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Sunday, 22 November 2015 17:12

Vikings fail to pillage place in last 16

SATURDAY 21st NOVEMBER Longbridge Playing Fields, sunny, cold, northerly wind.
AC PONTYMISTER 5 HAKIN UNITED 1 (FAW Trophy Round 4)

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.

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