Saturday 26th September
Brecon Corries 1-2 Trefelin BGC.
South Wales Alliance Premier Division
The Rich Field, Brecon
Attendance: Circa 20.
Four weeks to the day since my last failed attempt at taking in a Brecon Corries home game, I made my second attempt of the year to watch a Brecon Corries match at their Rich Field home ground.
Not to heighten the suspense or anything at this stage, I’ll confirm that the game did indeed go ahead!
I’d previously visited the ground on the August Bank Holiday weekend for what would have been a pretty interesting game between Brecon Corries and Porthcawl Town Athletic with a scheduled 2pm kick off time.
2pm came and went and rumours started spreading that the referee was stuck in traffic, something most of us at the ground laughed at as everyone who had taken the A470 up to Brecon had noted the roads were surprisingly dead for a Bank Holiday Saturday.
We were then told the game was going to kick off at 2.30pm only a club official to come around a few minutes before this and break the bad news that the league had failed to assign a referee to this afternoon’s game and it would have be postponed.
I wanted to take in a game of some sort that afternoon and I walked around town back to my car for ten minutes trying to find somewhere in the town centre where my mobile phone would pick up enough reception to check out some of the Spar Mid Wales or the Welsh League fixtures before giving up, admitting defeat and heading back to my hometown of Porth to catch the second half of the Welsh League Division Two encounter between AFC Porth and Chepstow Town at Dinas Park.
Having seen a lot of Pontypridd Town recently, what with being a season ticket holder at the club it was also nice to be able to take in a game and be a complete neutral, coming into the match purely looking to be entertained rather than having any interest invested in either side.
The drive up to Brecon is always pleasant, especially on a sunny afternoon such as the one given to us today. It makes the journey at least half an hour longer but I always prefer driving up the Rhondda Fach valley through the villages of Tylorstown, Ferndale and Maerdy, riding up the Aberdare mountain into the town centre and then taking the A4059 through Penderyn before meeting up with the A470 just south of Storey Arms. It’s a more interesting ride than just pumping it up the A470 through Abercynon and Merthyr Tydfil.
Not wanting to make the same mistake as last time when I parked all the way on the other side of town, which eventually hampered my sprint return back to Porth. I chose to park in the free car park offered by Aldi a stones throw away from the ground.
I’ve parked here twice in previous years when visiting the town to undertake some IT work at a small solicitors based in the town for an IT company I used to work for. Both times I received a letter asking for payment of a parking fine, both times I threw them in the bin.
Given that the parking limit was a convenient 90 minutes, it’s likely I’ll be getting another friendly letter asking for £70 which will make great bedding for our guinea pigs.
With 45 minutes to spare before the kick off, we made our way back to The Clarence pub across the road from the ground for a quick pint and a family sized pack of Walkers Ready Salted crisps in the beer garden.
The Rich Field is truly a lovely ground and something of a relic, a hark back to a far simpler time. Situated down a path that is somewhat ‘easy to get lost on’. Once you know the way it’s easy but that didn’t stop me from making three failed attempts to get into the ground on my last visit.
The problem for me was that you immediately see the ground when you walk past the Theatr Bryncheinog, but if you choose to walk behind the theatre you get dumped out a bit closer to walking the wrong way around where you’ll come agonisingly close to the ground (about 5 yards from one of the goal posts) but find yourself frustrated by a fifteen foot fence.
Admission is a very fair £2.50, there were no match day programmes on offer but unlike the Welsh League I don’t believe the production of a match day programme is a requirement of the newly formed South Wales Alliance league.
Which brings me conveniently on to the newly formed South Wales Alliance league itself.
The reason for the South Wales Alliance being in place is a fairly simple one at the root of it. At Tier 5 in the Welsh football pyramid, below Division Three of the Welsh League sits a group of further regional leagues. Prior to this Summer these were the Gwent County League, Carmarthenshire League, Neath & District League, Pembrokeshire League, Swansea Senior League, the South Wales Senior League and the South Wales Amateur League.
All of these leagues represented a specific area of the south Wales region except for the South Wales Senior League and the South Wales Amateur League, which both roughly represented the area centring around Cardiff and the south Wales valleys.
