Manchopper in….Weston Rhyn

Result: Chirk Town 0-2 Plas Madoc (Pre-Season Friendly)

Venue: Weston Rhyn Recreation Ground (Saturday 29th June 2019, 3pm)

Att: 65 (approx.)

Well, isn’t this a quick turnaround! With my final blog of last season finally out of the way, it is already time to get season 2019-’20’s write-ups going with my first game of the season. That very game would see the first outing ever for new club Chirk Town, who would be welcoming their neighbours from just up the road in Cefn Mawr, Plas Madoc, but the game would be played at the non-regular venue of Weston Rhyn which, to my knowledge anyway, hasn’t hosted regular football since the demise of the Shropshire League side of the same name bowed out of existence a few years back (Chirk look to be using the leisure centre in the town).

So, as such, it was one not to be passed up and come the morning of the final Saturday of June, I was heading over towards Liverpool to grab the first connection to Chester where I’d then continue onwards the short way over to Chirk, just the other side of Wrexham. Interestingly, the game would be taking place between two Welsh sides whilst being played within the boundaries of England – not too dissimilar to a WPL club a stop down the railway.

Arriving into Chirk at just before midday, I headed into the centre of town to catch the bus up to the first pub within one of the few, small, outlying areas around Weston Rhyn. However, when I pressed to get off and was met with some surprise within the driver’s response, I soon understood why; the pub was closed and getting a spruce up. Brilliant. As such, I was then faced with a walk back down the pathless and rather busy country lane back towards the crossroads, where I’d seek refuge in what was due to be my second stop anyhow – the Butcher’s Arms pub within a small group of pretty smart houses.

A somewhat different road sign

Towards Weston Rhyn

Butcher’s Arms

Of course, being about 1pm at this point and with little in the way of passing trade (bar the odd nutter like me) the place was empty, but they landlord was a friendly guy and we got talking about the Brasil-Paraguay Copa Sud-Americana penalty-shootout taking place on the TV whilst I supped at a pint of Holsten (£2.80). Happily, I was just finishing up when the first of the regulars popped in and so off I headed back through Weston Rhyn and right across to the other side of the small village to the Plough Inn, an older pub located just near the railway crossing on Station Road – though there was no signs of any station nowadays, of course. What the walk did allow me to come across was quite possibly the smallest, furriest baby bird I’ve seen. Awwwww.

Weston Rhyn is a large village and civil parish in Shropshire and straddles the border between England and Wales, lying between the Welsh town of Chirk and the English town of Oswestry. Recorded as Westune in the Domesday Book, its name derives from “ton/tun” meaning settlement and “Rhyn” seems to derive from the name for Rome or a Roman person. Weston Rhyn and nearby Bronygarth were in the parish of St. Martins originally, but were given their own ecclesiastical district in 1870 known as “the Lodge” (where the inn gets its name) before becoming the civil parish of Weston Rhyn in 1898. It was originally a mining village and has grown around commuters after the pit closures and it did have its own station (originally named Preesgweene and later Weston Rhyn) through until its closure in 1960.

Plough Inn

The Lodge

Weston Rhyn Rec

 

The Plough also allowed me to watch some of the MotoGP qualifying (a real rarity on any trip), courtesy of a couple of guys’ interest in the sport over a San Miguel (£3.10) as I wiled away some time here, because I still had a good hour-and-a-half until kick-off and there was only the one watering hole at the foot of the road leading to the ground left to pop into and I planned to leave Chirk itself until my return to watch Chirk AAA at some point. Eventually, with the clock passing two, I left the Plough and back-tracked to the almost ground-neighbouring Lodge Inn, which is situated at the crossroads of a number of streets and a rather old church. After a pint of San Miguel in here too (£3.40), it was finally time to pop around the corner and to the sunbathed Weston Rhyn Rec. Game on.

The ground itself is basic, with only a barred off pitch and dressing room block to speak of, though there are two well-protected benches for the teams in situ too. Spectator facilities are non-existent in truth, though the large expanses of grass around the pitch provide a fair amount of car parking for all and sundry in attendance today. History-wise, with Chirk Town being a brand new club, there isn’t much to comment on (duh!) and so let’s move straight onto the action, shall we?!

The game got underway with me falsely being led to believe that the teams were in the opposing colours when Chirk’s subs walked aroubd with a shirt bearing the Plas Madoc name upon the back, which was quite confusing as the new outfit looked surprisingly well drilled….because these were actually Plas Madoc. Anyway, with all the mix-ups out of the way, Chirk suffered an early injury with one of their defenders being forced off after a couple of minutes and it would be Plas Madoc that would have the first true sight of goal, when #7 fired over and #10 followed this up shortly afterwards by spurning a great one-on-one chance. The Chirk ‘keeper ensured the match felt like a true pre-season contest by asking his centre-half “What’s his name again?!” when trying to get the attention of one of his team-mates!

