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Sunday, 01 October 2017 20:18

BRICKING IT

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SATURDAY 30th SEPTEMBER. Clwyedog Park, showery.
BRICKFIELD RANGERS 6 LEX GLYNDWR 2 (WNL Wrexham Area Premier Division Cup)


I'm motivated to get in a longer trip this week, thinking that it will soon become harder when bad weather and postponements start to kick in. After researching a few really long and tricky options, I opt out of a 6am start and settle for 'just' the eight hour round trip to Wrexham, ticking off a rather overdue visit to Brickfield Rangers.

It's a familiar and relatively straightforward journey up through the marches, and it could be a pleasant one too, if only Arriva Trains Wales would provide enough capacity on their busiest services. This one, bound to be busy with Chester racegoers added to the usual Saturday mid-morning peak, is served by a two carriage unit. Predictably, after Hereford, it becomes overcrowded and noisy. It's a relief to step off onto the platform at Wrexham (after battling my way off the train).

After pottering around Wrexham, dodging showers and choirs (there's a street singing festival on) I head a mile or so out of town in search of today's venue. A couple of years ago Brickfield moved from their old base at Court Road playing fields to a new home at Clwyedog Park. The move was barely a mile, but a huge step in terms of the potential. My one and only visit to Court Road left me shocked that such a venue hosted football at step 3 of the pyramid, but Clwyedog Park is already way superior, even though the club regard it as still a work in progress. Cover at both ends will be supplemented with a further seated stand along one side, enabling the ground to meet FAW criteria for the Huws Gray Alliance, the next level up.

Saturday, 09 September 2017 19:15

The Upset

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SATURDAY 9th SEPTEMBER. Machen Recreation Ground, sunshine & showers
MACHEN AFC 4 ELY RANGERS 0 (JD Welsh Cup, 2nd Qualifying Round)
This early in the cup competitions, we're always spoiled for choice: there are matches in every region of Wales that I'd like to watch today, but I can only be in one place and I've had a feeling ever since the draw was made that it would be Machen. Their home tie with Ely Rangers of the Welsh League was just one of those that immediately stood out - all the usual reasons: biggest game the home club has staged, potential shock, ground I've not been to before...

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 10:50

Rocky

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SATURDAY 2nd SEPTEMBER. The Your Radio 103FM Stadium. Sunny and warm.
DUMBARTON 2 CONNAH'S QUAY NOMADS 1 after extra time (IrnBru Cup, Round 2)
The international break weekend means no domestic football in Wales. I could stay and watch the Wales v Austria game in Cardiff, and normally I do watch Wales home games. But this time it clashed with the entry of the Welsh clubs into the IrnBru Cup... and I do love watching Welsh clubs in cross border competition. A northern odyssey for me then; but probably just an odd choice to many, I'm sure.

Using a combination of cheap flight to get to Glasgow, and train back, I'm able to do the round trip in around 30 hours, spending the night near Glasgow Airport and travelling up to Dumbarton in the morning, with time to explore the Rock of the Clyde, the castle and the town before lunch. Then back to the foot of the Rock - to the hideously-named 'Your Radio 103FM Stadium'. It's literally beneath the towering Rock with its fortified ramparts, but oddly you can't see the Rock as a spectator, because the single stand has been built facing away from it. Even stranger is the fact that this is truly a one-sided ground - no spectator access to the other three sides of the pitch.

I present myself to Reception, clutching the email confirming I'll be on the list for press access. Predictably, the steward tells me I'm not. Why are arrangements for visiting media always so shambolic? (I've had this in San Marino, Liechtenstein and now Scotland in the last year or so). Still, on this occasion it turns out it doesn't matter - stewarding is laid-back and I'm more or less free to go where I choose anyway.

The next surprise is the crowd - or rather lack of it. Where is everybody? Some Dumbarton fans (Sons they call themselves) may have gone to see Scotland in Lithuania, but surely not most of them? The attendance here would be disappointing at a top Welsh Premier fixture.

Sunday, 20 August 2017 12:14

Leonine

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SATURDAY 19th AUGUST Ysgol Penyffordd, sunny intervals
PENYFFORDD LIONS 3 CEFN ALBION 2 (JD Welsh Cup First Qualifying Round)

Back to north-east Wales again for the fourth time already this season, but some of the most interesting Welsh Cup ties were in this area. Several new entrants to the cup to choose from, plus some more established clubs on my 'must visit' list, and in the end the decision came down to who was issuing a programme.

Now I'm not obsessive about programmes. I happily go to plenty of games where they aren't available, but the Welsh Cup is different: it's a competition rule that a programme or team-sheet be available for spectators, and while it may not be aggressively enforced by the FAW, failing to issue does rather disrespect our oldest and most prestigious cup competition and its sponsors. So It was good news when Penyffordd Lions confirmed they'd produce something for their game with Cefn Albion. Especially as the visit of Cefn Albion is exactly the type of cup match I look for - useful lower league side entertaining a club from higher up the pyramid.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 15:45

Admirable

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TUESDAY 15th AUGUST Bellevue Park, a warm and sunny evening
BELLEVUE 0 BRADLEY PARK 5 (North East Wales League)

Armed with a rail rover ticket for the week, I can't resist another long distance midweek trip. Wrexham has always been the general destination tonight, and tonight's home team have caught my interest enough to persuade me to watch them instead of Brickfield, playing on their temporary ground at New Broughton. The added bonus is the ease of getting to Bellevue Park, a little over five minutes walk from Wrexham General station. As I leave the station around 5pm, there are a few early arrivals for the Wrexham v Gateshead game at the Racecourse, no doubt heading off for a pre-match drink or two.

An hour later, over in Bellevue Park, the scene is a summer evening idyll, residents enjoying their attractive green space in the centre of town. Over in the eastern corner of the park, the teams are already warming up on the single roped off football pitch. It's a nice setting with a huge grass bank on one side, and large trees all around, with distant views of town landmarks.

What attracted me to this game most was the story behind the home club, who are newly founded this year. Aside from being a football club, affiliated to the North East Wales League and the NEWFA, you could call them a 'project'; or an 'initiative; they also refer to themselves as a family. They've grown out of informal kickabouts on this park between locals and the town's large migrant population - workers, students and refugees from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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