Saturday 26th December.
Port Talbot Town 0-3 Carmarthen Town.
Welsh Premier League.
Genquip Stadium, Port Tabot.
Attendance: Circa 150
When I walked in to Park Avenue on January 1st of this year having just set myself the challenging task of attending 100 Welsh football matches in a calendar year as some kind of sick, obsessive (and some might say.. sadistic) task – I honestly thought I’d fall way short.
“100 matches in 52 weeks! That’s slightly less than 2 a week! Easy to do!” most people exclaimed.
Yeah sure, then you consider the following problems. Hardly any football is played in Wales during May, June and July and the football season only really starts half way through August.
So make that 100 games in 8 months really…
It didn’t help that games started being called off on the first weekend of the year. It turned out to be a case of good fortune in the end as I accidentally stumbled upon Pontypridd Town, who I now count as my ‘club’, holding a season ticket at Ponty Park and getting to more of their games is something I’m certainly looking forward to once this year long foray into the Welsh game ends.
When I attended my 91st game of the year at Port Talbot (a victory against Bangor City) with almost 9 weeks of the year left, I was convinced I’d hit my 100 match target pretty easily. In fact, I remember cockily telling Pontypridd Town official Craig Morgan that my 100th game was probably going to be their scheduled 5th December match against STM Sports at Ponty Park…
..then the south Wales weather took its grip!
Games started being postponed all over the place. Double headers I had planned in Ceredigion (Felinfach at 2pm and Aberystwyth Town at 5.15pm) were called off at the last minute. Pontypridd Town matches fell by the wayside, left, right and centre.
Even matches in my home league, the Rhondda & District Football League. A league well known for viewing a sodden pitch as only a minor inconvenience that could never get in the way of a decent game of football, started calling games off.
I was in trouble. I knew that if I’d finished the year a match or two short of the 100 figure I’d end up kicking myself. I’d torture myself about matches I’d turned down going to watch or youth games I chose not to go to or even times I’d elected to do an hour or two of overtime instead of taking in the Bow Street Under 16s vs. Aberaeron Under 16s cup match that was apparently taking place on the West Wales coast!
On Tuesday 22nd December my wife and I found ourselves driving up the A470, hoping to go for a nice bit of food at our favourite Indian restaurant in the whole of Wales before taking in that evening’s Aberystwyth Town vs. Carmarthen Town fixture.
It would have been lovely really. Notching up my 100th game of the year at the same ground and at the same fixture that started it all back on New Year’s Day.
However, the rain had different ideas. This was after all a game that I believe had already been postponed twice before.
I spoke with Aber directory Thomas Venables over Twitter on the day and he let me know that there was a scheduled pitch inspection at 3.30pm that afternoon. This allowed us the opportunity to delay leaving the Rhondda until as late as possible.
We used the time to drop into our friends new clothing (and taxidermy) shop in Mountain Ash for an hour for a catch up chat and a bit of retail therapy as the relentless wind and rain pummelled down.
As we left the shop and got back into the car I checked Aber’s Twitter feed to find out what I think we both knew was always going to happen. The referee had called the game off, meaning that my 100th match would have to wait for a few more days yet.
As luck would have it, it actually worked out pretty well as both clubs ended up rescheduling their match for Tuesday 29th December, meaning I could still take that game in and in a nice way it would end up being my last game of the year. Allowing me the opportunity to start the year and end the year on the same exact fixture!
It worked out well for us, as Port Talbot Town are a club I have an awful lot of time for. Officials at the club have often spoke highly of the blogs I’ve written about the club and are always fair (i.e they tend to always re-tweet my blogs even when they are on the wrong end of a hammering – unlike some other clubs in the pyramid!)
This year has also given me ample opportunities to cover the infamous Port Talbot Ultras, residing on the left hand side of the McCreesh Stand.
These guys are an equal part of why I ended up doing this whole blog really. Football fanatics with a love of the game and their team.
I’ve objected to this view that the support of a guy who turns out every week at clubs like AFC Porth, Risca United, Barry Town United, Trebanog FC, AFC Gilfach and Ton Pentre is somehow less valid than the support of someone who holds a season ticket at Cardiff City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Rotherham or Wigan Athletic.
