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Sunday, 01 February 2015 11:32


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SATURDAY 24th JANUARY: Wepre Park, dry but chilly
FC NOMADS OF CONNAH'S QUAY 2 SALTNEY TOWN 2 (Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Div)
It's been a very long time, too long in fact, since I travelled north for a game. Various things, including the weather, are to blame for that, but when the Welsh winter rains subside for a few days, I seize the opportunity.

With several north Wales clubs on my 'visit soon' list, there are options, and although I had half a mind to watch FC Nomads in next week's FAW Trophy game, the knowledge that their local derby in the league is definitely on proves enough: I'm on my way to Wepre Park.

This is a long journey, but an easy one. The Arriva service from Cardiff to north Wales gets me most of the way, and I actually have the luxury of choosing between two connections for Shotton - leaving the earlier one via Wrexham and the slow train to the Wirral, in favour of a simple one-stop leg along the north Wales coastal line from Chester. A stroll through Shotton and south through surprisingly prosperous residential streets brings me to the entrance to the huge Wepre Park. There are plenty of people taking advantage of a bright, dry winter's day to get in some quality leisure time here: families, dog owners, runners, serious walkers and of course the players, officials and supporters of FC Nomads and Saltney, already assembling at the Nomads' ground just to the right of the entrance road. Currently it's a railed off pitch, with two portable dugouts sitting on the banking on the south side of the pitch. In due course, to support promotion ambitions, Nomads plan to erect a perimeter fence and a stand (also atop the banking).

FC Nomads were only formed in 2009 when the old Connahs Quay Nomads club was taken over and appeared to be heading for an unwanted merger. The breakaway club started at the bottom and have worked their way up to tier 3 of the pyramid (two below the original club now called, unappealing, Gap Connahs Quay; they haven't met in senior competition yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

There's just time for a quick visit to the café/visitor centre just beyond the ground near the entrance to the woods, and the purchase of an excellent programme from the enthusiastic home officials, before strolling over to the pitch, avoiding the muddiest areas whilst also searching for a spot not too exposed to the chilly wind.

The sides look quite well-matched: although Nomads, in red, have the better early chances, Saltney are battling for everything and will not surrender to their local rivals without a battle. Really, the home side should be a couple of goals to the good by half-time, but fail to find a way through. As often happens in this situation, they pay the price for this soon after the break when Saltney's centre-forward Jake Gibbons turns to hit a low shot under keeper Neild. This spurs Nomads into action and they patiently build a comeback, finally getting on terms through Wayne Edwards in the 67th minute, and going in front 8 minutes later with a downward header from top scorer Aled Reece.

This appears likely to be enough, but Saltney don't give up and ensure the last fifteen minutes are a battle. Their reward comes very late, the result of a spell of pressure and a loose ball from a half-clearance, and a low shot to equalise. Nomads will feel they should have won, Saltney will say they earned their point. For the neutral, a very enjoyable day out and great to visit an up-and-coming club in north-east Wales.

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