Wednesday 16th September
Pontypridd Town 2-0 Tredegar Town
Welsh League Division Three.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 60.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve arrived in the 80’s.
Sadly I didn’t walk into Ynysangharad Park with shoulder pads, a sequin shirt or a quiff either. Instead I walked into Ponty Park with my life flashing in front of my eyes as some bastard kid drinking with his mates on the cricket pavillion launched an empty bottle of beer at me.
The inebriated fifteen year old kid must have been doing everything in his power to stop me from reaching another milestone on this year long adventure in Welsh football, my eightieth game of the year.
You see, I’d attend all of these matches anyway but football has been a great relief as of late. Football has offered a welcome relief from the worries and concerns over my ongoing brain tumour scare and has for the most part been able to take my mind off my upcoming results and potential diagnosis.
If I had more free time, my mind would wander and I’d find myself worrying more than I need to be, so this part of the season with it’s constant Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday cycle keeps my mind firmly focussed on better things.
I’m enjoying my football more than I ever have and from speaking to people I meet along the way, the blog seems to have a positive effect on many others, which is always humbling to hear.
I’ve probably been watching Pontypridd Town more than any other side this year, I hold a season ticket at the club and I’m really enjoying the brand of football played at the club over the last few months. So apologies to regular readers who may have noticed that my last three blog entries have been Pontypridd Town home games, it’s just the way the fixture list has worked out!
This evening’s visitors to Ynysangharad Park came in the form of the highly rated Tredegar Town. A side who finished fourth in Division Three last season, whose promotion campaign was only taken off the tracks very late on in the season – at this very ground with a 2-1 defeat coming by way of two last minute Pontypridd Town goals.
The Tredegar side of last season were a difficult side to beat which was evident in their league position. They mixed a very strong physical presence with some brilliant individual skill and a strong team ethic that made them a very difficult side to break down.
Last season’s matches between the two sides resulted in a strong 4-0 victory for Pontypridd at Tredegar’s home ground and a too-close-to-call 2-1 victory for The Dragons at Ponty Park late in the season.
After playing their football in the lower reaches of the Gwent County Leagues for large period of their history they successfully applied for membership to the Welsh League following their Gwent County League title win in the 1997/98 season.
The club’s achieved their highest climb in the Welsh pyramid in the 2000/01 season when they gained promotion to the Second Division. They held their place in this division until the 2009/10 season when they fell back to their current level on the pyramid.
Tredegar Town also have another impressive weapon in their arsenal, at least for football fans of my age with a penchant for Cardiff City.
Cohen Griffith the former Cardiff City legend just so happens to hold the assistant manager role at Tredegar Town. To give you some idea of the scale of what this meant for me, Cohen Griffith was a hero of mine from about 1990 to 1994. He was my Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
I worshipped everything Cohen did as a Cardiff player. This came at a time when by and large Cardiff City players were largely terrible journeymen who played hard, trained hard and drank hard.
Cohen epitomised class. He played down the channels and he had bags of pace. I remember time after time standing in the Bob Bank and watching Griffith pick up the ball in his own half and go on this ridiculously fast runs down the wing before popping another ridiculous ball onto the head of Nathan Blake who would take great pleasure in slamming the ball in the net.
Being a eight, nine, ten year old kid at the time the Bob Bank was largely empty. I hadn’t fully developed patience or concentration at that age. I certainly didn’t have the patience to stand up the back of the Bob Bank with my Dad and dissect the tactical nous of the game. I just stood at the front of the Bob Bank and ran from one end of the stand to the other following Cohen Griffith wherever he went.
One of my most prized possessions still to this day is a fully signed Cardiff City match day programme from the 1990/91 season. The club were going through financial difficulties and Cardiff switched back from making a colour match day programme to a thinner black and white effort.
Fair play to the club though, they did reduce the cost of the programme from £1 to 80p.
I remember that night, I forget the team we played. Actually, I remember very little of the match. My Dad took us into the Grandstand, I can’t remember why specifically as we used to nearly always watch from the Bob Bank. I can’t remember whether he was meeting a mate there or what.
On entering the ground, my Dad got chatting to one of the turnstile operators who he recognised from his local drinking hole. The kind turnstile man said to my Dad “Pass him [me] over the turnstile and I’ll let you in on a kid’s ticket”
My Dad not being one to turn down an offer that would result in him being able to afford a couple in The Rheola in Porth on the way home did as he said, he misjudged my height and banged me head first into the concrete roof of the old Ninian Park Grandstand.
I fainted, lost consciousness and missed most of the game. I fully came to about half an hour after the match ended, perched up on a chair in an office somewhere in the belly of Ninian Park with a fully signed match day programme, a signed football and Nathan Blake and Cohen Griffith apparently promising to come up and meet me.