Match Action

The Secret Weapon warming up!

Heads up.

Both sides’ #7’s then forced both respective ‘keepers into good stops and but it would be the visitors who really ought to have again gone ahead – this time through #8 – but his effort was poor and allowed the Chirk stopper a more comfortable save than he really ought to have been. As before with the two #7’s, it would be his opposite number that would have the next opportunity, with Chirk’s version forcing another good stop out of the Plas gloveman and it would be the latter’s side who would eventually grab the opener when #11’s chip just managed to get through the ‘keeper’s full stretch grasp and drop into the net. 0-1 and the season was up and running!

There would be chances at both ends as the half came to its conclusion, with #14 firing a decent effort over and #9 seeing a shot kept out when adjudged on by the sole ref for Chirk, whilst Plas’ #2 really ought to have doubled his side’s lead between these two attempts, but somehow managed to guide his header wide of the mark. Half-time came and went in quick fashion with nothing of note occurring and we were soon back underway with round 2, which was more on the quieter side of things as seems the norm when it comes to friendlies, on the whole.

Match Action

A close shave

Match Action

The impressive Plas Madoc ‘keeper pulled off another good stop to deny a Chirk shot from the angle, before the away side then began to have the majority of the next twenty minutes or so of play, which began with them netting their second through #14 – who latched onto a pull back by #10 to plant the ball into the back-of-the-net. The equally impressive Chirk ‘keeper then denied #14 a second shortly afterwards and #8 shot wastefully over as Madoc looked to add to their tally, but Chirk weren’t out of it by any means and went close through #17, but the ‘keeper’s confident call of “over” seemed to show his judgment was en point.

As the game entered its final stages, Plas Madoc should have added a third when a free-kick was spilled into the fray only for #9 to miss in pretty bad fashion but #3 was somewhat more successful in getting his shot on goal heading in, only for the home stopper to pull off another fine stop. Chirk then almost grabbed a goal back only for the woodwork to keep them at bay late on and that would be that as Chirk’s first outing ended in defeat (in juxtaposition to my initial understanding), but both sides seemed to look quite decent in their early foray.

Chirk & Hand Hotel – home of the old CTFC!

Heading back from Chirk

With heavy rain drops beginning to threaten something more substantial, I dove into the Lodge once more to await the bus back into Chirk and it was here that I discovered that the trains had began to go to pot. Start as you mean to go on, I suppose?! Eventually, things were sorted out and after finishing up a Carlsberg (£2.80) and catching the bus back for a final pint back in Chirk at the pub – whose team actually carried the Chirk Town name in 2001-’02 in the Welsh National League, but didn’t last the season – Hand Hotel (Grolsch, £3.50~) at the foot of the road leading back to Chirk Station, I was returning home just the hour later….though the connection back from Warrington was delayed too – though this one was more welcome as it took the pressure off the cross-town walk, so allowing me to sweat just a little less than usual.

So there ends a decent enough season opener. Not a whole lot to comment on, but the area was nice enough and the game was fine; helped of course by the weather. Next week will see a return to a centenary-celebrating club who welcome a lauded former Football League neighbour. Take Stock….

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 3

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 6

 

Manchopper in….Conwy

 

Result: Conwy Borough 1-1 Ruthin Town (Cymru Alliance)

Venue: Y Morfa (Saturday 30th March 2019, 2.30pm)

Att: 106

Back over the border for another trip into North Wales that has become something of a normality this season, as I headed out for a long-term target of mine. I would be off to the town of Conwy and enjoying a day in the shadow of its famed castle. If that wasn’t exciting enough, it was even just about warm enough to venture back out into the beer gardens too, so you can imagine how I was feeling.

I did have the annoying, well trodden transfer across Warrington to complete once again before I could get there and decided to head straight on through to Llandudno Junction from there, rather than changing in Chester as suggested for some reason, you, know, as trains are somewhat known, for failing at times….anyway, the trip along the North Walian coast was completed with no issue and after seeing that the walk over Conwy bridge wouldn’t gain any real time to bother about, I awaited the carriage for the hop across the waterway to Conwy, just two minutes away. After a short tour to see some of the sights I’d likely not pass again during the day, I headed off to contribute to the local, economy. You’re welcome, Conwy!

Conwy

Conwy

First stop ended up being the Ye Olde Mail Coach, which had disappointed me before I went in, by ruining my sight of the correct spelling (no second ‘e’) on a house a couple of doors down. Sadly, the drinking options weren’t too, exciting and I feared another Grimsby was upcoming – but to be fair the Coors was better than any I’d had last weekend and, at £2.80, was a snip. Alas, the price was a false dawn as, on entering the Castle Hotel across the road, a pint of Beck’s set me back £4.10. Back to normal then, but at least the beer garden had nice views of the castle, away over the rooftops and car park. Scenic.

