Saturday, 3 December 2016

PEN-Y-BONT (Bryntirion Park)


At this latter stage of the Welsh Cup competition, when the Premier League teams enter, there are usually slim pickings when it comes to a new ground to visit. Luckily for me though, Pen-y-bont were drawn at home to Airbus so it was to South Wales I headed for the latest instalment on the road to....well, we will have to see!

Penybont is the Welsh name for Bridgend, the end of the bridge being on the River Ogmore which flows through town. I first visited the town in 2011 when Bridgend Town FC were playing at the rugby ground, The Brewery Field. The club played here from 2009 until 2013 when they merged with another local side, Bryntirion Athletic, to form Pen-y-Bont FC.

The new club are based at Bryntirion Park, the former home of Athletic, which, for sponsorship reasons, is now known as the Kymco Stadium. Despite the freezing cold conditions that the country has experienced over the past week, there was no danger of this game being off as a 3G pitch was laid, to coincide with the beginning of the new club.

Penybont are members of the Welsh league Division One, which sits directly below the Welsh Premier League in the Welsh pyramid. They are currently in 6th position in the table, 8 points behind current leaders Goytre, but with two games in hand.

They are managed by Welsh Premier League legend Rhys Griffiths, who is second on the all time goalscoring list behind Marc Lloyd-Williams. He scored a staggering 180 goals in 181 appearances for Llanelli between 2006 and 2012.

I witnessed The Wingmakers last visit to South Wales a few weeks ago, when they lost 2-0 to Cardiff Met. They are currently without a win since September and are rock bottom of the Welsh Premier League, so there was definitely the whiff of an upset in the air in the build up to kick off. Unfortunately for Airbus that is how is panned out. Admittedly they did not help themselves as their frailties at the back contributed to their downfall.

Penybont went at the visitors from the off and pressed them back, not giving the Wingmakers any time to settle. They found themselves two goals to the good after 19 minutes. Airbus goalkeeper Ryan Nield played the ball to Jake Hully on the edge of the area but a poor touch was intercepted by Joe Hopkins who squared for Marcus Griffiths to fire home (12).

Neild made a great save from a Griffiths header to deny the Penybont striker his second goal (pictured below) but Griffiths did hit the target in the 19th minute when more dithering in the Airbus defence led to a goal. Neild's clearance was intercepted by Hopkins who back healed the ball into the path of Griffiths who made no mistake.

Penybont's two goal lead only lasted two minutes when Ryan Fraughan found the bottom corner of the net from just inside the area. Despite not being in the game for most of the half Airbus should have gone in level at half time but a Liam O’Neill header found the crossbar with the goal at his mercy. When your luck is out...

The second half was 10 minutes old when Penybont restored their two goal advantage. A free kick was swung in and glanced home by player/manager Rhys Griffiths (pictured above). This time there was no coming back for Airbus. There were further chances for both sides but Penybont had the final say in the 89th minute with a superbly worked goal, the ball eventually being played through to Owain Warlow who wrapped up a deserved victory for Penybont.

The sgorio cameras were at the match and the highlights can be found be clicking here

Saturday, 26 November 2016

WYTHENSHAWE TOWN (Ericstan Stadium)


The poor weather forecast made me abandon my original plan of a trip north of the border so I opted to keep it local-ish today. A couple of groundhoppers I know said they were heading to Wythenshawe, so I thought why not join them?

A quick tweet to the club around midday confirmed all was well and the game was on so I made my way along the M56. Unbeknown to me my fellow groundhoppers had also been in touch earlier on when the confidence of the club was not so great, so they diverted to the sunnier climes of South Wales. I was already parked up at the ground when I got the message. Oh well another time then.

Wythenshawe is a town south of Manchester, which became part of the city in the 1930's, but historically the town was part of Cheshire. At one time it boasted the largest council estate in Europe. One of my all time musical heroes, Johnny Marr, was raised in Wythenshawe.

The football team play at the Ericstan Stadium on Timpson Road. The ground is named Ericstan as a tribute to Eric Reynard and Stan Orme who were prime movers in Wythenshawe's early days. Without doubt Wythenshawe are a club on the up.

In 2014/15 the club transferred from the Manchester League to the Cheshire League where they won the quadruple of Division Two League Title, League Cup, Altrincham FA Senior Cup and the Manchester FA Amateur Cup. The club were promoted once again in 2016 and are now in the Cheshire League Premier Division.

Speaking to a club official and he said if the club are in position to accept promotion to the North West Counties League this season then they definitely make the move up. The club have already had an informal meeting with the NWCFL ground grading chairman and know what work needs to be done.

The ground already has two stands on each side of the pitch so the only additional work needed would be enlarging the dugouts and the erection of floodlights. There is a large social club at the ground, though this afternoon there were probably more people inside watching the Burnley v City game on TV than outside watching the game.

It was bitterly cold but, thankfully, frost and fog free. Well it was fog free at kick off but boy did the mist descend as the game progressed.

The game was a full blooded encounter with some very robust challenges being made, but the referee kept things in control.

Both teams had opportunities but the game was settled on the hour when Cyril Owalabi was played in to fire home for Wythenshawe. The home side had further chances to extend their lead but in the end it was a solitary goal that separated the two teams.

This was my first ever dip into Cheshire League and thoroughly enjoyable too. I will almost certainly be taking in more games in this league!

Spot the ball!

Sunday, 13 November 2016



It was with tired eyes and a banging headache that I awoke today after spending the previous night in the Tiny Rebel Urban Tap House analysing Wales' disappointing 1-1 draw with Serbia.

