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Sunday, 20 August 2017 12:14


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SATURDAY 19th AUGUST Ysgol Penyffordd, sunny intervals
PENYFFORDD LIONS 3 CEFN ALBION 2 (JD Welsh Cup First Qualifying Round)

Back to north-east Wales again for the fourth time already this season, but some of the most interesting Welsh Cup ties were in this area. Several new entrants to the cup to choose from, plus some more established clubs on my 'must visit' list, and in the end the decision came down to who was issuing a programme.

Now I'm not obsessive about programmes. I happily go to plenty of games where they aren't available, but the Welsh Cup is different: it's a competition rule that a programme or team-sheet be available for spectators, and while it may not be aggressively enforced by the FAW, failing to issue does rather disrespect our oldest and most prestigious cup competition and its sponsors. So It was good news when Penyffordd Lions confirmed they'd produce something for their game with Cefn Albion. Especially as the visit of Cefn Albion is exactly the type of cup match I look for - useful lower league side entertaining a club from higher up the pyramid.

Penyffordd is on the rail network, albeit on the delay-prone Wrexham to Bidston branch line, one of Wales's most branchy branch lines. Just a ten minute delay today, so fewer worries about that than the weather, which has deteriorated on the journey north. Heavy showery rain lashes Wrexham General station as I wait, and it's still drizzling as I leave sleepy Penyffordd station and stroll into sleepy Penyffordd village in search of sustenance.

An hour later, refreshed, I find the football field behind the local primary school - not the ground used by the previous Penyffordd club, at nearby Padeswood. It's also just round the corner from the Red Lion, hjence the club name, I guess. As expected, this venue is a field without anything more than goal-posts and a marked, roped pitch, but it is enclosed, the pitch closely surrounded by trees and back gardens. The home bench obligingly produce copies of their four-page programme, and seem to fancy their chances of giving Albion a good game, despite the two division difference.

As the game starts, the Lions' confidence is justified. Although Cefn look the more threatening early on, and have a goal disallowed, it's quite even. The opening spell is notable mostly for multiple offside decisions at both ends: the lone official is hard-pressed to make these calls, and often a mere appeal is enough to persuade him, as most are given.

After half an hour, with Penyffordd now growing in confidence, they take the lead, the goal ironically stemming from an offside appeal that isn't given. They win a corner, which Albion's keeper punches away, but when it's headed back in Lee Acott pounces to score. Seven minutes later, it's 2-0, Aaron Pugh from the penalty spot after a clear trip, but before half-time there's a penalty at the other end, an unnecessary one conceded when there was no danger. 2-1 at half-time.

The second half is tense with just the goal separating the teams. It's a half of missed chances at both ends, plus a couple of straight red cards, although the game is not bad-tempered. There's also an indirect free-kick for a handled back-pass in the Cefn area, but as so often happens, this is cleared by a big defensive wall. Then, in stoppage time, the Lions seem to put the result beyond doubt - Sam Richardson racing clear (but looking offside) and squaring for Mattie Holmes to roll in - only for Albion to pull a goal back immediately. They might have forced extra time, a couple more clear chances going wide as Penyffordd defend the lead desperately. But time runs out and Penyffordd are through, the biggest result in the new club's very short history.

An extremely entertaining and enjoyable game for the neutral, played in dry and sometimes even sunny conditions. As I go in search of the correct stop for my bus back to Wrexham, light rain starts again.

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