Saturday 3rd October.
Aberystwyth Town 1-1 Gap Connah’s Quay.
Welsh Premier League.
Park Avenue, Aberystwyth.
Attendance: Circa 200
Truth be told I absolutely love Aberystwyth. Whenever I find myself in the town I find it harder and harder to leave every single time. There’s something about the town in which a bustling town centre lies only a two minute walk from a beach that drags me further and further into it, refusing to let go.
As a proud Rhondda boy, living back in the heart of the Rhondda in the town of Porth since June has been perfect. It’s funny how moving only four miles up the road can make such a big difference on your outlook on life.
There is one town I’d probably give that all up for though and if circumstances ever allowed, I would truthfully move to Aberystwyth in a heart beat. It’s been something my wife and I have talked about over the last couple of years, first we started talking about definitely doing it when we retire, then we started talking about moving up there in ten years. In the last few months we’ve started speculating about buying a house up there in the next five years or so.
So it’s fair to say I’d been looking forward to heading back up to Aberystwyth, especially since my last visit (proper football visit) to the town was to witness a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Newtown in the Europa League Play-off Final in May.
I’m the first to admit that I have quite a soft spot for Aberystwyth Town. My love of the town, the family links to the place, the many happy memories of holidays of my youth and the fact that the side were part of the first match I watched during this little adventure.
With all of this in mind, walking out of Park Avenue on that Sunday afternoon back in May was something of a depressing affair. Newtown had come down to Park Avenue, having finished sixth in the Welsh Premier League and they played Aberystwyth Town off the pitch that afternoon despite being underdogs.
Don’t get me wrong. When Newtown went on to meet Valletta of Malta in the first qualifying round of the Europa League competition back in July I was there paying my first visit to the mid-Wales side and jumping to my feet and hugging strangers when The Robins scored the second goal that sealed the victory on that night.
The reality though? I would have loved nothing more than Aberystwyth Town winning the Europa League Play-off which would’ve hopefully lead to a couple of visits to the Ceredigion coast over the Summer months.
Anyway, for the first time this year I planned an overnight stay in the town so we could really take advantage of the Ceredigion night life. We found a pretty decent chain hotel, which wasn’t Premier Inn or Travelodge about five minutes walk from Park Avenue online.
It gave us a good chance to have a proper night out in the town. We’d usually have a day out or two having a few drinks in Aberystwyth every time we holiday in nearby New Quay but the 20 mile journey back puts a stopper on getting a taxi back and the last bus at 20:30 kind of limits the party atmosphere.
After a quick look around town we made our way over to Park Avenue for the game.
I don’t know if you managed to watch Aberystwyth’s season opener against the newly promoted Llandudno on Sgorio at the start of the season? If you did, like me you would have witnessed Aberystwyth playing in what I can only describe as one of the greatest kits I have ever seen in my entire life.
My wife, an even more hardened Aberystwyth Town supporter than me, disagreed vehemently. Twitter didn’t seem to agree with me either but there was something about that kit that just looked sublimely beautiful.
Within five minutes of seeing the shirt I made contact with the club to try and wangle myself one of these beauties. It seemed a handful of others had as well, within 24 hours an Aberystwyth Town director, a Thomas Crockett who I get on with very well and is a bit of a follower of this blog, messaged me back saying that he could definitely get hold of a shirt for me but due to the production processes it would take about a month for the shirts to be produced by the kit manufacturer.
Thomas told me to come find him near the changing rooms just before kick off. All of my correspondence with him prior to today’s match had been via email so I truthfully had no idea what Thomas actually looked like. Cue me walking up to the only person I could find in an Aberystwyth shirt and asking “Are you, or do you know Thomas Crockett?”
“No, it’s not me” the gent replies, “He’s usually around here though”, he scans the touch lines before confirming, “Oh look, there he is. The one eating chips!”
It’s then I realise that I’ve seen Thomas at countless games before, I just never put two and two together. I introduce myself and he seems really happy to see me at the ground.