With a usual number of three teams being relegated from the Welsh League (although this number has certainly varied in recent years), this left a potential three promotion spots available to a possible 6 teams (Gwent, Carmarthen, Neath, Pembrokeshire, Swansea and Cardiff/Valleys). Very rarely does such a high number of teams apply for promotion, meaning more often than not all 3 ‘relegated’ teams from the Welsh League don’t actually get relegated (This year for example only Abergavenny Town of the Gwent County League and STM Sports of the South Wales Amateur League gained promotion) the remaining league winners either chose not to apply for promotion, failed their Welsh League licence process or lost in a play-off (Pontlottyn, of the South Wales Senior League).
The problem came about in the case of the South Wales Senior League and the South Wales Amateur League. Given that both leagues represented the same geographical catchment area, the Welsh League and the FAW were not happy with awarding potential promotion places into the Welsh League as it could have had the potential to cause an imbalance of Cardiff and south Wales valleys sides in the Welsh League.
With this in mind, it has always been the case that should league winners from the old South Wales Amateur League and the South Wales Senior League wish to apply for promotion to the Welsh League then they would have had to meet in an end-of-season play off to decide which side gets to go forward into the Welsh League.
Arguably you can see the problem already with this scenario. There was always the potential for a side to go and walk the South Wales Amateur League, winning every single game 10-0 whilst the winners of the South Wales Senior League scrape their league win on a technicality or goal difference.
Play-off finals are typically hastily arranged at the end of the season which means, and this does often happen at this level of the game, players are often missing from play-off finals due to family commitments, pre-booked holidays, weddings, work commitments that just simply have to take priority.
Suddenly that imaginary side I mentioned who walked their league without even trying could suddenly find themselves struggling in a play-off final against their counterparts who won their league by a single goal on goal difference with the very last kick of the season!
In fact a similar sort of thing happened this last Summer. Pontlottyn of the South Wales Senior League thought for all intents and purposes they had won promotion to the Welsh League. Their counterparts STM Sports of the South Wales Amateur League although winners of their league, had failed their Welsh League inspection due to a number of issues relating to technicalities with their changing rooms.
STM Sports made an appeal against the inspection results but in the mean time Pontlottyn were told to start making their preparations for life in the Welsh League.
No-one was more surprised than me to find that ten days before the game, the Welsh League hastily arranged a play-off match between STM Sports and Pontlottyn at the Cardiff City Stadium (story has it, it was the only ground available in south Wales following the previous evening’s Euro 2016 qualifier between Wales and Belgium)
STM Sports as it turned out, had either corrected the issues the Welsh League found with their ground, or simply passed the appeal process and were given the right to play-off against their South Wales Senior League rivals Pontlottyn.
As the story would go, STM Sports won promotion to the Welsh League with a comprehensive 4-1 victory, such was the strength of the side on the day that they actually won despite having one of their players arrested for failing to appear in court during the match!
In order to reduce the risk of this happening to more sides and to finally bring together two leagues that represented the same area at the same tier of the pyramid the South Wales FA did the sensible thing and finally merged the two leagues in the Summer after years of planning into what we now know as the South Wales Alliance.
The league has been split fairly between South Wales Amateur and South Wales Senior sides which has meant that some clubs have found themselves playing lower down the pyramid than they previously did without being officially relegated.
The league took the form of the bottom half of both Division 1 leagues making up the new Premier Division, the bottom half of both Division 1 leagues making up the new Division One and so on.
The merging of these two leagues has meant that clubs have started to play each other that have never met before and today I believe was one of those occasions, bringing together Brecon Corries from the old South Wales Senior League and Trefelin BGC from the old South Wales Senior League.
Both sides have had varying levels of success so far this season, Brecon Corries perhaps underwhelming their supporters a little with their precarious position just above the relegation spots in the league, whilst today’s visitors Trefelin BGC have had quite a good start to the season so far, sitting joint top of the league with the same goal difference as leaders Cornelly United but fewer goals scored.
Unfortunately, as is often the case at levels of the pyramid lower than the Welsh League, a team sheet is near impossible to get hold of and with no pre-match announcements on the ground’s PA system I have to make do with player numbers rather than names, which is gutting really as it tends to take the glory away from some of the players.
The game starts slowly as the ball that the teams used to start the game is booted off for a replacement. A Trefelin players tells the referee the ball was ‘too hard’, whilst a player from Brecon Corries shouts that the ‘ball is too flat’.
Trefelin start the game the stronger of the two sides and should consider themselves unlucky not to have taken the lead in the opening ten minutes after a series of excellent chances. Would it be a case of them being made to later rue the chances they squandered in the opening exchanges?
