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Saturday, 02 January 2016 20:31

3G Saves the Day - Again

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SATURDAY 2nd JANUARY: University Sports Ground. Bright, mild, drying up.
STM SPORTS 5 NEWPORT YMCA 0 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Division 3)
It's been raining pretty much all night and all morning, on top of weeks of rain. The grass pitches of south Wales are saturated, and the postponement announcements this morning are almost routine, confirming what we expected. Few games will survive, so the only safe approach again is "stay local, seek out 3G". In my case, that's simple - head to Llanrumney for STM Sports' home game on their artificial pitch.

Ironically, as I head to east Cardiff, the weather clears up - a hint of brightness, and the rain and wind abate. Too late to save the lost fixtures, but a bonus for those of us attending what's left. And there are quite a few who, like me, have headed here to the university playing fields in search of match action, groundhoppers from far and wide, and many local neutrals, all swelling the crowd to somewhere between 80 and 90. STM sell out of programmes, despite a decent print run, and the gate receipts must be a nice little windfall to help with match expenses.

The two teams here are on the fringes of the Welsh League Third Division promotion race, though STM in particular have games in hand and a stronger claim to be genuinely in the race (one which is shaping up quite nicely with plenty of promotion contenders). But from the kick off, STM take control, their midfield working the ball effectively and providing fine service for a pacey and capable front line. Chances start to come, and in the sixth minute STM's number 7, Gardiner, fires in the first goal after nice work on the right by Lamin Conteh. It seems certain more goals must follow, for STM create chance after chance - but fail to put every one away, their shots mostly off target. There are various culprits, but the number 10 (believed to be Chris Worsley, despite some confusion over shirt numbering) does everything but score. He's tormenting the YM defence, but doesn't have the goal to show for it. YMCA are under the cosh, but there are glimpses of what they can do. They might even have got an equaliser to take into the half-time break.

After the interval, YMCA enjoy their best spell and for a while it seems STM might pay the price for their wastefulness. But 14 minutes into the half, a cleverly struck free-kick by Curtis Scotto beats YM's keeper Keating and it's 2-0. Then Scotto gets the chance to round off a fine flowing move with a tap-in, and completes his hat-trick with a header, the culmination of another piece of fine team-play down the left.

This scoring flurry doesn't continue, and 4-0 seems the likely outcome, until STM conjure one last move of quality, the ball worked right to left, Conteh to Scotto to Worsley, and he finally gets the goal his performance has deserved. 5-0 doesn't flatter STM, after all, their shots to goals ratio is less than 25% ! They play fine flowing football suited to this surface, and if they can keep doing this, they will definitely be among the favourites in that promotion race in the coming months.

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