Saturday 24th October.
Pontypridd Town 3-0 Lliswerry.
Welsh League Division Three.
Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd.
Attendance: Circa 30.
It’s been often said that since the arrival of the Broad Brothers managerial team at Ynysangharad Park that Pontypridd Town have been on the periphery of big things.
The club have, after nearly going out of existence a few years back been on something of a rollercoaster over the last two years.
Picking up the responsibilities for the club ten days before the start of the 2013/14 season the Broad Brothers (Dominic first taking the role of Manager, whilst brother Damien held down the Assistant role) turned up to their first training session to find no more than a handful of retained players from the previous management.
They quickly assembled a team of players who were begged, borrowed and ‘stolen’ (legitimate signings I might add!) from teams in and around the Welsh League made up from a mixture of players they’d either played with or managed during their decade or so in the Welsh League.
The ramshackle side held onto their Welsh League status come the end of the season and using the Broad Brother’s coaching connections in Spain the side went on a well documented pre-season trip to Valencia which caught the attention of the football media all over the world for the club’s sheer pluckiness in picking up such a coveted pre-season game.
In their second season the Broad Brothers strengthened their squad and despite a poor start to the 2014/15 season the club went on to finish a mere 15 points from a promotion spot. After the turn of the year only league champions Llanelli Town recorded more points on the board.
Another pre-season jaunt to Spain followed. This team The Dragons took in a friendly at Spanish giants and Champions League regulars Deportivo La Coruna.
Again the Broad Brothers brought in reinforcements and strengthened their squad for what looked likely to be a realistic promotion push for the 2015/16 season.
Changes were made at the top. Damien moved into the managerial hot seat whilst his brother Dominic, who typically plays a great deal more, moved into the assistant’s chair. Whilst this made little logistical difference, typically Dominic started most games last season as a bit of a utility player willing to fit in where he was required, brother Damien dominated proceedings from the touchline. So the decision made a great deal of sense at the time.
Cue a wet, miserable Wednesday night in Treharris. Pontypridd Town’s second game of the season, against their nearest and some might say – bitterest rivals as of late. Damien and Dominic Broad are conspicuous by their absence, replaced in the dug out by their dad Paul Broad (a superb tactician as luck would have it) and club official Craig Morgan.
It would transpire later that whilst Dominic was away on a late Summer holiday in America, Paul and Craig told me in hushed tones that Damien was in Manchester discussing a coaching role with Manchester City!
Being as discreet as possible I kept it off the blog at the time and didn’t mention anything on any further blog entries or anything until the club made it official. However I did text my wife Lara (fellow season ticket holder at Ynysangharad Park) almost immediately with this juicy information. She replied in the same amazement that I felt when I heard the news.
Since that night Pontypridd Town have made quite the impact this season. The club remained unbeaten in the league until mid-October when they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by top of the table Bridgend Street. A Word Cup victory over Welsh League Division One outfit Taff’s Well grabbed the attention the club deserved in the Welsh football media before the plucky Division Three side went to Richmond Park to face top half Welsh Premier League side Carmarthen Town in the second round.
The Welsh football throng on Twitter went into near meltdown when it transpired that little old Pontypridd Town had taken mighty Carmarthen Town into extra time.
In the end only fitness separated the two sides as The Old Gold went on to score two goals late in extra time to secure their passage into the quarter finals.
The Manchester City job was confirmed and the timescale of ‘Early November’ was floated around.
This of course meant that this afternoon’s home match at Lliswerry would mark Damien Broad’s last home game in charge of The Dragons before he departs to start his coaching role at the club.
This afternoon’s visitors to Ynysangharad Park came in the form of Gwent outfit Lliswerry who currently sit tight around mid-table and interestingly finished a single point ahead of Pontypridd Town in 6th position last season.
It actually occurs to me that I’ve already watched a match between these two sides at this venue this year something that I’ve found is happening more and more as the year comes to an end.
Pontypridd Town named a much-changed starting eleven when compared to recent matches. Notable absences coming in the form of midfielder Danny Hooper, away on International duty representing the Welsh futsal squad as they face Israel whilst usual centre-half mainstay Scott Hillman found making the bench following an illness during mid-week that forced him to put up a Facebook photo of Dioralyte, a medication used by either a) People recovering from horrific spells of diarrhoea or b) Athletes recovering from marathons seeking a quick way to restore lost salt levels. Make of this what you fancy!
The team were boosted by the return of club captain Sam Graves, making a return to Ynysangharad Park following a couple of absences.
The match started in a slow fashion with both sides probably struggling a little on what was a very wet pitch following a monumental amount of rain falling over south Wales overnight.
The first real chance of the game came in the 11th minute when Luke Gullick picked up the ball down the right channel and hit a lovely cross in for Mikey Thomas who hit a testing effort from six yards out that was well saved by Jordan Naylor.
The following corner kick was played along the floor into the box by Rhys McCarthy to the feet of Luke Gullick who shot at goal under the legs of two Lliswerry defenders only for Tony Shier to block his effort on the goal line.
Lliswerry’s first effort came in the 18th minute from the feet of Josh Brown, who would go on to be a constant thorn in the side of the Pontypridd Town defence. Brown picked the ball up about twenty five yards out from goal before hitting a superb volleyed effort towards The Dragons goal. Luckily goalkeeper Ryan Griffiths was on hand to save the effort without trouble.
