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Friday, 05 September 2014 18:58

Tale of two halves

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SATURDAY 30th AUGUST, Bettws Lane and Rhiw Ddar. Warm and dry.
MALPAS UNITED 3 LLANWERN 2 (FAW Welsh Cup 1st Qualifying Round)
TAFF'S WELL 1 ABERDARE TOWN 2 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 1)

Welsh Cup day, and plenty of games to choose from. I've dithered between several ties, rejecting my original choice as no proper programme will be issued. Instead I opt for Malpas United, of the Gwent County League, who have a tough home tie against strong Welsh League Division 2 side Llanwern. They're doing a programme, but the downside s that I have to travel via Newport, where pre-NATO summit protests threaten to cause disruption.

Anticipating the worst, I head early to Newport, avoid the back of the station where I believe the protest march will be gathering, and exit from the front. There are lots of police on duty, wearing unusual special pale blue jackets and caps. There's a much smaller number of protesters, dressed as you'd expect (like a Glastonbury crowd without the tents and backpacks), some carrying colourful flags. They're about as unthreatening as any group of people could be, and none of this delays me in the slightest.

Friday, 05 September 2014 18:54

Half a Hop is better than...

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Sunday 24th / Saturday 25th August - NORTH WALES GROUNDHOP

For several days I didn't expect to be making the trip north this weekend, expecting to be needed as nurse, cook, shopper etc at home. But I've been persuaded to travel up on Saturday night - with cover in place at home - and I'll get to join the Welsh Groundhop for days 3 and 4 after all. Half a hop is better than no hop, even though my record of attending every single Welsh Groundhop game ever staged is now gone. I catch the train to Chester, rendezvous with two coaches of very weary hoppers at 10.45 (they look as tired as I feel), and look forward to Sunday morning.

Friday, 05 September 2014 18:52

Clouds and Silver Linings

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SATURDAY 23rd AUGUST: Cantonian High School, warm, sunshine and showers

I had my Bank Holiday weekend mapped out months ago, but not all plans become reality, even the best laid. Instead of groundhopping in North Wales at Pwllheli, Nefyn and Barmouth today, I'm still in Cardiff. A domestic emergency meant travelling to the groundhop on Friday was impossible, but all is not lost – I can take in a local FAW Trophy game. An easy choice too, a new ground and club for me, only a few miles across Cardiff.

Sunday, 17 August 2014 07:45


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SATURDAY 16th AUGUST: Penypound Stadium, dry, cloud, sunny spells and a cool breeze.
MONMOUTH TOWN 1 CARDIFF MET. UNIVERSITY 1 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 1)

Domestic football returns, on a pleasant mid-August day - somewhat drier and warmer than some of the opening days I can remember. Welsh League Division 1 champions Monmouth have been scheduled to face the Division 2 champions, the students of Cardiff Met, an interesting fixture in itself, but made even more so by Monmouth's controversial move to Penypound Stadium, Abergavenny over the summer.

While the relocation of any football club is bound to be controversial, and we all have misgivings about the 'franchising effect', I do find it hard to oppose this one. The Kingfishers were unable to upgrade their facilities in their home town and any thoughts of continuing this club's rise would have to be abandoned if they'd stayed there. Welsh League clubs have come in for some heavy criticism for lack of ambition recently... so here's one showing real ambition and taking a gamble: sixteen miles down the road, Penypound, one of our iconic old grounds, had lacked a senior tenant for well over a decade and its future was uncertain.

Friday, 25 July 2014 06:44


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TUESDAY 22nd JULY : The Corbett Sports Stadium, Rhyl - hot and sunny.
THE NEW SAINTS 0 SLOVAN BRATISLAVA 2 (UEFA Champions League 2nd Qua. Round, 2nd Leg)

Getting to The New Saints European games is usually easier than this: their home base in Oswestry, and even their usual alternative big game venue of Wrexham, are both very accessible from the south and from England. But tonight, their Champions League game requires another journey west, to Rhyl, because the Park Hall 3G pitch requires replacement to obtain a UEFA licence, and The Racecourse is unavailable. So I have had to arrange another overnight stop in Crewe: as for the Bangor trip recently, I drop my bags off there before catching the train along the north Wales coast, excitement mounting, for tonight's game has taken on extra significance after the Europa League disappointments, and TNS's strong performance in last week's first leg. If they can pull off a win tonight, 2014 can go down in Welsh Premier history as a turning point. If not.... well, let's not think about that unless we have to.

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