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Thursday, 26 October 2017 08:41

Football v Brian

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SATURDAY 21st OCTOBER. Cyncoed Campus - stormy
CARDIFF MET 2 NEWTOWN 0 (JD Welsh Premier League)
Sometimes the weather forecast can't be ignored. The dire warnings of "Storm Brian" arriving hot on the heels of his evil sister Ophelia have already put me off a lengthy trip to north Wales for FAW Trophy action. Then the heavy rain scuppers Plan B as well (Trophy action nearer home) and with games on grass being called off throughout Saturday morning, Plan C has to be 'head for 3G'.

Fortunately there's Welsh Premier action at Cardiff Met, just a 15 minute bus ride away. The bad news is that it's ALWAYS windy at Cyncoed, so what's it going to be like as the worst of Brian's gales start to batter Cardiff? Walking up from the bus, it's quiet on the streets (aside from the howling wind, that is). Roath Park, usually full of walkers, joggers and families, is deserted. Cyncoed campus however, is busier with students involved in various sports.

Inevitably, the weather has an effect on the attendance. A few may have come here because other games were off, but many (even those living on campus) won't have fancied getting a soaking in gale-force winds. Fair-weather fans. Or possibly the sensible ones, I ponder, as I take up position at the back of the stand: hopes of sheltering from the rain are quickly dashed, it's simply blowing in.

But it could be worse, I could be out on the pitch and not swaddled in waterproof layers. Those who are out there now try to play a game of football. The emphasis is on the word 'try'. Any ball kicked above head height is simply picked up by the wind and carried way off course. It's blowing towards the goal Newtown are defending, and seems to defeat both keepers - Jones can't reach the halfway line while Fuller's efforts are carried harmlessly out of play at the far end. It all sets me pondering at what point wind would make a match unplayable. Would it have to reach hurricane force? Brian's not a hurricane - but he is a very naughty storm indeed.

The game is error- and accident-strewn, through no fault of the players. The most serious accident comes early on, when Newtown's Ryan Sears seems to fall badly on his shoulder and doesn't get up. A posse of medics call for a stretcher, then don't use it, then usher him to the touchline and wrap him in tin foil like a Sunday roast. They huddle here in the teeth of the storm as play resumes, finally departing when a wheelchair is found for the stricken player.

Met have most of the ball, but the conditions have the upper hand. But after half an hour of mostly unsuccessful battles with the elements, we get a goal out of nowhere: a high ball into the Newtown box drifts on the wind and defender Luke Boundford falls over, his hand shooting up in the air and knocking the ball away. Unlucky, certainly, but a raised arm hitting the ball nevertheless. Adam Roscrow steers the penalty past Jones.

When the half time whistle finally goes (5 mins added) I head into the media and hospitality area - I usually prefer to stay out and mingle, but not today. I even ponder watching the second half from here, but it feels too removed from the action so I don the waterproofs again and head outside, casting wary glances at the swaying floodlight pylons; I hope they're sturdier than they look. During half-time it's been reported that a big tree has come down on the main road through Cyncoed.

Newtown start the second half with a spell of pressure, but playing against the wind, Cardiff Met begin to look comfortable, occasionally playing some of their trademark passing football despite the conditions. One such move sends Elliot Evans haring down the left wing and his high curling cross hangs in the wind for Roscrow to attack with an unstoppable downward header. Half an hour left, and Newtown need to wind at their backs to blow a goal in pretty soon if they are to salvage anything. They don't really threaten to get back in the game, though Jamie Reed comes on and puts himself about a bit.

I doubt anyone is sorry to hear referee Harrington's final whistle. Everyone scurries away as storm Brian continues. It didn't stop the football, but it did rather spoil it.

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