Saturday 12th December.
Tonyrefail Welfare 0-4 Gell Hibs.
Rhondda & District Football League, Premier Division.
Trebanog Playing Field, Trebanog.
Attendance: Circa 10
As I admitted last week, for someone who lives in the Rhondda. The amount of Rhondda football I’ve covered over the last few weeks has been shameful really. So as soon as I heard Pontypridd Town’s away game at Treowen Stars fell foul of the dreadful weather that hasn’t seemed to stop for the last six weeks, I made plans for another Saturday spent up the Rhondda.
Fantastically convenient for me, the three games I could find that weren’t called off in the Rhondda all fell within a stones throw of my house (admittedly you’d have to be quite the stone thrower!).My choices were to take in either Ynyshir Albion of the South Wales Alliance Division Two’s home match against St. Joseph’s, the intriguing Division 1 encounter between AFC Porth Seconds and Tonypandy Albions (which would later turn out to be an enthralling 4-4 draw) or the game I ended up picking, Tonyrefail Welfare’s home game against last season’s Rhondda & District Football League Champions, Rhondda Cup Winners and South Wales Intermediate Cup winners Gelli Hibs.
With one game taking place just over the road from me (Ynyshir), another five minutes walk away (AFC Porth) and the other at the top of the giant hill I live at the bottom of (Tonyrefail Welfare – they play at Trebanog’s home ground) this allowed me maximum time to lay around the house recovering from the almighty hangover I had been suffering following The Pop Factory’s Christmas party the evening before.
Gelli Hibs have featured on this blog a fair bit, I watched a lot of them towards the end of last season when they overturned league favourites Trebanog’s lead and went on a run that saw them beat their title rivals Trebanog twice in as many weeks in both league and cup competitions to seal their path to glory.
The side played such fluid and attractive football that they garnered absolute rave reviews on my blog. I grew a soft spot for the side and even better than that, upon meeting a few of them over the Summer, they turned out to actually be really good boys.
The Hibs moved into the first ever South Wales Alliance play-offs at the end of the season. Unfortunately I couldn’t make any of the games as I was away with work at the time.
The side, who had already played something like 15 games in the last six weeks of the season, struggled in the play-offs coming off the back of such an intense period of football and sadly just missed out on promotion to the South Wales Alliance.
Gelli Hibs looked strong in pre-season as they brushed aside teams from the South Wales Alliance in a pre-season tournament I last watched them play in. They’d signed a couple of new players and looked for all intents and purposes like they were going to be competing in the play-offs again come the end of the season.
However, something hasn’t quite clicked yet this season for the Hibs. Something I’ve noticed as I kept a close on the Rhondda League despite not taking in many games in the league this season.
Every side in the league has suffered from a number of postponed matches, meaning that despite the smaller league sizes meaning each team now plays 13 matches less than last season, the likelihood of another March/April fixture pile-up now seems inevitable.
The biggest casualties of the dreadful Winter we’re suffering at the moment are probably Trebanog, who have still only played a mere six league games since mid-August. If they win their three games in hand over current leaders Penyrenglyn Penguins they will lead the table with a four point gap over the upper Rhondda Fawr side.
However, games in hand, as Trebanog will be more than aware of after last season, mean little unless you can go and win your games.
Gelli Hibs on the other hand have had a bit of a surprising start to the season. They actually went into this afternoon’s game in the relegation zone in the Premier Division. I’m told that somewhere between the Sporting Marvel’s pre-season tournament and the actual start of the season they lost a handful of regular starters which has lead to a bit of disruption in the starting 11.
This actually means that the Gelli Hibs side who went the whole of last season with only one defeat to their name actually went into this potentially tricky fixture with Tonyrefail Welfare with three league defeats from six outings already to their name.
It was key therefore that the Hibs took something out of this game with fellow strugglers Tonyrefail Welfare.
This isn’t of course the first time this year I’ve taken in a game between these two sides. My first game I ever encountered involving these sides came earlier this year at the same venue, when both sides fought out a pretty scrappy 1-1 draw.
The dreadful weather meant that a fair few less than the 40 or so who took in that previous encounter were here today. In fact, attendance was pretty much limited to those with either A) Waterproof clothing people had obviously come straight from work in, or B) Football losers chasing down their 100th game of the year with only two full weeks left to do it in. With my non-waterproof parka jacket and jeans on, I painfully obviously fit into the second category.
I was very pleased to see this afternoon’s match being officiated by Colin Williams, a man who I’ve seen referee at least a handful of times this year. I first saw Colin referee an Under 18’s level match between Tonyrefail BGC and AFC Porth and he officiated the game with such class and style, letting the youngsters know when they were likely to make fouls. rather than just blowing up for anything and everything.
For my money, he’s the best referee outside of the Welsh League.
