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Sunday, 07 December 2014 09:00

David 1 Goliath 9

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SATURDAY 6th DECEMBER: Rogiet Sports Fields, sunny.
SEVERN TUNNEL NON-POLITICAL CLUB 1 ALBION ROVERS 9 (Gwent FA Amateur Cup)
It's one of those 'late decision' days; not because of the weather, which is fine here, but because no fixture within easy reach has yet convinced me of its unmissability - though there are plenty such further afield in the West Wales and North East Wales cups. By 11a.m. I am drifting towards an easy option of one of the Welsh League games in the capital, but a last glance at the pages of The Football Traveller makes me re-consider the Gwent Amateur Cup. A few minutes research and I've established that "STNPC" would be remarkably easy to get to, even for a 1.30 kick-off.

And so, a couple of short train journeys later, I step off the train at Severn Tunnel Junction five minutes before kick-off and stroll across the station car park into Rogiet Sports Field. I've passed here hundreds of times on trains and glanced across at this pitch, so there's a certain satisfaction in finally 'ticking it off' for a match. The field lies between the busy railway line and the southern edge of the large village of Rogiet. To the east is the farmland of the Caldicot Levels, which explains the agricultural smell hereabouts. I can't help noticing that the same adjective could be used of the pitch, its grass far too long for football.

Rogiet grew up around Severn Tunnel Junction in the nineteenth century and the engine sheds and marshalling yards just west of the station were once busy. Today all such activity has gone, and it would be a peaceful spot, were it not for the frequent thundering past of trains bound for London, Birmingham, Bristol to the east and Cardiff and Swansea to the west. Even so, it's pleasant today in strong winter sunshine.

STNPC FC play in the humble East Gwent League. Founded only in 2009 to restore football to the village, they hope to progress to the Gwent County League. The village doesn't seem to have noticed the club's efforts - there are more cows in the adjacent field than spectators, and almost all of those are with the visiting team. In the first round of the county cup STNPC slew the giants of Blaenavon Blues and today another of the Gwent County League's bigger names comes to Rogiet: Albion Rovers of Newport, former Welsh League members and with plenty of Gwent FA league and cup honours in their history. Can the East Gwent League side overcome another team from four levels up the pyramid ?

STNPC suffer an early setback. In the second minute Albion's first corner is headed into the goalmouth where Tristan Chambers heads it on over the line. Just like last week, the underdogs concede early, just what the neutral spectator doesn't want. It is obvious Albion have some players the home side will struggle to contain - Chambers himself and number nine Mark Milliship. But they do contain them and put the early goal behind them, working an equaliser in the 19th minute, only to concede a goal almost from the restart, a superb curling shot from the right touchline by Chambers. Just before half time STNPC have a goal ruled out for offside, and then concede a penalty, despatched by Milliship, and go in 1-3 down, their chances having taken a sudden turn for the worse.

After the break STNPC never look like making a game of it again. The goals go in at regular intervals, Chambers first to complete his hattrick, then Milliship, and Albion's eighth sees Chambers go one better when he gets the last touch in a series of ricochets in the six-yard box. The final score is 1-9 and based on possession and goal attempt stats (if they existed) that would be a fair reflection. A conveniently-timed 3.15 train back to Cardiff has me heading home before it's even started to get dark.

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