, , , , , , , , ,

Saturday 13th June 2015 ko 15.00

South Wales FA Play-Off Final

STM SPORTS 4 (Reffell 12 Graham 48 Worsley 57 84)

PONTLOTTYN AFC 1 (Colbourne 32)

Att c600 at Cardiff City Stadium

Entry £3

Programme £1

Groundhopping and the amateur game go back a long way, back to the days of 4-game Saturdays in the South Wales Amateur League, and those hops only ended when we finally ran of clubs to visit! Back then we all wondered why there was the odd position of two leagues, the Amateur Leaguer and the Senior League occupying the same footprint and the same level, the fifth tier?

The reason was that in 1991 the Senior split from the Amateur League, a clash of personalities seems to be the cause, but it led to the two leagues’s champions chasing one spot in the Welsh League Division 3. That meant that if both clubs fulfilled ground grading requirements a play-off was necessary, usually at Aberavon FC. That is coming to an end as the two leagues are merging to become the South Wales Alliance for next season, so this was the final ever play-off, between STM Sports, the Amateur League winners, and Pontlottyn the Senior League victors.

But why not at Aberavon, and why so late? For a time a play-off looked unnecessary, as STM had failed ground grading, their 3G pitch at Llanrymney was deemed to be too far from the changing rooms, giving Pontlottyn a free pass to promotion. However STM successfully appealed, giving the South Wales FA the uneviable task of organising a play-off they didn’t anticipate, and at short notice.

Salvation came in the shape of the Cardiff City Stadium, used the previous evening for Wales’ encouraging win against Belgium, and still sporting the national insignia. The “Together, Stronger,” seemed rather apposite for this game too! But if the machinations behind the game were involved, that was nothing compared to what happened when referee Brian James blew his whistle to start the game.

Now I’ve watched enough Valleys football to expect a tough, physical game. The modus operandi is to play at a million miles an hour, no quarter asked or given, then when its all over, go and have a beer.

So when STM’s Lloyd Nessbert was substituted after only 7 minutes most will have assumed he’d been injured. The truth was he’d actually been arrested, and charged with assault! It transpired that he’d failed to attend court and so South Wales Police had issued a warrant for his arrest, and acted once they realised where he was. He started the game, realised he needed to change boots on a wet surface, so went over to the dugouts to do so. Two policemen spotted him, called him into the players’ tunnel and executed the arrest. It took a shocked STM management around 5 minutes to realise they weren’t going to get their right-back back and made the substitution.

Under the circumstances STM could have been seriously distracted, but with real pace up front, they were easily the better side on the day. The pivotal moment was the dismissal of Pontlottyn keeper Andrew Llewellyn for his second booking, wiping out Josh Graham who was rounding him. He might reflect on his first booking being for kicking the ball away.

As Pontlottyn tired their makeshift defence opened up, and Chris Worsley profited, and in the end STM were worthy winners, even if they had lost a man in bizarre circumstances.

I do miss our hops in the Amateur League, but the new league will open up at least two divisions worth of clubs for us. I’m not sure when it’ll happen, but when it does, I and many others will savour our return to South Wales. Do remind me to warn the Otley Arms in Trefforest though!