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Tuesday, 08 May 2018 14:33

Seventy Years of Hurt

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SATURDAY 5th MAY : Ty Isaf Park, warm and sunny.
ABERTILLERY EXCELSIORS 0 YNYSDDU WELFARE 2 (Gwent FA Amateur Cup final)

The beginning of a bank holiday heatwave banish all worries about postponements. Normal football apparel of thermal layers and woolly hats are discarded, instead I dig out sunblock and shades ahead of a short trip to Risca United's old ground, now used for the Gwent FA's finals. Of the two main finals (Senior and Amateur, open to clubs from different levels of the county's leagues) it's the Amateur one which appeals, involving two clubs I've had particularly friendly contact with over the years.

The finalists are both Gwent County Division 2 clubs, but Ynysddu come here as favourites after winning the division recently. The other big advantage they have is former WPL man Lee Kendall in goal. However, the club's cup pedigree isn't great: six losing cup finals in recent times, and seventy years since they last lifted the county's Amateur Cup. Seventh time lucky?

Tuesday, 08 May 2018 14:27

Ups and Downs

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SATURDAY 28th APRIL: Bedwellty Road and Bargoed Park. Chilly and damp.
NEUADD WEN 1 BRIDGEND STREET 4 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 3)
AFC BARGOED 2 PENRHIWFER 3 (Highadmit Projects South Wales Alliance Div 2)

After days of watching the weather forecast and looking out for a fixture with real meaning, I've settled on a plan: a trip to Bargoed, and two fixtures on either side of the valley. The first game has bearing on both promotion and relegation in the Welsh League, whereas the second is a needed revisit to Bargoed Park, before AFC Bargoed make the seemingly inevitable drop out of senior football. I can only see half of one game, and hopefully almost half of the other, but it will do.

 

The drawback to my plan is the valley itself, notoriously steep here. If the games are concerned with ups and downs of the footballing variety, my day is going to involve some physical ones. The walk from Bargoed station up to Bedwellty Road needs to be taken gently, with a few stops to gather breath - no problem, I've plenty of time before kick off at the Rec. high on the eastern side of the valley. It's rather chilly up here, exposed to the wind, but the game is on and there's a basic photocopied programme given away with admission, so I can't complain.

Tuesday, 03 April 2018 10:04

South Wales into Europe again

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EASTER MONDAY 2nd APRIL. Latham Park, heavy rain.
SOUTH WALES F.A. 2 NORTH WALES COAST F.A. 0 (FAW Regions Cup final)

Of all the FAW's national competitions, the Regions Cup seems to get the least attention. This is odd, as it carries the prize of a place in a UEFA competition. Run over two seasons, select teams of grassroots players from the six Welsh regions contest two groups (north and south) with the two group winners meeting in the final.

The current competition has been running since autumn 2016. Of the twelve scheduled fixtures, only eleven have been played - thankfully the postponed Gwent v West Wales game has no significance, as South Wales had already topped the group table. Will it ever be played now?

In the build-up to the Easter Monday final, publicity and coverage has been scarce: a nice piece on the North Wales Coast squad in the Daily Post is the sum total really. Search on the web and the fixture is virtually impossible to find (even on the FAW site!) though it's had a few mentions on Twitter. Even if Easter Monday had been looking like a fine spring day, the chances of a good turnout at Latham Park are slim to non-existent. As it is, dire warnings of snow, fog, heavy rain are enough to put off all but the most intrepid traveller....

Tuesday, 03 April 2018 09:54

Watching Crows - from a Distance

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SATURDAY 31st MARCH. Cwmbran Stadium, cold.
CWMBRAN TOWN 3 AC PONTYMISTER 2 (Autocentres Gwent County League Division 1)
24 hours of solid rain from Good Friday to the early hours of Easter Saturday mean binning all carefully-researched plans to attend first, second and third choice games and choosing instead from a small number of remaining fixtures. With games on grass being called off all morning, I go for a safe 3G option.

It's years since I last saw a game at Cwmbran Stadium, though I've been next door to Cwmbran Celtic relatively regularly. 25 years ago Cwmbran Town were the biggest club in town, heading for the first League of Wales title and the European Champions' Cup, the stadium one of the more impressive venues in the fledgling national league. The loss of backing brought an end to the good times for the Crows, who began a slide down the leagues. Town rivals Cwmbran Celtic and Croesyceiliog overtook them and today, at tier 5, they're still only the third highest-ranked club in Cwmbran.

The one thing the Stadium used to have in its favour was the elevated view from the huge seated stand, helping to overcome the distance between action and spectators. Nowadays, with the seating all blocked off and disused, it lacks even that compensation. There's the 3G surface, of course, and the leisure facilities under the stand are up to date, but to watch a football match here you can only stand on the flat area in front of the stand and peer past dugouts, training goals and other obstacles at the action on the other side of the running track. Today's Gwent County Division One match proves to be quite entertaining, the sort of game that could easily hold the attention if we could get close up. As it is, attention tends to wander.

Sunday, 04 February 2018 17:19

Cup Football in the Mud - again

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SATURDAY 3rd FEBRUARY. Ynystawe Park, light showers.
YNYSTAWE ATHLETIC 0 BWLCH RANGERS 1 (WWFA Intermediate Cup)
Another of those Saturday mornings, watching the news of postponements and mulling over the options. I note a couple of postponements to the west and more or less give up on the idea of a day trip in that direction for a WWFA Cup tie in Swansea - until, that is, Ynystawe tweet that their game is actually on. Hasty preparations and a dash for the bus.

Getting through and out of Cardiff is challenging - it's a dreaded Six Nations match-day. Town is full of the rugby crowd - more cartoon-Welsh than a football crowd, all daffodil hats, Max Boyce buskers and Prince of Wales feathers. The train to Swansea is inevitably late, the knock-on effect of the surge in traffic through Central Station: not enough of a delay to constitute a disaster, but irritating nonetheless.

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