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Wednesday 22nd April 2015 ko 18.30

Welsh League Division Three

PANTEG AFC 4 (Sweeny 9og Probert 43 Dyke 55 Ryan 68) Hicks sent off 87 (foul and abusive language)


Att 19

Entry £3

Programme “Sold Out”

I suspect that many British schoolchildren get sent to an outward-bound centre for a week at least once during their education. If, like me, you’re from Oxford that was in Wales, to Glasbury near Ross-on-Wye, and I’ve visited the one for Wales, Gwersyll Yr Urdd for football. But what does that have to do with the Panteg House Sportsground in Pontypool?

The link is the feel of the place, set as it is in the sprawling grounds of a Manor House. For an outward-bound centre is allows children to take part in a variety of activities in a secure environment, in this case it allows the sports facilities of the Griffithstown to be all within the same site.

Inevitably in South Wales, the site’s background is heavy industry, the house was built by the Butler family for use by the manager of the Panteg Steelworks just down the road. The Butlers were instrumental in establishing the steelworks further west in Port Talbot, and when they left for the United States the site was rented to be used as the HQ by British Nylon Spinners, who were later swallowed up by ICI/Du Pont.

But in 1920 the Butler family decided to hand control of the site to the Panteg Employees Club and Recreational Institute and nearly a century later the site still retains the feel of a manor house, albeit with rugby, cricket, petanque and football in the grounds.

In fact should the Welsh League insist on a segregated walkway from the changing rooms to the pitch then the football club will have a real problem. You walk across the car park, down the steps, around the cricket pitch (used by Glamorgan’s 2nd XI no less) and reach the football pitch. But the Welsh League is known for having exactly the same ground grading rules across its 3 divisions so that’s Panteg in fine fettle up to and including the second tier of the game in Wales!

Not that they’ll be challenging for promotion this time round, this is their first season back in the league following a stint in the Gwent County League, and with a level of uncertainty over precisely how many clubs will be relegated (a hangover from the court case involving Barry Town in 2013) the club were only recently able to stop staring over their collective shoulders.

They faced Beddau-based Cwm Welfare, the South Wales Senior League champions, in their first tilt at the Welsh League, and on this warm evening the visitors found themselves very second best to their hosts. Perhaps the four-goal margin was harsh, especially as Panteg’s Kirk Hicks decided to even things up by being sent off for swearing at the referee. He ended up being sat on the grass bank by the cricket pitch, the “Naughty Step,” by any other name.

He’ll miss the last games of the season, but I suspect that if you’d asked both sides at the season’s start whether a mid-table finish would be deemed acceptable, I reckon you’d have got an affirmative answer.