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Bastion Gardens – Prestatyn Town

22 Aug

Prestatyn Town – 3

New Brighton Town – 4

Prestatyn Town – 2

Dukinfield Town – 3

Pre-season Friendlies – 6th August 2011

There is that old joke that whenever somebody beats a team such as Trinidad & Tobago, Rushden & Diamonds and Dagenham & Redbridge – then they say “Well that’s a great result as they played two sides!”. The joke has been doing the rounds long enough that I thought that it was the norm for smaller teams to join together to form a combined force. So when I hazily was searching for games in and around Prestatyn to get to on a dull Saturday (I couldn’t watch Colwyn Bay as I’d have to be in Prestatyn for around 5pm), I saw that the seasiders were playing the team of “New Brighton & Dukinfield Town”. As Welsh league games seem to kick off at 2:30pm, that’ll finish at around 4:30pm, leaving me enough time to get where I need to be in Prestatyn, bonus!

Nothing "Friendly" about this Friendly! (Preseason cliche #4)

Except it didn’t work like that, a quick check of the game on the website to see if it was still going ahead at 11am Saturday morning saw my glaring error. New Brighton Town & Dukinfield Town are two different teams, one from outside Liverpool, one from outside Manchester. Prestatyn Town were playing two football matches that day, and the first one kicked off in an hour.

With all the best will in the world I wasn’t going to make the start of the first game, and the time the last game ended will be too late, so I thought two half games may be better than no games at all, so headed to Bastion Gardens in Prestatyn to watch the seasiders play.

Prestatyn's ground was dominated by the Welsh hillside.

I like Prestatyn. It’s a small seaside resort just outside Rhyl, that seems to be lacking in the squalour that seems to exist in Rhyl. Prestatyn Town FC is right in the centre of the town as well, a short walk from the train station, and it’s games are well advertised. They are a Welsh Premier League club, and seem remarkably well run on meagre resources.

I entered the ground and there was already the first game going on, as they were midway through the second half. The ground of Prestatyn is covered in Red & White paint, so assumed for a bit that they were the team in those colours, not so as the seasiders from the Wirral wore the red & white, and the seasiders from Wales wore their away kit – a royal blue and yellow number. With no idea of the score I watched the game, with the only goal I saw was a looping header by Prestatyn’s centre forward James Cairns that gave the poorly positioned keeper no chance. I found out that goal was a consolation goal for Prestatyn, as they lost the game 4-3.

Half time entertainment, at least until the rain set in.

With an hour break between the games I explored the ground. Behind one of the stands (why do all Welsh teams have space behind their stands?!?) you could walk freely and see the game of cricket that was taking place, which fell victim to the rain a few times. Also there’s a standard club shop (which was opened during the period between the two games), a bar and a adjoining tea hut. The bar was impressive for Welsh Premier League level, with fruit machines and a dart board, in fact rivalled only by Llandudno Town in classiness and Bamber Bridge’s bar in terms of being my favourite. After a bog-standard pie and can of coke, I took my seat along the half way line for game two.

Prestatyn started game 2 brightly.

Unsurprisingly, Prestayn’s squad was completely different for game 2, and seemed to play very well with the new side. Dukinfield Town resorted to hitting on the break. Prestatyn Town had two great chances, both of which was cleared off the line. The first was a header from a corner that was cleared off the line, and the second was a goalkeeper mixup that saw the ball dribble slowly to the goal, but was cleared off the line by the defender. I was going to leave at half time, but on the 44th minute Dukinfield had the moment of the afternoon just before half-time.

Dunkinfield had a corner on the right hand side, and after the ball was cleared, the Dunkinfield midfielder (who unfortunately I’ve no idea who he was, as no names were provided), struck the ball first time on the volley. The ball rattled the post and bounced in. It was an amazing goal from 45 yards, that left the goalkeeper stranded. I left at half time, but left happy after seeing that amazing goal, yet sad that I wouldn’t see the rest of the game, and a goal like that was ultimately fruitless in a friendly.

Dukinfield had the moment of the 1st half.

In the second half, Dunkinfield were to score 2 more goals, equalled by Prestatyn, and the game ended 3-2 to the visitors.

Despite missing the two best halves of football in the two games I enjoyed my day at Prestatyn Town, everybody I spoke to was friendly, the food was alright, and watched the match sober (a rarity for me). The football wasn’t that bad and the game was played at a nice tempo. Plus it stopped raining for the walk to see my friends, hurrah!

Dukinfield went on to win the game.

Prestatyn fans though questioned their teams success on the pitch though. New Brighton and Dukinfield occupy levels 11 and 12 in the English league system. I don’t think it’s fair though. The first reason is that it’s a pre-season friendly, so you can’t read too much against it. Prestatyn will obviously up their game against the like of TNS, Bangor and Neath. The second reason is obvious.

