Saturday 3rd February 2018 ko 14.00
Welsh League Division 3
TREFELIN BGC 2 (Latham 20 Edwards 61)
PANTEG 1 (Ryan 53) Dyke penalty saved 45
You’d be hard pressed to believe you were less than a mile from Port Talbot and its Steelworks at Ynys Park. The ground lies in the valley of the River Afan (Afan Lido FC references the river), on the B4268 just south of Cwmafan. So why isn’t the club called something more in keeping with it’s location?
Well at the risk of contradicting myself, the name does, it references “The mill by the river” which was what what was here before the coal and iron ore collided to create the steel industry. The club was founded in 1984 and since then they’ve worked their way up through the Port Talbot League, and up through the South Wales Amateur League, winning the merged South Wales Alliance the season before last.
It speaks volumes that the ground needed little more than a perimeter fence for elevation to the Welsh League, this clearly is a club that saw the need for infrastructure as well as a successful team. That also extends to an excellent Twitter feed, and on a weekend where no end of fixtures where lost to waterlogged pitches that was a godsend. But this one of those visits where the simple pleasure was to chat to and listen to a friendly outward-looking club.
That said the twitter feed did say that the pitch would be fine so long as there was no overnight rain, and it became obvious that there’d been plenty. The pitch was wet, not quite Pencader wet but very marginal. I was grateful referee Paul Meredith decided the pitch was the right side of playable.
I’d had a game waterlogged off in Port Talbot a couple of years ago, Tata Steel’s first attempt to play their final ever home game, and there were no lack of former Tata Steel players on show here. In fact it was one, goalkeeper Matthew Stanton that recognised me, to the point that he he noticed he saved a penalty last time I’d watched him play, little did he or I know….
I hold Torfaen-based Panteg in high regard too. They’ve anchored their presence in the Welsh League although they’ll have a problem the day the league decides that you have to have a covered walkway from the changing rooms to the pitch! But this was game for them with little more than pride to play for. They’ll finish comfortably mid-table, but there was a good deal more in it for their hosts.
They needed a win to to overtake Ynysgerwyn and retake top spot in the league, but from the outset it was clear that the pitch was acting as a leveler and in the end it was the brilliance of Stanton’s goalkeeping and some sharp finishing that preserved the hosts’ unbeaten run. That goalkeeping excellence did indeed lead to another penalty save and I do mean a save, the penalty wasn’t missed. Luke Dyke’s penalty was perfectly struck and heading for the bottom left-hand corner so Stanton’s save was all the more impressive. He remarked at half time that I ought to watch him play more often. Maybe the defences he stands behind should stop mistiming their challenges!
On another day Panteg could have won it, but the mark of a good side is that even when circumstances weren’t in their favour they still found a way to take 3 points. Perhaps it was Trefelin’s day after all, the rain that surely would have produced an an abandonment arrived at the final whistle!