Finishing off my pint here, I continued onwards down towards the seafront and to a couple of interesting places down on the “prom”. The Liverpool Arms was first up here, a Moretti coming in at a cool £4.60, though the outside area looks directly out over the small mooring area, us drinkers kept within boundaries marked out by the tables. With these all taken at first, I noted that the steps were just within this imaginary line, though one of the seagull pair nearby looked to be eyeing my drink with some intent! I would escape without an attack from the avian treat, and after a flying visit of my own to the tourist-swarmed “smallest house in Britain” returned back into town and made my way, back towards the bus stop where I’d catch said bus up to the ground. Of course, there was a couple of stop offs to come….

Ye Olde Mail Coach

Castle Hotel

View from the Liverpool Arms

Conwy is a medieval-walled market town in the county borough of the same name and stands on the river which too shares the name, opposite the communities of Deganwy and Llandudno Junction in North Wales. It has previously been located within both Gwynedd and Caernarfonshire, with the aforementioned two towns across the way also being included in the community. A popular tourist destination, the town derives its name from the Old Welsh words “cyn” (chief) and “gwy” (water) with the River Conwy having previously been known as the “Cynwy”. The castle and town walls were constructed on the orders of Edward I between 1283 & 1289 during his conquest of Wales and the town’s church is known to be the oldest building standing within the walls, which themselves are home to a community of Jackdaws, and dates from the 14th century.

The original Aberconwy Abbey. founded by Llywelyn the Great, was located in the town until Edward and his armies moved both the abbey and its monks further down the valley to Maenan, though the church still houses some parts of the original abbey church within its walls. Upon the building of the town walls, English settlers were offered incentives to move to Conwy, whilst the native Welsh were banned from entering for some time. The later Conwy Suspension Bridge, built by Thomas Telford in 1826, spans the river to replace the ferry service that used to run across the way, whilst the railway bridge, built by Robert Stephenson, is still in use.

Conwy church

The Smallest House

Conwy is home to Aberconwy House, one of the first merchant’s houses to be built here and one of the oldest buildings remaining, whilst Plas Mawr dates from the Elizabethan Era. Meanwhile, the “Smallest House in Britain”, which once forced 6-foot owner Robert Jones to move as he couldn’t stand straight is still owned by his descendants today. Also the marshy Conwy Morfa is likely to have been the site of Wales’ first golfing encounter, whilst it was here that Hugh Iorys Hughes developed, and later built, the floating Mulberry Harbours used in Operation Overlord – otherwise known as the D-Day landings.

The two pubs here – the Blue Bell and George & Dragon were both nice places, though the first was by far the quieter of the two. It was notable for having Red Stripe (£4.10) on draught though and you can guess what was soon passing my lips here. The George & Dragon almost right next door was alright and a pint of Amstel was had before I continued on to the bus stop, though did forego my expected stop at the Bridge Hotel as it seemed far more like an eatery than a pub and so entered the Erskine Arms directly opposite my stop. This too was a gastropub, but far more on the pub spectrum than the former and a second Amstel came in, at £4.20 which, was less than I expected so I was quite pleased wihh my day so far, when you consider the usual pricings in tourist areas. Anyway, I left for the bus with a little time in hand and it was a good job too as one rocked up early and I was soon disembarking for Y Morfa and all, was going well to get there in good time….until I took a wrong turn and got lost. Ah, old habits die hard!

Down the main road to the Blue Bell & George & Dragon

Erskine Arms

I eventually discovered the error of my ways and backtracked swiftly and was soon in sight of the Y Morfa floodlights and the dominating cliff face of Conwy Mountain that looms over the ground like an oncoming storm cloud. The two teams were just entering the field as I, entered, £6 in and £2 for the programme and took the ground in. A covered standing area is located on the near side touchline, the area behind goal you enter from behind is home to the clubhouse and food hut as well as the dressing rooms and other facilities. A seated main stand is located on the far side, flanked on both sides by open, raised terracing whilst the far end was largely off limits, though does host another seating stand, which a few intrepid Ruthin fans had battled over the barriers to get to. OK, it was more of a gate, but still! That’s the ground and this is the story of Conwy Borough….

History Lesson:

Following the demise of Borough United in 1967, who had been the Welsh representative in the 1963-’64 Cup Winners Cup, the area of Conwy was without its own Welsh League football side under that name, with football there dating back to the 1870’s. Eventually, local sides Conwy Town and Conwy Royal British Legion – who both played in the Vale of Conwy League – merged to form Conwy United. They were duly elected to the Welsh League (North) (later Welsh Alliance) and, in 1982, won the Welsh Intermediate Cup before gling on to take two consecutive Welsh Alliance titles in 1985 & ’86. The club became a founding member of the Cymru Alliance in 1990 and spent two seasons there before becoming a founding member again, this time of the League of Wales, finishing 7th in their first season and 3rd in 1996.

