Logo
Print this page
Sunday, 22 May 2016 08:33

Finals & Play-offs

Rate this item
(5 votes)

THE (BUSY) WEEK OF SUNDAY 15th MAY to SATURDAY 21st MAY  - SAM CORNISH CUP, SOUTH WALES PROMOTION PLAYOFFS & GWENT SENIOR CUP....

I've reached the stage of the season where I'll only be tempted out by cup finals, play-offs and title deciders - no meaningless end of season fixtures for me. I've already got a short-list of probable and possible games for the next fortnight - but it was still with interest - and no little surprise - that I read an announcement by the Cardiff Combination League that their Sam Cornish Cup final would be staged on this Sunday afternoon, at Cardiff City stadium. Duly added to the list. [Article continues - click READ MORE below if not visible] 

SUNDAY 15th MAY - Cardiff City Stadium, sunny.

ABERYSTWYTH EXILES 4 RAFA 2 (Sam Cornish Cup final)

The City's 33,280 seater stadium is a pretty big stage for a competition that isn't even the local league's major trophy - it's not open to the Combination's Premier Division clubs, and is contested by those from the lower two divisions. This is just too good to resist.

I've reasoned that I shouldn't get to the stadium too early - there's going to be plenty of room. But ten minutes before kick-off proves to have been nearly too late: first there's the search for the one entrance gate that's open, then the realisation that a programme has been issued, and has almost sold out. I successfully plead with the official to sell me one that he was obviously planning to keep for the committee. Inside and up the steps, just one section of the stadium is in use, with fans of the two teams unsegregated and forming little groups among the empty spaces. Of course, it's a 'friends and family' type crowd, here for the big day out.

Aber Exiles and RAFA line up, then have team photos, before getting down to business on the big pitch. Call these teams what you will - 'recreational', Level 9, parks teams, pub teams even, but in these surroundings and on the lush turf they somehow look more capable, less 'amateur' than on the threadbare local recs. of Cardiff. The quality of the opening minutes is not at all bad, and Aber in particular look useful - which seems to shock RAFA, who started favourites. The 'black and greens' take an early lead, then double it after 16 minutes, then halve it again immediately with a defensive mix-up. For the rest of the first half they dominate, threatening to go further ahead but denied by some brave defending from the RAFA men in black and pink.

But just before the break Aber do get a third, and just after it they score a fourth, their number 20 Will Eastwood completing his hat-trick with a tap-in. RAFA lose their composure a little, with some recriminations and some frustrated challenges, but emerge from this to reduce Aber's lead with a quarter of an hour left. They battle for a third goal, but it won't come, and Aberystwyth Exiles have their hands on their first ever silverware.

The presentation takes place on the pitch, but sadly without half the losing team, who are already in the dressing room. Not that this dampens in any way the celebrations of the black and green contingent. There is praise and gratitude for Cardiff City, who have allowed use of the ground, reviving an old link with the Combination, apparently. But I think praise is due also to the Combination for making this cup final a proper occasion - announcement via social media, big venue, match tickets, programmes. If only all local finals were so well-staged!

THE SOUTH WALES PLAY-OFFS

Playoff16 upload

MONDAY 16th MAY - White Tips Stadium, sunny.
STM SPORTS O.B. 2 TREBANOG 1 (SWFA Level 7 play-off)
Four into three won't go - the South Wales FA has three places in the Second division of the South Wales Alliance, and four eligible champions of district leagues. So we have a sequence of three games to whittle them down. Tonight, the first of these will see the winners progress, and the losers forced into a showdown with the losers of the second game.

The venue chosen by the SWFA is - again, as for the Intermediate Cup final - Treforest FC, so I retrace my steps across north Cardiff and onto the rush-hour bus up the Taff valley, then up the steep hill to the stadium. Again, a three-figure crowd has assembled, and again the Rhondda contingent is the larger and louder on the night. They've come confidently expecting to see their team - unbeaten in all competitions this season - book their slot in the Alliance.

Having watched both these sides recently, I concur: Trebanog's all-action, powerful style should be too much for STM, who I've thought exhibit talent, but less determination. Although, to be fair, they've done enough to win the somewhat meaningless league fixtures I've seen, and their own record is extraordinary too - that (recently ended) 3 year unbeaten league run, for instance. But when the match starts I have to revise my predictions - STM lay siege to the Trebanog goal; and they continue to do so throughout a feisty first half, incredibly without actually getting the ball in the net. Goal count: zero, yellow card count: loads.

The second half doesn't take long to burst into life: first Dean Lewis fires Trebanog into a 1-0 lead, then one of his team-mates sees the red card for a rash challenge. The temperature of the game has risen, and it's really not a surprise when the numbers are evened up, STM striker Lewis Patterson also departing the field after a flare-up.

The game seems to have swung in Trebanog's favour - and maybe it's now being played more in their preferred style. Moreover, surely STM are tiring after their exertions earlier? But to confound us, they soon equalise, nice close control in the box evading the Trebanog defence. That has been an action-packed eight minutes!

Tiredness, substitutions, and flaring tempers are all features of the next twenty minutes. Thoughts turn to extra-time, but as it turns out, we're not going to spend another increasingly chilly 30 minutes here tonight. STM, still with the upper hand, get a penalty thanks to a desperate challenge by Trebanog keeper L'Homme. From the spot, STM go 2-1 up, and despite Trebanog's best efforts, it stays that way. STM Sports OB are promoted. Trebanog, defeated for the first time in 2015-16, must play again on Friday.

