Saturday 14th December 2019 ko 14.00
South Wales Alliance Division Two
MAESTEG PARK 0
TATA STEEL UNITED 0
Abandoned after 3 minutes-player injury
AFAN LIDO 2 (Parry 35 McCreesh 70)
CAERAU (ELY) 1 (Vincent 46)
Programme & Teamsheet £1.50
With Robyn having a wedding dress fitting in Bristol I was faced with my usual set of options when in her home city. Either head to South Wales or head south-west. There’s much to be said for either route but here I had a plan. The idea was based around GroundhopUK’s relationship with Bridgend & District Sunday League outfit Garth Vader. It seems that a fair percentage of their team play Saturday football for Maesteg Park and I had a little history with that club…
I’d attempted to visit the old Maesteg Park club back in 2010. I’d been working in Neath so a Tuesday evening Welsh League Division 2 game under the lights at Tudor Park wasn’t a stretch to me. Or so it should have been, I arrived, soon discovered the game was off due to a waterlogged pitch and ended up high-tailing it to Bitton! To add insult to postponement the club folded at the end of that season
I wasn’t destined to be much luckier 9 years later. I’d had a lovely welcome from the club, but 3 minutes after kick off Maesteg goalkeeper Tom Whelan attempted to smash a back pass back up the pitch but slipped in the mud, dislocating his shoulder as he fell backwards. It become quickly obvious that he couldn’t be moved before the paramedics arrived so the game was abandoned. All the very best to the player for a speedy and complete recovery and clearly someone somewhere doesn’t want me to watch Maesteg Park! For the record, thanks to all at the club for the welcome and I promise I’ll be back, and it won’t take 9 years!
I had a choice, both involving revisits. There was the chance to watch from the end of the first half at the 14.00 kickoff at Trefelin or watch virtually all the game at Afan Lido. Since I hadn’t been to the Lido Ground in well over 15 years I headed down out of the valleys past Trefelin and into Port Talbot’s environs.
Save for the leisure centre and Lido that gave the club its name being demolished little or nothing has changed here. The ground is fit for, and would grace the Welsh Premier and the club infamously once got relegated from the top flight in 2005 for playing Leigh Shrimpton while suspended. The catch was Shrimpton had been sent off playing for his Sunday side, without either the knowledge or permission of Lido! The deduction of 3 points was enough to put them into a relegation spot and reprieve Cefn Druids. The affair was a contributing factor in the FAW introducing a one player-one club rule.
It was also a chance to catch up with both Wales’ second tier and Caerau (Ely). I’d seen both in action at Cwrt-Yr-Ala in September and the new division didn’t seem to fit neatly with what was on show there. Back then Caerau were having an indifferent start to the season and that season had rapidly become a nightmare, with them marooned at the bottom of the table.
You saw their problems in microcosm here. They didn’t look anything like a basket case of a club, but couldn’t do right for doing wrong here. They forced a equaliser just after half time, but agonisingly couldn’t hold it, and the sense of resignation at it all was clear.
It wasn’t, on reflection the most comfortable place to watch a game. I’d swapped the valleys for the coast and the wind fairly whipped off of the Bristol channel. I soon learned to look out for where people’s vantage points were. The advantage of they had over me was that they knew all the best places to hide from the weather. That said the surroundings fitted the new, reconstituted and rebranded second tier rather well. Perhaps that’s no surprise Lido are a club geared up to the Cymru Premier after all.
It was an oddly satisfying afternoon even I did take virtually the full length of the M4 back to the Severn Bridge to warm back up. But then this weather is character forming isn’t it?