I remember very little about the meeting other than being completely star struck, after all these guys were my Johan Cruyff, George Best, Gary Lineker my Lionel Messi.
Nathan Blake went on to better things following a glittering 1993/94 season, the highlight of which probably being his winning goal against Premier League giants Manchester City in the infamous FA Cup match.
Cohen Griffith’s career peaked with Cardiff City, leaving the club in 1995 and moving on to Barry Town before spells with Weston Super Mare, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhayader Town.
I was sadly too star struck to say hello to Griffith at the previous Tredegar match I took in and was sadly again too star struck to say anything to the great man when I found myself walking past him in the corridor leading to the clubhouse before the match.
So to tonight’s match.
Confusion reigned supreme as the sides walked onto the Ponty Park pitch. Pontypridd Town resplendent in their new white and black number which has garnered plaudits from many fans. Tredegar themselves also seemed to have a new kit, a blue and white number.
The problem came in the fact that both sides kits were predominantly white!
A few minutes of confusion followed. Both managers consulted with the referee. Spectators shouted “Play in shirts and skins!” and “Chuck some bibs on and get on with it!”
Someone at Pontypridd Town checked the storage cupboards in the changing rooms and managed to get their hands on last year’s away kit, a blue and white strip with a predominant blue colour scheme. Blue enough that both sides looked different enough!
Tonight’s match was always going to be a challenge for Pontypridd Town. Four games in ten days or so will have taken its role on regular starters at the club and Saturday’s Welsh Cup win against Sully Sports saw three regular starters sent off, all facing suspensions of varying lengths. Perhaps the biggest knock to The Dragons coming in the form of Ilias Doumas and club captain Sam Graves absence, both of whom being well established starts in the Ponty Town defensive line.
Numerous changes were made then, with a couple of the starting defensive line being asked to undertake somewhat unfamiliar roles at the centre of the defence.
Pontypridd Town enjoyed the first real chance in the game when Andy Coleman made a run to the byline and did well to put a good cross in that seemed to be destined to be poked home from six yards by Rhys McCarthy who was desperately unlucky to see Tredegar defender Gareth Stevens get to the ball a split second earlier to head the ball into touch.
It was testament to the commitment of the players currently playing at the club that all three suspended players were present in the main stand watching their colleagues and kicking and heading every single ball with them. This is something of a complete turnaround for the club whose previous managerial team left the club in 2013 citing “a lack of player commitment” as the main reason for their departure.
The previous management’s loss is indeed the current management at Pontypridd Town’s gain and one of the key things obvious for all to see at the club over recent months is the unity and team spirit at Ponty Park of late.
On the quarter of an hour mark, an almost identical piece of play happened. This time the ball fell to the feet of the sliding Luke Gullick who did well to get a shot off considering the angle but could only look on in frustration as his effort went wide of the near post.
At this point in the game it became clear that Ponty Town, although looking very strong in their attacking play, would have to work exceedingly hard to get something from this game. Tredegar Town it must be said put up a superb defensive performance with few players putting in a better performance than the highly rated 17 year old Macauley Tuffin who I’m reliably informed has spent time at Merthyr Town’s academy and also represented the Boys Club of Wales at Under 16 level. Surely a future talent for the game in years to come!
Dominic Broad, starting for the second game in a row made a lot of headway down the left channel in a left back/wing back role. One such incident came midway through the first half when he was able to send a wicked cross into the box that looked destined for the forehead of striker Luke Gullick only to see Tuffin pop up a split second earlier to head the ball to safety.
A minute later Tredegar Town’s resistance was finally broke. A trademark deep corner from Danny Hooper was sent high into the box, a Tredegar player got a light touch on the ball before it fell to the head of Mikey Thomas who headed his first effort against the post. The ball fell back to Thomas who did wonderfully to convert the effort with a lot of Tredegar traffic on the goal line.
I made my way around the pitch to have a walk around and got chatting to a lovely guy who was watching his son play for Tredegar Town, a really great guy who took a lot of interest in the blog and what made me embark on such an adventure. This lovely guy also informs me that Darcy Blake, ex-Cardiff City and Wales legend (the same guy who had Wayne Rooney in his pocket for 94 minutes at Wembley a few years back) has now left football completely and is now turning out for New Tredegar 2nds in Rugby Union.
You truly do learn something new every day!
I spent the rest of the first half watching the game with him before saying my apologies at half time and continuing my lap around the pitch before I walked away from the ground with no photos of the match.
The second half continued much in the same fashion as the first. Tredegar looking very strong in defence but somewhat lacking a real attacking threat whilst Pontypridd Town went forward in pursuit of the second goal you felt they’d need if they were going to take all three points.
