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Friday, 05 September 2014 18:58

Tale of two halves

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SATURDAY 30th AUGUST, Bettws Lane and Rhiw Ddar. Warm and dry.
MALPAS UNITED 3 LLANWERN 2 (FAW Welsh Cup 1st Qualifying Round)
TAFF'S WELL 1 ABERDARE TOWN 2 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 1)

Welsh Cup day, and plenty of games to choose from. I've dithered between several ties, rejecting my original choice as no proper programme will be issued. Instead I opt for Malpas United, of the Gwent County League, who have a tough home tie against strong Welsh League Division 2 side Llanwern. They're doing a programme, but the downside s that I have to travel via Newport, where pre-NATO summit protests threaten to cause disruption.

Anticipating the worst, I head early to Newport, avoid the back of the station where I believe the protest march will be gathering, and exit from the front. There are lots of police on duty, wearing unusual special pale blue jackets and caps. There's a much smaller number of protesters, dressed as you'd expect (like a Glastonbury crowd without the tents and backpacks), some carrying colourful flags. They're about as unthreatening as any group of people could be, and none of this delays me in the slightest.

After whiling away a suitable amount of time, I head north out of Newport towards the motorway via the labyrinth of tunnels and walkways that criss-cross the main road. As always here, I end up stranded in the middle of the dual carriageway and have to come out – near the back of the station, which I'd been avoiding. By 2pm I can see the teams warming up – but, like last Saturday, the way in is harder to find. It is round the back of Newport High School, hemmed in by fences; schools are a lot more secure these days.

Entering the school grounds, I'm greeted by Welsh Football contributor and Taff's Well programme editor Jeff Jones, and it turns out his son Jordan now plays for Llanwern, who we feel should win today – although you never know. We stroll up to the pitch, to discover the twelve programmes have all sold out. The game starts and, as expected, LLanwern, in blue, are dominating. Several chances go begging but John Lilygreen opens the scoring. The lead is doubled soon after and the game seems to be over as a contest. When the Llanwern keeper is harshly dismissed for a foul, and the resulting penalty is blasted over the bar, the lifeline extended to Malpas seems to have been cut.

Decision point: Jeff too is concluding this game has little left to offer, and suggests going to watch the second half at Taff's Well. I hesitate momentarily – I don't usually switch games like this - but the idea offers a chance to get nearer home and avoid the potential mayhem if the protest march in Newport kicks off. I agree and we enter Rhiw DDar as the second half is kicking off, with the score 0-0.

Early in the second half debutant Clayton Green scores from the penalty spot for Taff's Well, much to the visitors' annoyance, but Aberdare gradually get on top. A fine header provides the equaliser, then an almighty scramble produces the winner. Aberdare see the game out for a win and I'm reasonably content that I've seen a good half of football. So was the half-time choice a good one ? As it turned out, no: Malpas turned their 0-2 deficit into a shock 3-2 win. And the NATO-related mayhem in Newport that I avoided ? There wasn't any.

Read 4126 times Last modified on Sunday, 14 September 2014 06:55

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