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Sunday, 01 December 2013 08:51

FULL OF SPIRIT

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SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER: The Marstons Stadium: dry, sunny and cold
AFAN LIDO 2 ABERYSTWYTH TOWN 1 (Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League)

Time to renew acquaintance with our national league, after weeks of watching cup football: and lo, I'm spoiled for choice today, a grand total of TWO Welsh Premier games in south Wales (well, if you stretch a point and count west Wales as south...).

Each has its attractions: Carmarthen v Newtown, a chance to see two sides whose fortunes have taken a turn for the better this season (and have a nice day out in Carmarthen); or Afan Lido v Aberystwyth, with Lido in the midst of a revival few thought they had in them, having won two games this month. In the end, it's the travel considerations that clinch it - a close examination of timetables shows that a return from Carmarthen deposits me at Cardiff Central just after the end of the Wales v Australia rugby and into the stewarding and queuing obstacles to a simple change of trains. And Arriva Trains are unequivocal - if I choose to do it, I will have only myself to blame. Their website says: "If you are not going to the event, please avoid travelling to and from Cardiff Central station on that day". In other words they don't want me on their trains today, or anyone who has to work today, or the Christmas shoppers: trains are exclusively for rugby people today.

Well, I'm going to defy this, but I'm not stupid enough to knowingly coincide with the exodus from the Millennium Stadium. So Afan Lido is my destination, meaning I can return to Cardiff while the rugby's going on - although there is the small matter of Cardiff City v Arsenal ending around 5pm. The outward journey is fine (home to Port Talbot for the second week running) although the trains are inevitably slight delayed by the time it takes for thousands of people to pour off every train into Cardiff. Down to Aberavon beach instead of up the Afan Valley this week, and a fine clear view over Swansea Bay in the winter sunshine. Into the Marstons Stadium, past the wasteland where the Lido once stood, to join the small band of people like me eschewing rugby, Cardiff City and Christmas shopping to bear witness to Afan Lido's reawakening. And in fct the small band has been swelled considerably by a bunch of Scots, possibly the most unlikely match sponsors in football today: calling themselves the "Doonhamers", this group of Queen of the South fans have become Lido fans through a friendship forged during the Scotland v Wales internationals last year, and have picked this fixture for their annual, boozy pilgrimage to Aberavon. Rumour has it they have consumed much whisky on the journey and vodka in the hospitality room, and those rumours have a ring of truth as the Doonhamers stagger noisily around the ground.

And so to the match: Afan Lido have two new names on the teamsheet, Alex Chrysanthou, signed on a month's loan from Carmarthen to boost their attack, and Gareth Couch, apparently their fourth-choice keeper, with the first three choices all injured or unavailable ! The home side make a tentative start, Aber initially looking more assured, but soon Lido are beginning to click, with signs of confidence from the recent upturn in fortunes. Alex Gammond and Ian Hiller are busy crafting attacks, and up front Chrysanthou and the lanky Keyon Reffel are linking up well. But neither side can find the first goal, despite numerous corners; Aber keeper Mike Lewis does well to tip one header by Chrysanthou over the bar, and then Couch leaps to claw a goalbound shot past his post. We're heading for half time when Aber have Lido penned back, and as the ball is half-cleared two Lido bodies lie prone in the box. Play continues, referee Ian Hughes crucially not halting play for treatment to head injuries, Aber cross and Chris Venables heads in. The home fans are aggrieved, but the goal must stand and Lido go into half time 0-1 down.

With the temperature dropping as the sun sets over Swansea Bay, we need some excitement after the break. The game could go either way: Lido's may be deflated by the pre-half time blow and Aber may close out for the win they expected from the game; or Lido may have enough belief to fight back. It is soon apparent that they do, possibly motivated by perceived injustice. Ten minutes into the second half Ian Hiller heads in an equaliser, and then after another ten minutes Alex Chrysanthou pops up in the box to score his first goal for Lido. 2-1 and the Lido revival is back on the road. The Doonhamers, oblivious to the cold, remove their Lido tops in delirious celebration.

The remaining half hour is lively. Lido have chances to make the points safe, but don't. Aber have chances to equalise, but don't. In stoppage time, Couch leaps to push a goalbound shot out for a corner, a save worth two points to the Lido, who remain bottom of the table on goal difference, but full of hope.

Read 5477 times Last modified on Saturday, 28 December 2013 20:24

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