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Saturday, 20 September 2014 20:20


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SATURDAY 20th SEPTEMBER: Parc Bryn y Don, overcast, humid
People choose matches to watch for all sorts of reasons: for some it's simple (their team is playing), for others it's a new ground, or a fixture that looks promising. For me, all of those are considerations at different times - but until today I've never chosen a game because it's close to a hospital !

I'd looked at a few of today's 55 FAW Trophy Round 2 fixtures when the draw was made. It's one of the best fixture lists of the year, lots of obscure venues and odd pairings;  I had a short list, some quite far afield. But my wife's hospitalisation at Llandough on Friday put all football matters on hold for me. Then, when it was clear she'd still be there on Saturday, and that visiting was from 4pm, I looked at the fixtures again - to see what was on along a Cardiff west / Dinas Powys axis. In fact three games were being staged in the village of Dinas - one of those an FAW Trophy tie. So Dinas Powys Athletic v Merthyr Saints it is.

Bryn y Don is an area of several sports pitches just the Barry side of Dinas itself, and on arriving there it's a question of locating the right match. The first two pitches, nearest Barry Road, turn out to be Cadoxton Barry games, and it takes a little while for me to realise that there's another pitch hidden from view behind trees. That is where Dinas Athletic are playing, the pitch roped off in accordance with Trophy requirements.

Dinas are one of the true grassroots Trophy entrants - Vale of Glamorgan Division One (that's the second tier of district, or recreational, football in South Wales). It's great that clubs at this level enter, and indeed great that they are accepted. The FAW allows anyone with adequate changing facilities and a roped pitch to enter the Trophy, which is truly inclusive. Once upon a time the English FA's Vase competition was supposed to be for grassroots clubs, but it's become too grand for the real amateurs now, and we should be proud that FAW Trophy entries are so numerous now.

A recreational level team entering the Trophy is going to come up against teams two, three or four levels higher. Athletic have already got through one round, beating Gwent County opponents RTB Ebbw Vale, and now face Merthyr Saints - three levels higher, and having made an unbeaten start to the season too. So it isn't surprising that the visitors are soon bossing the game, their passing and movement obviously classy in this company. But what is surprising is that they fail to score. Twenty minutes go by and Athletic are making life difficult, despite a succession of corners and threatening runs. Eventually, one of the latter brings a reward, when a defender's trailing leg brings down a visiting forward and concedes a penalty. After the match referee decides to ignore a spot of gamesmanship by the home keeper, refusing to return the ball, Ian Cleary (a striker who has represented the South Wales FA in regional competition) steps up to put the Saints ahead.

After this breakthrough the goals start to come: a close range finish by Luke Griffiths nine minutes later, quickly followed by Cleary's second. Before half time he completes his hattrick, after a slightly questionable 'onside' decision by the referee, who of course can't be in line. In between the visitors' goals, Dinas have had a couple of efforts of their own, and although the game is now beyond them, they are at least making the Saints work for their passage to Round 3.

After a brief interval, the pattern continues. Merthyr Saints score a fifth and a sixth within six minutes of the restart, but then Athletic, to their credit, enjoy a much better spell and threaten the get a consolation or two. Sadly they don't, and instead there are a couple more Merthyr goals in the middle of the second half. I see the eighth go in just as I'm leaving (hospital visiting hours approaching) and it's not too surprising to find that they added a ninth before the end.

I generally don't like leaving a game before it's over, but sometimes you just have to. If I'm going to miss the end, I'd rather it was like this, when I can go confident that I already know the 'story' of the game, and that I'm not going to get home and find that everything changed in the closing stages. This one was over long before the end, but Dinas Athletic were not disgraced against much higher ranked, in form opposition. At least they entered, competed, and got through one round. I wish more district league sides would follow suit.

Read 4803 times Last modified on Saturday, 20 September 2014 20:24

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