Thomas explains that the shirt is locked away in his car behind the main stand. While he finishes his chips we talk football, Thomas asks how many games I’m up to now and asks what I thought of the Carmarthen Town vs. Pontypridd Town game in the week.
He points out that he knows a fair few of the boys in the starting lineup and he actually coached one or two of them earlier in their careers, something I certainly didn’t know about Mr. Crockett! He tells me that he has a soft spot for the club and the town as he married a Pontypridd girl although he does seem to be still a little aggrieved by Pontypridd Town’s infamous 2004 underdog victory over Aberystwyth Town which he still rues missing to this day.
In a scene you wouldn’t get anywhere else in football, Thomas asks where my wife is and makes a point of hunting her out and saying hello before walking us to his car where he hands over my new prized possession.
Thomas is truly a superb character, a real credit to the club and an even bigger ambassador for Welsh football. Meeting people like Thomas, with their unwavering passion and love for the game is exactly the reason why I started this blog and everything that came along with it.
So with the garish but beautiful orange shirt packed away in my Postman Pat blue bag we made our way over to the Dias Stand behind the Aberystwyth goal to take in this afternoon’s encounter.
The Seasiders have admittedly suffered something of a stumbling start in the Welsh Premier League this season. They opened their campaign with a 3-2 defeat away at WPL new boys Llandudno before comprehensively beating Rhyl at Park Avenue a week later.
A defeat against Port Talbot Town followed before another comprehensive victory against Carmarthen Town. You kind of get the idea of how their season has been going based on the nature of their results. One superb victory has been followed by a defeat against a side who based on last year’s form alone, they would have probably defeated.
The Nomads have started the season in a similar fashion with three wins and four losses to their name which puts them in the bottom half of the table a couple of places lower than their opponents today.
To be fair to Gap Connah’s Quay, they started the game by far the stronger of the two sides. The first chance of the game for The Nomads coming in the first minute when a free kick was pumped directly into the Aberystwyth penalty area only for Jamie Crowther to volley inches wide of the post.
The Nomads continued their early dominance with another chance from Jamie Crowther who hit a powerful effort from all of thirty yards out. Crowther’s shot took a wicked deflection which looked to have beaten Aber’s on-loan goalkeeper Chris Mullock (on loan from The New Saints) only for Crowther to look on in horror as his effort cannoned back off the post.
Ten minutes into the game The Nomads had another chance to open the scoring in this encounter when a promising move built up from midfield lead to Leslie Davies ghosting past his marker and hitting a furious shot into the side netting, issuing a further warning to The Seasiders.
Aber’s first real chance of the game came in the 18th minute through goal machine Chris Venables who latched onto a loose ball from a cross, a mere split second before he was going to dispatch a shot, the likely target of which being the back of the net the ball was clipped by a Connah’s Quay defender who knocked the ball out for a corner kick.
Connah’s Quay continued their early dominance as Aber struggled to gain a foothold in the game. Mid-way through the first half The Nomads came closest to scoring when Nick Rushton hit a powerful grass trimming shot across the penalty area only for Chris Mullock to make a last ditch intervention by tapping the ball wide of the far post.
It took 35 minutes of this game for Nomads keeper John Danby to be forced into making his first real save of the game when Luke Sherbon hit a delicious cross into the box for striker Jamie Reed to test Danby out with a decent headed effort.
During the half time interval and feeling a little peckish, I made my way over to the cafe to take advantage of the fact that Aberystwyth Town are one of the very few clubs I’ve found throughout the Welsh pyramid to offer an actual vegetarian burger!
I don’t want to get into the politics of vegetarianism, that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about Welsh football, drinking at Wetherspoons and moaning about crap coffee in Carmarthen town centre.
Speaking as someone who has been vegetarian for longer than I haven’t been one, there are generally two factions of vegetarians, there may be the odd weirdo who fits somewhere in the middle of these two, or even a little outside of either of them, but generally vegetarians can be fitted into one of two pigeonholes.
