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Sunday, 13 October 2013 16:03


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SATURDAY 12TH OCTOBER: Towerfields – grey, chilly wind.
With most of the real 'minnows' from the qualifying rounds drawn away in Round 1, a long study of the alternatives has brought me to the conclusion that it's time for a north Wales trip: Arriva's discounted fares are back and this is a rare Saturday when I can use them from Cardiff, the weather forecast is benign, and there are several attractive ties. Best of these for me is Llangollen v Buckley – a simple day-trip with good train and bus timings, a level 3 v level 2 fixture, and whilst not a new ground for me, it's a long time since I went to Towerfields. And Llangollen on the River Dee is always a pleasure to visit.

The usual trip up the border country to Shrewsbury passes pleasantly, then onto Ruabon and an easy bus connection for the 15 minute trip to Llangollen, arriving with time for lunch before the 2pm kick off. And where better for lunch than in the marvellous Ponsonby Arms, offering no fewer than ten different real ales – though I confine myself to the lovely Snowdonia Ale by our friends the Purple Moose Brewery. Three quarters of an hour before kick off, I stroll up the hill by the Bridge End, over the canal (still busy with walkers and the odd boat even late in the season), and along to Towerfields, beautifully situated with views across the valley to Barber's Hill and, in the other direction, up to Castell Dinas Bran to the north-east. The canteen in the stand/changing room/pavilion building is open, a programme is on sale, and a small crowd is already congregating for a cup tie: all is well with the world.

This match brings Huws Gray Alliance side Buckley Town to Towerfields. Now Buckley are often among the stronger sides in the Alliance, but they have made a poor start to 2013-14, winless in the league and without a goal in their last two outings. Llangollen sit fourth in the Wrexham Area League, immediately below the Alliance, so this has the ingredients for a close game. However, yellow-shirted Buckley make a determined start and almost camp in the Llangollen half in the opening minutes. Throughout the first half the enjoy more of the possession and a fair number of corners, but fail to deliver a decisive strike. Llangollen grow in confidence, defending with commitment and looking dangerous on the break. Buckley have the ball in the net through Matthew Barstow, but he is penalised for a push as he went for the header, while at the other end Buckley keeper Wright has to leap to keep out a Llangollen header. Half time arrives and the game is goal-less: already the neutrals are starting to wonder about extra time and the effect on our long journeys home.

The second half starts with Wright having to make another first-class save to keep Llangollen at bay, but overall the pattern is much the same – Buckley having the edge, with more chances created (and wasted), while Llangollen have a few promising breaks but can't find a way past Wright. A few clumsy challenges deserve and get yellow cards, but the game is never in danger of turning ill-tempered. From down in the town, the whistles and chuffs of the steam train add to the occasion. As the game enters the final quarter of an hour, Buckley have now gone over 250 minutes without scoring but keep plugging away, led by their hard-working captain Josh Griffiths in midfield. The introduction of youngster Paolo Mendes adds something to their attack, but in fact it is Griffiths who finally breaks the deadlock twelve minutes from time, a ground shot eluding Ackerley in the home goal and trickling in off a post. Two minutes later Griffiths hits a volley from 25 yards out that Ackerley never sees – a spectacular goal that is probably the best scored in any of today's 39 ties.

Those two quick goals have settled the match – and removed the spectre of extra time – so the final ten minutes are pretty academic. Buckley go through to the second round draw, a tricky away tie negotiated but not in the most convincing fashion. Llangollen had their moments and if they had gone ahead, Buckley might have struggled to respond. An entertaining cup tie for the neutral, above all one of honest endeavour, and of course played in the most delightful surroundings. Undoubtedly one of those games I'll look back on, at the end of the season, as a good choice of fixture and a day well spent.

Read 5215 times Last modified on Monday, 14 October 2013 09:01
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