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Sunday 9th March 2014 ko 10.15

Ceredigion League Division One

BARGOD RANGERS 3 (Skinner 2 35 D Evans 76)

MAESGLAS 3 (J James 15 38 Irvine 29)

Att 238

Entry £3

Programme £1

Badge £3

Tea & A Welsh Cake £1

Hat £3

So picture the scene, I’m sat in my office at work and I’ve got Twitter on in the background. All of a sudden the following tweet pops up….

Llanybydder

….and our Sunday morning game goes out of the window just under 3 weeks before the event. I knew Chris Berezai was at a business meeting in the north, so I spent a frantic few minutes looking at the Ceredigion website (and I’m thankful its detailed and up to date). It became clear that unless we were either going to run the hop a game short, or rejig all the other fixtures there was only one game open to us, Bargod vs Maesglas. We’d already postponed our visit to Saron as they’d played every 1st XI in their league, many hoppers won’t watch games involving reserves, and the only 1st XI Bargod had to meet was Maesglas.

So you can imagine the phone calls that went between Chris and I at GroundhopUK, Aled at the Ceredigion League. Mandy at Bargod was happy to take the hop game, but importantly Paul at Maesglas agreed to play early on a Sunday morning. That detail is often overlooked by some hoppers, but we are all grateful to Maesglas even if Paul did comment,” Aled didn’t actually tell me what time the kick-off was….!”

With the short notice we’d given Mandy our 14 pages of “How to host a hop game,” expected no more than the basics, and hoped for the best. And as Carl and the coach arrived at the conjoined villages of Drefach and Felindre, and the village green-style ground Parc Puw I will happily admit to being nervous.

What I didn’t know is that about the same time as Llanybydder had withdrawn from the league, Bargod’s secretary Glanville “Gos” Evans had died aged 61 after a short illness. The entrance to the changing rooms had been turned into a memorial and a minute’s silence was impeccably observed before kick-off. I reflected that if they’d have pulled out of the fixture after their loss few, least of all me, would have quibbled.

The club is named after the Nant Bargod stream, one of three that reach a confluence in the village, making it ideal to power the looms of the woollen industry that sprung up here. Today the National Wool Museum is nearby in the Cambrian Mill even if the wool trade has long since gone.

From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, you could not have known that Bargod staged this as a late replacement. The programme was a newsy, glossy, full colour 16 page effort, the bacon rolls, Welsh Cakes and drinks were selling well, and in one corner the line-ups board was filled in and hoppers jotting away. I tend to say that if a club is doing well the organiser does nothing on the day other than count the crowd. So what did Chris and I do? That’s right we counted a bumper crowd, the highest of the weekend, no doubt augmented by the fact that just like Cilgerran the previous day and Llandysul the previous year the posters had gone up in the village and the club had got the community involved. That community got a wonderful morning’s entertainment too.

In a frantic first half the goals flowed as the tackles flew in. It was hard to keep up as first Sam Skinner opened the scoring for Bargod, latching on to a through ball before Maesglas drew level after home keeper Lyndon Robinson dropped a cross right in the path of Johnny James. Maesglas took the lead soon after, former Andover FC defender Bradley Irvine reacting first to lash home after Robinson could only palm away a free-kick. Back came Bargod with Skinner lashing home after a goalmouth scramble before Maesglas scored their third, a clearance being charged down and James twisting to force the ball home.

There was no way the second half could maintain the energy of the first, and the bookings racked up, 5 in total, and the challenges got sterner. A defeat would have been rough on Bargod with all they’d been through, and what they’d lost, so few, other than the visitors would have begrudged them their point, and what an equaliser it was, Evans rifling a shot home from fully 25 yards.

With all that had gone before it, I hadn’t considered what the game was going to be like, the excellent pitch no doubt helped. but with my new Bargod hat on I thanked Mandy and her team for a quite astounding effort, and dragged my aching bones back to the coach. Just the one game to go….