Sunday 8th March 2015 ko 11.00
Ceredigion League Division 2
PENCADER 7 (Sears 22 A Hazelby 35 65 73 Taw 37 83 Morgan 85)
FFOSTRASOL WANDERERS 3 (Rumble 9 C Davies 53 Befan 77)
When you get bad weather on a groundhop the whole nature of the event changes. You accept that you’ll see less locals, and those hoppers who tend to dip in out of an event disappear too. You end up testing commitment, and back in Carmarthen I looked nervously out between the curtains of my hotel room window. It couldn’t be that bad could it? I stepped outside after my breakfast and confirmed the worst, it was hammering it down with rain.
If a hopper gets nervous about a potential postponement than that counts double for the organiser! At GroundhopUK we’ve only had one postponement in 12 years, due to 6 feet of snow at AFC Emley, and that’s a statistic we are keen to remain in the singular. We work closely with leagues and referees to ensure the game goes ahead where humanly possible. For the last two games on this hop we had Aled once again in reserve if there was a problem with the referee, but in Meiron Evans the league had both an excellent official and a gentleman who knew just how far some people had travelled to be there, the furthest being Peter Grant from Osaka!
It was a special occasion for the village too, as funds had been spent to both level and drain the pitch. A local dignitary ceremonially opened the new pitch, I glanced over nervously at the puddles already forming on the turf, and Meirion Evans laughed. The stand looked full 45 minutes before kick-off, I could see numerous Aberaeron brollies, but at least we were going to see some football.
And before we talk about the game, let’s look at what would have happened if the game had been postponed. The club would have missed out on the four-figure windfall they earned, according to the email they sent us yesterday, but with this being the final Ceredigion Hop there would have been virtually no chance of us revisiting with neither Saron, Llanybydder, or Llanon likely to be returning to the league. Sadly Llanybydder’s ground is now a farmer’s field.
As I squelched round to unsuccessfully find somewhere dry to stand I quietly hoped for the game to last both halves, and to get a goal or two. What we got was down to the excellence of Mr Evans, and two sides who played the game how we’d all love to see the game played, with passion, enthusiasm and no little skill. There was a lovely moment in the second half when Pencader goalkeeper Chris Stevens slid out to claim a ball, but misjudged just how much he was going to slide in the mud! He completely wiped out Ffostrasol’s Aled Rumble, I winced and waited for the histrionics, but the two players grinned, exchanged a joke, and got on with the game. It summed up what was a magical 2 hours in Wales.
Goals were exchanged, and I know the term “End-to-end stuff” is overused but that is what it was like. In fact the best comment I can make is to borrow Bedfordshire Hop organiser Craig Dabbs’ comment,
” I’m going to start with a sweeping statement, this was probably the best game of football I have ever seen. The pitch was more suitable for water polo than football however, the ball ran, mostly, the referee was positive towards it throughout as were the players and it served up a treat. End to end stuff, full commitment from both sides, some great goals and saves, fantastic, oh and the ground isn’t bad either.”
And next time I see a game called off where with a little effort it could have happened I’ll think of Pencader, Ffostrasol, and Meirion Evans. Yes it was a hop game, and that gives a whole pile of different influences, but whatever the circumstances, there’ll always be that little part of my mind that’ll be back at Pencader Park. I bet I’m not the only one think that either!