Result: Penycae 0-2 Trafford (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Riverside Stadium, Penycae, Wrexham (Saturday 12th July, 2.30pm)
Att: 60-70 (hc)
My third pre-season game saw a trip out to Wales for a rare excursion over the border and towards Wrexham. As I’ve hinted, I don’t often visit many clubs in Cymru, and for this season, I have made one of my aims to do a fair few more of them. As such, when Trafford, my local club, announced that they would be playing a Cymru Alliance side by the name of Penycae, I had my first one of 2014-15 to tick off.
So, having caught the train from Urmston to Warrington as the doors closed (no exaggeration), I was soon speeding towards the Cheshire town. After arriving at Warrington Central Station, I was faced with a short walk across to the Wire’s other station, Bank Quay, which I was to find out was packed out by people in their best clobber. This, I overheard, was due to Chester races being held on the day and thus, as I boarded the train it was packed out. From front to back, people sat, stood, crouched any way you could. If you’ve seen the pictures of trains in India with people sat on top and hanging on the sides, that was pretty much the only space left by the time we’d exited Frodsham.
Happily everyone was inside and there was little threat to any lives, not taking into account later alcohol consumption, and after around 30 minutes in the furnace which was the Arriva Trains Wales service to South Wales, I disembarked, along with 90% of the passengers, at Chester Station.
After another half-hour’s wait there, I was almost caught out by an unannounced change of platform as my connection towards Ruabon, my destination, arrived right in front of me. With another million or so people getting off this service, I jumped on still not 100% certain if it was the one I was supposed to be on. It turned out that indeed it was, and I was off towards Ruabon.
I duly arrived after a further 20 minute ride, including passing close by to Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground which stands close to Wrexham General Station, and was faced with a small dilemma of a small B-Road leading up to “Pen-y-cae” which I took to be the same place, as I am clearly a genius.
The village of Pen-y-cae was formed in 1879, an amalgamation of the existing parishes of Ruabon, Rhosllannerchrugog (good luck) and Rhosymedre. In the past, it was largely a coal and zinc producing area, and is home, currently, to two reservoirs named, imaginatively as Penycae Upper and Penycae Lower.
After passing by some old cottages, a church, cemetery, schools and along a long, winding rural road lined on both sides by hedges which made seeing traffic almost impossible, I was soon faced with a junction. Due to having my trusty Google Maps in front of me, I was guided towards Penycae’s home ground, at what I expected, from the noise emanating from it, was about 5 minutes after kick-off.
So as I arrived at the ground via a footpath leading to the car park at the end of it, I was surprised to find the sides just finishing their warm-up routines and in little, or no, rush to get underway. Eventually, at about 2.45, 15 minutes after the scheduled start, the Penycae side made their way out onto the field. Penycae’s Riverside ground is quite picturesque, given the wooded area which borders the far side of it. The far end is open with a field behind it, with the near side goal accompanied by a smart function room (or something to that degree), named the Karl Thomas Memorial Hall, changing rooms and canteen. You enter from the left hand side of these structures. There is open standing available all around the barred off pitch, with two small stands, one seated, one standing on the far, wooded, side, almost level with the near-end penalty box.
Penycae Football Club was founded in 1982, and currently play at Afoneitha Road within the small village. They currently compete in the Cymru Alliance, where they achieved a 10th placed finish at the end of the last campaign. They have been relatively successful during their short existence. Upon their founding in 1982, it took them two seasons to be promoted from the Welsh National League (WNL) Division Four, as runners-up. They immediately won Division Three, before being in the newly named Division One and achieving a third straight promotion, again as runners-up. It took them nine years to win the Premier Division, and a further 17 years to repeat this feat. Their honours so far read as follows:
2x Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division Titles (1993-’94, 2010-’11)
1x Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division Three Title (1984-’85)
1x Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division Three Cup (1983-’84)
3x North-East Wales FA Horace Wynne Cups (1982-’83, ’83-’84, ’84-’85)
1x Dave Bennett Premier Division Cup (1993-’94)
1x FAW Welsh Trophy (2003-’04)
For today, however, there was nothing but pride at stake. With Trafford bringing the best part of two squads, it was never going to be much more than a fitness exercise for them, with all due respect to the Welsh side. However, they were no pushovers, far from it in fact, and the game began with the visitors on the front foot, but they weren’t making chance after chance against their hosts. They did make the breakthrough, though, when Simon Hackney was released in the box, and he slid past the home goalkeeper, who’d already made a couple of good saves.
Penycae hit back, forcing Trafford ‘keeper Tom Read into a couple of stops himself, and hitting the woodwork as well, with their big,tall striker proving a real handful, whilst also getting quite irate at pretty much anything that happened within his eyeline. Even the referee had to calm him down, and the break came at possibly a good time for him to have a cool off, and for the rest of the players, as it was rather warm.
At half-time, I made my way round to the canteen, a small but smart hutch, where I purchased a small glass of Coke for 50p (bargain) and a Refresher bar (one of my fave sweets ever created) for 20p. 20p!!! I was growing to love it here!
The second half began with a sweet sensation of Refresher still tingling away and it was soon 2-0, when Sam Freakes, a second half substitute, executed a lovely, deft chip over the stranded goalkeeper.
Penycae almost got back into the game, when some sloppy play from the substitute centre-back allowed them a chance but Read made a smart stop. But, as happens in a few friendlies, the game began to fizzle out as a result of the changes being made but Trafford’s more Brazilian sounding than Fred striker, Ricardo Brandao, could have had a hat-trick but somehow conspired to miss all three gilt-edged chance he was given.
The highlight of the game was an argument between a sub even taller striker and a veteran centre-mid who took exception to being answered back to, and exclaimed to his mate in the middle of the park, “I’m not having him talk to me like that!”
So, the game ended in victory for the Evo-Stik Premier Division side, who dominated for long spells, but then they would’ve expected to. Their squad contained a number of triallists, one of which was Rob Black. Now, I think he may be the one who won the Leyton Orient/Samsung “Be A Pro” competition? I may be wrong, but I think it’s possible as I believe he’s local to the Trafford area. However, I was most impressed by a young-ish lad by the name of Aaron Smith, who came off the bench and seemed at ease every time he had the ball, and found space when he didn’t. One to watch perhaps?
My Penycae M.o.M.- The goalkeeper, Adam Livesy if my research is right!
My Trafford M.o.M.- Aaron Smith
Game: 5- Usual friendly.
Ground: 6- Basic, but a nice feel and good views.
Food: 10- Okay, I may be cheating, but Refresher bars though!
Fans: 5- Don’t like to judge on a friendly, but the people at the club were very welcoming.
Value For Money: 7- Not bad train fare, and cheap refreshments. Not bad admission either.
Referee: 6- Doesn’t really matter in a friendly, but I did like him stamping his authority on the mouthy striker!