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Tuesday, 24 October 2017 07:23

THE REAL ROOTS

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SATURDAY 14th OCTOBER. Barry Athletic Ground, mild, cloudy and dry.
BARRY ATHLETIC 2 AFC ABERCYNON 4 (SWFA Senior Cup)
It's always fun to vary the levels of football watched: each has its differing attractions. So from the pinnacle of the game at international level on Monday, five days later I'm down at district level for the South Wales FA Senior Cup, a competition that brings together clubs from ten different local leagues. My chosen tie pits Vale of Glamorgan league against Aberdare Valley League. This is the grassroots - a much over-used term, and indeed often mis-used. Those accustomed to watching English pro football seem to lump all non-league and domestic football together as "grass roots" - indeed I read one blog only this week using this term to describe visits to games at the second tier of Welsh football! I'm six levels lower here today. THIS is he real grass roots. 

Sunday, 01 October 2017 20:18

BRICKING IT

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SATURDAY 30th SEPTEMBER. Clwyedog Park, showery.
BRICKFIELD RANGERS 6 LEX GLYNDWR 2 (WNL Wrexham Area Premier Division Cup)


I'm motivated to get in a longer trip this week, thinking that it will soon become harder when bad weather and postponements start to kick in. After researching a few really long and tricky options, I opt out of a 6am start and settle for 'just' the eight hour round trip to Wrexham, ticking off a rather overdue visit to Brickfield Rangers.

It's a familiar and relatively straightforward journey up through the marches, and it could be a pleasant one too, if only Arriva Trains Wales would provide enough capacity on their busiest services. This one, bound to be busy with Chester racegoers added to the usual Saturday mid-morning peak, is served by a two carriage unit. Predictably, after Hereford, it becomes overcrowded and noisy. It's a relief to step off onto the platform at Wrexham (after battling my way off the train).

After pottering around Wrexham, dodging showers and choirs (there's a street singing festival on) I head a mile or so out of town in search of today's venue. A couple of years ago Brickfield moved from their old base at Court Road playing fields to a new home at Clwyedog Park. The move was barely a mile, but a huge step in terms of the potential. My one and only visit to Court Road left me shocked that such a venue hosted football at step 3 of the pyramid, but Clwyedog Park is already way superior, even though the club regard it as still a work in progress. Cover at both ends will be supplemented with a further seated stand along one side, enabling the ground to meet FAW criteria for the Huws Gray Alliance, the next level up.

Saturday, 09 September 2017 19:15

The Upset

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SATURDAY 9th SEPTEMBER. Machen Recreation Ground, sunshine & showers
MACHEN AFC 4 ELY RANGERS 0 (JD Welsh Cup, 2nd Qualifying Round)
This early in the cup competitions, we're always spoiled for choice: there are matches in every region of Wales that I'd like to watch today, but I can only be in one place and I've had a feeling ever since the draw was made that it would be Machen. Their home tie with Ely Rangers of the Welsh League was just one of those that immediately stood out - all the usual reasons: biggest game the home club has staged, potential shock, ground I've not been to before...

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 10:50

Rocky

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SATURDAY 2nd SEPTEMBER. The Your Radio 103FM Stadium. Sunny and warm.
DUMBARTON 2 CONNAH'S QUAY NOMADS 1 after extra time (IrnBru Cup, Round 2)
The international break weekend means no domestic football in Wales. I could stay and watch the Wales v Austria game in Cardiff, and normally I do watch Wales home games. But this time it clashed with the entry of the Welsh clubs into the IrnBru Cup... and I do love watching Welsh clubs in cross border competition. A northern odyssey for me then; but probably just an odd choice to many, I'm sure.

Using a combination of cheap flight to get to Glasgow, and train back, I'm able to do the round trip in around 30 hours, spending the night near Glasgow Airport and travelling up to Dumbarton in the morning, with time to explore the Rock of the Clyde, the castle and the town before lunch. Then back to the foot of the Rock - to the hideously-named 'Your Radio 103FM Stadium'. It's literally beneath the towering Rock with its fortified ramparts, but oddly you can't see the Rock as a spectator, because the single stand has been built facing away from it. Even stranger is the fact that this is truly a one-sided ground - no spectator access to the other three sides of the pitch.

I present myself to Reception, clutching the email confirming I'll be on the list for press access. Predictably, the steward tells me I'm not. Why are arrangements for visiting media always so shambolic? (I've had this in San Marino, Liechtenstein and now Scotland in the last year or so). Still, on this occasion it turns out it doesn't matter - stewarding is laid-back and I'm more or less free to go where I choose anyway.

The next surprise is the crowd - or rather lack of it. Where is everybody? Some Dumbarton fans (Sons they call themselves) may have gone to see Scotland in Lithuania, but surely not most of them? The attendance here would be disappointing at a top Welsh Premier fixture.

Sunday, 20 August 2017 12:14

Leonine

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SATURDAY 19th AUGUST Ysgol Penyffordd, sunny intervals
PENYFFORDD LIONS 3 CEFN ALBION 2 (JD Welsh Cup First Qualifying Round)

Back to north-east Wales again for the fourth time already this season, but some of the most interesting Welsh Cup ties were in this area. Several new entrants to the cup to choose from, plus some more established clubs on my 'must visit' list, and in the end the decision came down to who was issuing a programme.

Now I'm not obsessive about programmes. I happily go to plenty of games where they aren't available, but the Welsh Cup is different: it's a competition rule that a programme or team-sheet be available for spectators, and while it may not be aggressively enforced by the FAW, failing to issue does rather disrespect our oldest and most prestigious cup competition and its sponsors. So It was good news when Penyffordd Lions confirmed they'd produce something for their game with Cefn Albion. Especially as the visit of Cefn Albion is exactly the type of cup match I look for - useful lower league side entertaining a club from higher up the pyramid.

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