Friday 10th March 2017 ko 19.45
Welsh League Division One
RISCA UNITED 1 (Williams 46)
MONMOUTH TOWN 3 (Lewis 38 43 Kareem 56)
Our coach left Castell’s depot at Caerphilly, and took the best part of an hour to reach Sophia Gardens in Cardiff where most of its occupants where waiting our arrival at a pub. I did find myself question the wisdom of scheduling of a rugby match at the Millennium Stadium to clash with Friday night rush hour in Cardiff.
Six years of this pick-up before heading to West Wales have taught us to build in fail-safes so as not to miss kick-offs. We planned for, and visited a real ale pub en route to Ystrad Mynach, but the traffic was dreadful, and the situation not helped when the official coach drop-off point decided that since we weren’t National Express we couldn’t pick-up there. Our driver Carl took the only sensible option, he did the pick-up anyway. After all leaving full coachload of groundhoppers in a pub just wouldn’t be right would it?
As in previous years we’d picked an already scheduled Welsh League game to act as a precursor to the main hop. Last year we’d visited Garden Village in Gorseinon a side struggling at the wrong end of Division One, and this game involved visiting…. a side struggling at the wrong end of Division One. That was just about the only parallel though.
Risca have played at the Centre For Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach for 2 seasons now, and the reason is obvious. With the Welsh League bringing in more stringent ground gradings for the season after next, top tier clubs will need floodlights and 200 seats to be able to continue at the second layer of Welsh club football. Risca’s base at Ty-Isaf park has neither, so the move makes sense even though the CSE does have plenty of problems for a tenant club.
The main issue is it’s municipal nature. There’s no bar or catering for fans, losing a vital source of income for any club. The burger van in the car park knew a good opportunity even if the venue didn’t. That and the 3G pitch’s unfortunate habit of flooding when there’s any significant rain has seen fellow tenants Aberbargoed Buds announce they’re leaving at the season’s end and are returning to an improved Recreation Ground. Oddly all midweek fixtures have already switched back home.
It didn’t take long to get back into GroundhopUK mode, it seemed like a age ago that we were finishing the Western Hop at Street FC. Whilst we were off-hop so to speak, force of habit made us count the crowd anyway. The game went by the form book, Risca succumbing to a mixture of poor defending and Craig Lewis’ predatory instincts, leaving me wondering whether if they succumb to relegation whether they, like Aberbargoed will plot their way home?