Trefelin’s No.8 broke away on the counter attack in the third minute, beating the offside trap but putting his effort from the edge of the box into the side netting.
Continuing their early dominance, Trefelin’s Dale Smith broke free on the edge of the box and hit a neat lobbed effort towards goal which beat the goalkeeper but floated a yard or so over the cross bar.
Trefelin’s best opportunity of the opening exchanges came in the 8th minute when Lee Maclaughlin volleyed wide after a testing corner kick hit deep in the box. The Brecon keeper was unsighted and given this fact the Trefelin midfielder certainly should have done a lot better and should have definitely put his side ahead on the day.
Brecon Corries finally started to grow into the game after the initial Trefelin dominance and had their first chance of the game on 12 minutes. A long ball hit deep into the box was poorly dealt with by the Trefelin goalkeeper Aaron Ryan who fumbled his clearance only for Brecon’s No.19 to round him with the ball at this feet and hit a long range effort goalwards only for Trefelin’s Nigel Prosser to block his effort on the goal line.
After this initial scare, Trefelin deservedly took the lead on 18 minutes when Ellis Harris picked up a loose ball thirty yards from goal. After running down on the Brecon Corries goalkeeper, the striker was able to produce a superb chip from the edge of the box which drew applause from even some of the more hardened Brecon Corries faithful in the main stand.
Brecon had a decent chance to level affairs midway through the half when Ellis Harris connected with a lovely cross into the box only to hit his headed effort a little too gently to trouble the Trefelin goalkeeper.
A couple of minutes before the interval, Trefelin were unlucky not to take a two goal lead into the second half when a superb piece of skill from Travis Monks who nutmegged Brecon’s No.3 and hit a beautiful cross in for Trefelin’s Dale Smith who could only put his headed effort a yard or so wide of the right hand post.
Despite hardly getting a look in during the first half, Brecon Corries came out for the second half with renewed intent and made several threats on the Trefelin goal before equalising on the hour through their No.9
Brecon’s No.9 picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area and hit a superb half volley straight into the top left corner, giving the Trefelin goalkeeper Aaron Ryan no hope of stopping his effort.
Parity in the game only lasted three minutes before Trefelin retook the lead when a defensive mistake lead to the ball falling to the feet of Trefelin’s Ellis Harris just inside the box who hit a strong and powerful effort towards goal which the Brecon goalkeeper couldn’t stop.
Trefelin immediately started playing the type of football that made them so dominant in the first half and were unlucky not to add a third in the 65th minute when their substitute Alex Williams hit a deep cross into the box that was met by Dale Smith who hit a lovely header towards goal only for the Brecon goalkeeper to pull off a superb acrobatic save to tip his effort just over the cross bar.
This was followed a minute later by another attack in which Trefelin should have sealed the three points there and then. A deep corner was sent directly into the six yard box and headed towards goal by Dale Smith who could only look on in horror as his effort bounced in front of goal, cannoned back off the cross bar and fell conveniently to the feet of a Brecon defender who hit the ball safely into touch.
Whenever a side is losing a game with at least half an hour of the match, they always seem to find what I refer to as being ‘THE’ chance. You know the one, you’ll have seen it in pretty much every game you’ve ever watched.
‘The’ chance on this occasion fell to Brecon’s No.10 who found himself, perhaps surprisingly given it was the 89th minute, through on goal with only the Trefelin goalkeeper to beat. The Brecon Corries striker did poorly and fired his effort directly at the Trefelin goalkeeper on the edge of the box.
“That was the easiest point we’ll ever give away” a Brecon supporter quipped as we walked alongside him as we left The Rich Field following the final whistle.
Trefelin were worthy winners of this encounter, dominating play on all areas of the pitch and given their performance were unlucky not to score more than their two goals.
Brecon Corries will rue some of their missed chances, particularly their one on one effort that was gifted to them in the 89th minute only for the chance to be squandered.
We made our way home down the A470, entertaining ourselves listening to the online commentary of the closing stages of my beloved Pontypridd Town’s Welsh League encounter against the tricky Cardiff Corinthians.
I’d like to wish the very best of luck to both sides for the rest of their respective seasons and look forward to seeing you both again in the near future.
My Man of the Match: A lot of Trefelin’s attacking play came from Travis Monks a tricky little player who found himself exploiting a lot of the space he was afforded in the first half down the right wing. Following a substitution in the second half he covered further back in the right-back position but did so brilliantly. A truly great performance from a promising youngster.