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Tuesday, 03 April 2018 09:54

Watching Crows - from a Distance

SATURDAY 31st MARCH. Cwmbran Stadium, cold.
CWMBRAN TOWN 3 AC PONTYMISTER 2 (Autocentres Gwent County League Division 1)
24 hours of solid rain from Good Friday to the early hours of Easter Saturday mean binning all carefully-researched plans to attend first, second and third choice games and choosing instead from a small number of remaining fixtures. With games on grass being called off all morning, I go for a safe 3G option.

It's years since I last saw a game at Cwmbran Stadium, though I've been next door to Cwmbran Celtic relatively regularly. 25 years ago Cwmbran Town were the biggest club in town, heading for the first League of Wales title and the European Champions' Cup, the stadium one of the more impressive venues in the fledgling national league. The loss of backing brought an end to the good times for the Crows, who began a slide down the leagues. Town rivals Cwmbran Celtic and Croesyceiliog overtook them and today, at tier 5, they're still only the third highest-ranked club in Cwmbran.

The one thing the Stadium used to have in its favour was the elevated view from the huge seated stand, helping to overcome the distance between action and spectators. Nowadays, with the seating all blocked off and disused, it lacks even that compensation. There's the 3G surface, of course, and the leisure facilities under the stand are up to date, but to watch a football match here you can only stand on the flat area in front of the stand and peer past dugouts, training goals and other obstacles at the action on the other side of the running track. Today's Gwent County Division One match proves to be quite entertaining, the sort of game that could easily hold the attention if we could get close up. As it is, attention tends to wander.

Published in Football
Sunday, 22 November 2015 17:12

Vikings fail to pillage place in last 16

SATURDAY 21st NOVEMBER Longbridge Playing Fields, sunny, cold, northerly wind.

The fourth round of the Trophy, sixteen ties to choose from in all regions of Wales; it's never easy to decide, but when this east v west encounter in Risca is confirmed as 'on' during Friday, that's good enough for me. It brings Pembrokeshire champions Hakin, so unlucky to go out to eventual winners Holywell last season, to first-time entrants Pontymister - who just happen to be playing on a new ground this season.

Pontymister's new venue, at Longbridge Fields, is at the north end of the linear village of Risca, whereas their former base in Fields Road was right at the other end. Hidden away just off the main road, the newly railed pitch sits on a raised plateau above road level, and up a slope from the austere changing room block near the Bridge Street entrance. A few spectators have arrived early and are sheltering from the bitter wind either in cars of in the lee of the changing room building. Hakin have brought a few with them, and there are a few neutrals like me, devotees of the unfamiliar fixtures the Trophy can produce. As kick off approaches, and the teams emerge, we too have to forsake shelter from the wind and take our places on the railing.

The first impression of the pitch is of the length of the grass - a rugby surface, not good for football. Whether the council would have cut it at this time of year is debatable, but they've had a perfect excuse with the incessant rain of the past two weeks. In some places the pitch surrounds are seriously boggy, though the playing surface itself doesn't appear to be holding too much water.

My thoughts in advance of this game are influenced by Hakin's good cup record, in this and the West Wales Cup. If the Vikings can reproduce that battling performance against Holywell last February, I'd fancy them to beat any Gwent County side. And initially, they start with confidence, taking the game to Pontymister; though there are a couple of worrying signs - an angry exchange between team-mates in the first minute, over a misjudged pass, and the way the conditions are affecting their preference for fast breaks from midfield. There's no real pattern to the first quarter of an hour, both teams struggling to establish control.

Published in Football
Saturday, 04 April 2015 20:12

Abergavenny clinch Gwent County title

SATURDAY 4th APRIL: Pontymister Recreation Ground - mild, sunny, chilly breeze.
AC PONTYMISTER 2 ABERGAVENNY TOWN 6 (Gwent County League Division One)
We've reached that point in the season when you look for a game with something on it - cup ties, promotion or relegation deciders, they're all fine. On this Easter Saturday, there's no real shortage of such games, but the one I want to see involves Abergavenny Town, still unbeaten in the league and needing a win to clinch the Gwent County League title mathematically. The bonus is that they're away to AC Pontymister, easy to reach, with the guarantee of a quality programme, and, as it happens, a ground on which I've not previously watched a match.

Published in Football

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