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Sunday, 27 September 2015 20:42

A Day of Firsts

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SATURDAY 26th SEPTEMBER: Parc Ynysderw, dry and sunny.
PONTARDAWE TOWN 2 CALDICOT TOWN 0 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 2)
A return to league matters a bit closer to home, after a couple of weeks of cup action in the north-east. Six weeks into the season tables are beginning to yield some clues to the season, and in the Welsh League Second Division Caldicot Town hold a 100 percent record after five games, and with the East Gwent side in action at Pontardawe's Parc Ynysderw, I can not only check out the new venue but also catch one of the league's in-form teams.

Its several years since I've visited Pontardawe, a town about 10 miles upstream from Swansea in the Tawe Valley; the club's previous, boggy, Recreation Ground home wasn't one I ever particularly looked forward to visiting, and there doesn't seem to have been any compelling reason - until now. Their move to a new ground, at Parc Ynysderw, has been mooted for years, but at last became a reality this summer.

Pontardawe is served by buses from both Swansea and Neath - for me, the latter is more convenient. Departing from Neath's pleasant Victoria Gardens bus station, the bus works its way up to Pontardawe through various estates and villages - Caewern, Rhos, Bryncoch, Alltwen - and the journey becomes quite rural and scenic once out of the built-up coastal area. On arrival in Pontardawe an hour before kick-off, there's time for a stroll in the town centre, but it's virtually deserted. With a few exceptions, the shops here seem still to obey the old tradition of closing at Saturday lunch-time, something I still find strange even though I've lived in Wales for over 35 years.

The town's leisure facilities at Parc Ynysderw, across the river and by-pass to the south of the town, are approached through a small retail park of discount stores - a mere five minute stroll. The new football ground is on the open area of playing fields, beyond the leisure centre and an astroturf pitch. It's fully enclosed by a high mesh fence, with a small tea hut just inside the entrance, changing rooms in the corner over to the left, and a small modern Atcost stand ahead on the half-way line. Club officials - although proud of what has been achieved so far - are quick to point out that it's a work in progress, with no electricity or water on site yet. First impressions are positive, for while there's no paving or hard-standing in place yet for spectators, the pitch is perfectly level and the grass in excellent condition.

Town are obviously making themselves at home here, but are still seeking a first home win. Today's opponents Caldicot must therefore be feeling confident, unbeaten so far this season in league and cups. And they make a suitably confident start, linking up well in some early moves, but if they expected to dictate the game from the off, Pontardawe have different ideas. What develops is a close half of few chances, tightly contested in midfield. Home keeper Steve Reeve has to make the smartest save, about half-way through the first period, but there's nothing between the sides at the break.

The second half starts with Pontardawe growing in confidence and starting to enjoy plenty of possession in the visitors' half. For around twenty minutes, despite threatening, they can't find a way past Caldicot's defence, but the breakthrough comes in the 74th minute: a deep cross from the right, headed back across goal and past the stranded Matthew Sandiford. Liam Roberts is credited with the goal. Before Caldicot can strike a blow in return, they're 2-0 down to a fine goal, Dan Williams racing down the left, rounding Sandiford and firing high into the net. As Caldicot chase the game, the lead could be increased - first a good chance is squandered with the defence stretched, then Williams is inches from a second goal with a chip that goes just over.

Towards the end, Caldicot throw everything at the home side and the closing stages are spent camped in their half, but to no avail. Stoppage time brings each side a red card as tempers boil over, but more importantly the final whistle brings the three points and that important home win for Pontardawe at Parc Ynysderw.

Caldicot's unbeaten record is ended, but they are in good company, as it proves to be a day when such records tumble: in the same division, Llanelli Town also drop points for the first time and the trend continues elsewhere - just down the road both Port Talbot Town and Barry lose heavily when expected to win, and outside the Welsh League Llandrindod Wells also go down for the first time. When early leaders suffer setbacks and find their resilience tested, we know we've entered the second phase of the season.

Read 4284 times Last modified on Sunday, 27 September 2015 20:45

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