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Friday, 06 May 2016 08:02

"3-0 to the Rhondda Boys"

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WEDNESDAY 4th MAY - The White Tips Stadium, mild dry evening
CARDIFF AIRPORT 0 TREBANOG 3 (South Wales FA Intermediate Cup final)
The weather has been unusually kind for one of the SWFA's showpiece finals, for it's a dry and pleasant evening half-way up a Taff Vale mountainside at Treforest's compact White tips Stadium. And a large crowd has turned out too, steadily filing through the clubhouse to the ground, handing over £2 for a card programme on their way (it's good that the SWFA produce a programme for the final, so many leagues and associations don't).

The final pits two local league champions against each other, Rhondda double winners Trebanog meeting Vale of Glamorgan double winners Cardiff Airport. The Rhondda contingent seems to be the larger, and certainly the noisier, with chants of "Tre-, Tre-, Trebanog" ringing out from the start of the game. And the fans' enthusiasm is clearly matched by the Trebanog players, in their navy kit with distinctive hooped socks, as they hurl themselves with 100% commitment into early challenges. It's an effective tactic, as the early action is mostly dominated by Trebanog, the Airport players having no time to settle on the ball and consequently conceding possession and territory.  [article continues, click Read More below if not visible]

Trebanog get an early reward for their high-tempo start - a loose ball falls to number 9 Dean Lewis who steers it inside the post. However, the other main feature of the opening half an hour is the level of aggression, which referee Peter Small is doing well to manage. "Feisty" is the most apt word I can find to tweet. One particularly obvious running battle involves scorer Lewis and Airport number 5 Mitchell Taylor-Moore, who repeatedly clash on and off the ball. Peter Small's card-waving arm is getting plenty of exercise, but it's only yellows as he somehow prevents things boiling over.

The score remains 1-0 at half time, and Trebanog must be more satisfied with the 45 minutes. Airport have allowed the 'in your face' nature of the opposition to distract them from their game, and are, paradoxically, showing less discipline than Trebanog, conceding slightly more free-kicks. And in the second half, the next decisive moment comes from just one of these - a trip outside the Airport box in the 64th minute, Trebanog's Ieuan Gowen steps up and fires it at the wall, and the ball is deflected into the corner of Bradley Walters' goal. "2-0 to the Rhondda Boys", sing the fans.

The second goal signals a reduction in tempo: the Airport side are still striving to gain a foothold to get back in the game, but it's just not happening. As the chill of the evening sets in, we need some more action, and a couple of flare-ups liven things up, and Peter Small is waving his yellow card again - but it strikes me again how well he's doing to manage this fiery game. Trebanog withdraw Dean Lewis after yet another confrontation with Taylor-Moore.

Cardiff Airport continue to attack, Trebanog defending quite deep now to preserve the lead. But, as so often happens, the attacking side's gaps invite breakaway attacks, and in stoppage time Corey Lunt is able to steer in a third Trebanog goal to seal a pretty comprehensive win.

Trebanog are deserving winners and recipients of the trophy - their attention turns now to the promotion play-offs, and the other district league champions (including Cardiff Airport!) won't fancy meeting them.

THURSDAY 5th MAY - Ysgol y Wern - a warm evening
LLANISHEN WANDERERS 2 STM SPORTS OLD BOYS 5 (Milsom Harries Cup quarter final)
Another lovely spring evening tempts me out to continue my discovery of the parks grounds closest to home - this time Ysgol y Wern, a quarter of a mile from my front door, where a Cardiff Combination Milsom Harries Cup quarter-final is taking place. Although a school playing field, Llanishen Wanderers' pitch is enclosed on three sides by houses, and distant views of Caerphilly mountain and the Ridgeway to the north add a touch of scenery. To the south, the tax office tower block at Ty Glas looms beyond the houses. They obviously don't get many neutral spectators here, as my appearance (with camera) is greeted with suspicion that I've come to spy on behalf of the school governors!

Coincidentally STM Sports OB again the visitors, as they were at the adjacent Llanishen Park a fortnight ago, and there's a familiar theme to the game, as they once again clearly have the edge over the home side - just a touch more control and more skill. However, again the flip side is a casual streak, the tendency to waste good chances by going for the individual or spectacular.

So STM take an early lead from a defensive error, extend it with a nicely taken lob, but then fail to make the game safe. A penalty reduces the deficit to 1-2 (the half-time score), then after going 1-3 up and having numerous chances to put the game beyond the Wanderers, STM concede to the hard-working home side with 25 minutes still left. It's an unnecessarily tense spell, with Wanderers pressing for an equaliser, but at the end STM grab two goals (88th and 92nd minutes) to leave the final score a flattering 2-5 win.

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