Friday 18th December 2015.
Taffs Well 1-0 Aberbargoed Buds
Welsh League Division One.
Rhiw Dda’r, Taffs Well.
Attendance: Circa 100.
One of the stories of the year in the Welsh football pyramid this year has of course been the arrival of Darcy Blake at Welsh League Division One side Aberbargoed Buds.
Blake’s return to football after his disappearance from the professional football world after spells at Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle and Newport County has set tongues wagging throughout the football world.
Rumours of Blake turning out for his local pub side, scoring a hat trick as a striker for a Gwent County League side, working on the railways as an engineer, turning out for New Tredegar Reserves on the rugby pitch and turning down professional contracts at Newport County and Merthyr Town have all filled the forums and messageboards over the last year or so.
So it’s fair to say, more than a few people were surprised when newly promoted Welsh League Division One side Aberbargoed Buds made an announcement earlier this season that ex-Bluebird Darcy Blake would be joining the club as a player-coach.
Very few actually believed the story until photos surfaced from his first game with the Buds away at Ton Pentre.
With the 100 game figure to chase and very few matches left of the year, I took up the opportunity to watch Blake’s Aberbargoed Buds side make the trip to Rhiw Dda’r to meet high flying Taffs Well.
Taffs Well themselves have had quite a good season. They’ve built up a good squad and they have started to play quite an attractive passing style of football after being perhaps harshly accused of being ‘long ball merchants’ by certain factions of Welsh League forums and messageboards.
I was interested to see whether the fact that this evening’s match collided with the infamous ‘Black Friday’ end of work drinking festival would have an affect on the attendance. When I arrived at Rhiw Dda’r, it didn’t appear to have made much of a difference as a relatively strong crowd turned up on the evening.
It became clear on my arrival that Darcy Blake was going to be fulfilling the coaching side of his role this evening as he put players through their preparation drills on the pitch just before kick off but it was clear to see that the man still has a phenomenal touch of the ball.
As for the game. It was Division One strugglers Aberbargoed who made the initial headway in the game. They went close to taking the lead after five minutes when their No.9 spun on a sixpence on the penalty area and volleyed just inches over the bar.
Such was the end to end nature of the first phase of the game that straight from this chance the Wellmen went straight down the other end and almost scored themselves.
Aberbargoed’s goalkeeper was forced to sprint out of his box and head away a loose ball, unfortunately his header was a little too meek to be considered a proper clearance and a Taffs Well midfielder hit a powerful header towards goal. It was left to the Buds’ No.4 to sprint back and clear the ball on the goal line.
Taffs Well took the lead after a quarter of an hour when their No.6 picked up the ball about twenty five yards from goal and had just enough time to pick his spot and hit a quite frankly, sublime effort straight into the top left corner giving the flailing Buds’ keeper little hope of stopping his effort.
The rest of the half was played out in much the same manner. Taffs Well dominated proceedings and would surely have gone into the half time interval a little disappointed they didn’t have more than their one goal advantage over their Aberbargoed counterparts.
As the second half started, the Buds came out with renewed intent and looked the more likely of the two sides to score if I’m honest.
Having said this, in a rare foray forward in the second half the Wellmen were gifted a golden opportunity to seal the game in the 65th minute when Taffs Well’s No.4 hit a beautiful pass into the box for their No.9 to rattle the post from 12 yards out.
Aberbargoed Buds pushed forward in numbers but despite dominating proceedings in the second half they were unable to convert their possession into clear cut chances and were largely reduced to taking long range pot shots following some disciplined defending by the Wellmen.
A little drama ensued in the 80th minute as Aberbargoed’s No.8 and Taffs Well’s No.2 were sent off after a moment of madness. It was all a little bit of nothing really. The Buds player was guilty of leaving his foot in after challenging the Wellmen goalkeeper for the ball and Taffs Well’s No.2 retaliated when he was probably best placed to let the referee deal with the incident. Nothing really malicious from either side, just something that tends to happen occasionally when a game is set on a knife edge like this one.
In the end Taffs Well came away with their three points and they sit 4th in Division One, looking very much like potential title dark horses – especially if they can carry their good form into next year.
For Aberbargoed Buds who find themselves second from bottom it’s a tough one, as no-one can really question their performance today and on another day they may well have scored a handful of goals. The question really is whether they can convert their possession in these types of games into solid clear cut chances?
I’d like to thank all at Taffs Well for their hospitality, kindness and friendship throughout this year and wish the very best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season.