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Monday, 24 April 2017 10:49

Bragging rights

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SATURDAY 22nd APRIL. Parc Afon Twrch, warm and sunny.
CWM WANDERERS 6 YSTRADGYNLAIS 0 (Neath & District League, Premier Division)
We have reached that time of year when every Saturday brings a difficult choice of several 'decisive' match options: cup finals, promotion deciders, title deciders, relegation deciders, all of these are on offer today. And, after due deliberation, I've decided Lower Cwmtwrch is the place to be.

I've been watching the west Wales title races closely, with both Team Swansea and Cwm Wanderers bidding for a Welsh League place, and both having to resist challenges from the reigning champions of Swansea and Neath Leagues respectively. The Neath part of the west Wales equation can be resolved today - Cwm need 3 points to clinch the title, guaranteeing at least a play-off for promotion (or automatic promotion if Team Swansea don't manage to win their league).

To add extra interest, Cwm entertain neighbours Ystradgynlais, who need the points in a fight against relegation. And, the clincher, I've realised during the week that Cwm are playing on a different ground to the one I visited a decade ago.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 09:05

Triple A

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SATURDAY 8th APRIL - Park Avenue, warm and sunny.
CHIRK AAA 2 PENLAN CLUB 1 (after extra time) (FAW TROPHY FINAL)
Having followed the FAW Trophy competition closely throughout the season, I always hoped to attend the final. When the final venue was announced as Aberystwyth, I was in two minds - Cardiff to Aber by public transport is rather tedious - but thankfully the FAW came to the rescue, and I've secured a lift with Head of Referees Ray Ellingham.

Football chat makes the road trip pass quickly and we're in Aberystwyth by 1pm. The ground is open and fans from the Swansea- and Wrexham-based finalists are already gathering, Chirk in red and Penlan in predominantly yellow colours. Programmes and refreshments are on sale and the Aber Town club shop is even open, although many groups of fans are heading off to the town-centre bars for the next hour.

Conditions are perfect for watching football - a warm and sunny afternoon, and no wind. I'm hoping the match lives up to the occasion. It's a hard fixture to assess, with clubs from such different leagues. Chirk have the experience of previous finals, three times winners and losing finalists a few seasons ago. Penlan are a newer club, but have been dominating Swansea Senior football in recent years. There have been no north/south encounters at all in this year's Trophy, and whilst Wrexham Area teams have again had a very good campaign, dominating the final rounds, Swansea clubs have a good record in the Trophy. Penlan, on their day, can be very impressive, especially if they can retain their discipline.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 09:01

Reds & Greens

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WEDNESDAY 5th APRIL. Cardiff Arms Park - sunny.
THE WELSH VARSITY GAMES:
Women: Cardiff University 1 Swansea University 1
Men: Cardiff University 0 Swansea University 1

I had seen a reference to the Welsh Varsity football games a couple of weeks ago, and stored the information away at the back of my mind, without any definite plans to attend. I'd also mentioned it to a few people and noted their reactions - best described as 'extreme interest'. Opportunities to watch football on the Arms Park - a bastion of rugby union - don't come along too often, and the fixtures have piqued the interest of groundhoppers.

As it happens I'd seen both of Ton Pentre's InterToto Cup games on the old grass surface here, but that was twenty years ago and the ground has changed, with the building of the Millennium Stadium along the south side, attached to the Arms Park stand, and the more recent laying of a 3G pitch. So I'm easily persuaded to revisit.

I had never really registered how big an event the Welsh Varsity is. I can only assume I've never happened to be in Cardiff city centre on match-day, because you can't really miss the abundance of students. Throughout our approach through Sophia Gardens, the red of Cardiff and green of Swansea are everywhere, the noise from inside the various sporting venues indicating there are huge crowds out of sight too.

Thursday, 16 March 2017 22:00

A Dr Jekyll Night for Barry

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TUESDAY 14th MARCH: Jenner Park - mild and misty
BARRY TOWN UNITED 2 HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY 0 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 1)
A misty, murky spring evening in Barry, but potentially a night of season-defining proportions for the Jenner Park club. On arrival at the ground, there's a sort of nervous tension pervading all pre-match conversations - "can't afford to lose", "must win", "six-pointer" etc.

And of course the tension is magnified by Barry's inconsistent, Jekyll and Hyde form in the league. You really wouldn't want have a significant wager riding on them - and it's this that differentiates the Welsh League title race from the other top leagues - TNS running away with the Welsh Premier, Prestatyn likewise in the Cymru Alliance, and both already crowned. Those are the sort of bets you'd have wanted to be on - short priced favourites,  preferably selected under a free bet offer to maximise the return. Given such an opportunity now, I'd go for TNS to complete the treble, and steer clear of the trappy, unpredictable Welsh League.

Actually, ahead of this game it is Haverfordwest who have been talked up as the form team, with the momentum since the turn of the year, and maybe poised to sweep past Barry. To add to the intrigue and interest, there's the matter of revenge for that 7-1 battering the Bluebirds received here in the WPL Cup a few months back, plus the 'will they, won't they' saga of their attitude to promotion to the Welsh Premier.

Thursday, 16 March 2017 21:50

In Praise of Diversity

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THE WELSH SPRING GROUNDHOP

Three days, six games in four different competitions - it can only be another Groundhop....

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