It was two teams against one.

Deeside Stadium – Gap Connah’s Quay FC

9 Aug

Gap Connah’s Quay FC – 3

Colwyn Bay FC – 3

Preseason Friendly – 12th July 2011

“That’ll be £18.70 mate”.

“How much?”

“£18.70”

I questioned my sanity at this point. It’ll be £25 before I’ve seen a ball kicked, in deepest darkest Wales, to watch a friendly match that will no doubt be devoid of the atmosphere that my previous match involving Colwyn Bay (or indeed my previous match) special.

I wasn’t the only one questioning my sanity, as my work mate who often views non-league (and even lower league) football as a blight on the modern game, wondered why I was heading to Connah’s Quay to watch a football match, saying it’ll be dull and pointless. He’s a Middlesborough fan.

Just so you know where you are....

Truth be told I was ravenous. I’d be starved of football for a few weeks and desperately wanting the season to start. Furthermore, at the time of writing, thanks to Runcorn Linnettes inexplicably wanting to give their pitch a rest (like it’s Glastonbury every 4 years) this was the only chance I could realistically see the Seagulls play before the season opener and my possible flight to Bishop’s Stortford – a Conference North side located at the end of the runway at Stanstead Bloody Airport.

I was ravenous for another reason – my salad box from lunch had done little to fill me up, and I was well and truly starving for most of the trip to Connah’s Quay. So it was with great disappointment that it was announced that no food would be served at the game today. Bloody brilliant. I was told the direction to the nearest Spar which flashed signs of hot food. Sure enough, a reduced price bacon bap screamed out from the empty heater. It wasn’t nice, but I was full. Now, back to the game.

Connah's Quay fire brigade number is 25% longer than your average number.

Pre-season friendlies are ace – there I said it. If the afformented Colwyn Bay vs FC United game mentioned earlier in this post took years off my life, friendlies are a chance to meet up with friends and banter a little friendlier with the opposition. With the Seagulls undergoing a transition period (and that’s me being polite) following the leaving of the influential Cartwright family during the close season, I wasn’t quite sure of where we were. The one constant was Dave Challinor, and a lot of the playoff-winning squad, staying on.

Gap Connah’s Quay are themselves celebrating success – winning the Cymru Alliance at a relative canter. Unfortunately, they were ineligable for promotion, with the ground not having enough floodlights. Oddly at the ground there were more floodlights than at certain Welsh Premier League. The Nomads will end up back in the Welsh Premier eventually, no doubt, as they provided a stern challenge for the Bay.

Colwyn Bay did have some chances.

After some odd introductions (The Nomads were welcomed first, then The Bay, followed by the officials. Seriously it was walk in music short of a boxing introduction), the game kicked off.

The game started a little messy, with Colwyn Bay pressing but nothing being really created. Connah’s Quay hit on the break, and forced a handball on the 30th minute. A penalty, which was duely converted into the roof off the net, put the home side 1-0 up.

Connah’s Quay doubled their lead when a poor clearance by our number 6 resulted in their number 11 beating Joe McMahon with a mazy dribble and slotting the ball into the near corner past Andy Metcalf. At the half time break, Connah’s Quay did deserve the lead.

Lee Davey's penalty brought Colwyn Bay back into the game.

The second half began with both teams making numerous changes. Bay pressed forward strongly, and pulled one back when Rob Hopley sweetly struck a volley from just outside the box that gave the keeper no chance. Bay pulled back level when their number 4 was adjudged to have handballed inside the box. The pen was converted by Lee Davey. Therein followed the funniest moment of the game.

You see, Connah’s Quay stadium, if you can’t tell already, doubles as an athletic track. Despite being considered a viable alternative pursued by many clubs including West Ham & Tottenham, it’s really not – you’re too far from the pitch, the “tunnel” consists of a few hurdles back to back, and more importantly there are a few dangers. One such incident occurred with a ball boy, who after a poor shot by Gareth Evans, fell and clocked his head against one of the steeplechase barriers. He immediately got up, so therefore it was one of the funniest incidents I ever saw at a football match, but West Ham ball boys and fans – be aware.

Actually, it may knock a bit of sense into a few of there.

Connah's Quay were impressive.

Connah’s Quay took a surprising lead with a poorly cleared ball found it’s way to the back of the box and a shot by their number 9 saw them take a 3-2 lead, which was immediately cancelled out by Gareth Evans scoring with a deft chip over the advancing substitute keeper. A few good chances, glaring misses and a fantastic save by Metcalf saw the score remain 3-3 when the final whistle blowed.