There’s this kind of atmosphere you feel at matches sometimes. As if people are a bit ‘too cool’ to chant, cheer and sing songs about their players. I don’t know whether it’s because some groups of fans feel embarrassed because there are a couple of hundred of them, rather than the multiple thousands at Old Trafford or similar or whether there’s another reason.
Throughout the year I’ve met some superb groups of fans in the Welsh pyramid. Barry Town United have a very passionate, large and vocal support that follow their club all over the place. Bangor City are another group of devoted fans I’ve had the privilege of meeting this year. In fact, they amazed me as a group when they managed to send down the best part of 60-70 supporters to Port Talbot a couple of months ago for a 5.15pm Sgorio kick off. This goes without even mentioning the likes of Taffs Well, Caldicot Town and Treharris Athletic Western, who themselves count a large vocal following behind them despite having relatively small numbers of supporters.
I’m pleased as I walk into the Genquip to see the Ultras in good number despite the obvious challenge of family commitments on Boxing Day. Indeed, as it’s Boxing Day I’ve brought my wife Lara and my father-in-law David to this afternoon’s match.
We’ve just had a lovely family Christmas, the first one I’ve hosted in our new Porth home.
It’s been a season of ups and down for the Steelmen thus far. It’s a weird one as every time I’ve visited the Genquip Stadium this season, they’ve been superb with strong victories over the likes of Aberystwyth Town and Bangor City.
However, in the games I haven’t been to (and I’m willing to accept I might be a good luck charm of The Steelmen) things haven’t seemed to click. In fact, they go into this afternoon’s game sitting in 10th place with relegation to the Welsh League being perhaps a bigger issue for the Port Talbot rather than the potential squeezing into the top half of the table prior to January’s ‘final third split’
Carmarthen Town have had a similar season. At times Mark Aizlewood’s men have looked brilliant, while they’ve been made to very ordinary at times. The last time I saw them, they struggled to put Welsh League Division Three outfit Pontypridd Town to the sword. They’ve got a decent squad and it is fair to say that there are at least a handful of their starting 11 who would easily get into most sides in the Welsh Premier League.
This was going to be a pretty intriguing match to be fair. Both sides a little off the pace in the hunt of getting into the top half of the table before the league splits, but both sides whose destiny lies in their own hands.
The match started slowly with both sides not looking like breaking the deadlock. It had the feeling of a typical Boxing Day game really, a bit of a slow start, both sides a bit hesitant to take the bit between their teeth.
It was The Steelmen who had the first real chance of the game when Jonathan Hood hit a decent effort towards goal that really seemed to trouble Old Gold stopper Lee Idzi, who did well to keep his side level.
Hood would later rattle the upright when a long range shot beat Lee Idzi, but agonisingly came back off the post to deny Port Talbot a 1-0 lead.
As we tucked deeper into our now infamous Port Talbot Town Chip Buttys, both sides went on the hunt for the opening goal.
It would be Carmarthen Town who would take the lead on the hour mark through Liam Thomas who found himself with space and time and was able to hit a superb volley past the flailing Steve Cann in goal for Port Talbot.
Luke Cummings scored a second for Carmarthen before Thomas scored a second with quarter of an hour of the match left giving his side an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
Port Talbot Town huffed and puffed but were unable to break down a disciplined and determined Carmarthen Town side who came away with the Genquip Stadium deserved recipients of the three points on offer today.
I’m afforded a truly beautiful moment in the closing stages that perfectly wrap up my year spent watching Welsh football as Port Talbot Town find themselves 3-0 down with little chance of getting anything at all from this game. In spite of all of this, the Port Talbot Ultras who have by now made their traditional second half voyage over to the Burns Road end of the ground behind Lee Idzi in the Carmarthen Town goal are still making their voices heard loud and clear despite the hammering their side has received.
Ultras – I salute you.
As always, I would like to give an absolutely massive thanks to all at Port Talbot Town, who have been superb hosts throughout the whole year. A massive best of luck and good wishes to both Port Talbot Town and Carmarthen Town and another big thanks to all involved with the Port Talbot Ultras, who have been massive supporters of the blog this year and have been nothing but great all year long.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve only got one game left on Tuesday before the year ends.