- The vegetarian who tries to eat a diet as close to a meat-eater as possible.
This pigeonhole is where I comfortably sit. I eat Quorn, Linda McCartney and all of those meat-equivalents. I eat meat-replacement burgers, I eat sausages that look and taste like the real thing and most of my meals tend to mirror exactly what the vast majority of the population of the country eat, albeit with meat-replacement equivalents.
2. Vegetarians who go for vegetable-based replacements.
This pigeonhole is the one I despise. This is where you’ll typically find burgers that take the form of fried vegetable messes rather than substantial meat equivalents. Vegetable sausages are usually the worst thing in the world and are usually nothing more than fried peas and mash wrapped up in breadcrumbs.. nah, I’m not having it.
The vegetable burger on offer at Park Avenue takes the form of the latter option but to be fair to the catering staff they’ve only gone and made probably the best vegetable burger I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Vegetable burgers are a risky business, especially if you go down the road of frying peas, carrots and potatoes and mushing them into burger form but they’ve only gone and perfected it.
I spend the rest of the half time interval just enjoying my burger and making ‘nom nom nom’ noises.
The Nomads came out for the second half enjoying the same level of dominance they’d enjoyed in the first half, breaking the parity in this match with their first goal in the 50th minute when a near post corner was met by Nick Rushton who slotted home past Chris Mullock to put his side ahead.
Finding themselves behind for the first time in the match, Aberystwyth Town finally seemed to wake up and take stock of themselves.
Chris Venables was unlucky not to level affairs on the hour mark after Craig Williams hit a brilliant cross into the box which looked to have set Venables up for a chance he couldn’t miss but unfortunately he missed the ball by an inch or two.
Venables was given another chance to level affairs five minutes later when his side were awarded a free kick just outside of The Nomads’ penalty area. His shot, although it stretched goalkeeper John Danby, went just over the cross bar and The Seasiders still found themselves behind.
At this point in the game we walked over to the Aber clubhouse in order to get some better photo angles. Thomas Crockett had earlier suggested that there was a celebrity guest coming to this afternoon’s game in the form of ex-Portsmouth legend Linvoy Primus and indeed he was correct. As I looked over to the clubhouse door I noticed Linvoy Primus!
What the hell was Linvoy Primus doing at Park Avenue taking in a Welsh Premier League match?
I’d later learn from Twitter that Linvoy was in town for the weekend as he was acting as special guest at a local church giving talks about how he mixed his Christian lifestyle with the life of being a professional footballer. Not my bag at all but fair play to Mr. Primus for coming to check out The Seasiders!
Aberystwyth Town, as the game started drawing to a close, started expressing their dominance in terms of possession but were struggling to convert this possession into tangible chances on goal.
Geoff Kellaway in particular was taking advantage of a great deal of space he was being afforded down the left channel but he found more than often than not that his crosses were being ebbed out by an efficient and resolute Gap Connah’s Quay defence.
The Nomads’ final chance of the game came from the foot of Callum Morris who hit a cleanly struck looping volley from thirty-five yards out, forcing a truly phenomenal save from Chris Mullock who did superbly to stop the ball with one hand in mid-air.
The fourth official indicated to Park Avenue that four additional minutes of stoppage time were to be played and Aberystwyth manager Ian Hughes played his final card which came in the form of bringing substitute Cledan Davies on in place of Geoff Kellaway.
Davies’ first touch came through a cross into the box from the left touch line which landed in the six yard box, resulting in a bit of a goalmouth scrambles before being slotted home by Rhys Griffiths to put The Seasiders level.
The final two minutes of the game were played out in a fairly muted fashion as The Nomads sensibly shut up shop in their defence in order to come away from Park Avenue with a very good point whilst their opponents attempts at a winner were ebbed out by The Nomads strong defence.