Arriving at Y Morfa

Clubhouse Action

That third placed finish allowed the club to qualify for the Intertoto Cup (my personal favourite) where they played the likes of Charleroi of Belgium and Silkeborg of Denmark, gaining a 0-0 stalemate against the Belgian outfit. However, after a couple of semi-final Welsh Cup appearances, things would soon go sour and financial problems contributed to a drop off in form and eventual relegation in 2000. As a result, they forewent a chance to return to the Cymru Alliance, instead opting for the Welsh Alliance League, finishing runners-up in the second season. Sadly, a further tragic setback hit Conwy in 2004-’05, when manager Nigel Roberts was killed in a traffic accident and the club later missed out on the title and lost out in the Cookson Cup final for a second season running.

2010 saw Conwy eventually lift the Cookson Cup and this proved something of a precursor to their next campaign which saw the club take the Welsh Alliance title, and somehow threw away the Welsh Trophy by giving up a two-goal lead to three goals in three stoppage time minutes. 2011-’12 saw United in the Cymru Alliance and ahead of their second season there, the club became known as Conwy Borough and won the 2013 League Cup, overcoming Caersws on penalties in the final. Despite being relegated in 2017, Borough finished last season as Welsh Alliance champions and thus returned immediately back to the Cymru Alliance where they look set for a mid-table finish.

The game got underway and….well I say it did, though nothing truly happened of note. Indeed, I wasn’t sure if my phone had gotten rid of my first half notes but, no, a quick check of Ruthin’s own match report pretty much confirms that it was a complete non-event! When an official match report’s highlights of the first-half is complementing their opponents’ tackling prowess, I think it says enough. There was a couple of shots, but nothing that came close to worrying the scorers and the half duly came to an end.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Instead, I’ll try and do a full paragraph describing the pie, chips, peas and gravy I had for £4. Definitely up there with some of the better food I’ve had the pleasure of trying out in quite some time, so kudos to the guys and girls for that. Everything in the tray was tasty in its own way without overcoming anything else with its own unique taste and it all made for an enjoyable half-time meal. Well, that’s something I’ve not had to really do before and I dearly hope it’s a fair while until I have to again!

The second half began and around ten minutes had passed when a moment of magic lit up the shadow under Conwy Mountain. A ball across from the left flank met the foot of Corrig McGonicle and he sweetly volleyed it straight into the top corner, giving Ruthin ‘keeper Ryan Goldston absolutely no chance. A cracking strike it was and, though it’s been said an uncountable number of times, it truly was well worth the entrance money alone. 1-0 to the  hosts and the game had to liven up now!

Indeed it did, as Ruthin were sparked into life and decided they had best get about trying to grab an equaliser, but the well-drilled Conwy side were snuffing out the vast majority of their attacks before they could get through to truly challenge home stopper Ben Heald. However, they did get clear around the 75 minute mark and thought they’d grabbed the equaliser when full-back Gwidion Ifad fizzed a drive beyond Heald, only for the referee to rule the strike out for an apparent foul in the build-up. It certainly wasn’t clear-cut, that’s for sure.

Match Action

View from the Main Stand

Match Action

As the game entered its final throes, I headed on round to the near side close to the dugouts for stoppage time just as Ruthin began to go forward once more. However, this time their foray would prove fruitful as Llyr Morris worked some space for himself to be able to drill a low effort into the far corner. A deserved equaliser in a tight contest as the game looked to be heading out into a fitting draw but with seconds remaining on the clock, Ruthin had a chance to grab all three points from under the noses of their hosts, only for a fine, last-ditch bit of defending to deny them the winner. Full-time: 1-1.

Post-match it was off the short walk around to the White House. Now, it wasn’t quite as grand as its namesake, but it was a decent enough pub to waste away a bit of time before grabbing the bus the few stops back into town. After a San Miguel (£3.60) was polished off, the bus was successfully caught and I was soon outside the first of my two final stops – the Albion. Upon enetering the place, it was packed but I’d timed it nicely to allow a swift service for a pint of Snowdon Lager (when in Rom…Wales) at a decent £3.60. I headed off to stand, but was offered up some space by a young couple with Sam the dog, though they soon left as the hubby “accidentally” bought two take-away two-pint cartons – otherwise known as let’s get away from this weirdo!!

White House

The Albion

Bank of Conwy

After a final stop at the station neighbouring Bank of Conwy for a £5+ Punk IPA (ouch, but I didn’t mind too much as it was in prime position for ease of journey), I was soon off home, nodding off as I, decided to take the easier route via Manchester and forego the walk across Warrington. However, upon awaking, I found the train just pulling into Bank Quay and so spotted the chance for a quicker return home. This all went smoothly and so a good end to a good day. Great ground and backdrop, great town, great food, decent drink, decent programme. Recommended!! Next week it’s, hopefully, third time lucky as I see what Keith Lee has to offer!!

