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Monday, 02 January 2017 09:47

Out with the Old....

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SATURDAY 31st DECEMBER. Cyncoed Campus, overcast.
CARDIFF MET 1 CARMARTHEN TOWN 3 (Dafabet Welsh Premier League)
It's somehow fitting that the year should end with a game at Cyncoed - the ground most visited on my travels in 2016. It's a significant game too, as the first phase of the Welsh Premier season nears its climax, with both teams in contention for a top six place. Cardiff Met need just a point to guarantee that, and withj a long unbeaten run at home, that should be within their grasp. Carmarthen need to win today and probably in their final game too.

With a remarkable dearth of football in south Wales over the whole festive period, the Mets' crowd is boosted by plenty of fans of other local clubs - and even by some Cardiff City supporters, attracted by the university's reduced admission for anyone who travelled in vain to the Bluebirds' postponed game at Brighton. So, even without the normal quota of students, the official attendance reached 324.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 08:59

Llandarcy: all change

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SATURDAY 17th DECEMBER - Llandarcy Academy of Sport - dry, overcast, mild
YNYSYGERWN 0 CHEPSTOW TOWN 1 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 3)
When Ynysygerwn won the west wales play-off and joined the Welsh League, I resolved to re-visit Llandarcy this season. It's taken longer to fit it in than expected, but that's possibly a good thing, as their form has improved recently.

It's a familiar ground, a fairly familiar journey, but on the other hand I haven't been to Llandarcy for years. It must have been in 2007-08 that I last visited. That was the last season that Neath AFC played here, before they moved to the Gnoll. By 2012 they had folded.

Of course, before Neath AFC's spell at Llandarcy Park (2005-2008), their predecessor clubs had other grounds nearby, notably BP Llandarcy's original ground. It's very hard to place exactly where that ground was these days, because the area has been so totally rebuilt. Even since my last visit eight or nine years ago, the main junction where it stood is barely recognisable - a huge dual carriageway now cuts through. As far as I can tell - and without referring to old maps - the site of the old ground is roughly where a Holiday Inn now sits.

Just down the road, the football ground at Llandarcy Park is not greatly changed, but its surroundings are. Most strikingly, the huge and grandiosely named Academy of Sport building dominates the south-west side of the ground, while behind the pavilion and changing room end a large modern housing development now looms on the hillside, threatening the tranquillity of Llandarcy village conservation area round the next bend.

The ground is still entered on either side of the pavilion. A wrought iron sign over the turnstile still displays the name Neath AFC. The pavilion itself - Neath's clubhouse - is now a proper café bar for the campus, with smart decking overlooking the corner of the pitch. The steps and bushy slope at this end - which add character - are still in place. On the left hand side, the old cricket scoreboard structure sits rotting away, to the side of the stand - which clearly lost its seating some time ago. On the opposite side, which used to be the cricket square, there is now a mesh fence and no spectator access at all. Even with just the three sides, it's still a fine Welsh League ground, and the playing surface must be one of the best grass pitches at this level. So it's an excellent facility for a little village club like Ynysygerwn to be using.

Sunday, 20 November 2016 20:59

It's Raining Goals

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SATURDAY 19th NOVEMBER. Swansea University International Sports Village - torrential rain.
TEAM SWANSEA 9 GRANGE ALBION 1 (FAW Trophy Round 4)

When the draw was made for the fourth round of the FAW Trophy, I immediately thought this tie held particular interest. Cross-region games always have that extra dimension, the chance to compare standards. Of course, Swansea v Cardiff also adds something, although in my experience the rivalry is less intense at grassroots level than between the two cities' pro clubs. In any case, Team Swansea being a university club, it's not quite the same as if Grange were playing Penlan or Ragged.

It's a wet November weekend, wet enough on Friday to prompt an enquiry about the pitch. Positive reply, but being checked in the morning. Despite more rain, by 10.45 the news is good - game on. I set off, through Cardiff, the fans arriving for the afternoon rugby already causing delays and congestion at the station. The rain continues as I eventually travel west, then abates while I walk the mile or two along the Swansea Bay seafront out to Sketty Lane. Just as I approach the sports centre, the skies darken again and even heavier rain arrives, drenching the squads engaged in their warm-ups.

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.

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