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Sunday, 10 December 2017 20:05

Two for the Price of One Featured

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SATURDAY 9th DECEMBER. Pill Recreation Ground, dry and cold.
PILL 2 RHYMNEY 6 and DOCKS CONS 1 PENTWYNMAWR 1 after extra time (Gwent Amateur Cup)

Saturday morning arrives and I have no firm plan and no idea where I'm going. For various reasons, I haven't been able to give it much thought this week and doubted I'd be up to going far. Or anywhere, really. And then the forecast of snow added another layer of uncertainty, making me wonder if it would be one of those "3G only" days.

But Cardiff is merely a little frosty this morning (though the hills to the north of the city are white). There's a host of early morning tweets announcing matches off in north Wales, mid Wales and the valleys, but the Channel coast seems to have escaped. A few games on grass are on, and I notice a report that the pitch at Pill AFC is "perfect". I'd also noticed that there seems to be another match scheduled for Pill Rec. - another Gwent Amateur Cup game with Docks Cons (of the Newport & District League) the home club against Pentwynmawr of the Gwent County. Interest definitely piqued - I'm going to Newport.

From Newport city centre, the route to Pill is straightforward - just walk down Commercial Street and keep going. This is a street that starts off tatty and gets seedier (or grittier if you prefer) as it heads south, but at least it has character. A right turn into Temple Street and Jeddo Street leads to the large community centre and the pleasant recreation ground, which has three sports pitches - Pill AFC's pitch nearest the building, the rugby club's floodlit ground parallel to it, and over beyond the patch and the trees, the railed pitch alongside Pottery Terrace used by Docks Cons, with the Transporter Bridge looming over the houses. Nets are up on both pitches, and while "perfect" may have been an exaggeration (there are some seriously muddy patches) both games are most definitely on. And whereas I'd expected a featureless inner-city park, the different surroundings and skylines of both pitches are enough to please this groundhopper, at least. Result!

Watching two games simultaneously is tricky. I start off with Pill's game and see the visitors take an early lead. At almost the same instant, there's a shout from the other pitch as the Cons go 1-0 up. After a while, I wander over to that game and see Pentwynmawr equalise from a penalty. It's 1-1 at the interval, though Cons definitely don't look like the lower rated side here. During a half-time stroll, I discover that there has been an equalising penalty in the other game.

As the second halves begin, I spend a few minutes watching from the top of the steep mound at the northern end of the Pill pitch. At the other end, Rhymney take the lead again. Over on the other pitch, no further score and few chances. Lots of endeavour but both sides are tiring in the heavy conditions. Passes and shots are increasingly wayward. There's a flurry of goals from the Pill game as Rhymney take control - I hear, but fail to see, all but their sixth goal, a penalty.

As the final whistle goes in that game, extra time is approaching at the Pottery Terrace ground. The lone official urges a quick re-start as the light is fading already. The teams continue to toil in vain for the next 30 minutes in search of a winning goal, and, in the gloom, a penalty shoot-out is organised down at the bottom goal by Marlon Street. The hero is the Cons' keeper, who saves two of the first four Pentwynmawr kicks, while his team-mates tuck away their four to take the tie.

Sometimes spur-of-the-moment inspiration trumps a week of meticulous planning. That's certainly how today turned out. With many fans denied their fix of football by the wintry weather, I can't help feeling a little smug that I found not one but two games to watch. Even if I did miss a few of the goals.

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