In the twentieth minute a bit of confusion breaks out when Lliswerry player Ashley Sully walks off the field to remove a vest from under his shirt. Sully, sporting one of the two ‘man buns’ currently on offer from Lliswerry this afternoon spent a minute off the pitch whilst removing the offending garment.
Whilst on the topic of man buns, Lliswerry’s other man-bun wearer Simon Bolton went up for a header with Rhys McCarthy only to lose his bun under the challenge of his Pontypridd counterpart.
The few of us in the stand questioned whether the loss of his bun would signify a ‘loss of his power’ so to speak?
Lliswerry looked to have taken the lead in the 42nd minute when the Pontypridd defence were caught napping thirty yards out from goal and captain Richard Shier stole into the box and put the ball around goalkeeper Ryan Griffiths only to look on in horror as his ball bounced in front of the goal and cannoning back off the post for defender Ilias Doumas to clear the ball to safety.
So the question of what Damien Broad would make of his final home half time team talk would probably dictate the outcome of the match.
As it happened his Pontypridd side came out for the second half with renewed vigour and intent. Almost immediately taking the lead thirty seconds into the half through Luke Gullick who went on a bit of a mazey run into the box, beating two men along the way before firing just over the bar to the far post.
Twenty seconds later Mikey Thomas hit a beautiful effort from the edge of the box which forced Jordan Naylor to stretch to tap Thomas’ effort around the post.
The break through for Pontypridd came in the 52nd minute when the side were awarded a free kick about 25 yards out from goal. Up stepped striker Matthew Hibbs who hit a great effort to the far post which evaded Naylor to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later Josh Brown was very unlucky not to level affairs when he latched onto the ball six yards out from goal and had two efforts to convert which were both stopped by keeper Ryan Griffiths who pulled out all of the stops with the second effort, saving the ball with one hand (Please check the YouTube video above for evidence of this)
With a quarter of an hour of the match left Pontypridd Town doubled their advantage and arguably settled the destination of the three points when a great defence splitting pass from Matthew Hibbs set up Luke Gullick perfectly. Gullick ran into the box and rounded Jordan Naylor to slot the ball home into an empty net.
Lliswerry found themselves reduced to ten men when Joe Gibson, who had previously been enjoying a bit of good natured banter with Pontypridd linesman Paul Broad and more funnily posing for a photo for me on the touchline while the ball was out of touch, brought down a Pontypridd Town striker on the edge of the box for his first yellow card before giving the referee a telling off and being given his marching orders for doing so.
It became apparent on the touchline that as the game was quickly growing to a close that manager Damien Broad was going to make a final curtain call at Ynysangharad Park as he took what seemed like an age to get changed on the touchline before coming on to the field for a final swansong with youngster and fellow substitute Owain Morgan.
As the match went into injury time Pontypridd were awarded a penalty after Luke Gullick was fouled just inside the box. During the melee and the confusion as the referee sorted things out in the box Broad did in indeed make his long awaited appearance.
The script was set for Damien Broad to walk onto the pitch and take the penalty and score with what would’ve been his first kick of the season!
Putting the interests of the team ahead of his own personal interests Broad unselfishly didn’t take up the chance and asked regular spot kick taker Luke Gullick to step up to take the kick.
Gullick went for power and despite beating Naylor in goal Gullick could only look on in frustration as his effort rose and crashed against the cross bar to keep the score at 2-0.
Immediately following the penalty Lliswerry were reduced to 9 men when Simon Bolton mistimed a challenge on Damien Broad on the far touchline. The referee gave Bolton his second booking of the afternoon and sent him into the changing rooms for an early shower (or at least a three minute head start on his colleagues).
As Lliswerry tried to steady up the shores with two fewer players their opponents pushed forward in search of a third.
A lovely bit of advanced defending from substitute Owain Morgan lead to The Dragons winning the ball deep in the Lliswerry half. James Hill ran forward down the left channel with the ball at pace, he hit a shot/cross that bobbled across the six yard box and was fumbled by Lliswerry goalkeeper Jordan Naylor only for the ball to fall to the feet of Matthew Hibbs three yards out from goal with an empty net in front of him.
Hibbs made no mistake and gave his side a 3-0 lead, scoring probably the easiest goal he is ever going to score in his career.
Moments later the referee brought this entertaining game to an end and with it the end of Damien Broad’s helm at Ponty Park.
Managerial duties following next weeks away game at Newport Civil Service will fall back into the capable hands of Dominic Broad and first team coach Sam Houldsworth who will look to build upon the brilliant start made to the season by their Pontypridd Town side.
I’d like to wish the very best of luck to both Pontypridd Town and Lliswerry for the rest of the season and a very big ‘best of luck’ to Damien Broad in his new role that will take him all over the world.
I know Damien is a keen follower of the blog and will probably keep in touch with The Dragons a great deal via this very blog. So Damien, I wish you all the very best! You’ve done great things for Pontypridd Town and there are fewer people deserving of such an opportunity.
My Man of the Match: There were some excellent second half performances, particularly from the likes of Ryan Griffiths and Luke Gullick but on this occasion I’m going for Matthew Hibbs.