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 7

Food: 9

Programme: 5

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Saltney

Result: Saltney Town 1-2 Brymbo (Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division)

Venue: Saltney Community Centre (Saturday 2nd March 2019, 2.30pm)

Att: 25 (approx.)

With a free weekend ahead of me, I decided I’d pay a visit to Blacon of the Cheshire League and have a nice, easy day out in Chester before grabbing the bus the short way out to the outskirts of the historic city. I’d been contacted late last year by said club on twitter and they had invited me down at some point and so I thought I’d take the opportunity to get one of the Step 7 grounds done and dusted ahead of the likelihood of them all being put to one-side by the soon-to-be-implemented nonsense of sin-bins, of which I will have no part of! Honestly, is football going full circle and returning to its rugby-inspired roots?

Whatever the case, I arrived in Chester after a trouble-free journey and with the clock approaching midday, decided against venturing away from the station and instead, after some self-persuasion, popped into my regular Chester haunt – the Town Crier – just opposite. After planning out something resembling a walk over to take in some of the more interesting hostelries that had eluded me on New Year’s Day when I visited Chester’s Deva Stadium (where my 81 game nil-nil run came to a sorry end), I hopped on a bus which I planned to take to the foot of the Eastgate and hang around there. That was until Lostock Gralam – the planned visitors to Blacon on this fine day – responded to my rare arrival announcing tweet by informing me something along the lines of “Game OFF”. Yes, game off. No rain, no snow, no cows munching on the pitch (I haven’t fact checked the last one, I must admit) and so I now had a dilemma. I had no game.

As luck would have it, only one team not using the sin-bin system currently (I’m looking at you Chester & Wirral League) was playing close-by and it was one that would see my Welsh trips this season added to. Indeed, my new destination was the border-straggling town of Saltney and Welsh National League side Saltney Town who, interestingly enough, were hosting divisional leaders, Brymbo. Again, the groundhopping gods must have finally felt for me, and God knows it’s taken them long enough, as a bus bound for Saltney was due immediately and I was swiftly whisked out towards the border.

Arriving in Saltney

Saltney High Street ft. Brewery Arms

Saltney is a town adjoining the City of Chester and straddling the border between the countries of England and Wales, with one street in the town seeing the border run down its centre and therefore both sides are under the jurisdiction of the other country’s governance. Saltney derives its name from the old salt marshes by the side of the River Dee and grew up largely between the mid 19th and 20th centuries and was once the terminus of Sir John Glynne’s canal.

Disembarking after around fifteen minutes, a short walk later saw me arriving at my first Saltney pub, namely the Brewery Arms. A real locals pub, it was friendly enough with a couple of regulars giving me a greeting, including an “experienced” couple and their similarly world-wise dog. Even more welcoming in my eyes was the news that the £2.50 a pint cover on the Prava was indeed not covering the tap, oh no. It actually was £2.50 a pint and I couldn’t get the money out quick enough. Inject it into my veins!! Next up was the City Arms which, once upon a time, proclaimed itself as the “last pub in England and the first in Wales”. This sign seems to have bitten the dust at some point though, more importantly, the pub still stands and with time a little on the tight side with regards to my now earlier kick-off, I opted for a Dark Fruits (£3.60) before moving on down the main road, on which each watering hole stands, rather helpfully.

Across the road and under the old rail bridge I continued, soon coming upon the Anchor Hotel. A fair pub once again, I got in a pint of San Miguel whilst watching a little of the North London Derby, including Harry Kane’s leveller from the spot. With time to squeeze in one more and make my journey back home a little easier, the Corner Pin, just the other side of a sizable retail park was the next proverbial ‘cab off the rank’. With not too much to inspire on offer, I reckoned I’d go for a reliable Strongbow (£3.40) and sat alongside the window with the ground safely in sight and whilst getting some much-needed charge after my on-the-fly switcheroo.

City Arms

Anchor

Corner Pin

Finishing up in the Corner Pin, it was off to the Saltney Community Centre where I arrived at the gates just as the whistle blew. Finding it was free-entry and with little to convey to anyone that a game was going on outside of those in the know, I followed the road/path round to pitch-side where I found the game continuing on through its early stages. There is little in the way of overall facilities here, though there was a café operative at some point, as I spied it at half-time within the same building as the toilets and dressing rooms. Another classroom looking portacabin joins this one, set quite some way off from the pitch itself. Speaking of the pitch, it is fully railed and is largely surrounded by grass, with hard standing offered down the near-side as you enter and there is also a small, pretty smart covered seating stand straddling the half-way line too. The dugouts stand opposite, along with a wall that looks suspiciously like a dugout/stand in progress, and gives a little respite from the grass this side. That’s Saltney’s home in brief and this is the story of Saltney Town and its football….

