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Tuesday, 30 October 2018 10:17

The Case of the Moveable Kick-Off time Featured

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SATURDAY 27th OCTOBER. Gresford Colliery Club, cold but sunny.
OFFA ATHLETIC 1 FC NOMADS 3 (FAW Trophy Round 3)

The last 64 of the FAW Trophy, 32 games to choose from. Of course, there are plenty closer to home than the one I've picked, but travelling north has been out of the question for four weeks (the dreaded rail replacement buses) so I feel in need of a long distance away-day while the weather still holds and grounds aren't waterlogged. By this stage of the competition, there tend not to be many venues I haven't visited before, but Offa Athletic's Gresford Colliery Club ground is one on my list.

The weather has changed since last week. It's bitterly cold as I set off for Wrexham, the thermal layers making an early seasonal reappearance. But it's dry, so no need to worry about postponement. Instead, I have to worry about actually getting to the game - my train turns out to have been delayed at Carmarthen and turns up nearly half an hour late at Cardiff. For the next two hours, instead of sitting back and enjoying the journey up the borders, I'm fretting that I may miss the connection to Wrexham, which, the train conductor insists, will not be held if we're late. Contingency plan: catch the next Wrexham service an hour later and dash by taxi, just enough time to make the 2.30 kick off.

In the end, I make my connection at Shrewsbury with five minutes to spare, shivering on the platform in an icy wind. So it's a more leisurely journey up to Gresford, via the bus towards Chester. A short stroll around the road interchange and into Bluebell Lane and the Gresford Colliery Club.

The site of Gresford Colliery was a few hundred yards north of here, now a small industrial estate. The name is synonymous, sadly, with disaster - in 1934 an explosion underground killed over 200 miners, some of whom were said to have been working the night shift so that they could go to football at the Racecourse later in the day. The memorial dominates the entrance to the Colliery Club car park. To the right is the modern social club - if I was hoping for an architectural gem like Llay Welfare, I'm disappointed - and straight ahead is the football pitch, a fairly featureless ground, railed on two sides and lined by trees on the other two. A portakabin serves as changing rooms.

With over 45 minutes before kick off, I make myself comfortable in the bar to keep warm. Ten minutes later I glance out of the far window and see the teams lining up! Now I love the FAW Trophy, but this kick-off time thing is a perennial problem: the FAW website, and tweets from both clubs, clearly showed 2.30 as the kick-off time, but we're getting underway 30 minutes early. Thankfully it doesn't matter - though it would have done if I'd missed that train connection earlier. But it's an odd phenomenon. Even sitting inside the clubhouse, yards from the pitch, the one thing I can't easily do online is check the match time. I can place a bet, check live scores, live blogs, check bus and train times, but kick off times remain a mystery.

Offa Athletic are in red with one of those sashes, below the sponsor's logo, that are suddenly fashionable, while FC Nomads are in blue today. I count the crowd, just 16 of us, Nomads having brought a few. No programme issued, and although it's in the competition rules, I can see why. I'm probably the only person here who would have liked one.

The match is tier 4 v tier 3, and although it's not exactly a local derby, both sides are from the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area). So Nomads start as favourites, and in the early action they do look a little more confident on the ball and have more possession than the hosts. For half an hour, the score remains 0-0, but then a break leaves two Offa defenders facing two advancing Nomads forwards and Johnny Crossley runs clear to score. Four minutes later the same player doubles the lead, firing in from 15 yards after Offa fail to clear a cross from the right. Game over before half-time? It seems possible, until suddenly Offa are allowed a free-header at a 43rd minute corner, and it's 1-2.

Two minutes into the second half, Nomads restore the two goal cushion, Ilya Haycock scoring from the penalty spot. For the next 43 minutes, Offa look for a way back into the game, but really Nomads enjoy most of the territorial advantage. It's not riveting, and my priority becomes avoiding the cold wind. Thankfully, the portakabin is ideally situated to provide shelter. Nomads have plenty of scoring opportunities, all coming to nothing. Even they wouldn't claim this as a vintage performance, but it's enough to earn a win, and a place in the last 32.

The unexpected early kick off, which could have been a disaster, proves a blessing, getting me at least part of the way home earlier than planned and ensuring I've no worries about making the Shrewsbury connection this time. An uneventful journey home, so a successful twelve-hour round trip with a new ground 'ticked off'.

Read 1081 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 August 2019 13:21

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