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Saturday, 01 February 2014 20:20

NEW MONTH, SAME WEATHER

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SATURDAY 1ST FEBRUARY - Aberaman Park, wet and windy
ABERDARE TOWN 4 BODEDERN ATHLETIC 1 (Welsh Cup Fourth Round)


Another week of rain: postponements loom for yet another Saturday. It's Welsh Cup weekend but all the games are on grass pitches so no easy options this week. And with the disruption that Six Nations rugby brings, travel via Cardiff is best avoided too. By Friday night, I've almost convinced myself that a revisit to one of the 3G pitches is about all I can expect. So when Aberdare Town announce early on Saturday that their pitch has passed an inspection, it's a pleasant surprise.

With skies clear (even if rain is forecast) there's room for optimism. I set off at lunchtime (heading against the human tide, away from Cardiff) via Llandaff and Pontypridd. At Llandaff, there's a heavy shower, but at Pontypridd bus station, I even glimpse a sunny interval for almost a whole minute. Up on the bus from Pontypridd along the terraced streets of the Cynon Valley, the weather is not good and as we approach Abercwmboi there's a hailstorm. Aberaman Park, at the far end of Abercwmboi village, is busy 45 minutes before kick off, but there's an odd uncertainty in the air - everyone hoping the game will go ahead but knowing it probably shouldn't. At the entrance, I'm given a slip of paper that will get me a refund "if the game is called off". Looking out over the pitch, that looks a real possibility, with standing water accumulating each time the heavens open.

It transpires that Bodedern travelled down from Anglesey yesterday. They stayed last night, and aren't going back until tomorrow, so they've invested a lot in a weekend trip south. They most certainly don't want to have to come all this way again next week. Aberdare too want the game to go ahead - if it's postponed today, but next week is no better, the match will be 'reversed' under FAW rules and they'll end up having to go to Anglesey for a very tricky away tie instead. It's easy to see why a pitch which in 'normal' circumstances would have been pronounced unplayable this morning is (possibly) about to stage this cup tie.

The officials emerge twenty minutes before kick off and test the surface - the ball runs freely and they carry on with pre-match warm-ups, a good sign. At 2pm, in a dry interlude, the teams are assembled and the match, improbably, gets underway. The ball runs well enough despite the heavy surface, but the players find balance, control and changes of direction very challenging, so the play is disjointed and error-strewn. Neither side takes the upper hand, Bodedern manage the first shot but are finding the Town back line hard to get past.

Just after the half hour mark, with the sides still evenly matched, Aberdare take the lead, Aaron Jewell converting a cross at the far post. The goal has a positive effect on them and it's no real surprise when they double the lead ten minutes later, Sam Small finishing cleverly from an acute angle. It seems Aber are going into the break with the momentum swinging their way, but then Bodedern's Corey Boylan finds space to receive a through ball and slots the ball past Bradley in the home goal. Not game over, then.

Half-time: a fierce rainstorm rages while everyone shelters. inside, the clubhouse is full of people watching the rugby. Outside in the stand, prodigious quantities of chips are being consumed, mostly by small boys in Aberdare kit. The club must take more cash in chip sales than they do on the gate. The rain subsides, and the match restarts.

The respite from the storm is short-lived, and the second half is played in deteriorating conditions. Bodedern push forward eagerly, but still find the Aberdare defence hard to prise open. Aberdare have their chances to make the game safer, none better than a clear-cut penalty which keeper Tomos Jones saves well. They need the extra goal, but have to wait until Bodedern commit men forward in search of the equaliser in the closing stages: finally Small gets another goal when he gets clear. By now, in ever-increasing wind and rain, the pitch is holding water to the point where, if there were more than a few minutes left, the game would be abandoned. But the teams splash on through the puddles. In stoppage time, a low ball across the face of the goal ends up in the net from a mistimed clearance, giving the scoreline a comfortable gloss that does scant justice to Bodedern's efforts. Aberdare deserve their place in the last eight, for their strikers (Sam Small in particular) were just that bit sharper. But both sides deserve our thanks for a clean, entertaining match in very unpleasant conditions indeed.

A nice final touch: the weather gods kindly turn the volume of the storm down again in time for us to leave the shelter of the stand at the end without getting completely drenched.

Read 5239 times Last modified on Saturday, 01 February 2014 20:25
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