History Lesson:

Saltney Town Football Club was founded in 2010, though football in the town dates back to at least 1908 when a Saltney F.C. team joined the English “The Combination” league and competed there for three seasons – finishing both of their first two seasons as runners-up (including finishing above Tranmere Rovers) before the league’s disbanding and the club’s entrance to the wild blue yonder. Post-war a side named Crichton’s Athletic started up in the Cheshire League and played under that name for two seasons before becoming Saltney Athletic in 1921. After a further two seasons there as Saltney Athletic, the club left the league and again went into hiding it seems until 1975 and the creation of Saltney Social. Once again, this club’s existence was for two campaigns, this time in the Clwyd League.

Another side would pop-up years later, now in the Welsh pyramid, and known as Saltney Community Centre as with the club’s home base. The club started out back in the Clwyd League and finished their first season in third place, ensuring promotion from Division 1 to the Premier Division, where they would spend two seasons, finishing runners up before taking the title and promotion to the Welsh Alliance was secured. A further two years would be spent by this side in the Welsh Alliance from 1996-’98 prior to their folding.

STFC-The Bordermen

Beluga makes an appearance

However, the current club came into being in 2010 and has gone on to be the longest-lasting Saltney club by a fair distance. Joining the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area)’s Division 1, the Bordermen had immediate success- lifting the League and Horace Wynn Cup in their first season and the club would lift the divisional title in their second outing and were duly promoted to the Premier Division in the process, with original title winners Borras Park United seeing three points deducted from their tally, therefore handing the trophy to Saltney. They have remained there to this day, finishing a best of 7th last time out and look on course to match that at least this campaign.

The game got underway with it quickly becoming apparent that this would be a tight, closely fought affair. Little in the way of chances came the way of either side, though it was the title-challenging visitors from Brymbo who would have the better of the play early on, but not by much as the defences remained well and truly on top. Saltney would have the first of what could be termed as a chance when a shot on goal was deflected onwards by a forward, only for the ball to creep wide.

Match Action

Match Action

Talking Tactics

But it would be the visitors who would break the deadlock with around ten minutes to play in the first-half, as a corner ended up at the feet of #7 Mark Beech and he turned the ball goalwards with the ball adjudged to have crossed the line. Both sides would have chances to add to the goal tally before the whistle, with Saltney’s #6 firing straight at the Brymbo stopper and a scuffed volley being scooped behind by the home ‘keeper down the other end, before a Saltney full-back fired against the outside of the post, but the sides would go on with just the solitary strike separating them.

After an uneventful half-time, the game was soon back underway and Brymbo quickly added a second to well and truly stamp their authority upon the game. A low ball into the area found Jordan Deer at the edge of the box and he fired a fine shot past the ‘keeper. This spurred the hosts on and, with nothing to lose, began to well and truly dominate the remainder of the game, though didn’t threaten the visitors too much all things considered. As the half went on, I got talking to the Brymbo president Norman, who told me about the club and his past forays in the footballing world. Nice to chat and thanks for being interested enough to welcome me to your ground at some point in the future!

Back on the field, Saltney did manage to grab a goal back with around twenty minutes to play, when a forward was tripped in the area and the referee duly pointed to the spot. Up stepped #8 Stephen Chiochi who confidently dispatched the kick and we were set up for a grandstand finish, but despite huffing and puffing, the hosts were unable to grab an equaliser and Brymbo saw out the game to ensure their title aspirations continued on unabated.

Brymbo grab their second

Match Action

Saltney get their (as it transpired) consolation

Bidding goodbye to Nortman and watching the injury time whilst slowly edging towards the exit way, post-match I headed just over the road to the Saltney Ferry where I indulged in the rare pleasure of “Jeff Stelling FC” (as it came to be known by me and Dan during those freezing couple of winters a good few years back), Soccer Saturday, with two lads waiting on Ole and United to do the job for them and their accas – caring little for my update about Pogba’s pen miss. Whatever the case, I wasted away the time through to the bus back to Chester from just outside the pub over another San Miguel (£3.50), before catching said carriage back to the station, nicely in time for the train back over to Warrington, the walk over for the connection being, thankfully for once, not pressed for time. The final step of the journey also went without a hitch and that ends a good recovery trip!

Saltney Ferry

The game was tight, but watchable enough, the ground simple, but ok, and the pubs steady if unspectacular on the whole – and that pretty much sums up the full day. Steady, but unspectacular. However, thanks to the WNL and Saltney for helping me out, even if they knew nothing of my plight! Another week and another new ground to follow and, speaking of the connection between rugby and football, I’m planning to be off to a venue where the two collide – somewhere everyone seems fond of a “Keith Lee”….?!

RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 4

Food: N/A

Programme: N/A

Value For Money: 6

Manchopper in….Llandudno

Result: Llandudno 3-1 Carmarthen Town (Welsh Premier League)

Venue: Maesdu Park (Saturday 9th February 2019, 2.30pm)

Att: 163

For a second straight week I headed over the border and into the land of dragons, however this destination would be far more Welsh-sounding that last week. After paying a visit to Airbus UK in Broughton (which could prove a good call after the A380 news) last Saturday, this one had me travelling along the picturesque, and occasionally Craggy Island looking, North Walian coast to the famed resort of Llandudno. Since I’d last visited the seaside here, the town’s club have seen their pitch become all-weather and so, just as last week, I set off in the knowledge that the game would be all set to go. All I had to do was get there….

Obviously I did, along with Dan who tagged along for my designated birthday weekend which saw us put a trip to Scotland on the back-burner, as the strikes again affected the services that were running. However this proved a shrewd move, as felled trees and downed lines courtesy of Storm Erik had caused mayhem to the North, whilst the West looked pretty tranquil in comparison!

All fairly serene approaching the Orme

Arriving in Llandudno

First stop:- the Irish Bar, just along this row

Despite an enforced train change in Chester, out trip went without a hitch and we arrived into Llandudno at a little before midday. I’d come up with a plan that we’d begin over at the far end, near to the dominating Great Orme which looms over the town like some kind of monstrous invader. Getting to just past the Wetherspoons and with a steep uphill incline beginning to face us down, I thought we’d gone far enough – only to find out my initial stopping point, the Snowdon, had seemingly gone the way of many another pub. Luckily, around the corner was the Irish Bar – which I’d had recommended to me by my Mum and Dad after their trip there last year and so we made haste there, having a pint of Poretti, whilst Dan settled for a tried and tested Carlsberg, whilst we met an excitable dog. Ah well at least it wasn’t….

“CARLING!!!!” I exclaimed in horror as I entered the Wetherspoons after taking a few pictures of the seafront to find Dan had taken advantage of the leash being loosened. My pint of Punk IPA did at least soften the dismay I felt, before we backtracked down a small back-road to the old ad interestingly named Cottage Loaf. This was my favourite of the places we visited during the day and it oozed character, complete as it was with beams aplenty. I opted to stick (somewhat) local with a pint of Wrexham Lager (£4.30, I think) and yes, I know I’m stretching that, whilst Dan, devoid of his favourite, had to slum it with a Fosters. Awwww.

Llandudno is a coastal resort town on the North West coast of Wales, located on the Creuddyn peninsula within the Conwy County Borough and derives its name from its own patron saint and ancient parish of:- St. Tudno. Historically located within Caernaerfonshire and known as the “Queen of the Welsh Resorts”, Llandudno became the largest seaside resort in the country of Wales and dates back to the Stone Age, the settlement developing through each of the Bronze and Iron Ages upon the aforementioned peninsula (if you were a land-dweller, or the Great Orme if a seafarer – the latter as it looked like a giant sea serpent protruding from the sea). The area and Manor of Gogarth would be given by King Edward I to Annan, Bishop of Bangor, in 1284 – the manor comprising of the towns of Y Gogarth, Y Cyngreawdr and Yr Wyddfid.

Your welcome party

Llandudno

Along the front

It has since grown to encompass the neighbouring townships and districts f Craig-y-Don, Llanrhos and Penrhyn Bay, though the boundaries of Llandudno have always been complex in their nature with the ancient parishes of Llandudno, Llanrhos and Llangystennin being placed in the medieval commote of Creuddyn in the Kingdom of Gwynedd despite being on the opposite banks of the River Conwy, and later became a part of Caernarfonshire, with both nearby towns of Deganwy and Llandudno Junction remaining a part of Conwy, despite being across the river and only linked to it by a causeway and bridge. By the mid 1800’s, Llandudno had come to be populated by over 1,000 people, largely employed in the copper mines, fishing and agriculture and 1948 saw the marshlands around the town be redeveloped to ensure its growth as a resort, its station later added in 1858.

Palladium

Cottage Loaf

Cross Keys

Now with eyes set firmly on Maesdu Park, we headed back grounwards via a quick stop in the Cross Keys “sports bar” to catch the end of the Fulham-Manchester Utd game (Dark Fruits £2.20) before passing past the station and around, down a small road through an industrial estate until the ground’s lights began to come into view. Arriving with around 10 minutes to kick-off, we paid our £8 entry in the atrium (something a little different) and I asked about the programme I’d been saved by the editor, Jonny, only to pretty much find that no-one knew about it and I was eventually pointed the way of Andrew who got us a couple printed free of charge, so thanks for that! Trouble over, the game was underway.

Maesdu Park, meanwhile, is a smart little ground and is picturesque in its surroundings, surrounded on each side by hills of varying description. It has four stands, two small seated stands on the far side, one nearer the far end, the other on half-way, whilst a larger mixed seated affair runs the far end of the touchline opposite, just beyond a TV gantry/office thing. Behind the far end goal is another seated stand that runs pretty much the width of the pitch, whilst the clubhouse end you enter from/through is open, hard standing with a few park bench tables and a decked area out front of the bar/Cafe building. The end is split by the tunnel, the dressing rooms to the other side of the aforementioned atrium. That’s Maesdu Park and this is the story of Llandudno F.C.

