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Sunday, 06 November 2016 14:06

The Fifty-four Steps

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SATURDAY 5th NOVEMBER. Bush Park, sunny but cold.
TREOWEN STARS 1 TON PENTRE 2 (JD Welsh Cup, Round 2)

Spoiled for choice again with Welsh Cup Round 2 option today, and I'll admit my decision was based partly on travel options. Today is the first of the autumn rugby internationals in Cardiff, and regular readers of this site will know how much I dislike getting caught up in the city centre on these afternoons - the crowds, the road closures, the delays, the stewarding, not to mention the boorish drunks and all the silly pantomime Welshness of daffodil hats and the like.

So I'll do a lot to avoid travelling through the city, including the slightly convoluted bus trip required to reach Newbridge for this afternoon's game (I can go east, or north into the valleys, avoiding Cardiff, but I can't go west, which was a pity as that ruled out my other main option today. Still, it's many years since I've been to Bush Park, Treowen (more than five, certainly, maybe nearer ten?) and there's a chance of a cup upset here. Two divisions separate the Stars from the Bulldogs, but recent form and home advantage give them a chance. Last night, at Taff's Well, I saw a Welsh League Division 2 side knock out one from Division 1. What chance another Division 1 casualty today?

Sunday, 30 October 2016 09:04

The Trundle Effect

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SATURDAY 29th OCTOBER - University Playing Fields, drizzle.
STM SPORTS 1 LLANELLI TOWN 4 (Nathaniel Cars welsh League Cup)
After weeks of long-distance outings, time for a change: the cheap train fares are over and the weather's deteriorating. Besides, this weekend provides two very attractive options without having to leave the city of Cardiff. First up is a Welsh League Cup tie that brings Llanelli Town to Llanrumney. I've been waiting for an opportunity to watch Town, and their inspired signing Lee Trundle, and now a couple come along in a week (The Reds are at Taff's Well in the Welsh Cup on Friday too).

The two-bus journey across to the east of the city takes its time and I find myself running later than planned and arriving ten minutes before kick-off. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it turns out I've arrived ahead of the visitors, who are stuck in traffic on the M4. The planned 2.30 kick-off is put back, and the STM team, in green, carry on with a much-extended warm-up. The rest of us wait in the light drizzle for something to happen. The red-shirted visitors start to appear on the 3G pitch at about a quarter to three, followed a few minutes later by the three officials. At 2.55, we finally have a game.

Sunday, 23 October 2016 14:34

Visiting Hinterland

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SATURDAY 22nd OCTOBER: Uppingham Playing Fields - sunny but a chilly breeze from the east.
BORTH UNITED 4 BUILTH WELLS 0 (Spar Mid Wales Division 2)
The last weekend of Arriva's cheap autumn fares. A fine weather forecast. Just has to be a day for a long-distance trip, and the fixture lists have yielded just the answer, a visit to one of the dwindling number of towns in Wales that I've actually never visited.

However, I feel as if I know Borth. The acclaimed bi-lingual Welsh noir detective series 'Hinterland' or 'Y Gwyll' featured the town and its station in one memorable episode. Alighting at the station, after my five hour journey (bus and two trains) everything is instantly recognisable - especially the eerie, atmospheric marshland across the line, Cors Fochno, the largest lowland bog in Britain. It's actually part of the Dyfi Biosphere, the only UNESCO Biosphere reserve in Wales, and on a fine, sunny day like today it's not that scary. But I can imagine what it's like at other darker, mistier and stormier times. The railway station building - transformed by 'Hinterland' into the territory of a creepy station attendant with hobbies of model train layouts and serial killing, is now a community-run railway museum, not at all creepy in fact.

The town is remarkably linear - the High Street sandwiched between the sea and pebble beach on one side, and the railway and bog a mere hundred yards or so inland. About half a mile south of the station, in this strip of land, sits the football ground. Surrounded by drainage ditches, it's clearly a venue at constant risk of flooding - as one official says, the sea, the Dyfi estuary and the bog see to that. Thankfully, the dry spell recently means the pitch is in good order today.

It's an attractive little ground, with a blue-painted brick stand backing onto the community centre and a tea bar caravan alongside. Hard-standing along just the stand side, the rest grass. Neatly railed on both sides and the southern end. No programme, but a collection taken for admission.

Today's game has significance at the top of the Mid Wales Second division: Borth lie second, level on points and goal difference with leaders Kerry, but having scored and conceded fewer goals. If they win today - and do better than Kerry - they'll go top for the first time in their three seasons in the league. Builth Wells, who have been top already this season, are third in the table. I'm expecting goals - both sides scored four last week. Before the game, Borth officials rue their record against Builth - they've never beaten them, and last year surrended a 3-0 lead to lose 3-4! Confidence not exactly running high, despite Ian Lewis receiving the Spar Div 2 Player of the month for Aug/Sept on behalf of absent Gwion Pugh-Jones before kick-off.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 08:35

North v South in the West

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SATURDAY 15th OCTOBER - Phoenix Park, showery.
Every season I say I should get down to west Wales more often, but it's a resolution I often fail to keep. The West Wales Cup would be the perfect competition to use for visits west - but it is always scheduled to clash with the Welsh Cup, and the latter usually takes precedence. Few west Wales clubs ever enter national cups, but this year regular FAW Trophy entrants Hakin have been joined by a couple of others, including west Wales treble winners Goodwick. When Goodwick and Hakin reached the third round, and were drawn to meet at Phoenix Park, it was clearly time to visit the north Pembrokeshire coast.

Sunday, 02 October 2016 19:29

The Other Lakesiders

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SATURDAY 1st OCTOBER - Damp and chilly

The First Round of the Welsh Cup always provides plenty of attractive games - potential upsets, big matches for small clubs, rare programmes etc. We're always spoiled for choice. I had several games in mind but top of the list was the trip to Llanuwchllyn - a visit I'd probably only attempt before the winter sets in. There will never be a better opportunity, with Huws Gray Alliance Ruthin as the visitors, and the added bonus of a match programme. So train and bus times have been researched and a journey down to the 'other' end of Bala Lake is mapped out - to see the 'other' Lakesiders.

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