Saturday 5th December.
Prince of Wales 1-1 AFC Porth 2nds.
Rhondda & District Football League, Division One.
King George Running Field, Clydach Vale
Attendance: Circa 60.
The awful weather in south Wales over the last few weeks meant that his afternoon, for the first time in three weeks I was actually going to attend a football match.
Three weeks without football is a fair length of time, especially for someone who hopes to attend 100 matches in a year. I hadn’t gone without a football match since the pre-season break.
With my scheduled Pontypridd Town vs. STM Sports Welsh League game long called off due to STM Sports’ twice-postponed Welsh Cup match taking precedence I finally got the chance to head back up to the Rhondda to take in a game in my land of birth.
It’s funny. I’m a Rhondda boy, born and bred here. Despite moving away for work, I always kept coming back. I’m the ‘boomerang kid’ and over the pre-season my Wife and I moved back to the Rhondda to Porth.
Despite this, I found aside from the Welsh League sides in the Valley (Cambrian & Clydach BGC, Ton Pentre and AFC Porth) I’ve not watched any Rhondda League football since I moved, which is weird because when I was living further away in Treforest I started watching a fair amount of Rhondda League football.
So this match, was shamefully, my first Rhondda League game of the season.
Admittedly I couldn’t have picked a better game for my re-introduction back into the Rhondda League.
You see, whilst I was away there have been a few changes in and around the Rhondda & District League.
The league, which operated as a single “Premier Division” last season with 17 teams has grown to encompass two divisions of ten teams each.
The make up of the league has changed a fair bit as well. 2013/14 Premier Division winners Penygraig United seem to have imploded and have chosen not to take up their place in the league this season.
The league has also appeared to lose a relatively new side in the form of AFC Trebanog. Unfortunately both times I watched them last season they were on the wrong side of both 8-0 and 9-0 drubbings by Trebanog FC and Gelli Hibs respectively, but I was surprised they didn’t field a side this year as they were a very spirited, young team.
Rhondda Fach outfit Stanleytown took their place in the Premier Division as they became one of the last sides to ever face relegation from the old South Wales Senior League.
Last season’s League and Cup winners Gelli Hibs remained in the league after falling at the South Wales Alliance play-off hurdle as they faced tough competition in a 5 team league contest at the end of last season.
The new second tier of the Rhondda League seems to be where most of the changes have happened as the league welcomes both the new, the old and the current into the league.
The new comes in the form of The Prince of Wales. A seemingly impressive side based out of a pub just off the main road that cuts through Treorchy at the top of the Rhondda Fawr.
Aside from starting the season in superb fashion with a 100% win record from their opening nine games, The Prince have been grabbing headlines off the pitch as well. As this amusing article tends to suggest.
Joining them in the new league are AFC Porth Reserves/2nds/Under 19s. AFC Porth of course field a side in Division Two of the Welsh League, but for a long period of time they also fielded a reserve side in the Rhondda League and I know from speaking to club chairman Huw Jones at many games last season this was something he was very keen on re-instating if the club were able to afford it.
Sporting Marvels, a Rhondda based side currently fighting it out in the South Wales Alliance have followed AFC Porth and have also taken up the option of fielding a second string side in the new league.
The final addition comes in the form of Tonypandy Albions, a side with a rich heritage in what is now called the South Wales Alliance. However since the club ceased to be a few seasons ago, they find themselves having to start back at the bottom of the Welsh pyramid.
It’s telling then that going into today’s match all four new sides currently hold the top 4 places in the league and with only two promotion places available come the end of the season, at least two of these sides who had their eyes set on promotion at the start of the season will have to wait another year for their chance.
There was a touching moment at the start of this afternoon’s match where both sides, like the other Rhondda sides who were lucky enough to get their matches played last week, took part in an impeccably held minute’s silence for Rhondda League stalwart and ex Ton Pentre chairman Bryan Bees who sadly passed away recently following an illness.
I myself have only brief memories of Bryan as I was involved in Rhondda football as a youngster however I did meet him once as an adult at a game and his passion for the game at this level was unfaltering.
It was then a fitting testament to a man who gave so much to the Rhondda League that the league is now in a position where it can offer competitive football over two tiers, which look likely to grow further as sides like Trebanog FC toy with the idea of fielding a second side in the lowest tier.
