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Tuesday, 21 November 2017 10:32

The Lower Mountain Featured

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SATURDAY 18th NOVEMBER. Argoed Sports Ground, sunny and cold.

The risk of adverse weather generally puts me off long journeys in November, but with a decent forecast for north-east Wales, after a quiet week, I'm fairly confident in sticking to my original, tentative, choice from the Trophy 4th Round draw - a first-ever visit to Mynydd Isa, whose ground I missed out on when the previous club played Cymru Alliance football there, a decade ago.

The 1.30 kick off dictates an early start: in fact, to be safe, a VERY early start. There's enough slack in my schedule today, and enough alternative routings, not to worry about the inevitable disruptions on the trains. I make it to Wrexham in time for a connection to Buckley and a leisurely hour's stroll across town and up Pren Hill to Mynydd Isa. As the names imply, it's not all flat, but they do seem to be a tad modest with their names around here: on the way I passed Little Mountain, and now I'm at Mynydd Isa meaning 'Lower Mountain'.

The Argoed Sports Centre is tucked away in a residential area between Buckley and Mold, one of those venues you have to research in advance. I have, and so locating Snowdon Avenue is simple enough. Once there, the railed pitch is visible at the far end of the complex, on a raised plateau above the cricket pitch. There are reminders of the ground's past - the remains of not one, but three, derelict stands. I'm one of under twenty people spectating today in the biting wind up here. But at least the sun's shining and it's not raining, plus the game is on - and when you've travelled for over four hours, that is what matters most.

Today's game - one of three Trophy games within about a couple of miles today - brings Spar Mid Wales League side Knighton Town to Flintshire. It's always hard to analyse such meetings, but the visitors are one level higher and having a solid season, so I figure maybe they're favourites. And in the opening stages that seems fair, as the Robins are passing the ball confidently and enjoying territorial advantage.

But as the first half continues, Mynydd Isa begin to grow in confidence. When they get the ball in midfield and rampage forward, they start to cause the Mid Walians a few problems. After 26 minutes one such quick attack puts Alex Wilde clear to open the scoring.

Knighton are level just before the break: a rash challenge sets up a free kick 25 yards out and Mark Jones strikes it perfectly past the wall and inside a post. Anybody's game at half time, then.

The second half is only three minutes old when the Spartans regain the lead - a cross and a close range header by Mike Whales. The home side are on top now, confident enough to run at the Knighton defence, and in the 60th minute they extend the lead, Whales on hand to net a rebound. After this, Knighton do their best to get back into the game, but the comeback never really looks likely. In fact, four minutes from time, the result is put beyond doubt by Adie Davies's flying header.

An enjoyable game - competitive, feisty at times, but never getting out of hand. A decent cup tie, in other words. Now I've just got the journey home to contend with - torn between bus and train options, I opt for the three mile walk to the train, and it pays off with a tight connection in Wrexham. All good until arrival in Cardiff, where the post-rugby stewarding makes leaving the station more of an ordeal than it should be. After a round trip of twelve hours, I could do without it, but it's not enough to take the gloss off a good day out and the satisfaction of 'ticking off' another Welsh ground.

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