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Wednesday, 02 October 2013 20:43


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SATURDAY 28TH September:  Willows High School – mild

No shortage of interesting fixtures in the FAW Trophy this week and, needing to stay close to home, my first choice is Marshfield v Fairfield United – a new venue for me and an interesting Gwent Div 2 v Div 1 fixture. The morning rain in Cardiff belies the promising forecast but by the time I'm dropped off at Castleton it's turning warm and dry.  I make a leisurely stroll through the affluent village of Marshfield, with ample time before kick off. It's a pleasant village, on the marshy coastal plain between Cardiff and Newport, though technically part of the latter borough. It's been in the news, unusually, this week – arrests and disturbing discoveries of alleged imprisonment and slavery at a farm just over the railway line. But on this Saturday afternoon that seems so incongruous in such a peaceful spot.  

I reach the Wellfield Road recreation ground with 20 minutes to spare, but I am met with the sight that groundhoppers dread:  a deserted field, no goal-nets, corner flags.  Clearly no match here. A guy on a bulldozer doesn't know anything about the match.  Odd, but when my phone signal allows, I check Twitter and Marshfield FC have tweeted their embarrassment – the council has apparently mowed the pitch and not remarked the lines, causing the match referee to call the game off.  Desperately disappointing for Marshfield, especially in a national cup competition. And pretty annoying for me too.  I manage to recall my lift and beg to be picked up again, and around kick off time we're heading back into Cardiff for the nearest alternative, Bridgend Street v Ragged School, also in the Trophy: thankfully, quite an interesting fixture too, Cardiff v Swansea.  I walk into the ground at 2.23pm, pick up a teamsheet, discover it's still 0-0; and relax.  

 For what I see of the first half, Bridgend Street look the stronger side. You might expect a Welsh League side to dominate a Swansea Senior one, but this is so often not the case, as Swansea football is notoriously strong. Ragged, four times winners of this competition, are not perhaps currently quite the force they were. Bridgend Street, who struggled last season, have made a better start to 2013-14.  Half time arrives soon, and the game is goal-less. Will Bridgend Street rue not making their dominance pay ?

Early in the second half, both keepers have to stretch to keep out decent goalbound efforts. The home side are still looking more dangerous, with some good wing play, but lacking the final touch. Halfway through the half, and the possibility of extra time starts to loom. But just as this is being discussed on the sidelines, Kier Yip nips into the box for Bridgend Street and shoots high into the net from an acute angle – a nicely taken goal to break the deadlock. Further chances follow for Bridgend Street, and with about five minutes of the ninety left, the ball is cut back to Mark Dunford, who keeps his shot low and wide of Ragged keeper Evans.  That makes it safe for the home side, though it's not the end of the action: first Ragged's Mitchell Joesph gets a second yellow (apparently for something he says), then Ragged have a late chance from a free-kick, and Bridgend Street get a disputed indirect kick in the box for the offence of 'sitting on the ball'. They don't score from this, and it proves to be their last chance, but the 2-0 scoreline gives them safe passage into Round 3. A more stressful afternoon than I had expected.  The trials and tribulations of postponements are part of life when watching grassroots football – but they are very hard to tolerate when they're not down to the weather.  But, I tell myself as I stroll back from the willows to the city centre, I should look on the positive side: at least I saw part of a match.  For the poor football folk of Marshfield and Fairfield, there was no such consolation.            

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