TUESDAY 17th MAY: White Tips Stadium - cloudy
CARDIFF AIRPORT 4 CARNETOWN 2 (SWFA Level 7 play-off)
Back to Tteforest again - well, why not? - last night was enjoyable. A smaller and less vocal crowd tonight and a less charged atmosphere as the Vale of Glamorgan champions take on the Aberdare Valley champions. The Rhoose side need to up their game from the intermediate cup final, and I feel that if they can, they should be favourites here, but you just never know, as last night showed.

The Airport team, in blue, seek to play football from the start. On this occasion they are not distracted as they were by Trebanog, and settle nicely into their game. Mike hall gives them the lead with a nicely placed header, but then Carnetown equalise with a headed goal of their own. Then two more goals before half time reassert the Airport's control - a Theo Richards free-kick from the touchline and a low shot from Aaron Malpas. After the break, they stretch the lead to 4-1 - Liam Davies this time - and although Carnetown quickly pull one back, the result never really looks in doubt, despite the leaders' failure to employ any of the usual tricks to run down the remaining time. At the final whistle, even the celebrations are more restrained than last night's.

FRIDAY 20th MAY - Dog Track, Fairfield Lane, Hawthorn - wet.
TREBANOG 4 CARNETOWN 3 (SWFA Level 7 play-off)
And so the play-off saga reaches its conclusion, a mile or two further down the valley at Rhydyfelin's ground. It's the last shot at promotion for the two beaten teams, and if it still seems strange watching a play-off 'final' between losing 'semi-finalists', the format does make sense, with every match guaranteed to be exciting as the winner takes all.

The weather has gone further downhill, and by kick off rain has arrived, but another large crowd lines the railings - again the Rhondda champions' fans greater in number, although once again there's a good turnout from neutral lovers of the grassroots scene. It's good to see this excellent new venue being used for big games like this - and good especially for the host club, who have worked so hard to create it.

Again, I feel Trebanog start as favourites but as we've seen, these games can be hard to predict - indeed who knows how Trebanog will react to their very first defeat in any competition this season? At least the two players sent off in the defeat on Monday are available - bans in the SWFA don't apply for 14 days. The first goal does go to the navy blues, a poacher's goal in the sixth minute, but then Carnetown level in a scramble at the other end. And then we have a repeat - Trebanog go ahead, and a defensive muddle lets Carnetown equalise. Level at half-time and truly anyone's game, Trebanog looking more fluent in attack but prone to panic in defence. Five minutes into the second half, a fine individual goal puts them ahead again, and two minutes later they have a two-goal cushion, a powerful header making it 4-2.

Carnetown have 38 minutes to salvage their season and toil away, initially without success. Then on 72 minutes a prodigiously struck free-kick from out on the right wing leaves everyone in the ground watching in awe - including Trebanog keeper L'Homme as it sails over his head into the net. The 4-3 scoreline ensures a tense final 18 minutes, but Trebanog remain calm and determined, doing the sensible things to protect their lead. Finally, it's all over, the Rhondda contingent can celebrate and we can get out of the rain. On reflection, the play-off format has worked well - three entertaining games, a fair outcome - unlucky for Carnetown, but they came up against two stronger sides.

SATURDAY 21st MAY - Ty-Isaf Park, wet.
CWMFFRWDOER SPORTS 5 P.I.L.C.S. 2 (Gwent FA Senior Cup final)
Friday night's downpour has continued through the night, although as I undertake my three-bus journey over to Risca, there are signs of it clearing and brightening and as I walk up to Ty Isaf Park, s clad in waterproofs and carrying brolly, it feels as if could have got it wrong today. At the gate, a table and canopy have been set up, and Gwent FA officials are collecting entrance money in exchange for a simple programme. The pitch is in surprisingly good condition, considering we've had about 18 hours of steady rainfall, and as the unusual kick-off time of 1pm approaches, the initially sparse crowd builds nicely, a queue even forming at the gate at one point. It may not come near Pembrokeshire's cup final atmosphere, but it still feels like an occasion.

The match, one of Gwent's three cup finals, involves the teams that finished second and third in the Gwent County League, so should be evenly matched. This is called the Senior Cup, previously contested by the county's Welsh League clubs, but a re-think has made this a competition restricted to the sixteen top division sides in the Gwent County. They don't now get to contest the Amateur Cup. It is controversial, but it's hard for the regional FA's to get their county cup formats right - and it's true that the NWCFA, WWFA and SWFA have all had similar problems to the Gwent FA in recent ties with the larger clubs disrupting their most historic and prestigious knockouts with withdrawals and wrangles over fixture dates.

PILCS, in green and white hoops, draw first blood: Cwmffrwdoer waste a free-kick and are left stretched by the breakaway, conceding a 4th minute goal. Two minutes later, the claret and blues level with a back-post header - no cagey, goal-less cup final stalemates here!

The return of the rain then sends everyone, including me, scuttling for cover, but Cwmffrwdoer thrive in it and begin to assert control; by half-time are almost out of sight, 4-1 ahead with some goals from attractive team moves. This makes the second half a little dull, as PILCS battle valiantly to get back in the game, without reward until the 70th minute. There follows a period when the comeback might just be on, but then, four minutes from time, a piece of individual skill and persistence from Brad Baker leads to him slotting Cwmffrwdoer's fifth goal inside the post and it's all over. In heavy rain, the presentations take place, forward Dwain Hunt getting a man-of-the-match memento - notable as he wasn't on the scoresheet - and then Cwmffrwdoer get to be the first Pontypool team ever to lift the extraordinarily large and impressive trophy - surely one of the biggest in Welsh football. They then have to do the obligatory team photo in a rain-lashed goalmouth, sing the 'Championes' song, before they are finally allowed to go and have a (well-earned) drink.

Doer upload

 

Read 3281 times Last modified on Sunday, 22 May 2016 08:44

Related items

© Copyright 2013 Welsh Football