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Sunday, 06 August 2017 19:55

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SATURDAY 5th AUGUST - Estadio de Mark Lopez - cool and showery
NEW BRIGHTON VILLA 4 BRADLEY PARK 0 (N.E. Wales FA Challenge Cup Round 1)
Heading north again in search of proper, competitive football, and it's the North East Wales FA's second match-day in their main cup competition. If Maesgwyn on Tuesday was a relatively easy venue to reach, today's is the opposite. To get to New Brighton (the one in Flintshire, not the Wirral), I have to go all the way up to Chester and then an hour back into Wales on a Mold-bound bus. All the way, watching the showers and hoping they won't ruin the afternoon. 

This New Brighton is a village just outside Mold, and home to a WNL Wrexham Area league club celebrating its 20th anniversary season. Villa's base is at the village community centre, but they've given the ground the fairly exotic name of the "Estadio de Mark Lopez" - the naming in honour of a key clubman for his efforts behind the scenes in the early days.

In fact, the "Estadio" is a railed pitch behind the community centre, with a grass bank to one side and - thanks to the village's quite elevated position - spectacular views to the south and west. Club name boards and brand new dugouts personalise the venue nicely - and there's an added bonus of the club's new match programme, an innovation this season. Together with the club's active profile on social media, and a gesture to name a charity as match sponsor for cup games this season, these are signs of a vibrant football club putting its village on the map. Even so, there are only about 20 spectators here (or 50 if you count the cows in the field behind the dugouts).

After having to take shelter from a couple of pre-match showers, it's a relief that the game starts in drier conditions. Visitors Bradley Park, whose predominantly black kit risked clashing with the match referee, are a North East Wales League outfit who actually ended up bottom last season, so we've potentially got the same scenario as last Tuesday when the WNL side ran riot in a one-sided game. And when Kris Turner runs clear to score for Villa in the fourth minute, another glut of goals seems possible.

However, despite their struggle last season, Bradley Park don't look like cannon-fodder. True, New Brighton should add to their lead, squandering some golden opportunities as the first half unfolds - but the score remains 1-0 up to the break. And for the first twelve minutes of the second period, until finally Bradley Park concede a penalty and Rhys Peers confidently doubles the lead.

While it had been 1-0, the visitors seemed to be in with a chance, but now they look fairly resigned to their fate. It's one-way traffic now, and no surprise when a smart move and a crisp low shot by Sam Wainwright puts the game further beyond them. The win is made even more emphatic by a spectacular shot from Villa's no. 11 Orsler in the closing minutes. Villa progress to Round 2 as expected, but I'd be surprised if Bradley Park struggle as badly this season in their league.

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