Bridgend Street, Cardiff, Cardiff Corinthians, Cardiff Cosmopolitan, Chris Berezai, Fairwater, Football, groundhop, groundhopping, GroundhopUK, Non League, Penygraig, Poplar Park, South Wales Alliance, St Albans, University of Cardiff playing fields, Wales
Saturday 27th August 2022
11.15 South Wales Alliance Division Two
FAIRWATER 2 (Coles 30 Jefferies 69)
PENYGRAIG UNITED 3 (Tann 13 63 Langford 24)
14:00 South Wales Alliance Division Two
CARDIFF COSMOPOLITAN 0
ST ALBANS 0
17:00 South Wales Alliance Premier Division
BRIDGEND STREET 1 (Taylor 90+ 4)
CARDIFF CORINTHIANS 1 (Davies 78)
Saturday on the Welsh Hop was a little unusual. For a start we normally make Bank Holiday Monday “Cardiff Day” but here we ended up having two days in the capital. Now while a lot of that was due to the slightly unusual set of circumstances that saw us hopping the South Wales Alliance for a one-off reunion year. Like Tongwynlais the evening before Fairwater were one of the winners of the series of last season’s play-offs of the district leagues’ champions to get into the SWAL.
I have to say I’m amazed at how well the club coped. Remember this is a club new to the league, and with no experience at all of what happens at a hop game. Add to that the open nature of Poplar Park and the fact that the club managed to cater for the crowd, I remember a steady succession of bowls of chilli and rice making their way pitch side. As so often is the case I marvel at how a little club reads the GroundhopUK briefing notes and uses them to turn the occasion into something greater than the sum of its parts.
We watched a good game too. Fairwater lost the game, but on the evidence of this game, our notably friendly hosts have little to worry about in their new league.
The original plan wasn’t for the hop to visit the 3G pitch at the Cardiff University Playing Fields. The idea was to visit St Albans, also in the capital’s suburbs. But for reasons unknown they either didn’t want to or couldn’t host, which gave all concerned a quandary. There was a massive hole in our itinerary and an idea early on was to leave St Albans as a planned destination with no change to the kick off time, let them play the game as an completely normal fixture and have the league do the programme. It would have solved a problem, but the visitors’ experience would have been flat, and we came to the conclusion that sending a crowd to an unwilling club was pointless.
That left us with only one option, and that was to head to Cardiff Cosmopolitan, and that came with its own issues. The main one was that they are a using the 3G cage that was used by the now defunct STM Sports and so many of our clientele would have already visited, with a “Normal” kickoff time there would be ample opportunity for people to go to an alternative game and have time to rejoin the hop at Bridgend Street later. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but Cosmo’s were aware of the position so at least they didn’t expect a greater crowd than they got.
Some may well remember the complex for being where a Friday night Welsh Hop game featured Splott Albion and we all appeared on Sky TV on “FIFA Futbol Mondial” The pitch, nearest the entrance, is being converted to a 3G cage, and sadly Albion have dropped down into the Cardiff & District League.
The ground does have a certain history for Robyn and I, as it was where we watched our first game together! For those who wonder why on earth I’d take her to a 3G cage, it wasn’t my first choice- but Garw had been lost to a waterlogged pitch, and even the game we saw was nearly lost to the same fate! That little slice of our personal history ended up featuring in the programme, much to Robyn’s embarrassment, I may be a publicity ligger, she certainly isn’t!
So circumstances dictated we had a lower crowd than anyone would have liked, and the tragedy of the piece was that Cosmo’s were excellent hosts; has anyone else has Bulgarian pastries at a game in the UK? I must admit I was mildly surprised that St Albans provided the opposition, even if they didn’t have to do anything other than play a normal away game.
The game, sad to say, was attritional as two poor sides utterly cancelled each out after the hosts missed an absolute sitter mid-say through the first half. Some switched their attention to the friendly taking place on the pitch next door, which stopped me indulging in the schadenfreude of winding up the nil-nil haters. In the end I trudged back to the coach salved only by the fact that a friendly club hosted well, and were rewarded for their efforts. It meant our visit hadn’t been in vain, and you can expect me to pop up at St Albans very quietly at some point in the future.
The great advantage I had with Bridgend Street’s hosting was that I’d visited 3 years earlier and rather enjoyed their hospitality. They had two advantages over the other clubs on the Saturday. They were used to taking a gate, and were able to provide hospitality near to pitch side. Quite honestly it was one of those evenings where we as organisers all we needed do was count the crowd.
In fact the only issue seemed to be the amount of “hospitality” that was consumed, the Saturday evening game does seem to be part match, part social event. Still if the club benefits who am I to judge? I was pleased to see Cardiff Corinthians here, they’ve been prepared to play for us when others haven’t been so keen and that included a time when we didn’t think we’d ever be able to offer them a game to host, as their ground is used for cricket during August Bank Holiday. We got there in the end Corries!
Perhaps part of the reason for the party atmosphere was that for long periods the teams cancelled each other out. Eventually Aron Davies managed to break the deadlock for Corries, but the real drama was deep into stoppage time, when a controversial penalty saw Callum Taylor rescue a point for our hosts, who I both hope and suspect enjoyed their late afternoon. I certainly did!