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Saturday, 28 December 2013 20:13

BROADLY ON COURSE

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SATURDAY 28TH DECEMBER : Ynysangharad Park, weather calm and dry.
PONTYPRIDD TOWN 2 BRIDGEND STREET 0 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 3)
Having missed out on Boxing Day football, the Saturday between Christmas and New Year brings a return to normal transport schedules and a reasonably full fixture list. Except that the weather intervenes and reduces that to a very limited fixture list, storms leaving many of the grass pitches of south Wales waterlogged. With several target matches lost, it comes down to questions of "what's on?", "what's reachable?" and "shall I bother?" As for the answers: a few definitely on in the Welsh League, but limited reliable info from the minor leagues, Pontypridd is reachable, and with the sun coming out at lunchtime, the lure of football and fresh air wins over warmth and the Welsh National on TV.

Ynysangharad Park is fairly busy with locals enjoying the respite between storms, but few of them are heading for the football ground in the far corner. Indeed, on arrival only 15 minutes before kick-off, I'm apparently only the second paying spectator. Ponty has always been more of a rugby town, but the locals seem truly to have deserted their football club in what could be called their season of need. The club almost quit Welsh League football in August, having lost their backer, manager and squad, but are rebuilding under new young plater-boss Dominic Broad. After an understandably shaky start, a couple of recent wins have lifted them out of the bottom three and survival - the only aim this season - looks achievable. The visit of mid-table Bridgend Street today is more interesting than it might appear, given neither side has any hope of promotion this season - both clubs are far from where they'd have hoped to be based on previous seasons, but are showing signs of recovery and are actually on unbeaten runs. The conditions, however, are not conducive to good football, for although the wind and rain has relented, the pitch is left heavy and uneven, so it's fair to expect more of a battle than an exhibition.

And those expectations are not wrong. There's not much pretty football on show, with only the skilful Omar Abdillahi for Ponty standing out. His side dominates the opening stages, putting the Cardiff visitors under pressure, though there are half chances at both ends of the pitch. Abdillahi proves to be the architect of the breakthrough when it comes after about 25 minutes: first he sends in a dipping shot onto the bar, and then from a resulting corner a stabs the ball over the line in a melee. Ponty hold onto the lead until half time, with Adam Webb in the home goal definitely still having the quieter afternoon.

After the break, Bridgend Street begin to look capable of a come-back. They spend twenty minutes pushing further up the field, forcing Ponty to concede a number of free-kicks in their own half. But none of these leads to an equaliser, and Webb still doesn't have a lot to do other than gather crosses and wayward through balls. The second half descends into a fairly dour, attritional slog, with neither side having the wherewithal to rise above the conditions and set pulses racing. An off-the-ball scuffle shows tempers are getting frayed, but comes to nothing. Then with five minutes left, Ponty substitute Andrew Coleman breaks into the visitors' box, gets a lucky rebound and takes advantage, driving in a second goal to make the game safe.

That should have been the end of the entertainment, such as it is, but with the final whistle imminent there's a final act: a pointless and silly touchline squabble between Ponty's Nathan King and Street's Craig Dale ends with the latter pinned back over the railing. Everyone bundles in, and after the offenders are separated they both get inevitable red cards. A minute or two later, amid signs that the altercation may have continued off the pitch, the final whistle goes.

Not a memorable match, but a good three points for Ponty. Bridgend Street will not be satisfied with today though: they've carried little threat and been deservedly beaten here.

Dominic Broad's rebuilding is clearly bearing fruit for Town. Such a pity the citizens of Pontypridd aren't taking more interest in it.

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