Mikey Thomas who scored the first goal found himself in a great position to score his second on 55 minutes picking up on a loose ball following a strong counter attack, he placed a decent effort from just outside of the box which looked to expose Kris Morris in the Tredegar goal who was a little far off his line but Thomas’ effort went a yard or so over the cross bar.
So came a personal low point of the year for me.
I have to admit I’m the worst ball boy out there. I know in the Welsh League everyone chips in, if the ball goes out of touch near you then your duty as a decent human being is to return it to the nearest player as soon as is feasibly possible.
When I have my camera around my neck admittedly I’m a bit of a prick. I’ll admit that happily. The ball could fall two yards away from my feet and I’ll still look around to see if anyone else wants to return it first.
I was standing behind Ryan Griffith’s goal trying to sort my focus out to take what would have been one of the greatest photos of the great man himself before a Tredegar striker hit a very optimistic shot from just outside of the box that went high, wide and wasn’t very handsome.
The ball landed in a part of Ponty Park surrounded by stingy nettles, mud and the A470 – a somewhat treacherous territory if you will?
“I think that ball’s gone down the Cardiff City Stadium!” The Monk shouts to me.
No-one throws a spare ball onto the pitch, 22 men and roughly 60 spectators look to me to reclaim the ball. The problem is, I’m wearing my Adidas Sambas. The football spectators equivalent of the Prada backpack and Jimmy Choo heels.
I look towards the touchline, fully expecting a second ball to be kicked onto the pitch so play can resume and I can carry on attempting to take the greatest photo of Pontypridd Town’s goalkeeper ever.
No such ball arrives, it seems the other three or four are also stuck in stingy nettles down the other end of the pitch!
I fumble my way through the mud like a bull at a ballerina concerto. I see mud, mud and more mud but I don’t see a football.
“Ask the ref to do his ‘Get another ball’ motion'”I ask The Monk (Ryan Griffiths – Pontypridd Town goalkeeper) before walking away and letting the arriving substitute Gianluca Palladino fumble amongst the nettles in search of a ball that is probably already on the Southbound carriageway of the A470.
The trainers are still soaking in soapy water!
Luke Gullick went close to settling this affair again midway through the second half save for a moment of defensive brilliance from Macauley Tuffin who slid in to poke the ball back to his goalkeeper with what must have been a millimetre of his longest toe nail such was the deft nature of his pass.
Tredegar started to push forward in numbers in the closing twenty minutes, perhaps sensing that a goal could push them on to maybe even go on and win the game. Lewis Parfitt hit a quite brilliant cross into the box from the far right of the pitch only to frustratingly see no striker make the required run towards the ball.
On 75 minutes, Tredegar Town looked to have been gifted an opportunity of a one on one with Pontypridd Town keeper Ryan Griffiths when striker Adam Meredith looked to have beaten the offside trap thirty yards out from goal only for the official to spot that Meredith was marginally offside.
As the clock ticked down Tredegar Town really attacked in numbers and The Dragons would certainly at time have to ride out the storm and hope that a second goal would kill off any residual threat from the young Tredegar side.
Tredegar Town came closest to levelling affairs on 87 minutes when a deep testing free kick was sent high into the box and Gareth Stevens got his head to the cross. Stevens managed to head a powerful and speedy effort towards goal which forced a quite frankly ridiculous save from Pontypridd Town goalkeeper Ryan Griffiths who has this season pulled off some saves that defy logic.
Pontypridd Town sealed the three points and added another game to the perfect start to the season in the 87th minute when substitute Gianluca Palladino and Mikey Thomas both looked perfectly positioned to hit a high ball from the edge of the box. It looked for a brief second like both players were going to hit the same ball before Thomas retreated and Palladino hit a half volley that seemed to take an age to move towards goal.
The ball dinked under Kris Morris and hit the near post before trickling home to double Pontypridd Town’s cushion in this intriguing encounter.
The Dragons calmly played out the rest of the game and sealed their eighth win in all competitions in this campaign and re-took their second spot in Division Three (Abergavenny Town lead the table, a point ahead of Pontypridd Town with one more game played)
Tredegar Town brought a young side to Ynysangharad Park and came away with a fair few admirers. Their defence is one of the best in the division and is testament to the work going on behind the scenes at the club. This side will not lose that many games this season.
I’d like to wish the very best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season. I’ll certainly make a pretty big effort to try and take in the reverse fixture later in the season.
And so, I never said hello to Cohen Griffith. Maybe next time?
My Man of the Match: Such was some of the performances at the back for Tredegar Town I came so agonizingly close to awarding this to a Tredegar defender. He didn’t feature much in my match report admittedly but I’m giving this somewhat dubious accolade to Pontypridd Town defender Scott Hillman. Standing in as captain for the evening and shoring up an unfamiliar defensive back line Hillman had a great game and rarely put a foot wrong all game.