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Wednesday, 21 September 2016 08:53

It's a Long Way to.... Rhydymwyn

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SATURDAY 10th SEPTEMBER - Vicarage Road. Warm and sunny.
RHYDYMWYN 1 HAWARDEN RANGERS 3 (JD Welsh Cup 2nd Qualifying Round)

We've all got a list like it - grounds we have prioritised for a visit. A bucket list, if you will. Rhydymwyn's Vicarage Road has certainly been on mine for a several years - I waited for delaying when they struggled in 2014-15, only to find that the club folded at the end of that season.

So it was good to see Rhydymwyn revived and accepted into the WNL (Wrexham Area) during the summer, and I wasn't going to make the same mistake again. This week, a JD Welsh Cup tie, an Arriva Trains fare offer, and a decent weather forecast - when the stars align, you have to act.

It's not the easiest place to get to: three miles west of Mold, which itself is among the less accessible large towns in Wales, with no railway and rather slow, circuitous bus connections. A three to four hour journey, but today it goes smoothly - train to Wrexham, then a bus that winds its way through the villages of Flintshire, arriving in Mold at 1pm - an hour before kick off.

The walk out to Rhydymwyn doesn't look too bad on the map, but I'd reckoned without gradients, and indeed without a stretch of about a mile with no pavements. Slow going in the late summer heat, and I only arrive at Vicarage Road ten minutes before kick off. Programmes are on sale at the gate, and refreshments from the smart clubhouse building near the corner. The low, slightly dilapidated stand straddles the half-way line beyond the clubhouse. At the early kick off time, there are barely twenty spectators, but this more than doubles as the afternoon progresses.

Rhydymwyn, in red shirts on this occasion, are entertaining fellow WNL side Hawarden Rangers - one of the league's stronger outfits, and probably favourites to progress today. This is borne out by the balance of early play, with most of the action in Rhydymwyn's half. There's not much sign of a goal, however, and the deadlock is only broken five minutes before half-time, when a clumsy challenge leads to a penalty for Hawarden, converted by Daniel Barlow.

Nothing much changes after the break: Hawarden on top, but not pressing home their advantage. They know a second goal should make them safe, but not only do they waste chances. But they are allowing Rhydymwyn a little more of the ball. It's a relief to their bench when another penalty is awarded, and Barlow again scores.

The relief is short-lived - just three minutes in fact. Rhydymwyn win a free-kick in a dangerous position on the left, Martin Bainbridge fires it in at the near post, and it eludes keeper Tarran, allowing Nick Manning a simple tap-in goal. If Rhydymwyn could score again, an unlikely recovery might be on, but in fact it's the visitors who get the next goal, Henry Carver scoring with a delightful strike from open play this time. 1-3 a fair result, but Hawarden have made hard work of it. Rhydymwyn, who had a number of players missing, and saw both managers used as subs, might have pushed them even closer if they'd been at full strength.

So, the game over at 3.45, time for the journey back: the three mile walk back to Mold, misleading signs in Mold bus station and a consequently missed connection to Wrexham. To Chester instead, via another convoluted route, and eventually onto a late running train to Shrewsbury. Another missed connection. Total journey time turns out to be over six hours. But it was worth it - I have finally ticked Vicarage Road off on my bucket list.

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