Following the end of the match we made our way back to the hotel to check in and take in a few beverages while watching the Haverfordwest County vs. Carmarthen Town West Wales derby on Sgorio. Unfortunately the game was a bit of a damp squib in the scale of things and the goals I was certain were coming were certainly not becoming.
The first pub we visited that night was only a twenty second walk from the hotel what with being attached to the place, The Starling Cloud. It was a fairly inoffensive chain pub to be fair to the place, similar to the kind of pub you’d get attached onto the side of a Premier Inn or a Travelodge. It offered little in the way of regional variances or craft beers but then again I didn’t really expect it to.
We enjoyed a quick drink here while watching the build up to the Australia vs. England Rugby World Cup match before making the ten minute walk into town past Park Avenue.
As is the standard with visits to Aberystwyth we made our way to ‘Yr Hen Osaf’ or as it is more commonly known ‘Aber’ Wetherspoons’ for a couple of drinks. The pub showed the rugby but as I’d chosen to go for the ‘cool’ look and not wear my glasses out I wasn’t able to make out any of the figures on the screen. Instead I chose to rely on the howls and cries of those around me to try and work out what was happening.
We made our way out to the beer garden, which if you haven’t visited the pub before is a thing of beauty. Yr Hen Osaf resides in the old train station building and as such the beer garden/smoking area backs out onto the current Aberystwyth Railway Station.
Trains are scarce nowadays, in fact since the Beeching cuts the only trains that call into the station come from Birmingham and Shrewsbury. We worked out using The Train Line app that a train journey from Aberystwyth back home to Porth at that time of night would have us home in a mere 18 hours – as long as we left before finishing our current drink!
Regardless of how many trains actually call into the station it actually makes for a great evening.
At some point whilst we were enjoying our evening out on the station terrace we came to learn that Australia had defeated England which guaranteed Wales’ progression through to the quarter finals of the tournament, which was great.
The final stop of the evening was ‘Wiff Waff Sports Bar’, a strange name for a bar really considering they don’t show any sports – or even have any televisions to show those sports on. You’ll really have to trust me on this one as by this point we’d coming close to having enjoyed six hours of heavy drinking. It’s a sports bar in probably the truest sense of the word, a bar in which you can play sports – well, darts and table tennis!
It’s a bar that my wife had always pointed out to me whenever we walked past when it was closed, so we made a beeline for it. After purchasing two drinks we were told we were entitled to ‘free table tennis’, which sounds like a superb deal if ever there were one.
Lara did her best, having never played table tennis in her life and considering the aforementioned drinks. There were unfortunately no rallies of the Murray-Federer persuasion but a fun time was had by all.
I was most confused that a large diet lemonade came to £5.90, especially when my earlier pint of lager came to a mere £2.80, but who am I to complain?
A quick taxi ride back to the hotel and we retired for the evening, table tennised out.
The next morning we took advantage of being in the area to call into New Quay, a mere twenty miles down the A487 along the Ceredigion coastline. We thought it was a nice way to mark two years to almost the date since we got engaged on the harbour by paying the town a visit.
Despite having never visited the place in our countless previous visits (in fact we were here only 5 weeks ago to watch New Quay play) we’d never tried The Lime Crab. The Lime Crab is a ’boutique’ chip shop of sorts, sitting at the bottom of New Quay Hill, near the Harbour and underneath The Old Watch House.
We were a little hesitant over the years as admittedly we held the perhaps unfair view that Lime Crab was a bit pretentious, which I regret now as their Fresh Halloumi and Chips was monumentally sublime.
I love Ceredigion and I love football. Combining the two makes for a superb weekend. My next planned journey up here should (if all things go right) be Saturday 14th November when I’m hoping to take in Felinfach’s Cwpan Coffa Dai Davies 2nd Round tie between either SDUC or Machynlleth Reserves before heading back up the coastline to take in another Aberystwyth Town home game, this time against the mighty Port Talbot Town in the day’s late kick off.
My Man of the Match: