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Sunday, 15 January 2017 09:34

Carno's Clifftop Catastrophe

SATURDAY 14th JANUARY: Swanbridge Road, sunshine and showers.
SULLY SPORTS 4 CARNO 1 (FAW Trophy Round 5)
The last sixteen of the FAW Trophy always produces some interesting fixtures - by this stage there are no easy games - and, although it's still regionalised, inter-region ties do crop up. Like today's game, a South Wales v Central Wales encounter - with the visitors lumped into the southern half of the draw. They're the last club standing from their region, but are a form team lying third in the Spar Mid Wales League, unbeaten in fifteen, and with Huws Gray Alliance aspirations. It's only an easy local choice today - I ruled out north Wales with snow and ice up there likely to bring postponements - but the forecast down here is encouraging - a sunny afternoon in prospect.

So I set off for the coast expecting a close game. Re-visits to Sully are always enjoyable, the ground sitting on the cliffs with views across the Bristol Channel. When time and weather allow, I always think a pre-match stroll is in order here, and with an icy morning giving way to a fine sunny afternoon, I leave time for this 'tradition'. It's cold, but there's only the lightest of breezes as I walk out past the Captain's Wife inn and Swanbridge Farm on the coastal path - and then back again, finding time for a quick pint of ale in the pub.

Published in Football
Sunday, 20 November 2016 20:59

It's Raining Goals

SATURDAY 19th NOVEMBER. Swansea University International Sports Village - torrential rain.

When the draw was made for the fourth round of the FAW Trophy, I immediately thought this tie held particular interest. Cross-region games always have that extra dimension, the chance to compare standards. Of course, Swansea v Cardiff also adds something, although in my experience the rivalry is less intense at grassroots level than between the two cities' pro clubs. In any case, Team Swansea being a university club, it's not quite the same as if Grange were playing Penlan or Ragged.

It's a wet November weekend, wet enough on Friday to prompt an enquiry about the pitch. Positive reply, but being checked in the morning. Despite more rain, by 10.45 the news is good - game on. I set off, through Cardiff, the fans arriving for the afternoon rugby already causing delays and congestion at the station. The rain continues as I eventually travel west, then abates while I walk the mile or two along the Swansea Bay seafront out to Sketty Lane. Just as I approach the sports centre, the skies darken again and even heavier rain arrives, drenching the squads engaged in their warm-ups.

Published in Football
Sunday, 16 October 2016 08:35

North v South in the West

SATURDAY 15th OCTOBER - Phoenix Park, showery.
Every season I say I should get down to west Wales more often, but it's a resolution I often fail to keep. The West Wales Cup would be the perfect competition to use for visits west - but it is always scheduled to clash with the Welsh Cup, and the latter usually takes precedence. Few west Wales clubs ever enter national cups, but this year regular FAW Trophy entrants Hakin have been joined by a couple of others, including west Wales treble winners Goodwick. When Goodwick and Hakin reached the third round, and were drawn to meet at Phoenix Park, it was clearly time to visit the north Pembrokeshire coast.

Published in Football
Thursday, 15 September 2016 10:17

Llay of the Land

SATURDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER. The Ring, persistent rain.
After watching Wales under 21s lose at Wrexham yesterday evening, the next morning I'm heading back up the borders on the train again. The weather has changed, with heavy rain sweeping in across Wales. It seems likely to be less of a problem in the north-east, according to the forecast, and when news of postponements in the south starts coming in during the morning, I feel glad I'm heading this way.

Published in Football
Sunday, 22 November 2015 17:12

Vikings fail to pillage place in last 16

SATURDAY 21st NOVEMBER Longbridge Playing Fields, sunny, cold, northerly wind.

The fourth round of the Trophy, sixteen ties to choose from in all regions of Wales; it's never easy to decide, but when this east v west encounter in Risca is confirmed as 'on' during Friday, that's good enough for me. It brings Pembrokeshire champions Hakin, so unlucky to go out to eventual winners Holywell last season, to first-time entrants Pontymister - who just happen to be playing on a new ground this season.

Pontymister's new venue, at Longbridge Fields, is at the north end of the linear village of Risca, whereas their former base in Fields Road was right at the other end. Hidden away just off the main road, the newly railed pitch sits on a raised plateau above road level, and up a slope from the austere changing room block near the Bridge Street entrance. A few spectators have arrived early and are sheltering from the bitter wind either in cars of in the lee of the changing room building. Hakin have brought a few with them, and there are a few neutrals like me, devotees of the unfamiliar fixtures the Trophy can produce. As kick off approaches, and the teams emerge, we too have to forsake shelter from the wind and take our places on the railing.

