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Saturday, 07 December 2013 20:01

SILENCE (NOT JUST A MINUTE)

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SATURDAY 7TH DECEMBER: Jenner Park. Drizzly.
RHOOSE 1 BALA TOWN 6 (Welsh Cup Round 3)
The last 32 of the cup - fifteen ties to choose from (the sixteenth having been played on Friday night); but I'm not able to head off on a long journey this week, so the choice is narrowed down to two south Wales ties, Aberdare v Prestatyn, Rhoose v Bala.

Both involve Welsh Premier sides visiting lower league opposition. Hard to choose, and in the end the easier journey to Barry wins out: I can also maintain my run of seeing Bala Town on a sequence of Welsh Cup away games in this part of the world.

No rugby crowds to contend with, and after the nightmare travel of autumn internationals it's a relief to travel though Cardiff city centre and only encounter a bit of Christmas shopping congestion. The outward journey is uneventful via Cadoxton, down Vere Street, which never gets any more salubrious, and up Gladstone Road to Jenner Park, with a little light drizzle in the air on a rather dull, quiet Saturday. Dull and quiet inside the ground too, for Rhoose have few supporters, and Bala haven't brought many down this close to Christmas. So no atmosphere, and the home club aren't doing anything to change that, with no music over the tannoy. But surely they'll announce the teams to get us in the mood ? Er... no, they won't. Odd this, as they do use the tannoy to announce a minute's silence to remember Nelson Mandela. It's impeccably observed, but then with only around 100 in the stadium and the mood relaxed, subdued even, it was never really going to be otherwise.

And so to the match, recognised in the programme as Rhoose's biggest match-day ever. They've come a long way in a short space of time, from local football to the Welsh League, but Bala operate three division above them. On the other hand, Bala have had a moderate autumn and confidence may be fragile. So if Rhoose could get an early goal....

Such illusions are shattered within six minutes: Bala start far more confidently and Rhoose's defence appears caught in the headlights. First Kieran Smith heads a cross into the top corner (4 minutes) and then the same player meets a corner from the right and sends a drive flashing through a crowd of players for 0-2 (6 minutes). He's on a hat-trick, with 84 minutes to complete it - what odds on that ?

Two down after six minutes, Rhoose need to stem the tide, and in fact they do. That's not to say Bala don't continue to create chances, but as the first half progresses Rhoose have a couple of their own and the game becomes less one-sided. Just when they seem to be getting a foothold, they concede again on 44 minutes, Mark Jones scoring off the crossbar. 0-3 at half time and any hopes of the game being revived as a contest are dashed.

The first half has ended in another bout of steady drizzle, but this one doesn't abate like earlier ones. In fact, during half time while I'm preoccupied with tweets and conversations under cover, it becomes unaccountably dark and wet outside. The second half starts in damp conditions and the Jenner Park pitch is already getting squelchy in parts. Five minutes into the half Mark Connolly adds a fourth Bala goal and interest shifts to scores from elsewhere, this tie now an academic question of 'how many?'. Substitute Ian Sheridan and Tony Davies add headed goals, while Rhoose keep plugging away without reward. Just as it seems the home support will be left with nothing to cheer, James Dixon converts a low cross in stoppage time to make the final score 1-6. Still emphatic, but it's a consolation at least.

Elsewhere today, there's been drama, there have been upsets. I've watched the lowest-key, most one-sided tie of the round, one of 100 spectators in a stadium that can hold thousands. A minute's silence followed by ninety quiet minutes. In this game, every week involves making a choice, and I can't get it right all the time.

Read 5312 times Last modified on Saturday, 28 December 2013 20:23

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