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Sunday, 13 January 2019 13:43

You Can't Beat a Proper Cup Tie

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SATURDAY 12th JANUARY. The Muga, mild.
PLAS MADOC 3 BERRIEW 2 (FAW Trophy Round 5)

For the second week in a row my Saturday morning and evening will be spent travelling up and down the so familiar English border line on Transport for Wales trains. The weather's been unusually peaceful for January and neither trip was threatened by postponement. All good, although last week's outing was a bit of a drag, to be honest: a dull routine league game between two rusty sides, on a dull day in a rather dull place. I didn't write it up as a blog - there just wasn't much to say and I didn't want to waste time re-living it.

But I have higher hopes of today's excursion. For a start, it's the FAW Trophy, and knock-out football tends to produce more drama. Secondly, it's an inter-region game, North East v Central Wales, between teams that haven't met before. Thirdly, the home team, Plas Madoc, are a bit of a sensation - after winning the North East Wales League in only the first season, they're unbeaten so far in the league (Wrexham Area Division One). I'm looking forward to watching them.

Monday, 19 November 2018 13:24

The Idyll

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SATURDAY 17th NOVEMBER. Leyton's Field, a sunny, chilly autumn day.
TINTERN ABBEY 1 ABERTILLERY EXCELSIORS 7 (Gwent FA Amateur Cup Round 2)

I start most seasons with a short-list of a few grounds I really want to visit; and this year, Tintern Abbey was near the top. For years I had a vague plan to visit some time, but hadn't researched exactly where the football club played. It was only when blogger Laurence Reade posted pictures from a game in January that I truly understood the scenic splendour of this grassroots ground, and that vague plan became a priority. When Tintern got through one round of the county cup, and were drawn at home to Gwent County 'giants' Abertillery Excelsiors, I put the date in my diary and prayed that the weather wouldn't intervene. My prayers seem to have been answered.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 10:17

The Case of the Moveable Kick-Off time

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SATURDAY 27th OCTOBER. Gresford Colliery Club, cold but sunny.
OFFA ATHLETIC 1 FC NOMADS 3 (FAW Trophy Round 3)

The last 64 of the FAW Trophy, 32 games to choose from. Of course, there are plenty closer to home than the one I've picked, but travelling north has been out of the question for four weeks (the dreaded rail replacement buses) so I feel in need of a long distance away-day while the weather still holds and grounds aren't waterlogged. By this stage of the competition, there tend not to be many venues I haven't visited before, but Offa Athletic's Gresford Colliery Club ground is one on my list.

The weather has changed since last week. It's bitterly cold as I set off for Wrexham, the thermal layers making an early seasonal reappearance. But it's dry, so no need to worry about postponement. Instead, I have to worry about actually getting to the game - my train turns out to have been delayed at Carmarthen and turns up nearly half an hour late at Cardiff. For the next two hours, instead of sitting back and enjoying the journey up the borders, I'm fretting that I may miss the connection to Wrexham, which, the train conductor insists, will not be held if we're late. Contingency plan: catch the next Wrexham service an hour later and dash by taxi, just enough time to make the 2.30 kick off.

In the end, I make my connection at Shrewsbury with five minutes to spare, shivering on the platform in an icy wind. So it's a more leisurely journey up to Gresford, via the bus towards Chester. A short stroll around the road interchange and into Bluebell Lane and the Gresford Colliery Club.

Monday, 03 September 2018 09:37

Cradle to Grave

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SATURDAY 1st SEPTEMBER. Pant Brickworks, sunny and warm.
RHOSLLANERCHRUGOG 0 RHOS AELWYD 4 (JD Welsh Cup, 1st Qualifying Round)

There are so many ties in the opening rounds of our national cup competitions that a short-list of interesting ties forms in my mind. This year it's different, one Welsh Cup Qualifying tie always stood out - the 'Rhos derby'. And that's why, early on this late summer morning, I'm setting out on the train up through the borders towards Ruabon in north-east Wales.

The villages of Ruabon, Rhosllanerchrugog (or Rhos) and Cefn Mawr always evoke thoughts of the earliest days of football in Wales. This is the home of FAW founding father Llewellyn Kenrick, and also of the first great Welsh club, Druids of Ruabon, and it's pleasing to be visiting the area for the opening round in the oldest Welsh competition, the Welsh Cup. As a nod to history, I take lunch and a pint in the Wynnstay Arms, Ruabon - the venue where the FAW's second meeting took place in August 1876, to create its constitution, and where the first ever Welsh Cup draw was made a year later.

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