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Sunday, 20 March 2016 09:26

A Day of Contrasts

SATURDAY 19th MARCH - Mathern Athletic Ground, dry & cold.
MATHERN FC 2 RTB EBBW VALE 0 (Autocentres Gwent County League Division 2)
A week without rain means I can choose from a full football programme this week, but it has to be somewhere that doesn't involve travelling through the horrors of Cardiff on a Six Nations matchday. The solution is to go east via Newport and the Gwent County League game at Mathern appeals - visitors RTB are way out in front in Division Two and Mathern is a ground I haven't visited before.

Mathern lies a mile or two west of Chepstow, just off the old A48 Newport to Chepstow road, so a straightforward bus journey from Newport to Pwllmeyric, then a leisurely stroll south from the main road. Bus times mean I'm in the village an hour before kick off, so I while away some time with a pint in the pleasant Millers Arms - all is going well, a lively, warm pub with Butcombe bitter and Bath Ales on tap - but as 2.30 approaches a big screen goes up, chairs, tables and customers are required to move, and the pub readies itself to watch the rugby that I've spent two hours travelling to get away from. Time to move on.

The Athletic Ground sits just round the corner, at the edge of the village. It's a delightful rural setting, even though the proximity of the M48 motorway is given away by the big blue sign poking up above the hedge on the far side. The railed, level playing surface is overlooked from the east end by a clubhouse / pavilion, elevated on a bank with a small flight of steps down to pitch level. On the hill behind it, the whole scene is in turn overlooked by the listed, neo-classical mansion Wyelands House. It occurs to me what a varied county Gwent is - today's visitors, whose name carries the initials of the old Ebbw Vale steelworks, have travelled down from scarred, post-industrial Blaenau Gwent to this peaceful rural Monmouthshire setting. [Follow "Read More" below for full article]

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