My coat was already seeping water through onto my skin before I’d even made the 30 second walk from my car over to my preferred spot around the half way line. The heavy winds throwing my camera from side to side. I gave up at one point and just chucked the camera back in my bag as shot after shot came out looking like the game was being played in a swimming pool rather than a football pitch.
The old adage of ‘playing against the wind’ or ‘with the wind’ didn’t really apply in this game as the horrific conditions lead to both sides being technically ‘against the wind’. I don’t think a single goal kick entered the opposing teams half all game, such was the strength of the wind attacking Trebanog this afternoon.
It was good to see that Gelli Hibs had kept hold of a strong core of the side that looked so impressive in the pre-season tournament during the Summer. The likes of Leon Kisby, Garin Hughes, Jordan Gibbon, Gary Jones, Shane Lewis and Gareth Jones all held a firm backbone through the Hibs side.
Hibs took a deserved 1-0 lead in the 12th minute as their No.10 skilfully beat the offside trap and managed to get in just behind the Welfare defence to chip the goalkeeper from just inside the box as the ball slowly rolled into the far left corner of the net.
Tonyrefail Welfare pushed forward in search of an equaliser and to be fair to the side they gave Gelli Hibs a bit of a scare for a period of about a quarter of an hour following Hibs’ opening goal.
Welfare’s No.8 almost scored a sensational goal from 40 yards out, only to see his shot curl slightly wide of the post.
Ten minutes later, Tonyrefail Welfare had the ball in the back of the net as their No.11 ran through the Hibs’ defence and slotted home from the edge of the box, however Welfare were left frustrated as their striker was called offside about five seconds earlier.
A moment of hilarity ensued on the half hour mark as Welfare’s No.9 who provided us all with a moment of sheer brilliance a minute earlier as he nutmegged a Gelli Hibs defender, took what I have to describe as the worst foul throw I’ve seen this year. Referee, Colin Williams, who had already awarded two foul throws this half and had on both occasions replicated what the players did to be judged to have taken a foul throw (usually one leg off the ground), had to do something half way between a ballet move and a move that wouldn’t look out of place at a rugby line-out to show the Welfare man the error of his ways.
Given Tonyrefail Welfare’s dominance in this period of the game, they surely would’ve been kicking themselves that they didn’t go into the half time interval at least level, if not winning the game.
In the 38th minute, Welfare’s No.11 found himself through on goal with only Jamie Ranford in goals to beat after a Hib’s defensive mistake. Unfortunately for Welfare, he was only able to direct his shot towards Ranford’s midriff.
Two minutes later, perhaps with Hibs’ on the ropes so to speak, Tonyrefail’s No.10 rattled the post with a thumping shot from just outside the box to which the Welfare bench arose, convinced they’d scored an equaliser.
Against the run of play since their opening goal, Gelli Hibs doubled their lead and took a two goal cushion into the half time interval as a beautiful pitched cross from Hibs’ No.11 seemed to float in the air for an age before their No.9 jumped high at the far post to head home comfortably into the top right corner of the goal.
As the weather settled a little, I say settled – it didn’t really get any better, the rain just calmed down a bit, the violent wind remained. Gelli Hibs came out for the second half with renewed intent and didn’t really look like conceding at all.
Hibs’ pushed forward in numbers and had great joy down the left wing from the likes of Leon Kisby and Shane Davies who gave the Welfare defenders turmoil all second half.
Gelli Hibs sealed the three points in the 75th minute when they awarded a free kick just outside of the box in a prime position. Up stepped Gelli Hibs veteran Gareth Jones, who had seconds earlier been chastised by his manager, who commented to me “I’d better let him have it, or I’ll never hear the end of it!”.
Jones, stepped up for the free kick and to be fair to him, pulled out a scorcher as he placed the ball superbly into the top right corner of the net and let out an expletive filled celebration, predominantly in the direction of his manager and his apparent lack of belief in his set piece talent.
Gelli Hibs rounded their impressive performance off with a fourth goal in stoppage time after they were awarded a penalty for a foul just inside the box. Hibs’ No.11 stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted the ball home into the bottom right corner of the net to give his side a deserved 4-0 victory in extremely difficult conditions.
Gelli Hibs have a difficult month of football coming up, which could either see them going back to the helm of the Rhondda Premier Division or see them playing out the last half of the season in the lower half of the table. A ‘day after New Year’s day’ match away at title contenders Blaenrhondda is followed by matches against title favourites Trebanog, current league leaders Penyrenglyn Penguins, Maerdy Social before entertaining today’s opponents at home.
I’d like wish the very best of luck to both Tonyrefail Welfare and Gelli Hibs for the rest of their campaigns and their hospitality and friendship shown throughout the year. If this is to be the last Rhondda match I take in before the end of the year and the eventual death of this blog, I’ll have taken in quite the send off.