After a Wetherspoons breakfast had put me right, I Continued the theme of yesterday by paying a visit to another team with links to a University. Welsh Premier League 'newboys' Cardiff Metropolitan University were hosting visitors from the North, Airbus UK Broughton.

The last time I visited the Cyncoed Campus was for a Welsh Cup tie in 2011, when the club were known as University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC) and they played on the adjacent pitch. The small stand is still there but the pitch is now used for rugby.

The club became known as Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2012 but that was the latest in a series of name changes based on the name of the institution it was representing. The major name change occurred in in 2000 when the club merged with four times League of Wales runners up Inter Cardiff to become UWIC Inter Cardiff.

The club played under this name as they fell from the top tier to the Welsh league 3rd Division before simply becoming UWIC in 2009. The change of name to Cardiff Met in 2012 has coincided with a renaissance as the club secured three promotions in four seasons to rise back to the top tier of Welsh football. Former welsh international Dr Christian Edwards, who was in charge on my last visit, is still the Director of Football at the club.

There was a good crowd today as the club make watching Premier League football affordable. It was £6 to get in, and that includes your programme, but for Students it is only £1 on production of their card. There were plenty of young faces in the crowd, including a small section in the corner who were quite literally banging the drum for Cardiff.

This is the fourth time I have seen Cardiff Met. play this season and, in my humble opinion, I think they are the best footballing side in the division. Early on their performances didn't garner the points they merited but, in recent weeks, the results have now started to come and the club are now in the upper echelons of the table, sitting in 6th position.

Airbus on the other hand, after beating Cardiff Met. on the opening day, have struggled this season and are currently in the relegation zone on goal difference.

The game today went with form as the students impressed once again. Adam Roscrow gave the home side the lead on the half hour mark when he headed home a sublime cross Kyle McCarthy. Charlie Corsby doubled the students lead after when he fired home from inside the box early in the second half.

Airbus were not without chances with some last ditch defending preventing them from getting on the scoresheet. Cardiff also hit the woodwork three times but the game ended with just the two goals.

Saturday, 12 November 2016



It was international weekend so I was heading south to watch Wales v Serbia in Cardiff but, with the game kicking off at 7.45pm, it would have been churlish not to look for somewhere beforehand.

Just over the Bristol Channel, near junction 16 of the M5 motorway, Almondsbury UWE were hosting Keynsham Town in the Western League, which fitted the bill perfectly.

The club were founded in 1969 as Patchway North End, but later changed their name to Patchway Old Boys. The club relocated from Patchway to Almondsbury in 1989 and changed their name to Almondsbury.  After winning the Bristol Suburban League in 1991 they were promoted to the Gloucestershire County League. 

Almondsbury were champions of the Gloucestershire League in 2004 and thus promoted to Western League. A link up with the University of the West of England was announced in 2009, and the club once again changed its name, this time to Almondsbury UWE.

Almondsbury have struggled so far this season and are currently propping up the table whilst visitors Keynsham sit atop of the table.

The game was hardly a classic with chances few and far between. The game was settled by a Pat Davison strike just before half time, which meant all three points for Keynsham. The home side probably did enough to warrant a draw but they could not find a way past the Keynsham defence.

A minutes silence for Remembrance Day

Thursday, 3 November 2016

ATHLETIC BILBAO (Estadio San Mamés)


For the final game of my Spanish trilogy, I headed north to the largest city in the Basque Country, Bilbao.

In the week of the first anniversary of his passing, I followed in the footsteps of Everton Legend Howard Kendall by heading to the San Mames stadium to watch Athletic Bilbao take on Genk in the Europa League.

Ok, this was not the San Mames in which Mr Kendall had coached but the brand new version. The ground was opened in 2013 and, I have to admit, it is a mightily impressive arena.

The ground was built adjacent to the old ground, with three sides of the new build completed whilst Bilbao still played on the old ground. The fourth side was completed once the old ground had been levelled. (Images of the building work can be found here)

It was a flying visit which, sadly, meant little time for any of the touristy stuff. However there was time for a pre-match drink in the rather splendid Singular bar (pictured right). A fine selection of craft beers were on offer for the discerning drinker.

From there it was a 20 minute walk to the ground where tonight I witnessed a small piece of history.

Since the Europa League was revamped into its current format, no player has scored five goals in one game. Tonight veteran Spanish striker Aritz Aduriz achieved that feat as Bilbao came out on top in eight goal thriller.

The scoreline could have been anything as both teams went all out attack. Bilbao scored their goals at the right times to keep their noses in front of the Belgians, who possibly could have grabbed a draw with their second half pressure.

Aduriz put Bilbao 2-0 up with a tap in at the near post (7) and a penalty kick (23) which was awarded by English referee Martin Atkinson, before Leon Bailey slotted home to half the deficit. Aduriz completed his hat-trick before half time with another penalty kick (43).

Onyinye Ndidi made it 3-2 in the 50th minute when he headed home a cross. A defence splitting pass (74) played Aduriz through one-on-one to score his fourth. Genk refused to lie down and five minutes later Tino Sušić scored to once again bring them back within one goal.
In stoppage time though Atkinson awarded Bilbao another penalty and Aduriz stepped up to write his name in the history books. Credit both teams for producing a fantastic game to watch. A fine way to end my Spanish adventure!

Aritz Aduriz scores his third penalty of the match in stoppage time
and secures himself a place in the Europa league history books.
Headlines in the newspapers.