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Tuesday, 08 May 2018 14:37

Sweltering Featured

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SUNDAY 6th MAY: Latham Park, heatwave. 



Although many - okay, probably most - football fans in Wales regard Cardiff City's lunchtime promotion decider as the big game today, for those of us who prefer our football Welsh, the place to be is Latham Park rather than Ninian Park. The JD Welsh Cup final is one of the biggest days in our domestic football calendar and if this year's can deliver half the drama of the 2017 final, it will be well worth the journey.


Yes, the journey: getting to and from mid Wales on a Sunday is a challenge - as difficult in its own way as Bangor was last year, given the limited transport options. I'm fortunate to have successfully begged a lift up to Newtown with one of the broadcasters, and I'm sure I'll get home somehow. That's something to sort out later. The journey by road isn't plain sailing - an accident sends us on a 30-minute diversion east of Brecon - and it's just as well we left Cardiff early. On arrival at Latham Park, the car parks are filling up and there's a festival vibe in the bank holiday heat. Inside the ground, children's football is being staged on the 3G, but as the spectators for the main event begin to arrive this gives way to a music stage over in the far corner. If this passes unnoticed and unappreciated by most people in the 1,455 crowd, the same certainly can't be said of the RAF Falcons' parachute display which delivers half a dozen paras and the match-ball onto the pitch.


After all this, it's time for some football, although it's hardly the weather for it. Blazing sunshine, heat in the mid-twenties, glorious, for sure, but a timely reminder why I abhor the idea of summer football (a conviction that had been wavering during the endless winter and spring months of postponements). But I can't help pondering the contrast from my visit here just a month ago- something in between these extremes would be more comfortable.  Aberystwyth Town and Connah's Quay Nomads enter the stage, with a place in the First Round of the Europa League for the winners.


Logic says Nomads are hot favourites, but Aber manager Nev Powell's Welsh Cup record (with Bangor) is enough to allow a scintilla of doubt. There are conspiracy theorists too, believing it will be in Nomads best interests to lose today and get an easier Preliminary Round opportunity in Europe, but the idea of Andy Morrison not wanting to get a trophy win is preposterous. In pre-match discussions with fellow neutrals, the idea of an early Aber goal is popular. We fear that if Nomads go 1-0 up they'll shut up shop and leave us - and the live TV audience - with less of a spectacle.

At first, it seems Aber might be able to deliver: waves of early attacks, but no breakthrough. Nomads take time to settle, but begin to threaten. When the breakthrough comes, it's down to poor defending by the Seasiders, a long kick by keeper John Danby finding its way through to Michael Bakare who scores easily. Before Aber can hit back, Michael Wilde heads in a corner to make it 2-0, and with half-time approaching he's set free on the left and slots the ball past Chris Mullock for a third. 3-0, surely game over? Again, we are given just enough for that scintilla of doubt when Ryan Wade loops a header over Danby and into the Nomads' net on the stroke of half-time.


The second half might come alive if Aber can get another goal. That thought sustains us, but the heat takes its toll, the tempo slows and time slips away. I watch from the other end as Malcolm Melvin's shot rattles the Nomads crossbar and bounces away, and from distance I have no idea of the controversy or the significance - TV replays show the ball appearing over the line. What might have been?


The two-goal deficit proves too much for Aberystwyth. Eventually, as they chase the game, they concede a last minute goal by Andy Owens and Nomads' victory is assured. They celebrate a first-ever Welsh Cup win with their fans before, during and after the presentations (which involve Ryan Giggs handing over medals and cup).


After all this, there's the matter of getting home. Having failed to identify anyone driving south (or even east), I'm reliant on the trains: the walk-up fare, a two hour wait in Newtown, then a missed connection at Shrewsbury, aren't ideal after a long, hot day, but these are minor nuisances. It's been another good cup final day, and worth the effort. When I arrive back in Cardiff, the promotion celebration party is in full swing in every bar and street. The Bluebird fans didn't have to make a twelve hour round trip, but I wouldn't swap.

Read 2327 times Last modified on Tuesday, 08 May 2018 14:48

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