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Saturday 8th April 2017 ko 14.30

Welsh League Division 3

TREHARRIS ATHLETIC WESTERN 1 (Mitchell 55) Mitchell missed penalty 86

TREFELIN B.G.C. 1 (Latham 23) Monks-Landeg sent off 65 (dangerous play)

Att c25 at Welfare Ground, Fochriw

Entry £3

Programme £1

In the lexicon of great South Wales non-league grounds three places stand out. There’s Blaenrhondda, Garw and until recently Treharris Athletic Western’s Athletic Ground home. Those in the know knew it was on borrowed time, if for no other reason than the pitch being too small for Welsh League requirements, but the club’s abrupt departure earlier this year took many by surprise.

It seems that it was the changing rooms that finally did for the Athletic Ground, condemned as beyond safe use by the local authority. I called in after this game for a last look. It’s still being looked after by the looks of things, even if the club are completely convinced they’ve played their last game there. Even though, I reckon the club would see a huge crowd if they played one final friendly there.

The short notice nature of it all rather threw the club, and since then they’ve split their games between Taffs Well, the Centre for Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach and Fochriw.

Now with my GroundhopUK hat on we’d planned on visiting the Welfare Ground in Fochriw on the last Welsh Hop. After some to-ing and fo-ing Fochriw turned down the chance to host, the tie was switched to Aberfan but Fochriw only lasted another few weeks, folding citing a general lack of interest in the club.  A shame but it has given Treharris a base for now, even if they do prefer playing games at the altogether better appointed Taffs Well even if it is a lot further away from Treharris! The word is that a new Fochriw club will be playing next season, presumably in the Rhymney Valley League.

The long-term plan is to move to Parc Taff Bargoed, Trelewis, home of the now defunct Trelewis Welfare, and about a mile from Treharris. Again with my GroundhopUK hat on we visited there in August 2008 for the ground opener. The game has gone down in groundhopping folklore as the game where the council’s workman tried to mow the wet pitch with a tractor then literally trying to cover his tracks using the grass clippings. Here’s a few photos from that day!

The club hope to move in November this year, subject to ground improvements being both funded and carried out. Whilst the ground does have lights, a stand will have to be provided, and until that time Treharris will continue their itinerant existence. I had a nose around the Trelewis ground after this game and it’s fair to say nothing much has changed since my visit 9 years ago, except for the pitch being in markedly better condition!

So I got my game in Fochriw around 6 months late, and watching an entirely different team! It is a ground with a quite spectacular vista, although you can see why Treharris prefer to play elsewhere, as there’s no catering facilities, and it’s difficult to take a gate. It’s a village that’s metamorphosed from being rural, to a pit village and back within a century. There’s little evidence of coal mining these days, just the name of the ground, and the hills that owe more to human activity than mother nature.

Despite their restless season Treharris have had an improved season than in previous years when relegation to the South Wales Alliance was avoided though good luck rather than good play. Mid-table suits Treharris just fine, they’ll see it as a launch pad to better time, just as soon as they’ve sorted out their new home in Trelewis.

This game was a case in point against a struggling Trefelin (The BGC stands for “Boys and Girls Club in case you didn’t know) side. On another day they’d have won this, the penalty would have gone in, or better advantage taken of the numerical advantage following Travis Monks-Landeg’s dismissal for a horrible challenge. But in the bad old days Treharris would have contrived to lose this, and I hope that the departure from the Athletic Ground will have acted as the moment when things began to look up for one of Wales’ most iconic clubs.