Result: Penycae 1-1 Eagle Sports (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: The Riverside, Afoneitha Road (Saturday 16th July 2016, 2.30pm)
Att: 40 (approx.)
As is now becoming something of a tradition, this being the third straight year following the prior Prestatyn & infamous Glan Conwy trips, I was off on an Eagle Sports pre-season venture to Wales. Having, surprisingly, been able to remember vast amounts of both (especially the Conwy one), it remained to be seen what this trip had in store.
Setting off towards Sankey, I arrived in the town at a little after 10am and walked over to Eagle’s Thornton Road ground from where the coach would be departing. After a bit of a delay, we eventually got underway and after the usual quiz-related shenanigans, all for the grand prize of Wispas, it wasn’t long until we were pulling up outside the dirt track which leads up to Penycae’s home.
Afoneitha Road is a small ground, housing only a couple of small stands, both of which sit side-by-side on the far side of the ground. One is an all seater stand and this is flanked by a covered standing area, both of which sit toward the end of the ground where you enter from. The rest of the ground is open, hard standing. The food area/changing rooms sit to the rear of the ground, behind the clubhouse building. As for Penycae FC’s story, well…
Penycae Football Club was founded in 1982 and the team currently play at The Riverside/Afoneitha Road within the small village of Pen-y-cae. They currently compete in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), where they achieved a 9th placed finish at the end of the last campaign, having spent the last four seasons playing in the Cymru Alliance. They won the league prior to them joining the Cymru Alliance in 2011, but dropped back into the WNL last season. The only previous time the club haven’t played in the WNL was a previous 4 year spell in the Cymru Alliance between 1994 & ’98.
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 (1994), and a further 17 years (2011) to repeat this feat.
The club have also won a few other cups in their history, namely a Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division Three Cup (1983-’84), a hat-trick of North-East Wales FA Horace Wynne Cups (1982-’83, ’83-’84, ’84-’85), the Dave Bennett Premier Division Cup (1993-’94) and the FAW Welsh Trophy in 2003-’04.
Upon arrival it was straight to the bar for a cider, while evading the odd, light shower which crossed the ground from time to time. It was a bit of a grind to waste away the best part of two hours while being subjected to, quite possibly, the most boring mainstream sport of all time (any guesses?). Anyway, somehow I managed to endure this tortuous test and as soon as the clock moved towards the 25 past 2 mark, I scarpered outside. Safety.
After a short delay, the two sides emerged from the rear building, which serves as both food bar and changing rooms, before making the, rather lengthy, walk to the pitch. Once all had arrived, we were underway with the visitors having slightly the better of the early openings. Despite there not being all that much in terms of cut-and-dry openings, it was an easily watchable game. The best of the chances fell to Eagle, with a weak back pass being seized upon, but the home ‘keeper making a fine one-on-one stop.
Eventually, though, the visitors did get what their first half play deserved, when Nathan Gallagher rifled home into the top corner after Penycae could only half-clear a set-piece. 0-1 at the break, during which I made a visit to the aforementioned food bar to get some much needed cuisine. £1.50 lighter, I was in possession of a decent sized hot-dog, which was pretty good, which made my battle with the tomato sauce bottle all the more worthwhile.
After taking up a position in the small covered terraced stand, the second half was underway, with the visitors bench vacated due to the discovery of a wasps nest within it. I’m sure this isn’t the sort of “sting in the tail” visiting sides will be looking for!…No? Ok.
The second half saw a much more attacking home side, with the hosts dominating the first 15 minutes of the period. The Penycae right back should have drawn his size level when left one-on-one but blazed well over, but they eventually go their goal when a deep cross evaded Eagle’s “Great Dane” Rasmus Neilsen and dropped over his head and into the bottom corner. They could have had the lead soon after too, but a combination of Neilsen and a defender on the line prevented the ball from crossing it and maintained a status quo.
The last 25, though, belonged almost exclusively to the visitors who, once more, grew into the game as the roll-on, roll-off subs took more effect. After a brilliant goal-line clearance by the impressive Penycae #5, an inspired performance by the ‘keeper saw him thwart two more efforts with brilliant saves, one at almost point blank range to ensure his side earned a draw in a highly entertaining friendly contest. The only question was just how there’d only been two goals!
Back in the bar afterwards, the brief peaceful atmosphere was soon shattered by the loudspeaker which had joined us on our journey and the beers were soon in for all and sundry. Bar me, as I am still going through a self-imposed cut down as I look to maintain something of a budget cut. Of course, I was bought a pair through the evening and these will be returned at some point in the near future! Cheers lads!
Following Guinness related things and chips arriving for the after match meal (I didn’t have a full bag, honest), it was back to the coach and onwards to Wrexham for a short stop which, naturally, would entail nothing bar quiet drinking and return. Right? Well…sort of.
First stop was the Wynnstay Arms, which featured some well dressed military types (in uniform) and their partners (I guess as there was no uniform on show). Here was relatively subdued and not much to speak of, apart from me fleecing secretary/midfielder Danny for a Desperado, sorry mate. Anyway, tipped off by our Welsh guides, our next stop was the Golden Lion which is apparently the oldest public house in Wrexham. See, it’s about culture, not drinking…
The Golden Lion was slightly less quiet, with a multitude of different songs being released when demanded by the rest of the group. I was more than pleased when my offering of Europe’s anthem The Final Countdown was seemingly accepted as a good choice, though this was admittedly because there aren’t many words to it. One local, Steve, who I must have offended by totally murdering the pronunciation of Penycae (said as Pen-e-ceye), despite having made a point of saying it properly once hearing it said earlier in the day. In all seriousness of course, Steve was enjoying the scenes and even got involved at one point! Legend!
Sadly, it was soon time to say goodbye to Steve and to the Golden Lion, as we made our way back towards the coach’s location. There was to be one last stop, however, and this was the one where things got a bit more surreal. Having led the way, I entered the Welch (correct spelling) Fusilier in the midst of a karaoke night, it’s only natural that we’d all join in with the songs, though there was one that no-one seemingly knew and the DJ also told someone off for taking the mic. This was his swamp.
After a few more songs had been murdered, it was soon time to leave Wrexham to its, surprisingly poor vocal tones, though one moustachioed Wales fan was just as appalled with his local’s performance, and it was back off to the great yellow-beige chariot, though I was forced into proclaiming right-back Robbo (I jest) as man-of-the-match, after his performance up against the fleet-footed winger of Penycae.
The journey back was quiet as everyone settled in for the hour back….okay, not quite. With “Play Your Cards Right” in full swing, chants about different er…places and an appearance by a legendary member of the team, Boris, we eventually made it back to Sankey nicely in time for my train back too, so thanks for the guys for ensuring it and to the driver for dropping me off on his way back.
So a third trip done and with ideas already being floated for next year, who knows what is still to come. All I know is, if there’s no “lemonade”, I should be ok….
Game: 7- Good, entertaining watch.
Ground: 6- Quite a simple ground, but a smart one.
Food: 6- Decent enough, as I said.
Programme: N/A, though one is issue, it seems, in league season.
Value For Money: 9- Always a good day (and evening).