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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...

With a single change in Caerphilly, Stagecoach buses can transport me literally from outside my house to the entrance to Machen Rec. I'm there with half an hour to spare, having avoided a heavy shower whilst travelling. The sun is out as I make my way around the rugby pitch to the far side of the park: the teams are warming up, early spectators gathering. Enquiries establish there isn't a programme - but there should be one, and I'm promised it in the post, which is fine.

And so to this afternoon's match, which definitely has 'shock potential': two league's difference between the sides, the underdogs having won back-to-back promotions and the visitors without a league win in the opening weeks (although they did win in the previous round against Machen's near neighbours Trethomas). Add to that the conditions - a difficult pitch with pronounced inclines and sticky, muddly goalmouths. The ingredients are there - but you can't predict this type of game.

Early signs are that Machen are full of running and full of confidence. They have the better of the first few minutes and are soon ahead, Ieuan Phillips running clear to slot the ball through the mud and inside the Rangers post. The goal seems to wake the visitors up, and for the next 25 minutes the equalisers seems to be coming. By a combination of resolute defending, plenty of luck and some off-target shooting, Machen's goal escapes and, a couple of minutes before half-time, Dan Pavid weaves his way through Ely's defence to score a fine second goal.

At the interval, Ely head for the changing room, Machen stay out and end up waiting in the sunshine for the visitors to return. Has the opportunity for a long, private chat helped the men in blue and black? Not a lot it seems, for within two minutes of the restart they are reduced to ten men, a challenge on Machen's keeper bringing a second yellow. They're really up against it now, and need the next goal.

However, in the 57th minute, a Machen break down the right leads to Jake McCarthy meeting a fine cross, and it's 3-0. No way back now for Ely, and though they keep plugging away, they know it's a lost cause now. Pavitt scores another goal ten minutes from the end to seal a pretty comprehensive win for the Gwent County League club.

We make our choices of games in these competitions and sometimes, like today, we choose well. As the scores come through as I journey home on my two buses, it becomes clear this was probably the 'upset' of the round.

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