Saturday 19th December 2015.
Cambrian & Clydach BGC 4-4 Caerau Ely.
Welsh League Division One.
Cambrian Lakeside Sports Academy.
Attendance: Circa 60.
I’m going to admit that Cambrian & Clydach’s 3G pitch has been something of a saving grace in my hunt to watch 100 Welsh football matches this year.
A pre-season tournament held at the ground in the Summer bolstered up my figures and I’ve been guilty of using the games held at the ground recently whilst planned games on grass pitches have fallen by the wayside.
It was the turn of Pontypridd Town this afternoon, as their planned Welsh League Division Three clash with league newcomers Abergavenny Town fell by the wayside due to a waterlogged pitch at Ynysangharad Park. It gives you an idea as to how terrible the weather has been in south Wales over the last few months that the last time I managed to actually watch my newly beloved Pontypridd Town was nearly two months ago!
Having said this, I certainly wasn’t disappointed to be afforded the option of taking in a game between reigning Welsh League champions Caerau Ely and Cambrian & Clydach BGC.
The weather was terrible, you can tell when the weather is terrible when the water starts pooling on a 3G pitch as it was here today.
It’s easy to forget that Caerau Ely, being Welsh League champions, should really be plying their trade in the Welsh Premier League this season, fighting it out with likes of TNS, Aberystwyth Town and Bala Town for a place in the Champions League or the Europa League.
Due to the constraints of the ‘domestic license’ and the associated costs of running a team in the Welsh Premier League, Caerau Ely remained in the Welsh League, whilst second placed Haverfordwest County took their place in the Welsh Premier League after a last day of the season 5-0 victory at Aberdare Town that denied Cardiff Metropolitan University the chance to play their football at the helm of the Welsh football pyramid.
It’s also easy to forget that today’s home side, Cambrian & Clydach should also be playing their football in the Welsh Premier League, having won the Welsh League a handful of years earlier. In fact, their much coveted Academy side actually ply their trade in the Welsh Premier Development League and seem to be ruffling quite a few feathers in that league.
It is their youth system that has produced players of the ilk of Josh Maksimovic, Joe Evans, Dave Thomas and Samuel Jones. Four players who have featured heavily on this blog since I first saw them play in the Summer. Four very strong players who have forced their way through the superb youth system at Cambrian and made their mark as regular starters for the Rhondda side’s first string outfit.
Given the atrocious conditions, most spectators made their way to the single opened stand at the ground. I got chatting to AFC Porth secretary Huw Jones, whose side’s planned game at home, like so many this afternoon, fell by the wayside due to the terrible conditions.
Both of today’s sides played with such pace and it was good to see two sides playing lovely passing football.
It was the Rhondda side who took the lead on the quarter of an hour mark as their No.9 rocked the bar from the edge of the box only for his No.7 colleague to head home from close range.
Caerau Ely only found themselves behind for a mere ten minutes as they equalised midway through the second half from the feet of their No.6 who reacted quickly to a rebounded effort and slotted home from close range.
Cambrian retook the lead in the game seconds before the half time interval as their No.9 hit a lovely deftly chipped effort over the helpless Caerau goalkeeper to give his side a 2-1 lead.
Cambrian were unlucky not to seal all three points in first half stoppage time as their No.7 beat the offside trap and ran in through the defence and rounded the Caerau goalkeeper at a wide angle but was only able to hit the bar. At this point Caerau Ely certainly looked to be on the ropes and were probably glad to hear the referee’s half time whistle.
If the first half was entertaining, the second half would massively surpass it in terms of entertainment.
Cambrian took a two goal cushion into the closing stages of the game when their No.7 poked home a third goal for the Rhondda side in the 48th minute after a defensive error.
Caerau’s goalkeeper, perhaps incorrectly, came to the edge of the box to head away a loose ball but unfortunately hit a very tame header that fell to the feet of Cambrian’s No.7 who clinically poked home from the edge of the box to give his side what they must have surely thought was an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
At this point, Cambrian took off defender Joe Evans, who had looked like a rock in the Sky Blues defence. I’m not sure whether Evans had picked up a knock, because it certainly seemed like a strange replacement to make.
From this point forward, and perhaps with little to lose, Caerau Ely pushed forward and began to grow into the game.
Midway through the second half, Caerau Ely pulled a goal back to make the score 3-2 when their No.10 picked up the ball about thirty yards out from goal and hit a speculative effort across the wet Cambrian surface that just about evaded the Cambrian goalkeeper to offer his side a glimmer of hope going into the closing stages of the game.
This appeared to be the bit between the teeth that Caerau Ely needed as they pushed forward in numbers and were rewarded for their persistence in the 76th minute when they were awarded a penalty for a foul inside the box by the Cambrian goalkeeper.
Caerau’s No.7 stepped up to take the spot kick and hit a lovely effort into the bottom right corner of the goal to put his side level.
Five minutes later, in what seemed so unlikely only half an hour earlier, Caerau Ely found themselves taking the lead in this game for the first time as their No.11 found himself set free in the box having lost his marker. He did well to hit a superb effort across the face of goal into the bottom left corner to put his side in the lead with only eight minutes of the game remaining.
This game, funnily enough being my 99th game of the year, was indeed turning out to be the best game of the year and it was made even better when a mere two minutes later, Cambrian levelled the scores to make it 4-4 on the day.
A long ball was hit into the Caerau Ely penalty area from the half way line and Cambrian’s No.8 took a gamble and beat the Caerau goalkeeper to the ball and was able to calmly knock the loose ball over the goalkeeper to level the scores.
Cambrian almost took all three points in stoppage time as a moment of madness in the penalty area as the Caerau goalkeeper was forced to pull out all of the stops as he grew an extra two or three inches to pull a ball back as it only partially crossed the goal line.
This was a scintillating and ridiculously entertaining game, something I’d never expected to see as my planned game was postponed.
I’d like to give a massive thanks to all at Cambrian & Clydach BGC for their hospitality, kindness and friendship throughout the year and wish both sides the very best of luck for the rest of the season.