The scoreline was more due to rough defending rather than either team being particularly good. Connah’s Quay was alright (it needed somewhere to get a drink and some food, but the fans and staff were lovely), but it was good to be back, Bantering with people on effectively a meaningless game is great fun. The weather held up, a cheeky pint in Spoons on the way back and a cheap game made me happy.

Mad, maybe, but certainly happy. Football is back.

Maesdu Park – Llandudno FC

2 Feb

Llandudno FC – 1

Penrhyncoch – 1

Cymru Alliance League, 22nd January 2011

If I could sum up the third weekend of 2011 with one word – it’d be “Cancellation”.  With my original plans cancelled for the weekend, I was left with a train ticket to North Wales without any reason to go home. Plan B was to jump on the team coach from Colwyn Bay to watch them play lowly Ossett Town, but with that game cancelled due to a frozen pitch, I was left gameless. Instead I headed to Llandudno to watch Liverpool play Wolverhampton Wanderers in another trial for the reds in what has been a dismal season. I promised the mother lunch, but was checking my phone regularly for the second half of the game.

What was reassuring was checking the Colwyn Bay FC fans forum, and a lot of the Bay fans were heading to watch Llandudno play Penrhyncoch in the Cymru Alliance – which is one of the two second highest leagues in Wales, covering the North of the country. I’ve witnessed this before, larger clubs in the area adopting another smaller club for a game if their beloved team isn’t playing. I witnessed this last season at the Giant Axe, where a large number of Morecambe fans – whose season had ended, showed up to support Lancaster City in their failed attempt for promotion at the playoff final, but never thought we’d do it. Maybe the rumours are true, we’re now a big club.

You read the sign....

So after a Cajun Chicken meal & a half of watching Liverpool play, I headed to Maesdu Park via taxi to meet my fellow Seagulls. The taxi driver – in the 3 minute journey – shared his time he had in Beirut with a mate of his, a Bangor City fan. He said that Bosh – his mate – talked about only two things: Bangor City & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Something tells me that they’re not mutually exclusive.

In any rate, I arrived & immediately headed to the clubhouse. Located near the entrance of the ground, it’s quite a facility, with faux black marble that dominates behind the bar & the loos, it looked like a casino. Furthermore the ground was one of the few I’ve visited where you can drink outside. It didn’t help being January, as it must be glorious on a warm Spring or late Summer, because – with Llandudno sandwiched between two headlands called the Ormes, it can be rather picturesque (at least on two sides of the ground, one side of the ground has a bus depot & one has a council estate). Must be stunning on a clear day.

Obligatory good-side, stunning-on-a-clear-day photo

The match kicked off at 2:30pm (half an hour earlier than English matches as many Welsh clubs don’t have floodlights – at least I believe that’s the reason) with two comedic assistant referees. One can only be described as a stout or portly gentleman, the other could be described as a ginger. Luckily they both had a good game, and the crowd of 100 (15-20 Bay fans) wasn’t in the mood to heckle, as they were rather comedic.

Said Linesman, also notice the picket fence & lackluster VIP Area. You'd never get that at Anfield.

The first half was pedestrian, with Penrhyncoch attaching in large swathes, using the right flank. So it was a bit of a surprise when Llandudno took the lead in the 40th Minute with Jordan Kaye with a blinder of a free kick. It was probably the only highlight of the first half which was largely contested in the middle third. Half time: 1-0 to Llandudno.

With the half time break, I took a tour of the ground. A nice little ground, with kids playing a game of football behind one stand, a picket fence keeping the crowd separated & most impressively terraces you can drink on. Fantastic! Llandudno also have probably the poshest restrooms in football, with black faux marble, it looked like a casino!

Llandudno had an outside area for the consumption of beverages. You'd never get that at Anfield.

The second half was a similarly drab affair, so much so that I missed the equaliser for Penrhyncoch. Matthew Lewis in what was described as a tap in from a cross that missed everybody on the hour mark. This seemed to launch a rocket under Llandudno, with much of the attack coming from Ryan Williams on the wing. Only a few great saves kept Penrhyncoch in the game, and – with the fact that they didn’t have any sort of substitution boards amusing me when both managers flung on players towards the end – it finished 1-1.

Match was okay, not the best, here's a good picture of the Penrhyncoch Keeper clearing the ball. You'd never get that....never mind.

Overall it wasn’t the best game, but it was in a grand little club. Furthermore, with the game finishing at 4:30, we caught final score. I think the Welsh league are onto something. Bonus!

So yeah, considering this game was the result of cancellations of all cancellations, it was still an enjoyable trip to a Welsh league club.