.
With a minute or so of normal time left a Sully striker was desperately unlucky not to score a third for his side and really force the matter in this game when his effort, although beating keeper Ryan Griffiths, was blocked on the line by Dominic Broad.
In the 92nd minute a bit of a coming together between Ponty Town substitute Javi Garcia and a Sully midfielder lead to both players squaring up to each other. It was truly nothing sinister, in fact neither player touched each other. The referee though, saw the incident as a Garcia headbutt and showed the Spanish midfielder a straight red card and Pontypridd Town were reduced to 9 men for the remainder of stoppage time.
Three minutes later, defender Ilias Doumas was shown a second yellow card when he won a tackle but won it with a high foot. The referee afforded Doumas no mercy and showed him his second yellow which forced him to take a (somewhat) early shower.
Pontypridd, now playing with 8 men on the pitch were reduced to playing something that looked like a 4-3-1 formation for the closing minutes of stoppage time as the referee took the game to what I believed was the 99th minute.
The Pontypridd Town defence held resolute for the remainder of the game and The Dragons booked their place in the hat for Monday’s 1st Round proper draw, when sides from the rest of the Welsh League and the Huw’s Gray Cymru Alliance enter proceedings.
This wasn’t a classic match by any means, but it was certainly a game which at the end of the day was probably marred by a very poor refereeing performance which took the gloss of what was a good match played out by two sides in a very fair manner and I walked away from Ponty Park this afternoon fearing that when people read that the game ended with only 19 players of the 22 on the pitch it would suggest the game was played out under a violent cloud or something and this certainly wasn’t the case.
Pontypridd manager Damien Broad now faces the tough challenge of replacing three of his potential starters for Wednesday night’s tough Welsh League return against last year’s high flyers Tredegar Town.
After the game we made our way to Pontypridd’s very own Wetherspoons to take in a ‘Beer & Burger’ deal. A child’s birthday party on the table opposite to us convinced us to leave after the one drink.
We reflected on this afternoon’s games and it’s finer talking points with a range of craft beers we picked up in Morrison’s on the way home before spending the evening people watching on our newly constructed garden decking half way up the Porth mountain.
This was lovely until we found ourselves becoming witnesses in an albeit minor car crash on Porth’s infamous one-way system.
All in all though, a great day. Made even better by spending the night with views like this.
Are you still wondering what links the following clubs?
Shrewsbury Town, Chester City, Wellington Town, Crewe Alexandra, Oswestry United, Hereford United, Tranmere Rovers, Oswestry White Stars, Bristol City and South Liverpool.
All of these clubs, despite playing their football in England in the English football pyramid are previous winners of the FAW Welsh Cup.
If you add losing finalists to that list, the likes of Kidderminster Harriers, Northwich Victoria, Hednesford Town, Whitchurch and Stourbridge have also come close.
My Man of the Match: He scored a hat trick and showed why he has potentially the best left foot in the Division. Danny Hooper takes this dubious accolade to round off what has been a superb week for the veteran midfielder.