It’s hard with matches like these, because I only know a couple of the players, in fact in today’s line-ups I believe the only player I’ve seen before comes in the shape of AFC Porth’s stalwart midfielder Huw Day whom I’ve watched a couple of times in AFC Porth’s first team.
Onto the match then.
The game starts in a humorous fashion as within thirty seconds of the kick off, a call comes from the changing room area. It appears that a Prince of Wales substitute, perhaps unaware of what was going on, managed to get himself locked in the changing rooms whilst the game kicked off.
It took a few minutes for the keyholder to be tracked down but I believe he got out of there in the nick of time!
The first real opportunity of the game fell to Prince’s No.10 who beat his marker skillfully on the edge of the box but will feel he should have done better as he blazed his shot well over the bar with ample time to compose himself.
Almost immediately following this, his opposite number was gifted a glorious chance to give his Porth side the lead as a defensive error lead to the ball falling at his feet inside the box, unfortunately he too rushed his shot and failed to really test the goalkeeper.
AFC Porth were given a second chance to take the lead on the 18th minute when the ball fell kindly to their No.11 who fumbled his effort wide from just outside the six yard box.
From this point forward, Prince of Wales dominated the first half, attacking against the wind. They were unlucky not to go ahead on the half hour mark when their No.4 rattled the left hand post from 30 yards out as he fizzed a decent effort along the floor which evaded the Porth defence and looked to have beat the Porth keeper only to look on in frustration as it cannoned back off the upright for a Porth defender to clear to safety.
The defining moment of the first half came in the 36th minute when a goalmouth scramble lead to the Porth defence being forced to block the ball off the goal line twice in quick succession. As it would turn out, the second time looked to have been blocked by AFC Porth’s No.3 with his hand.
The referee Martin Davies didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and took his time and decided rightly to send the defender off for his handball.
Prince of Wales’ No.8 stepped up to the spot and dispatched a brilliant free kick high into the top left corner of the goal that even though the Porth stopper guessed the right way, he stood little chance of saving the effort.
Prince of Wales pushed forward in an attempt to double their advantage but they found themselves being matched by a very strong and resolute AFC Porth defence.
The Porth side came out for the second half with renewed vigour and looked a changed side from the one that played the first half, even with the numerical disadvantage, they played a high attacking line and were nearly rewarded in the 55th minute when their No.10 hit a lovely free kick from 30 yards out that required something of a beautiful save from the Prince of Wales goalkeeper.
Prince of Wales found their chances in the second half limited and would have been disappointed not to seal the three points on the hour when their No.11 was gifted a chance inside the six yard box to double his side’s advantage.
Unfortunately for the Treorchy side, he chose to try and chip the keeper from very close range which lead to the Porth stopper picking the ball up easily.
Three minutes later, Porth scored a deserved equaliser from the foot of their No.10 who hit a lovely free kick from just outside the box into the bottom right corner of the net to give his side the impetus in the last half an hour of the game.
In the closing twenty minutes the game grew a little feisty and Prince’s numerical advantage was eliminated when their No.2 found himself being sent to the changing rooms for an early shower.
Admittedly (and shamefully) I was messing around with my camera at the time and as I looked up, I saw the player walking off the field. So I have no idea whether this was a second booking, a straight red card, a foul, dissent, whatever.
Sorry guys, you all know that if you want the exact happenings and goings on, you don’t come to my blog 🙂
A few minutes later it was the Prince’s defences turn to perform goal line heroics as Porth’s No.10 went within inches of giving his side the lead only for a near gymnastic effort from a Prince defender saved the day for his side.
In the end this was very much a game of two halves. Prince of Wales dominated the first half and will certainly feel they could have sealed the three points before half time, conversely AFC Porth were by far the better side in the second half and will feel a little disappointed they weren’t able to clinch that winning goal in the closing stages.
This result however is more of a testament to the quality of the football played in the Rhondda. For both of these sides to be plying their trade (perhaps albeit temporarily) in the second tier of the Rhondda game is a massive statement of how much football in the Rhondda has come on in recent years.
Keep an eye on both of these sides. I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them end up troubling sides in the South Wales Alliance in the coming years.