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Thursday, 10 March 2016 15:50

Two Games, No Shocks - and No Coach

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SATURDAY 5th MARCH: Celtic Park - sunny, cold wind.
CWMBRAN CELTIC 1 PORT TALBOT TOWN 2 (JD Welsh Cup, Quarter final)
The Welsh Cup quarter-finals have produced a couple of attractive fixtures a mere 20 miles apart, with staggered kick-off times thanks to the evening live TV slot. Clearly a fair few people will want to see both, and the FAW cotton onto this by advertising a coach from Newport, so I'm not left dithering over which to do.

Wrapped up well against a bitter wind, I head east to Newport and ahead of the advertised pick-up time I'm among a few groundhoppers sheltering inside Newport railway station, looking out for a coach. Half an hour later we're still looking for it, faith in the FAW's promises draining away rapidly. I lead the contingent of hoppers to the bus station and onto the X24 bus to Cwmbran, wondering if we'll see a coach at Celtic Park some time during the afternoon.

There's a good turnout for this game, Cwmbran Celtic of level 3 looking to cause another upset, this time against Welsh Premier strugglers Port Talbot - whose 'ultras' are here with flags and drum and in good voice. The early action looks promising for the home side, withy Port Talbot looking shaky at the back. But chances come and go, the game still scoreless after half an hour. Then , against the run of play the visitors take the lead: a throw from the right leads to a scramble in the Celtic box and Luke Bowen pounces to score. 0-1 is a harsh half-time score, but finishing makes all the difference.
After the break, Port Talbot look a little bit more like the higher-ranked team and it seems likely that they'll go on to win. However, 16 minutes into the half, a Celtic corner from the right and Rhys Williams is unmarked at the far post to equalise.

Now the momentum is with Celtic and a shock result is on - but only briefly. Five minutes later, Luke Bowen conjures a goal out of very little, his snapshot from 20 yards flying into the roof of the net. Harsh again on Celtic, but they strive for an equaliser, without perhaps quite looking likely to get it. There's one bizarre incident when Town keeper Cann handles a goalbound shot outside his area, the referee plays on, and then (after the chance has gone) shows Cann a yellow card, not a red. No-one can explain why. But that's really the last action on an increasingly cold afternoon, and everyone is thankful to get out of the wind. Celtic may have wanted extra-time (and maybe deserved it) but the neutrals heading on to Cardiff for the next game certainly didn't!

And what about that FAW transport? Entirely mythical, it seems. Luckily, there are enough hoppers with cars to arrange lifts for those let down by the FAW, and we all head off to Cardiff Metropolitan University in north-east Cardiff.

If we thought it was cold at Cwmbran, then the Cyncoed Campus high above Cardiff is positively arctic, and with the last of the sunlight fading it's only going to get colder. Unfortunately, the configuration of the university's ground means there's nowhere like a clubhouse for the shivering spectators to retreat for warmth (the indoor sports hall building adjacent to the pitch has been declared "VIPs only", which gives the visiting hoppers another cause for complaint).

On paper, this fixture might look like a more probably cup upset, but I don't see it that way. The Nomads' recent form has a lot to do with this, and I just can't see them slipping up here. What we need is a thrilling cup tie to prevent us dwelling on the temperature and other negatives, but we don't get one. As expected, the students enjoy good possession, playing their usual fluid football, but they rarely threaten to break down a solid visiting defence. Connah's Quay, however, don't offer much of a threat either and as half time approaches 0-0 just about sums it up - except on the stroke of half time Nathan Woolfe pounces to score from close range for the visitors.

After shivering outside for a quarter of an hour, we settle down for another 45 minutes, which proves fairly predictable. The students keep running, keep passing, and never give up - but Connah's Quay do just enough. When Callum Morris scores from a rebound off the bat in the 56th minute, the tie is effectively sealed, and my notes peter out at this point. Could be that frostbite set in, or maybe nothing happened.

Read 3901 times Last modified on Thursday, 10 March 2016 15:52

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