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Saturday 19th May 2018 ko 13.30

Welsh League Division Two

AMMANFORD AFC 1 (Frater 19p) Glendon sent off (dangerous play) 62

PONTYPRIDD TOWN 3 (Hooper 48 Boddard 57 Hillman 68)

Att c150

Entry & Programme £4

It seems a common theme of this season has been me stretching the concept of “its on the way home” to its extremes! Here the plan of action was to collect Robyn from a few days holiday in Weymouth, and I was tasked to find us a game between there and Oxford. Well, South Wales and one of the most westerly clubs in the Welsh League is close enough isn’t it?

The reasoning was straightforward. The FAW have extended the domestic licence system from being a purely Welsh Premier League affair to including a cut-down version of it in the second tier. Those licences contain a strong element of ground grading so clubs, particularly those in the south, who either are at or aspire to life in the second tier will have to either improve, move or accept relegation.

For both Ammanford and Pontypridd the option taken has been to move while improvements are made to their home grounds, subject to promotion being achieved. And there lay the rub. Pontypridd needed a win to secure promotion while Ammanford’s route looked circuitous if plausible.

If both got promoted, that would see Ponty move from the University Playing Fields in Trefforest into Leckwith Stadium, in Cardiff for a year with Ammanford moving to a groundshare at Briton Ferry Llansawel. Neither case looks ideal, both involve ten mile journeys from their normal grounds and one wonders what that will do to attendances and revenues in the highly competitive Welsh League Division One.

It was a blessedly straightforward journey with Harry and Meghan’s wedding serving to keep the M5 and M4 clear for the entire journey. The surprise was why the kick-off had been brought forward an hour. The reasoning was to allow everyone to watch the English FA Cup final later on! I inwardly smiled, enjoying the gentle irony that come the World Cup I couldn’t see many Welsh desperately heading home early to cheer on England!

We arrived to quite a throng at the Recreation Ground. Between a rugby match at the adjacent ground and a youth game preceding the football match, there was plenty of people there in the heat to enjoy the entertainment. And for as welcoming a welcome as we got the issues that the FAW and clubs with ambition in the area have were brought into sharp focus.

The ground is barely enclosed, there are no seats and no floodlights. To expect a club playing here to jump from the Welsh League Division One to WPL grading with a minimum 1,500 seats, lights and a PA is fanciful. The stepping stone grading is long overdue, but the pain of having to adapt is also clear. You hope that in the end the ends will justify the means and the path upwards for clubs in the south will become a lot less onerus than it is now.

As perhaps the occasion demanded it was a blood and thunder game with the visitors deserving their win; their cause helped by Nick Glendon’s dismissal for a dreadful challenge on Ponty’s Andy Smith. It was a high quality game despite that challenge with Gavin Boddard’s acrobatic strike the pick of the goals.

In the end the result didn’t matter, both clubs were promoted. Ammanford went up in third place the final spot, three points clear of the unfortunate STM Sports with Pontypridd finishing four points better in runners-up spot to Llantwit Major.

Despite the heat and humidity it was an enjoyable day out, and judging by some of the faces there quite a few other hoppers saw this as I did as a way of ticking of the Recreation Ground while we still could. We headed back to Oxford wondering how long Ammanford’s exile will be?