Saturday 10th July 2021 ko 14:00
Welsh Cup 1st Qualifying Round
MUMBLES RANGERS 1 (E Smith 1)
March sent off 56 (foul & abusive)
PENLAN CLUB 2 (Fisher 56 Edwards 72)
L Otten sent off 77 (serious foul play)
Att c100 😉 at Underhill Park.
Without question Welsh clubs have suffered tougher Covid restrictions than their English counterparts; it does take a remarkable turn of events for me to have not seen a game in Wales since a visit to Afan Lido back in December 2019! Many Welsh teams hadn’t played a game since the first UK lockdown in March 2020, and just to make life more complicated there was a restructuring to the footballing pyramid in Wales too!
We’d got used to the Welsh Premier being restyled the Cymru Premier, with the Cymru North and Cymru South at tier 2. But the abandoned 2020/21 season was meant see a new set of tier 3 leagues called Ardal (Welsh for Region) to provide 4 divisions under FAW control to provide a link with the district leagues below that. To complicate matters still further in West Wales, a new Step 4 league has been created with clubs in invited from the Carmarthenshire, Neath & District, Pembrokeshire, and Swansea Senior Leagues. The West Wales Premier League will contain both Mumbles Rangers and Penlan Club who have both been promoted from the Swansea Senior League. Which leads me neatly to Mumbles.
Other than being the home of actress Catherine Zeta Jones, her house is easy to spot, its the one with the highest walls in the village, the place does have the distinction for being named after, well boobs! The reason is the headland consisting of two boob-shaped islands, and the two stories do add up to much the same thing. The first is that French sailors named the place “Les Mamelles” or “The Breasts” or the Latin”Mamucium”- a “Breast-like” hill.
You do see a lot of the Swansea bay, from the moment you pass Port Talbot on the M4 through Swansea passing close by where the Vetch Field used to be, tracing the line of the old Swansea & Mumbles tramway that closed in 1960, although there are plans afoot to reinstate it. I quickly understood why, the traffic doesn’t move quickly from when you reach the bridge over the River Tawe, and by the time we reached Newton Road we were a little tight for time.
But why Mumbles? Well other than the usual, “Why not?” I’d researched the Covid regulations for football grounds in Wales. As a precis, the rule is a maximum of 100 and temperature checks on all attendees. In my view the Senedd and the FAW have seen the mistakes that DCMS and the FA made in England in April, and dreamt up an even more unworkable set of rules in competition. I decided to go for a public park, in much the same way as I’d done for Towcester Town on the basis that I’d get in and if more than 100 did turn up I could at least claim to be somewhere public. And there was the added bonus of the ground being called Underhill!
But the regulations ended up being the last thing I ended up thinking about. The game was a real local derby- Penlan is a district of Swansea, and was a fiesty as you’d expect. It was watched by Swansea City legend, and guest of honour Alan Curtis, and I was there for his final game in charge of the Swans, 5 years ago.
The excitement started right from kick off with Mumbles taking an early lead though Elliott Smith, but lost defender Aaron Richards to a dislocated shoulder soon afterwards. It was last, furious and occasionally X-rated. Penlan equalised through Chris Fisher and Mumbles lost former Port Talbot midfielder Kurtis March, dismissed for a volley of verbals at referee Craig Templeton. It wasn’t to be the final red card either…
The challenges rained in from either side, but Luke Edwards smashed home for Penlan to take the tie, before team mate Liam Otten saw red for the kind of challenge that gets you sent off in any game, anywhere. Referee Templeton did well to quell the brawl the tackle sparked.
That was all in remarkable contrast to what I found off the pitch, as tends to be the case in South Welsh grassroots football. I greatly enjoyed Rangers’ company and their friendly officials were a credit to themselves and their club. Boy it was good to be back in Wales.