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Saturday, 23 November 2013 21:59


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SATURDAY 23RD NOVEMBER: Ynys Park (Cwmavon Road): cold and sunny.
Round 4 of the Trophy and a fair selection of ties to choose from on this fine, crisp November Saturday. Games between teams who don't usually meet hold extra interest and hence it's the South Wales v West Wales encounter in the Afan Valley that I'm heading for. After negotiating my way through the seemingly inevitable confusion over kick-off time (the FAW website is wrongly stating 2pm, when it's actually 1.30), I head off before noon for the simple journey west.

The train journey west to Bridgend and Port Talbot is very familiar, but the rolling Glamorgan countryside is delightful in the winter sunshine today. Port Talbot, even in the sunshine, is less delightful, but at least my walk is different, out of town up the Afan Valley rather than down to Aberavon. The walking and cycle paths stick close to the fast-flowing Afan river and remarkably soon the sprawl of the town gives way to rural views, the hillsides rising high on both sides. Less than a mile up the valley lies Ynys Park, its name (Ynys is Welsh for island) reflecting the lie of the land, for the field is bounded on both sides by water, the main Afan river and, on the entrance side, a small tributary flowing down from the hills to the north-west.

Into the ground down the unmade track, and a few people are here already; no admission charged, no programme, but the little clubhouse is open and serving refreshments. I've been here before, a couple of times: the more recent being one of the South Wales groundhops almost ten years ago. Since then, Trefelin have built a small covered stand, but its rear wall has collapsed - locals say it blew down. Otherwise, this pleasant enclosed venue is unchanged, and on this glorious day it is as good a place as any to watch a game of football.

Today's game, in the last 32 of the FAW Trophy, brings Swansea Senior League leaders Cwmfelin Press a few miles east, over the west Wales / south Wales border. But where have they come to, exactly ? Trefelin or Cwmafan ? There's a village called Trefelin in the fictional world of TV's The Indian Doctor, but not on the map here. Trefelin WMC and the Boys' & Girls' Club of the football club name are really in Port Talbot, and if Trefelin exists as a place it's the collection of streets north of the M4 in a wide loop of the Afan river. Trefelin in Welsh means Mill-town. The visitors, Cwmfelin - literally valley of the mill.

At 1.30 the game is underway in bright sunshine and for a while it lacks the bite of a typical cup tie: Cwmfelin almost nick an early goal after a poor back pass, but the chance goes begging. Gradually Trefelin begin to look the more fluent side and the more potent attacking force, and take the lead after 18 minutes when a free-kick falls to Sam Balla, who floats it calmly into the top corner. But the lead only last ten minutes, a deflected shot from distance looping into the Trefelin net and prompting jubilation in the over-crowded Cwmfelin dugout. The lone referee takes this as his cue to rationalise the 'bench', sending a variety of people the right side of the barrier; which takes a while. Who'd be a referee ?

Who indeed. The busy official now has to start dealing with a series of reckless challenges, mostly by the home side. He brandishes the yellow card, but it doesn't seem to lead to more restraint and the visitors are up in arms several times. Whilst allowing for the over-reactions to opposing challenges that are part and parcel of the game - to be honest, they have a point here.

Just before half time, Cwmfelin get a penalty out of nowhere, a handball right on the edge of the box. The golden chance to sneak a half-time lead is wasted, the ball sent high and wide from the spot, and it's all square at the break. But within a minute of the restart, Trefelin are back in front with a scrappy goal, and proceed to play some fine passing football for the next 15 minutes. They're a team of contrasts, capable both of fine football and the ugly challenges we saw earlier. On the hour, Damon Thomas rounds off a passing move to score their third and they look odds on to progress comfortably now.

But then their Mr Hyde side returns, and the fouls start again: the way the cards were being dished out in the first half, it looked unlikely Trefelin would end with eleven on the pitch, and sure enough a second yellow for number 3 Beynon sends him for an early bath. From the resulting free-kick, Cwmfelin go close, but then lose the ball, leaving their defence wide open for Thomas to run through and slot in Trefelin's fourth goal; rough justice maybe, but down to carelessness. A minute or two later, it's 4-2 with a penalty to Cwmfelin (another crunching challenge), converted this time.

For the last quarter of an hour, Cwmfelin Press try to make the extra man count, and lay siege to the home goal. They hit the bar, miss a couple of open goals, and do everything but score. 4-3 would have made for a very interesting 'grandstand' finish, but it's not to be. In fact, to rub salt in the wound, a stoppage time penalty is awarded to Trefelin, converted by Thomas for his hat-trick, and the final score is 5-2; which sounds a lot more convincing than the margin of victory really was.

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