, , , , , , , , ,

Sunday 15th April 2018 ko 11.00

Bridgend & District League Division One

WICKED 4 (Picton 11p Griffiths 50 86 Davies 56)

GARTH VADER 3 (Evans 26 Vincent 47 Richard Boydell 77)

Att 47 at Coychurch Recreation Ground, Bridgend

Entry & Programme £2

Chris Berezai and I get it, we really do- some hoppers don’t do Sunday football. But last year’s Welsh Spring Hop saw something special. We’d been let down by Gorseinon FC who’d refused to play on a Sunday at Pontlliw so needed a replacement game. Chris approached Richard Boydell at Garth Vader and something magical happened.

We didn’t know, but Vader were struggling to the point that they were seriously considering folding. GroundhopUK’s visit gave them a boost, not just financial but also in the sense that they found a group of people who acknowledged their existence, and shared their sense of fun. The online trolls hated it, and the more bile they spouted the more ignorant they looked, and the more I smiled.

In non-league, and especially in South Wales football momentum is everything. The boost allowed Vader first the wherewithal to keep going, but also the enthusiasm to do so too. We kept in contact, and although relegation was inevitable at least Richard and his comrades had turned the corner.

So when for fairly similar reasons to the previous year we found ourselves looking for a Sunday morning game, the obvious move was to look to the dark side once again. I’ll admit to wondering whether the Vader boys could or would capture people’s imagination, but as the coach pulled into Bridgend I could feel the sense of anticipation.

Just the name Coychurch helped, who could forget Coychurch Road the original and spiritual home of Bridgend Town? Via spells in Porthcawl, Trefforest and Bridgend Ravens’ Brewery Field they ended up being swallowed up by Bryntirion to form the Penybont club of today. Is it really 12 years since they left Coychurch Road?

The Rec is used on a Saturday by the reserves of Bridgend & District League outfit Penycai but our hosts hailed from the Wicked Lady pub a couple of miles way in the west of town. I’m not sure what they made of the best part of 50 hoppers turning up to watch them, including supplying a linesman (thanks Martin) and making our own tea (thanks Margaret). I do know referee Goodman Maddocks was fascinated when he was asked for the team lineups!

It was, like our previous dip into the Bridgend & District Sunday League, a lot of fun. There was plenty of honest endeavour on a heavy pitch, but a depleted Vader team struggled. It was one of those games where a team works hard to equalise a goal, then concedes again. Even though Vader held the lead briefly the fact that they turned up with just the 11 players and an injury to Richard Boydell saw them slip to defeat to a Wicked side destined to finish third.

There was a silver lining though. Despite the loss Vader had already secured runners-up spot and at the final whistle a league official arrived to present the trophy to them. As the hoppers’ minds began to turn towards Butetown, it was good to see just how much had changed for Garth Vader since our first visit.

As for the nay-sayers, well it really was their loss….