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Sunday 25th February 2018 ko 14.30

Welsh Premier League


NEWTOWN 1 (Goodwin 4)

Att 201

Entry £7

Programme £2

We’d had a bit of an adventure after returning back to our hotel after the Bala game. We were walking in the main entrance when an ambulance on blues and twos screamed into the car park. There’d been a wedding at the hotel and a guest had thought it would be a jolly jape to drop a Viagra pill into someone’s champagne… In the end no harm was done, I hope the victim wasn’t the groom (he spent the night in hospital) and it did serve to empty the bar for the hop party!

The later kick-off allowed us a very leisurely Sunday morning. That proved to be no bad thing although I’m sure that if we’d have been hopping one of our normal leagues we’d have tried to schedule a morning game. The trouble with organising a hop in a national league was always getting an away side to travel long distance to fulfil an early kick-off. God knows it can be difficult enough in local football!

The compromise, other than a lie-in was a very convivial hour spent in the “Beautiful Game” shop in Prestatyn. The shop is a mecca for any football geek with a wide array of books, programmes and other football memorabilia with an understandable slant to the game in Wales. The vast majority of the party bought something!

The last game of the hop saw a first for the weekend. All of our WPL games had been in the post-split top-six section of the lead. This game was in the bottom-six section where all there is to fight for is a single play-off spot and in the case of beleaguered Prestatyn grim survival in Wales’ top flight, assuming they either can get or want a fresh domestic licence.

Bottom of the table they may be, having had serious financial problems, but the Seasiders were both excellent hosts, and friendly to a fault. They had to split their time too, a group of Borussia Monchengladbach fans turned up, judging by their half-and-half scarves they’d been to the Liverpool game the day before. The club looked after them as beautifully as us, but neither us nor the Germans could do is bring Prestatyn a little luck.

You see it in all sides down on their luck. Try as they might nothing worked and the nature of Newtown’s goal summed it up well. Tom Goodwin’s shot was innocuous enough but the deflection it took left Seasiders’ keeper Carl Jones utterly stranded. Things like that only happen when you’re staring relegation in the face.

Try as they might Prestatyn couldn’t force their way back into the game. It was one of those difficult to watch matches where you can see the effort expended, but in you heart of hearts know it’s not going to work. It must be soul-destroying to play in such circumstances.

It was interesting on so many levels to see a Welsh Premier League hop take place. On one level it was good to see so many hoppers support the event, and as an experiment to see how an event in the higher reaches of the game might work. Every club we visited saw increased attendances, which can only be a good thing. My reservations on a hop in the WPL do remain though.

The fact is that the we only had two WPL fixtures to visit on the Saturday, I would regard 3 as an absolute minimum, and I would have liked to see 2 games on the Sunday. That would have pushed the compromise that is an organised groundhop back towards the needs of the groundhoppers, but would that compromise be acceptable to the league or the clubs? If it were not, would another hop along the 1+2+1 format be good enough? Those are the questions Chris Berezai and I will consider over the next few weeks with the WPL.

This could be a one-off, or it could be the first of 3 such events, but whichever the way the cards fall, I’ll look back at this weekend with some fondness, it was hugely enjoyable. My thanks to all involved.