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Sunday, 02 November 2014 08:44

CHANGE IN THE AIR

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SATURDAY 1st NOVEMBER - Richmond Park, wet and windy
CARMARTHEN TOWN 0 BANGOR CITY 2 (Corbett Sports welsh Premier League)
A late change of plan sees me heading west to see if the Premier League's bottom side, Bangor City, can turn the corner with a first win of the season. An interesting fixture, but I hadn't planned to travel far, and had lined up a new venue in the Gwent Amateur Cup, until 10.45 when I discovered that Trethomas Bluebirds haven't actually moved to a new ground-share, as I'd been advised. Plan abandoned - and Carmarthen presents itself as Plan B.

In south-east Wales it's a lovely, warm and dry morning. As I set off from Cardiff the sun is shining and I'm looking forward to the scenic journey west on the train. But before Swansea the skies darken; cloud cover heralds rain approaching from the west, and by the time I arrive in Carmarthen a blustery wind has whipped up and there are spots of rain in the air. I remember the forecast, and why I was staying in the east.

Day trips to Carmarthen are usually conceived as just that - arrive a couple of hours early, potter round the art shops in town, grab a bite of lunch and a pint before heading up to the ground. Not today - straight to Richmond Park from the station. The ground is already busy, the teams warming up, fans assembling. Settling into a seat near the press section to read my programme and shelter from the beginnings of a shower - or is it more ? - I'm offered a team-sheet and a slice of cake in true hospitable Carmarthen style.

I'm keen to study the Bangor team for clues to their current plight. Is the squad light on experience, maybe ? But this plan is abandoned when I realise that the programme, unusually, contains no pen-pictures. There's plenty else to read, there always is here, just nothing on the visiting players. The account of last week's win at Prestatyn refers to just four intrepid travelling supporters who witnessed Carmarthen's latest win. By contrast, Bangor must have more than ten times that here, for their longest away trip of the season, showing remarkable loyalty in torrid times.

By kick off time, thoughts of standing out in the open are banished: the rain is becoming steady and shows no sign of abating, but thankfully Richmond Park is not short of covered seats and I settle down to watch the game from the main stand, a fine view across the stadium and of the assorted rooftops, towers and spires of the surrounding streets. Early exchanges can only be described as scrappy - both sides struggling to settle, possession given away, moves breaking down. This becomes the pattern for much of the half, but as half time approaches Carmarthen seem to be carving out the better chances. I sense that if they can convert one, Bangor may struggle to find the belief to strike back - such is often the fragility of sides at the bottom. But chances go begging, and we're heading into half time still goal-less - but suddenly, at the far end where Bangor are defending, there's a kerfuffle and we see home striker Luke Prosser trudging diagonally back across the field to the changing rooms. A red card, though we have no idea why - have to wait for the TV highlights.

The second half starts to a background of driving rain and the unwelcome accompaniment of Scissor Sisters. It's more than a minute into the half before their protests that they don't feel like dancin' are silenced. How has the drama just before half time affected the teams ? Ten men can sometimes be galvanised by their predicament, but not so the Old Gold today. With Prosser gone, they look light in attack, and the numerical advantage is already obvious - in fact, it's hard to believe Bangor have only one extra man. Their confidence is growing with every minute that they match their hosts, and take the game to them, and fourteen minutes into the half they are given too much time in the Carmarthen box and Sion Edwards slides the ball under Lee Idzi to open the scoring. The celebrations of team and travelling fans behind the goal speak of relief and desperate hope that THIS is the turning point.

The goal gives Bangor the momentum, and they seize it gratefully. Scorer Edwards is at the centre of everything down the left, and they start to ping some confident passes around. When Edwards cuts inside to double the scoring in the 67th minute, Bangor are in total command, and from this point the question is whether they'll add to the lead. They don't, thanks partly to a preference to hold possession and not take risks, partly to Edwards's keenness to notch his third, and partly to some smart saves by Lee Idzi in the Carmarthen goal. Just as the whistle is about to go for Bangor to celebrate their first league win, referee James again brandishes a red card, following a second yellow for Kris Thomas, and Carmarthen finish with nine men, putting the seal on a thoroughly forgettable day for the home club.

On the journey home, after a drenching on the short walk down to the station, I muse on the tangible feeling of change in the air, not just in Bangor's fortunes but more generally - the seasons changing, summer time ending. A day which started sunny and warm has turned to cool and stormy, and soon thermals, gloves and scarves will be essential Saturday attire. I reflect that, in some ways, I've missed the opportunities of the extended summer/autumn, unable to venture as far afield as I would generally do during the clement weather and Arriva's ticket offers. But both will be back... how long 'til spring ?

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