Saturday 18th November 2017 kop 13.30
Gwent Central League-Langdon Cup 2nd Round
FORGESIDE 1 (Tidball 4)
CLYDACH WASPS RESERVES 0
I’d had a lousy week, and all of my plans for the weekend had crumbled into dust. I really couldn’t raise the enthusiam to head anywhere, and I’ve got Robyn to thank for this trip. She suggested I drop her at her Mum’s in Bristol then head off to “Something Welsh, you usually find something amazing there.” At that point, the penny dropped.
About two years ago I payed Blaenavon Blues and Clydach Wasps visits on the same day. It was an easy day, with just a few miles from one ground to the other, although I’d not spotted the drive involved travelling as much down as across!
About half-way I passed through Llanelly Hill and passed the little ground with the amazing view. A game was in progress, I nearly stoppped, but my card was marked. I soon found out the club playing there was Forgeside, and we’ve been following each other on Twitter since.
The club was created from Blaenavon’s 3rd XI breaking away from their parent club and taking the name of the now-closed blast furnace in the town. They’d have liked a pitch in Blaenavon but opted to make use of the unused pitch down the hill. Appropriately enough they secured a £500 grant from the Blaenavon Leisure and Sports Trust, or BLAST for short themselves started in the Gwent Central League.
If you take the Heads of the Valleys Road here you’ll pass Clydach Wasps’ ground as you head up to Llanelly Hill and that’s the main road with its roadworks you can see from the ground. And in case you’re wondering, yes it is Llanelly with a Y not an I. Apparently they do see the odd stranded lorry here whose driver has typed Llanelly into their SatNav, believe me you’re nowhere near Stebonheath Park here!
The ground has, like so many in South Wales been extensively landscaped to provide just enough flat land to mark out a pitch. It does though mean that on two sides once the pitch ends, the land slopes away markedly; I’m sure the fittest man present was the young ball boy!
The game was a cup competition for the Gwent Central League’s top division (a feeder to the Gwent County League), and both sides’ expectations were that Forgeside would win easily, as they had in the corresponding league fixture. The fact that Clydach turned up with just eleven players, and conceded in less than 5 minutes served to reinforced that view. I actually positioned myself behind the Clydach goal in the expectation that there would be most of the action!
We were all wrong. Both sides dug deep and provided one of the most entertaining games I’ll ever see, played in a quite wonderful spirit. It was tough, skilful, and committed and on the odd occasion a tackle was mistimed the players concerned simply grinned, got up and exchanged a pleasantry. If only the Premier League could play like that! Both sides hit the bar, both sides could have won it, and even with the benefit of hindsight I’m not sure how there were no further goals.
The rain fell, the wind howled across the exposed little Welsh ground, and I got soaked, but at the end I made sure I applauded every single player from the pitch. It was game worthy of a far bigger stage. Mind you that stage wouldn’t have a backdrop as good as this though would it?
Dedicated to the memory of groundhopper and Brighton & Hove Albion fan Paul Sparrow. Rest in peace Paul.