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Monday, 13 November 2017 14:56

O when the Saints...

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SUNDAY 12th NOVEMBER Park Hall, cold and sunny.
THE NEW SAINTS 0 QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 0 (after extra time, TNS won 4-3 on penalties)
IRN-BRU CUP QUARTER FINAL

Usually these blogs kick off with an account of the trials/delights of public transport in Wales. Not so today, as my journey to the Irn -Bru Cup quarter final is by road, courtesy of two members of the S4C commentary team. Not just a lot easier than travelling on Sunday trains out of Cardiff the day after a rugby international, but much more sociable too.

Despite a hold-up while the main north-south artery, the A470, is closed for Rhayader's remembrance parade, we arrive at Park Hall a couple of hours before kick off - but we're by no means the first. Large numbers of Scottish fans are already installed in the Park Hall bar. The atmosphere builds, helped immeasurably by TNS's master-stroke in providing a live band. The fans sing along merrily and the bar does a roaring trade. Numbers build as the match approaches, the most common question being "where can we get a programme?" You can't - they've sold out an hour before kick off.

After the conviviality of the warm clubhouse, we turn our attention to the football match out in the cold. The novelty of the SPFL's cup format under its IrnBru sponsorship continues to divide opinion, but you'll hear no criticism from anyone here today. It's an important game, and both sides are taking it seriously - Queens have named a full-strength side, including former Scottish international James McFadden and ex-Swansea City man Stephen Dobbie. This seems to make the visitors favourites, although past games between Welsh Premier and Scottish Championship clubs have been extremely close. Hard to find cause for optimism in my own 2017 record in this competition: two games, two Welsh defeats.

Monday, 13 November 2017 11:14

Undy downed

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SATURDAY 11th NOVEMBER The Causeway, damp and overcast.
UNDY ATHLETIC 1 LLANELLI TOWN 2 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Division One)

Wet overnight weather casts doubt on this Saturday's fixtures, but a mid-morning assurance from Undy that their pitch isn't (yet) waterlogged is enough for me. I set off for the Gwent levels, not that far but not the easiest journey either, as Undy is served by just one bus an hour from Newport. Train times are more convenient, so I travel to Severn Tunnel Junction, having completely forgotten that it's a two mile walk without footpaths. I pay the price for forgetfulness, constantly having to step onto the sodden grass verge to avoid traffic.

Undy's Causeway ground is a work in progress at present. Six foot mesh fence units block off most of the pitch perimeter rail, and on the car park side there's a building site, where the base of a new seated stand is in place. None of this is a problem to me, as I've come partly to see how (or rather if) work towards Tier 2 criteria is progressing and partly to watch promotion favourites Llanelli Town for the first time this season. With a reasonable turn out of visiting fans, the work does mean that unobscured views of the pitch are in short supply. I just hope the rain holds off.

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 14:43

Avoiding the banana skin

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SATURDAY 4th NOVEMBER: Felindre Road, dry and sunny but chilly.
PENCOED ATHLETIC 1 PONTYPRIDD TOWN 3 (JD Welsh Cup Round 2)
With three South Wales Alliance teams at home in today's Welsh Cup Second Round, all underdogs hoping for an upset, it's a question of which one to choose: Caerphilly is closest, but I've been there this season; Penydarren v STM is tempting and with any rain forecast would have been best, but there was a shock when these sides met in the Trophy, so surely it won't happen again? It's so long since I've been to Pencoed that eventually I decide on their game with Pontypridd.

Pencoed is close to Bridgend and on the main railway line - but still manages to be rather poorly served by public transport. One train an hour stops here (several more flashing past), while there's also an hourly bus between Bridgend and Pontypridd. All of which means that I have to travel early and spend almost an hour pottering around. I can now confirm, there's not a lot to see in Pencoed.

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 14:39

Pillaged

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SATURDAY 28th OCTOBER. Waunfawr Park, sunny intervals.
CWMCARN ATHLETIC 1 HAKIN UNITED 8 (FAW TROPHY ROUND 3)
With the weather calming down after its recent excesses, there's a full programme of football going ahead on this, the last Saturday in October. But no need to scan the fixture lists - my choice is already made.

This is the match I should have been at last Saturday. I was glad when it was called off in mid-morning, because I didn't fancy a storm-affected trip to a ground without cover, with every risk of postponement. Today, however, its appeal is irresistible. A couple of buses get me to Cross Keys, where the Sirhowy flows into the Ebbw, and where Gwent League newcomers Cwmcarn Athletic play in Waunfawr Park.

Thursday, 26 October 2017 08:41

Football v Brian

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SATURDAY 21st OCTOBER. Cyncoed Campus - stormy
CARDIFF MET 2 NEWTOWN 0 (JD Welsh Premier League)
Sometimes the weather forecast can't be ignored. The dire warnings of "Storm Brian" arriving hot on the heels of his evil sister Ophelia have already put me off a lengthy trip to north Wales for FAW Trophy action. Then the heavy rain scuppers Plan B as well (Trophy action nearer home) and with games on grass being called off throughout Saturday morning, Plan C has to be 'head for 3G'.

Fortunately there's Welsh Premier action at Cardiff Met, just a 15 minute bus ride away. The bad news is that it's ALWAYS windy at Cyncoed, so what's it going to be like as the worst of Brian's gales start to batter Cardiff? Walking up from the bus, it's quiet on the streets (aside from the howling wind, that is). Roath Park, usually full of walkers, joggers and families, is deserted. Cyncoed campus however, is busier with students involved in various sports.

Inevitably, the weather has an effect on the attendance. A few may have come here because other games were off, but many (even those living on campus) won't have fancied getting a soaking in gale-force winds. Fair-weather fans. Or possibly the sensible ones, I ponder, as I take up position at the back of the stand: hopes of sheltering from the rain are quickly dashed, it's simply blowing in.

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