Friday 8th March 2013 ko 19.30
Welsh League Division One
TON PENTRE 4 (Leahy 33p 34 Wearne 35 Edwards 78)
TAFFS WELL 3 (L Williams 8 66 Roberts 22)
Tea in a mug 60p
When you see me in the GroundhopUK burgundy jacket it can only mean its groundhop time again! Last year we put together a mopping up exercise to visit some of the Mid-Wales League grounds we couldn’t do in August Bank Holiday. That process is ongoing, but we filled two game slots with the kind help of the Ceredigion League, and everyone enjoyed themselves at Lampeter and New Quay so much we decided to base a hop around the League.
With a good hotel found in Carmarthen we tried to find a suitable Friday night game for those who didn’t want to drive to West Wales early on Saturday. With the coach picking up in Cardiff, any game in The Valleys would work for us, and Ton Pentre were happy to see an extra fifty people on the gate, even though the game wasn’t part of the hop.
Ynys Park lies across two metal bridges, although one is now out of use, condemned as unsafe tucked away in the back streets of the Rhondda near Treorchy. This is former mining territory, and more obviously on a night before the Six Nations Rugby, the territory of the oval ball, as many clubs opted to play in the evening to let the fans and players watch the internationals in the clubhouse the next day. Sat at the front of the coach I heard the occasional, “Here it is,” as a member of the party saw a lit set of floodlights. We found the ground and collected the reserved programmes for us on the coach. With an hour to kill, I found the local chip shop appropriately named, “A Fish Called Rhondda” and enjoyed a chicken curry accompanied by that staple of South Wales cuisine, half rice half chips.
Ynys Park has staged Welsh Premier Football and although the stand on the far side as been lost, a victim of the need to widen the pitch, the terrace behind the goal with the tea bar at one end gives more than a hint of former glories. But look closely at its fabric, and that of its sister, the small seated stand at the halfway line. The stanchions are made from rails from the coal mine, the ground is literally made out of the history of the Rhondda. The atmosphere under the lights as palpable as it was when I first visited around 10 years ago.
And for once the game lived up to the surroundings. Taffs Well are the leaders of the league, and for half an hour looked utterly irresistable. Liamar Williams’ 25 yard blast opened the scoring, and James Roberts’ header across keeper Marty Ellacot for the second made you wonder how many Well would get. All that changed when Jamie Wearne was played clean though and was brought down by Taffs Well keeper Rhys Wilson who was luck to escape with just a booking from UEFA referee Wayne Tregonning. Joe Leahy’s successful spot kick was the catalyst for an amazing 3 minute spell. Leahy’s long range strike was the equal of Williams’ earlier effort, and when Wearne lobbed Wilson for the third, most present either grinned, or just shook their heads in disbelief.
Tregonning didn’t reappear for the second half, a victim of injury, and the game calmed down, no two teams could have kept up that frantic pace. Williams equalised for Well, heading in former Newport midfielder Tyrone Topper’s left-footed free kick, but subsitute Josh Edwards won the game for Ton Pentre, pouncing on a poor clearance to fire home from the edge of the six yard box.
It was a fanastic start to the weekend, and a great advert for the Welsh League. Its just a shame more people didn’t take advantage of a cheap evening’s entertainment, at a wonderful ground, and a cracking game.