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Saturday, 28 November 2015 20:00

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

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SATURDAY 28th NOVEMBER: The Willows, wet and windy.
BRIDGEND STREET 5 CAERAU 1 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 3)
The continuing rain - and the forecast of even more - puts paid to plans for a longer trip today, to north-east or west Wales. It even looks as though it might be another '3G only' day, but news during the morning from Bridgend Street is hopeful, and I'd rather go there than any of the other local options today.

I set off for Splott half-expecting bad news at some point, for the weather is worsening over the lunchtime period. The car park at the Willows is flooded, but on arriving at the ground I hear that the referee has said he'll start the match. In the circumstances, I'll settle for that. On closer inspection, the pitch is in remarkably good shape - except for a couple of small patches on the stand side, where it's boggy, and the ball will get stuck. So, against expectations, it's game on.  Maybe we'll get half an hour... 

Now today's match brings Division 3 leaders Caerau to meet second-placed Bridgend Street. I've seen Caerau recently, on an off-day (on the 3G at Lliswerry) but have yet to catch up with the Mission, whose recent form is impressive. Let's also be clear at the outset - since last week I was bizarrely accused of not being neutral enough when describing a game between two clubs towards which I had no attachment at all - I do have a soft spot for Bridgend Street. They're one of my local teams, they're a real community club, and I like the way they do things; I've even been a ball sponsor here in the past. I hasten to add, however, that I've nothing whatsoever against Caerau FC.
The match starts in a rare dry interlude. Not much to choose between the teams as they try to adapt to conditions, the heavy pitch and strengthening wind. Bridgend Street have the first opening, but Ryan McHugh's one-on-one opportunity is blocked by keeper Matthew Rees. On Street's left, former Welsh Premier striker David Brooks is already causing problems, despite having to contend with the boggy patches down his wing, but an early penalty shout is not given. In fact, Caerau draw first blood in the 20th minute - a defensive slip in the mud (the heavy rain has started up again), a cross that eludes Lack in the home goal, and is driven firmly past him.

Bridgend Street take their time to respond to the set-back. Brooks remains a thorn in Caerau's right side, and eventually one of his runs results in a penalty, which he converts. It looks as though the teams will go in all square - which wouldn't have been a travesty at all - but another piece of skill puts the home side 2-1 up in the final minute of the half - a cross from the left and a neat flick by Nicky Davidson at the near post.

It's still raining at half time, but the pitch remains surprisingly playable. Maybe we'll see a whole game after all. 

While the first half was fairly even, I doubt anyone would claim that for the second 45 minutes: Bridgend Street seem to be on top from the outset, and Caerau are struggling with the pace of their attacks. Twelve minutes into the half, a long through ball takes a deflection off a defender and reaches Brooks. Advancing with two team-mates, he slots the ball easily past Rees.

The score remains 3-1 for a while, but it's not for lack of action. Bridgend Street have plenty of chances to make the game safe, but repeatedly fail. McHugh is guilty of wasting another one-on-one situation - this time rounding the keeper but rolling the ball wide. Rees makes a couple of good saves to keep Caerau in it, and they do threaten to pull a goal back at times - and if they'd scored at this point, I'd actually have fancied them to get the draw. Eventually though, Bridgend Street get a fourth, and it's McHugh - put clear and beating Rees, third time lucky.

There's still time for the goal of the game, during stoppage time: A ball out of defence to the left wing, Brooks plays a clever one-two, uses his pace to reach it and bear down on goal, floating in an exquisite chip that beats Rees from distance. A fine way to complete a hat-trick and a 5-1 win over the league leaders. Bridgend Street go top of the division, and you don't need to be partisan to say they deserve it on the evidence of this game.

Read 3849 times Last modified on Sunday, 13 December 2015 10:36

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