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Saturday, 25 October 2014 19:56

Marvels, Stars and a Trophy Round-up

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Clubs from every corner of Wales battled today for places in the last 32 of the FAW Trophy, and there were some intriguing inter-league encounters despite the draw still being regionalised. A round-up follows at the end of this piece, but first our featured game - which was a more local affair between two valley clubs from the South Wales Senior League...

Saturday 25th October: Ynyscynon Park, heavy drizzly showers.
SPORTING MARVELS 2 CWMBACH ROYAL STARS 1 (FAW Trophy Round 3)
Round 3 of the FAW Trophy and several interesting south Wales ties. As so often, travel logistics have a big say in where I end up. First choice game, Abergavenny Town v Johnston, an unusual east v west tie: plan thwarted by closure of the railway. I'm not voluntarily getting caught up in the dreaded rail replacement buses.

Second choice: a first ever visit to Sporting Marvels FC of the Rhondda valley. Their tie with fellow South Wales Senior outfit Cwmbach Royal Stars may lack the inter-region element but Marvels v Royal Stars is still a bit exotic, isn't it ? Firstly, let's deal with the home side's name: Sporting Marvels is actually the name of a Christian charity based in the Rhondda with a goal to "put a positive Christian role model (a "Marvel") in front of every school pupil in Rhondda in the age range 10-18, every day, forever". The football club is an offshoot of the wider organisation and has moved into senior football - rather than the United Churches League, the more inward-looking competition that some church-based teams prefer. So that's where the name comes from, and much as we in the wider football world may wish they had a name that placed them geographically, they have as much right to use a parent organisation's brand as any works team, boys' club or miners' welfare.

The Marvels' home base is Ynyscynon Park, Llwynypia, former home of two other clubs who have tried to operate at this level. The name of one, Llwynypia Boys' & Girls' Club, still appears over the changing room door. Ynyscynon Park, located on the eastern side of the river Rhondda, consists of a railed grass pitch inside a tall mesh fence - a rare older example of a modern phenomenon, cage fencing like this becoming commonplace now around 3G surfaces. There's no cover, no hard-standing, no refreshments and no programme - back to basics. What's more, the promised fine day isn't materialising, with frequent showers dominating, interspersed with brief interludes of weak sunshine.

Shortly after 2pm the lone official gets the game underway, the Marvels in red and the Stars in bright yellow and blue. The early stages are dominated by the Marvels, who move the ball around confidently, but decent approach work is let down by an inability to finish. On breakaways, Cwmbach show exactly the same failing. Approaching half-time, neither keeper has had to save a goal-bound effort, but suddenly Marvel Luke Jones finds enough space in the Cwmbach box to squeeze a shot across goal and past the visiting keeper. 1-0 to the home side at half-time, fair on the balance of play.

The second half is more even, with play opening up and both sides creating chances. Though again most are off target, ten minutes in a long free-kick finds Cwmbach's number 8 on the edge of the box and he turns and sends a low shot into the corner. I wonder if this will change the balance of the game, and for a while the goal gives the Stars the confidence to push forward. But soon they are under siege, like they were in the opening stages, and another Marvels goal looks likely. An indirect free-kick in the Stars area (for obstruction) seems to puzzle the home side ("how can you give a free-kick in the area?" one demands of the poor ref) but the resulting shot drifts just wide of the target.

With twelve minutes left a long ball finds the Marvels' centre-forward Chris Jones; as the Stars appeal for offside, Jones controls the ball, and instead of slotting it wide of the advancing keeper, elects to blast it into the top right hand corner. A risky choice, but he gets away with it.

The remaining twelve minutes, plus a few more of stoppage time, are played out in the heaviest rain of the afternoon. The Marvels keep taking the ball to the corners, but instead of holding it there, can't resist crossing - and giving the ball away. They almost pay for this when the Stars force a couple of smart saves in the closing minutes, but they hold on. Given the worsening weather, we neutrals didn't really want thirty more minutes.

Reflecting on the game, which has been a good end-to-end cup tie, what strikes me is that we haven't seen a bad foul or other offence all afternoon and no cards have been brandished - a marvel indeed.

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The performance of the round was that of Gwent County League leaders Abergavenny Town, who hosted Johnston from Pembrokeshire. The westerners' long journey home must have been a miserable one after a 10-0 drubbing at Penypound.  But fellow Pembrokeshire Leaguers Hakin United struck a blow for the west with a 6-1 win over Penrhiwceiber, and two other west Wales sides journeyed east to better effect, with Ragged School of Swansea pulling off a fine 3-4 victory at Merthyr Saints, while relatively unknown CRC Rangers, also of Swansea, prevailed up at Blaenavon in north Gwent.  The only 3rd Round tie staged in Swansea saw previous winners Sully Sports visiting Penlan FC in one of the ties of the round, with the home side prevailing 4-2.

In the northern part of the draw, the huge contingent of Welsh Alliance clubs was whittled down only a little, to nine survivors.  One of these, Llanberis, were made to fight all the way by newly re-formed Wrexham club Cefn Albion, who took the Alliance side to a penalty shoot out in Snowdonia. The competition favourites Holywell Town comfortably progressed 4-0 in an all Welsh Alliance tie against Nantlle Vale, while another fancied side FC Nomads of Connah's Quay also had an emphatic 4-1 win away to Coedpoeth United. Holders Llanrug United narrowly prevailed in a five-goal thriller against Hawarden, but 2014 losing finalists Chirk AAA crashed out surprisingly at home to Greenfield from Flintshire.

 

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