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Saturday, 05 April 2014 19:18


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SATURDAY 5TH APRIL: Rhiw'r Ddar, drizzly
CWM WELFARE 2 CADOXTON BARRY 1 (South Wales FA Senior Cup semi-final)
Of all the months of the football season, April is the one when we're spoiled for choice every week for games to watch that actually mean something to both sides - and today is typical. Aside from some important league games, there are the semi-final games in the Welsh Cup, and if one of those had been easier to reach today, I'd be watching it. As it is, Broughton in north-east Wales and the late kick-off at Newtown mean they demand too much investment in time and effort.

But there are also some semi-finals closer to home. OK, it's not the Welsh Cup, it's the South Wales FA Senior Cup - but any semi-final is entertaining because of what's at stake for the players. One semi pits Amateur League against Senior League, whereas the other sees underdogs Cadoxton Barry (Senior League Division Two) up against in-form Cwm Welfare, from a Division higher. And, with convenience the watch-word today, it's the latter I've chosen to watch, at the eminently convenient venue of Taff's Well FC, a ten minute stroll up from Taff's Well station.

As I head across north Cardiff, and then from station to ground, it's a mild, overcast afternoon, but the early morning rain has cleared and the condition seem ideal for football: ground not too soft or too firm, no wind. So it's a shame when rain returns five minutes before kick off. When it proves to be more than a passing shower, the small crowd clusters in the two covered stands on either side of the Rhiw'r Ddar pitch. We're destined to spend the whole game under cover.

Cwm, bidding for a league and cup double, make a strong start and dominate the first ten minutes, forcing a few corners. Given their higher status, and the fact that the opposition have several first choice players unavailable, it wouldn't be a surprise if Cwm took control of the game, though as a neutral I'd rather they didn't. And indeed, Cadoxton Barry do manage to settle, and are soon giving as good as they get in a tight midfield contest, with neither side given time on the ball.

Out of this even contest comes a sudden breakthrough: Cadoxton Barry, kicking up the slope, build a move on the left with Casey Thompson involved. The Cwm keeper keeps out one effort, but the loose ball falls to Ross Weakley and his effort ends up in the net off a defender. 1-0 to the underdogs and a potentially one-sided semi-final is turning out to be anything but. Cwm spend the remaining 25 minutes of the half pressing for an equaliser: they have the ball in the net twice, both times denied by offside flags, and just before the break Cadoxton Barry's keeper makes a couple of crucial interventions to deny them. But it remains 1-0 at the break.

The second half initially sees Cwm finding it even harder to carve out opportunities, while Cadoxton Barry grow further in confidence. The men in green are matching their opponents with some neat moves and both sides are creating half-chances in equal measure. With half an hour left, I have a sense that Cwm badly need something to go right, for as their opponents' confidence and belief grows, they are starting to look just a little bit dejected.

But despite all that, Cadoxton Barry have given away some free-kicks in dangerous positions, and finally are made to pay the price for this. One such dead ball, just right of centre and 25 yards out, is struck low and through players and nestles in the bottom corner of the net. All square, 25 minutes to play...

The equaliser doesn't knock the stuffing out of Cadoxton Barry, as it could have done. They continue to look dangerous, and force some corners and saves. But with less than a quarter of an hour left, they're undone by a swift Cwm attack up the slope: the keeper comes to meet the threat, but doesn't gather the ball, and it runs free for a fairly simple chance with the net unguarded.

2-1, but it again doesn't really change the balance of the play, Cadoxton Barry continuing to push forward and coming close to drawing level again - especially from one powerful header which clips the top of the bar. But it's not to be, and Cwm just about manage to play out stoppage time without further scares. They go through to meet valley rivals Penydarren in the final, which will be at Aberdare Town's ground in May. Cadoxton Barry can reflect on a fine cup run and a valiant effort today, but there won't be any end of season excitement for them.

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