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Tuesday, 03 April 2018 09:54

Watching Crows - from a Distance Featured

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SATURDAY 31st MARCH. Cwmbran Stadium, cold.
CWMBRAN TOWN 3 AC PONTYMISTER 2 (Autocentres Gwent County League Division 1)
24 hours of solid rain from Good Friday to the early hours of Easter Saturday mean binning all carefully-researched plans to attend first, second and third choice games and choosing instead from a small number of remaining fixtures. With games on grass being called off all morning, I go for a safe 3G option.

It's years since I last saw a game at Cwmbran Stadium, though I've been next door to Cwmbran Celtic relatively regularly. 25 years ago Cwmbran Town were the biggest club in town, heading for the first League of Wales title and the European Champions' Cup, the stadium one of the more impressive venues in the fledgling national league. The loss of backing brought an end to the good times for the Crows, who began a slide down the leagues. Town rivals Cwmbran Celtic and Croesyceiliog overtook them and today, at tier 5, they're still only the third highest-ranked club in Cwmbran.

The one thing the Stadium used to have in its favour was the elevated view from the huge seated stand, helping to overcome the distance between action and spectators. Nowadays, with the seating all blocked off and disused, it lacks even that compensation. There's the 3G surface, of course, and the leisure facilities under the stand are up to date, but to watch a football match here you can only stand on the flat area in front of the stand and peer past dugouts, training goals and other obstacles at the action on the other side of the running track. Today's Gwent County Division One match proves to be quite entertaining, the sort of game that could easily hold the attention if we could get close up. As it is, attention tends to wander.

In the first half, visiting Pontymister are clearly the better side. It takes them 35 minutes to open the scoring (a shot from Josh McLaughlin), and they have only themselves to blame for not being out of sight by this point. A glaring miss on 44 minutes is mitigated when, from the next corner, Blaine Llewellyn heads home. 0-2 would be a fair half time score, but a lapse of concentration from the kick off allows the Crows to get one back.

The knot of home supporters under the stand notice some significant half-time changes for Cwmbran, and it's immediately apparent that they've made a difference. Five minutes in, a cross from the right is touched in and the Pontymister defence is having to work hard now.

For a while, Pontymister hold out but their hard work is undone in the 70th minute when a penalty is awarded for what could be a barge in the back. The bench are outraged, although it's hard to form any judgment from the distant spectator area. Not that this prevents an angry outburst on Pontymister's twitter feed. The penalty is converted, Cwmbran take the lead and hold onto it for the remaining twenty minutes.

For a match between two sides unlikely to be involved at either end of the table, this was decent entertainment, even if I'd never have chosen this fixture were it not for the weather. It was interesting too to revisit Cwmbran Stadium - but I'm just mighty glad I don't have to watch football here on a regular basis.

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