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Saturday 9th March 2013 ko 16.10

Ceredigion League Division One

ST DOGMAELS 0 Walters sent off (Foul & Abusive Language) FT

NEW QUAY 2 (D Evans 38 90)

Att 284

Entry & Programme by Hop Ticket

Badge £3

Leek & Potato Soup £1

Club Mug £4

Marmalade £3.50

Despite playing in the Ceredigion League St Dogmaels is just over the border into Pembrokeshire. Nevertheless St Dogs are one of the leading sides in the league and this fixture was billed as a potential shootout for the championship, as St Dogs had a record of played 10, won 10, but New Quay are the champions and were second in the table.

The village lies on the banks of the River Teifi and is best known for its 12th century Abbey. It was founded for a prior and twelve monks of the Tironensian Order, by Robert Fitzmartin and his wife, Maud Peverel. The buildings are now mostly ruins, though extensive walls and arches remain.

On arrival at the School Field it was the River Teifi that proved to be the more influential factor. I’ve seen some odd-shaped grounds but St Dogmaels is up there with the best of them. It slopes from goal to goal, but from side to side the pitch drops away markedly from half way across. When Chris and I did the crowd count we stopped behind one of the goals and paused. Are the goals in line, or were my eyes deceiving me? Here though is the best compliment I can raise for the club, who were one of the best host clubs I can remember. It didn’t matter a jot, and for some it actually enhanced the experience! There was also the added bonus of the, “Dog Kennel,” a small stand-cum-dugout that added more to an already characterful location.

What was obvious is that the club had decided to make their day a community event. Volunteers had knocked on doors, and sold programmes and taken donations so that the club was £500 up before a hopper arrived. Every notice board in the village sported a St Dogmaels poster, telling everyone what was going on and why! The gates at the top and bottom of the pitch were manned so those watching were charmingly charged and sold a programme. The St Dogmaels fans took their position at the bottom end and created quite an atmosphere! There was even the local primary school choir singing in Welsh just before kick off which I thought was a lovely touch.

Once inside the ground the club had clearly read the briefing notes we send all clubs, but had exceeded by far what we would normally expect. Yes, the normal catering was there, plus some delicious crab rolls and hot soup, but there was a wide range of cakes, drinks, and that massive money spinner on groundhops- locally produced Real Ale. The club seemed surprised at just how many bottles of the stuff they sold!

As an organiser you spend a lot of time seeing clubs do really well hosting games, and yes occasionally one or two make mistakes. Just occasionally you see a club take the idea and make their day, well levitate. St Dogmaels joined a select band of clubs I’ve seen do just that. Oddly, so did New Quay on the previous year’s event. Perhaps they picked their brains!

The game wasn’t the goal-fest one or two were predicting but it did live up to its billing. I was reminded of the old South Wales Amateur League hops where you’d see two village sides play their hearts out for their crowd. What they lacked in skill, they’d make up with endeavour. This was one of those games, although Daniel Evans’ two goals would have graced any pitch.

The Dogs had the majority of the possession, but the New Quay defence looked solid, and as the teams grafted I noticed that while the home fans behind the goal were shouting for their team the hoppers were quietly engrossed in the action. It really was a game you couldn’t take your eyes from, to the extent neither Chris nor I wanted to go and do the crowd count, but needs must, and we’d agreed to draw the draw for the Bay Cup 1st and 2nd rounds in the corner at half time.

The deadlock was broken by right back Daniel Evans. A free kick was conceded 30 yards out and he thumped the ball home into the top right corner, giving the St Dogs defence no chance. The second half continued in much the same vein, with St Dogs applying more pressure until they finally managed to fire home only to see the New Quay club linesman rule it out for offside. It was hard to tell whether it was offside from where I was standing, but two of the coach party were stood behind the linesman, and they opined that he’d made an error. It didn’t really matter as another free kick was won by the visitors, this time a mere 20 yards out, and Daniel Evans this time placed the kick just in the bottom left-hand corner. The St Dogs players kept their cool until the final whistle, but then the remonstrations began, which resulted in goalkeeper Casey Walters receiving a post-game Red Card.

It may well mean that New Quay will win their third Ceredigion League title, their pitch is too narrow to progress, but I suspect the result won’t be what most of those present at this game will remember. That will be the amazing hospitality, which future host clubs can learn from.