The first impression of the pitch is of the length of the grass - a rugby surface, not good for football. Whether the council would have cut it at this time of year is debatable, but they've had a perfect excuse with the incessant rain of the past two weeks. In some places the pitch surrounds are seriously boggy, though the playing surface itself doesn't appear to be holding too much water.

My thoughts in advance of this game are influenced by Hakin's good cup record, in this and the West Wales Cup. If the Vikings can reproduce that battling performance against Holywell last February, I'd fancy them to beat any Gwent County side. And initially, they start with confidence, taking the game to Pontymister; though there are a couple of worrying signs - an angry exchange between team-mates in the first minute, over a misjudged pass, and the way the conditions are affecting their preference for fast breaks from midfield. There's no real pattern to the first quarter of an hour, both teams struggling to establish control.

Published in Football
Saturday, 17 October 2015 18:42

Cardiff v Swansea in the Trophy

SATURDAY 17th OCTOBER - Lawrenny Avenue / Leckwith Stadium - dry but cool.

Third Round of the Trophy, 32 ties to choose from. As ever, there are plenty of interesting candidates but on this particular Saturday my choice is restricted - it's really not a day to attempt to use public transport, as Cardiff is once again swamped with rugby fans: not just those of the four visiting teams playing in the RWC quarter-finals in the Millennium Stadium this weekend, but also the usual turn-out of locals (who re-discover their interest in rugby on days when Wales are playing), heading to the city centre bars to watch the Welsh team at Twickenham this afternoon.

But I'm lucky: one of the very best ties in the third round of the Trophy is tight here in Cardiff (there are actually two local games). It's a Cardiff v Swansea clash (which always adds spice) and it involves two very good teams, Canton Liberal and Penlan Club. So, for the second time this season, my destination is the Libs' pitch next to Cardiff Athletic Stadium.

Published in Football
Sunday, 20 September 2015 19:32

Goals Galore at the Aqueduct

SATURDAY 19th SEPTEMBER: The Bont, sunny and warm.
A second week of cup football, and another trip to north-east Wales. This time it's the venue that draws me rather than anything about the fixture itself: people watch football for all sorts of reasons - some follow one team exclusively, others seek out top quality football or promising fixtures, while the pure groundhoppers seek out new grounds and eschew re-visits. I don't fit neatly into any one of these groups, but today the groundhopper in me prevails. The Bont at Pontcysyllte is one of Wales's iconic settings for football, one I've long planned to visit. For some years I have planned to catch an Acrefair home game in a national cup, but they often get knocked out early, or are drawn away, or the weather is risky. Now, at last I set out to visit the Bont, and in the historic FAW Trophy, formerly the Welsh Amateur Cup.

Published in Football
Sunday, 16 August 2015 08:46

'New' North End off to a winning start

SATURDAY 15th AUGUST: Penygaer playing fields, dry and cloudy.
After another three-and-a-half week break since my last game, it's time to go to football again, because the domestic season is starting. Most of the main leagues in Wales get underway today, with some interesting matches, but the first round of the FAW Trophy has greater pull. I hadn't picked a game in advance, but on returning from holiday yesterday a serious look at the ties caused one to jump out: Porth Tywyn Suburbs v North End. Two famous names from west Wales football (or rather its recent past), and not regular Trophy entrants. A quick look at Twitter revealed that North End have reformed, and this will be their first competitive game: decision made then.

Published in Football
Sunday, 22 February 2015 09:47

Holywell ride their luck

SATURDAY 21st FEBRUARY: The Observatory Ground, bright but blustery.
The last eight of the FAW Trophy, the first non-regionalised round of the competition, is potentially one of the highlights of the season - the one round when you can get a real north v south tie, played on a club ground rather than a neutral venue. And this year's draw has served up three such ties, although the down-side of that is the real possibility that all three southern sides will lose and the semi-finals will consist of four teams from the Welsh Alliance. Just one of the ties is taking place in south Wales, and that's where I'm heading...

Published in Football
Sunday, 01 February 2015 11:37


SATURDAY 31st JANUARY: Pen-y-Pound Stadium: sunny but very cold.
Although I had planned to go north again this week for my FAW Trophy action, the wintry weather has been worse up there and I have to play safe and watch one of the south Wales ties: of the three options, Abergavenny is the least exposed to the fierce northerly wind, and so a first visit to Abergavenny Town in their new home of Penypound Stadium (which I visited nearly six months ago when the venue's other tenants, Monmouth Town, moved in).

Published in Football
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