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Tuesday, 06 May 2014 07:15

A DIFFERENT SCRIPT

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MONDAY 5TH MAY : The Cigg-E Stadium, Penydarren Park - sunny, then rain.
MERTHYR TOWN 0 PAULTON ROVERS 2 (Calor Southern League S&W Divisional Play-off)


There's a great deal of expectation, not least on social media, as Merthyr Town's season hinges on one more match. They looked certainties for automatic promotion a couple of months ago, but a few bad away results cost them top spot. Still, they have the alternative route of the play-offs, and got through their semi-final on Tuesday. Now they face Paulton Rovers, at home. The expectation comes from the fact that they finished above Paulton, the fact that the town's rugby team won the Swalec Plate only yesterday, and well... the feeling that, willed on by a big crowd, the Martyrs should be able to deal with a village team from Somerset.

It's a sunny afternoon in Merthyr, not unlike another one 25 years ago: then, my five year-old son and I made this same journey up to Penydarren Park for a vital promotion game. Then, Merthyr overcame the nerves to beat Crawley and earn promotion to the Conference. Bitter-sweet memories, certainly in retrospect, but it was a good day, one that has stayed clear in the memory. For old times sake, I walk up the High Street (not the most direct route from the station now, as the steps up by the old Education building are long blocked off), but that's the way we walked in 1989.

Sunday, 04 May 2014 21:00

TNS - AT THE DOUBLE

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SATURDAY MAY 3RD 2014: The Racecourse - sunny
ABERYSTWYTH TOWN 2 THE NEW SAINTS 3 (FAW WELSH CUP FINAL)
It's been a long week, and I've had enough of travelling. I wouldn't really have chosen a longish trip to north-east Wales today, but I'm not going to miss the Welsh Cup final just because I'm tired. It's an easy train journey anyway (although an expensive one), and by just after 1pm I'm in Wrexham on a sunny and fairly benign spring Saturday. Just time for a quick pint in Wetherspoons' The Elihu Yale before strolling back along Mold Road to the Racecourse.

The Racecourse is a neutral venue, but isn't really anything like a midway point between Aberystwyth and Oswestry. Nor, in my opinion, is it an ideal venue for the Welsh Cup final - too large for a modest crowd, and generally too dated and too depressing. Three sides will be empty, the huge Mold Road stand, the university end stand, and the semi-derelict town end terrace. Just the lower tier of the grim old main stand is in use. But it's what the FAW have chosen to use, so here we are. The crowd is congregating around the main entrance, which these days is hemmed in by the encroaching student flats which have been built on the car park. And to be fair a decent atmosphere is building, with a drum band and dancers and a mini-football game in progress.

By kick off time, the band and dancers have moved inside the stadium, and after they've performed we have the anthem, the team presentations to Chris Coleman and FAW officials, and it's time to get a much-anticipated final underway. It's fair to say that most neutrals would prefer Aber to win today. And although I have nothing against TNS, I'm with them on that: Aber have not won the cup for 114 years, and have given their supporters relatively little success in recent times. There's a feeling that, whereas full-time TNS are undoubtedly the strongest side in the Welsh Premier, maybe this is Aber's year.

Saturday, 26 April 2014 20:29

GOING TO THE WIRE

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SATURDAY 26TH APRIL: The Willows - windy
BRIDGEND STREET 1 LLANWERN 4 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League - Division 3)
I've been agonising over where to go today, and the weather forecast hasn't helped one bit. Initially, weeks ago, I had Thatcham v Merthyr pencilled in, believing the Martyrs would clinch the Calor League title today: but that looks unlikely now, unless leaders Cirencester slip up. Then I had Mathern v Cwm in the Gwent County League in my sights - something of a 'winner takes all' promotion head to head: but with heavy rain and high winds forecast, a ground without shelter on the exposed Gwent levels is perhaps not a wise choice. So closer to home, there are crucial games in all three Welsh League divisions, and Third Division leaders Llanwern are in Cardiff today for their last game of 2013-14, needing to win to push rivals Barry all the way in the title race (though they are at least assured of promotion already).

Sunday, 20 April 2014 16:55

FOUR INTO THREE....

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SATURDAY 19TH APRIL: Old Road, sunny.
BRITON FERRY LLANSAWEL 1 CARDIFF METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY 3 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 2)
Easter Saturday, and not a day for attempting long trips by rail or road, so a game of significance in south Wales is needed: and Division 2 of the Welsh League obliges, with a head-to-head encounter between two of the four sides chasing three promotion places. Four into three definitely won't go - something has to give.

Sunday, 13 April 2014 08:20

A TALE OF VIKINGS AND WIZARDS

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SATURDAY 12TH APRIL: The Observatory - overcast.
HAKIN UNITED 4 MERLIN'S BRIDGE 0 (James Williams Pembrokeshire League Division One)


In the mood for a longer trip this week, and with the weather benign, the question is "which direction?". North is tempting (FAW Trophy final at Rhyl, TNS clinching the WPL title at Park Hall, Cefn Druids getting the Cymru Alliance trophy at their home game).... but it's a while since I visited Pembrokeshire, and with their local cup final falling on Easter Saturday this year, I'll regretfully be giving that a miss. The league title isn't yet decided, with Hakin United, Goodwick and Tenby all chasing it, though unbeaten Hakin United look firm favourites. Cup finalists Tenby have an interesting game at Neyland, but though that would be a new ground for me, in the end Hakin's home game with Merlin's Bridge has greater appeal.

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