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Friday 13th April 2018 ko 19.30

Welsh League Division One

GOYTRE 1 (Leek 17)

LLANELLI TOWN 4 (Loveridge 15 45 90 C Jones 39) Vickers sent off 50 (dangerous play)

Att 151

Entry & Programme £5

For the last few years the Welsh Spring Hop has been based in West Wales, firstly in Ceredigion then for the last 2 events in Carmarthenshire. We’d had a few issues organising last year’s hop and this proved to even worse! In the end only the first and last games of the hop remained the same, visits to Goytre and Butetown and significantly neither of those clubs are in the Carmarthenshire League! The problems Chris Berezai faced were many and varied but can be neatly summed up as follows.

Simply put, we couldn’t get the Carmarthenshire League teams to play as away clubs and that went double for the Sunday fixtures. Now I can sit here and type as to how disappointing that is, and how that included clubs who’d previously benefited from hosting including on a Sunday but that was their decision and as organisers we had to deal with the consequences. The real shame is that our appetite for dealing with the Carmarthenshire League is very much diminished. I can’t say we won’t ever visit there again but the impression gained at present is that they didn’t fully grasp the concept.

We had to act quickly and in the end made use of some fixtures that were already scheduled, and for the Saturday evening fixture were helped out by the South Wales Alliance League. They are a league that along with the Ceredigion League has grasped the concept on Welsh hops better than most and run with it. In the end we provided the same 6 game hop we’d planned, just with 4 different host clubs.

So we ended up with a radically different schedule than the one we’d expected to run with. There was also a new coach company so seeing many of the usual faces at our pick-up point in Cardiff was oddly comforting. The hoppers that book coach, hotel and tickets with us are our best customers, and whose opinions we seek out first. They are also the people we want to look after the most so as GroundhopUK evolves expect to see more of what happened next.

For those not in the know this is the Goytre that’s based in Penperlleni near Pontypool, not to be confused with the Goytre United near Port Talbot and very close to the Plough Road ground is the Mad Dog brewery. So as a little bonus, and as a thank you for their loyalty a brewery tour was organised and a trip to the brewery tap too. The irony of the piece is that the land the brewery sits on was once owned by the Llanover family who closed every single pub on their land in the 19th century! It was good for our party, and good for the brewery. Expect to see more of these little bonuses in the future so don’t forget to book up for future hops!

It was understandably a happy coach party that arrived at the ground a few minutes later. From then on it was a simple task to distribute the programme packs and tickets and get back to the simple pleasures of watching a game of football.

This tie was about two sides growing from very different backgrounds. I will always see Llanelli as a Welsh Premier side, and as I type they’ve made it back after going bankrupt, and reforming in 2014. We visited them soon after and they made fans of every single one of us with their hospitality. Since then they’ve been promoted twice and recruited Swansea City legend Lee Trundle who hasn’t lost his eye for goal!

In contrast Goytre’s progress has been more organic. Promoted out of the Gwent County League in 2003 they’ve slowly worked their way through the 3 divisions of the Welsh League and the addition of seats and floodlights has seen Plough Road attain the ground grading to stay at the second tier of Welsh football. Nevertheless this is still a ground in a rural area even if the iron town of Pontypool is only a few miles to the south.

The form book suggested a Llanelli win and I’m sure many wondered how many goals the 41 year old Trundle would score. Yes, Llanelli did win, and fairly easily and even with the loss of Jordan Vickers, dismissed after a heavy challenge. The one surprise was that Trundle didn’t score but this time out the star was James Loveridge who collected a superb hat trick! In the end this looked like a game of clubs with different aims. Goytre are slowly establishing themselves at this level, whilst Llanelli have quickly regained lost ground.

We thanked the good people at Goytre, and headed for Carmarthen. While the hotel we’d booked was now a relic of an event changed beyond recognition it was familiar territory to us. For that reason it all felt comforting.