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Saturday 25th August ko 18.30

Gwent County League Division One

PILL YMCA 0 Simmons sent off 65 (violent conduct)

LLISWERRY 2 (Allman 23 Verren 87)

Att 174

Entry £3

Programme £1

The coaches squeezed into the car park at the YMCA in Mendalgief Road, in Newport. Three young men already there furtively looked round, their guilty expressions speaking volumes. When the passengers disembarked they looked pleased, perhaps there was a source of business. Little did they know that if their business had been bottle-conditioned ale, they’d have made a fortune. They watched the action through the bars of the fence, which may or may not become a metaphor for their futures.

As our mini hop of the Gwent County League came to an end it was interesting how the league picked this ground rather than that of nearby Newport Corinthians. Perhaps the view was taken that the pitchside facilities here at the YMCA are better than at Corries, even if the view of the Transporter Bridge is better over the road!

The curiousity of Pill YMCA is the fact that it’s merger two times over. For this season Newport Pill FC merged with near neighbours Newport YMCA in a classic case of the club with the team merging with the club with the facilities. In 1973 Newport Central YMCA merged with Newport Pill YMCA to form the Newport YMCA that played Welsh League football until 2016.

Once we’d seen off the local businessmen we had the chance to explore a little. The YMCA itself is an impressive facility dating from 2000 with a cafe, a recording studio and accommodating. It’s new, its clean and perfectly maintained, and completely out of step with the football ground behind.

While I suspect that the ground could still stage Welsh League fixtures, the ground is in need of some care. It was clear that much of the far end has become completely overgrown and by the looks of things one side was only accessible because a strimmer had been used in liberal measure just before our arrival.

Still, the club coped well with the large crowd and I’m sure the YMCA’s cafe’s profits will help the charity’s good work in the area. Hopefully the newly merged side will be able to restore the ground to its former state.

Perhaps due to the fact that both sides had recent history in the Welsh League, it was a tough gritty encounter. No quarter was asked or given, as the two sides slugged it out on a pitch that made neat passing impossible. Goals from McCorey Allman and Luke Verren settled it, and YMCA’s Niall Simmons saw red for a flying elbow.

It was an enjoyable day in the company of the Gwent County League and it was good to see so many of their officials at the games seeing how the whole concept works. It’s fair to say that all parties enjoyed their day, and ultimately its that compromise between the needs of clubs, fans and league that it the measure of any hops’s success.

This Gwent day was set up so that everyone could see what the other sides of the compromise could offer, and as a result the league have a agreed to that for the time being the Gwent County League will host the August Bank Holiday Welsh Hop. It was and is good news, and it will allow us to visit new South Wales Alliance clubs as and when they enter that league since our base will remain in Trefforest.

I dumped my bag back in my room, and headed to Abertillery to watch a band Robyn and I ended up booking for our wedding. The 20 minute drive there was a time for reflection, and also to look forward. There were still 6 games to be spent in the Alliance’s company. I smiled and headed north.