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Wednesday, 17 August 2016 07:49

Here We Go Again!

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TUESDAY 16th AUGUST. Maes-y-Coed Playing Fields, sunny and warm
ST. JOSEPH'S 2 CARDIFF AIRPORT 2 (South Wales Alliance Division 2)
And they're off! After a couple of false-starts (UEFA qualifying rounds, friendlies), the 2016-17 season starts here for real. And, it has to be said, it's a gentle start to my next 9 months of travelling to and watching football around Wales - a 20 minute stroll from home through the north Cardiff suburbs, followed by a couple of hours in shirtsleeves on a balmy Cardiff evening. I'll remember this fondly when slogging to north Wales in freezing mid-winter.

This fixture has ended up as the only one in the capital tonight, so it selected itself. But within half an hour of arriving at the Joes' St. Cenydd Road ground on the Heath/Llanishen borders, I'm reminded why I so enjoy grassroots football (this is level 7 in Wales): I've met a couple of fellow neutrals who, like me, appear with regularity at any game within reach; I've chatted to someone I worked with over 20 years ago but haven't seen since; and then to a South Wales FA councillor. One dominant theme in all these conversations is the August Bank Holiday groundhop - 11 games in 4 days in south Wales, all in the South Wales Alliance. More of that here in due course - first let's deal with tonight's opener:  

For visitors Cardiff Airport, tonight is their debut at this level, after winning promotion from the Vale of Glamorgan League via the play-offs. Whereas for the Joes, the season started on Saturday with a heavy 6-1 defeat and two red cards. You'd think things could only ghet better after that, but within a couple of minutes of the start the Rhoose side take the lead, Michael Fallas taking advantage of some casual defending.

The home faithful may fear a rout at this point, but their team actually recovers to contest a fairly even first half, although the score is still 0-1 at the break. After a ten minute interval, with no adjournment to the changing rooms, the Joes start the second half much better than they did the first. For ten minutes or so, it feels as though an equaliser is coming, and it does, the visiting defence seeming to stop (expecting a whistle?) while Josh Jones plays on and scores. Relief is short-lived for the home side: within 3 minutes, Michael Hall heads in from a free-kick to restore the blues' lead.

Shadows lengthen, the low sun dazzles, but the temperature remains warm. Actually, on the pitch, things are heating up : a few 'robust' challenges, resulting flare-ups - the artificial peace and diffidence of pre-season is in the past. The question though, is whether the Joes can salvage anything from the game. They have a great chance from a free-kick on the edge of the area, but it goes wide. Time is running out, just 2 minutes left, when Airport concede again in almost the same place - though this time the referee deems it inside the area. Lewis Walters places the penalty into the top corner and it's 2-2.

During a surprising 7 minutes of stoppage time, the visitors number 5 manages to get himself sent off (second yellow card) as his side strives to get back in front, but it's not to be and both sides leave with their first point of the season.

Read 3640 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 September 2016 09:57

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