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Saturday, 18 January 2014 19:55


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SATURDAY 18TH JANUARY: Cyncoed Campus - wet
Three weeks into the new year and it hasn't stopped raining. January is often a bad month for postponements but the ground is rarely this saturated, and every downpour just makes most pitches unplayable. So another week of rain, and more rain in the Saturday forecast, leads inevitably to another Saturday morning monitoring websites and twitter feeds as matches fall victim. After a weekend 'off' last week, I need to find a game that's on.

Now I like to catch a game in the FAW Trophy and the one that caught my interest in Round 5 was the Swansea derby Penlan v Garden Village - all the ingredients of a good cup tie there. Perfect but for the question of the weather, although on Friday night the home club report that the pitch should be OK. Come Saturday morning, it's raining, and the Met Office issue a yellow warning of rain for west Wales, but there's no bad news from Penlan: indeed, it's commented on Twitter that "they play in all conditions up Penlan". It's tempting to set off, but that yellow warning bugs me - it's a long way to go and even if it goes ahead, I'll get very wet.... So the early morning news of the Treowen Stars v Cardiff Met tie being reversed to the uni's 3G pitch throws me a new option, just a couple of miles from home. No trip to Swansea today, then. Maybe another time.

It's a couple of months since I visited Cyncoed, but since then the university's football team have moved onto the new 3G ground between their old grass pitch and the indoor athletics building, and so technically I can tick off another 'new ground' today. The way in is circuitous - down a hidden alleyway skirting the athletics centre, and in round the back. But once there, it's impressive, with more space around the artificial pitch than is usual. Apart from the long seated stand on the far side (much bigger than the old one next door), the high roof of the athletics building has a substantial overhang, so that there's shelter along much of the near side too. Just as well, because the afternoon is one of heavy showers. I think of the uncovered ground in Swansea that I passed on, and have few regrets. A little later, when Andrew Howard of the FAW tells me that Penlan's game was called off just before kick-off, I positively bask in the satisfaction of a Good Decision.

And so to the match: Cardiff Met, one division higher than Treowen, start strong favourites. I expect them to dominate possession, and win by scoring at regular intervals. They do dominate, they pass and run delightfully, but for 25 minutes they don't score. One shot trickles along the goal-line, another clips the bar. Just as the rain returns, and I'm scuttling for shelter, the breakthrough comes. But the opening goal doesn't change the game, and at half-time Treowen are only one down, holding their own despite the technical superiority of the students.

After the break, things start to change. Firstly, Charlie Corsby latches onto a ball down the left channel and takes it close in before firing high into the net, then Lyall Hickman executes a fine overhead kick that drops into the net. Treowen protest offside both times, and for the third goal it appears the officials might agree, but then the goal is given anyway. Treowen are struggling now, it's becoming one-way traffic, and the Mets add a fourth goal of real quality, Aston threading a pass through to Tim Nixon, who skips through the defence and rolls the ball past the Treowen keeper. The goals keep coming, an own goal from a cross, then a close range effort from an uncleared corner, then a long shot. Near the end, and after a spell when Treowen press and almost get a consolation, the home bench surprisingly gives the biggest cheer of the afternoon when substitute Jay Adams wraps the win up with an eighth goal against outclassed Treowen.

Perhaps this wasn't a typical British cup tie, and perhaps too one sided for neutral tastes. But, as on my last visit, the students' skills have to be admired, and on their new surface they have provided real entertainment today. Above all, they staged a game on a day when most couldn't, and for that I'm extremely grateful. It could all have turned out so much worse today, and after coming so close to having every groundhopper's nightmare day (a long journey to a postponement), everything seems right with the world tonight; even though it's STILL raining.

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