History Lesson:

Football in Llandudno dates back to around the late 1870’s and a team probably known as Gloddaeth Rovers who competed for around a decade as an offshoot for cricketers to keep active during the winter months. After this club’s closure, it was followed by Llandudno Swifts who spent a season in the English Combination in 1888-’89 and lasted until 1901. Upon their own demise, Llandudno Amateurs came into being and reached the Welsh Cup semi-final in 1914-’15 prior to WWI ending footballing activities. After the war, and now known as Llandudno F.C., the club would go on to become a founding member of the Welsh National League (North) in 1921 and became champions in 1923. The club would also go on to have cup success in the following years, with the North Wales Combination Cup (1926), North Wales Amateur Cup (1929) and WNL League Cup (1930) all being lifted. However, the next year saw the club instructed to play in East Wales by the FAW, a decision which Llandudno refused to comply with and they were duly suspended from playing.

Arriving at Maesdu Park

Coming back as a founder member of the Welsh League (North) in 1935, the club remained here to the outbreak of WWII – winning the title in both 1936 & 1937 – before returning after the end of hostilities. They would go on to remain in the Welsh League (North) through to 1974, winning further silverware in the forms of tow further North Wales Amateur Cups in 1948 & 1962, the 1951 Alves Cup and 1965 Cookson Cup. The club were ousted from their former “council field” home (once the venue for a Wales vs Ireland full international in 1898) and seemingly went out of existence at some point in the meantime before being re-formed in 1988 after a Llandudno Amateurs side had competed for the preceding four years in the Welsh Alliance.

LFC

Moving to their current Maesdu Park home and spending the next six seasons in the Welsh Alliance, the club finished 4th in 1993 and switched to the Cymru Alliance for the next season. Llandudno (becoming Llandudno Town for a spell) were a regular feature in the higher placings of the Cymru Alliance, finishing runners-up in 2003 ahead of changing back to Llandudno FC around 2009 and finally escaping by becoming champions in 2015 and finally making their bow in the top level of Welsh football – the Welsh Premier League. After a fine first season saw the club finish 3rd and make Europe – losing out in the UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round to Swedish outfit IFK Goteborg, reality struck back somewhat with 9th and 10th place finishes over the last two seasons, with the club battling the drop this campaign.

Following a minute’s silence for the late Emiliano Sala, the first round of Phase Two got underway with Llandudno belying their position at the foot of the table with a strong start, but there was little in the way of true goalmouth action, with Carmarthen also failing to put their struggling hosts under pressure. In fact, it took until around the half-hour mark for the first true chance of the fame to arrive and it also produced the opening goal, as a searching ball into the area was played back into the fray at the back-post, with George Harry collecting, turning neatly and firing low beyond Carmarthen ‘keeper Lee Idzi from around the penalty spot.

Match Action

Match Action

Watching on….

This opened up the game slightly, but the visitors were surprising in their lack of penetration and overall energy and Les Davies had an opportunity to double the host’s lead, but his effort fizzed wide. However, as I was just buying some cheesy chips from within the Crossbar (nice pun) clubhouse a few minutes later, I happened to glance out of the window and happened to see the referee pointing to the spot down the far end of the ground. Penalty. Up stepped dangerman Harry with the chance to double his tally only to see his kick kept out by a good stop from Old Gold ‘keeper Idzi but, unfortunately for him, the ball rebounded straight back to the penalty-taker and he coolly slotted home, giving the home side a 2-0 lead going into the break – and one they fully deserved to hold.

Spending the break in the bar watching a bit of the Six Nations game on TV, the game was soon restarting. Carmarthen were slightly more on top for the first fifteen minutes of the half, but didn’t really create all too much to truly trouble the Llandudno back-line and they were punished on the hour when a ball in from the right flank found Ben Clark arriving and he somehow manoeuvred his body to fashion a shot which left the ‘keeper flat-footed and made it three-nil and surely had secured a long-awaited win for the home side and the young group of fans behind the goal seemed to sum-up that feeling in their celebrations.

Finally, Carmarthen began to threaten, perhaps helped along by the dropping of focus in the home ranks and after a shot from a tight angle had flashed into the stand behind the far-end goal, they grabbed a goal back with around twenty minutes still to play when a fine bit of skill by Dwayne Coultress allowed Liam Thomas a sight of goal and his shot looped up off Mike Pearson and over his brother Shaun in the Llandudno goal to surely set the nerves jangling within the home support.

Match Action

Match Action

But it was Llandudno once again who seemed to decide that attack was the best form of defence and sought a fourth goal and went close on a few occasions in the final quarter-hour to grabbing it. First, Alun Webb was denied by a low save by the visiting custodian and the rebound was played back in to Danny Hughes who connected well with a drive which was bravely blocked by a light-blue-clad defender. Carmarthen had a couple of late chances to well and truly start the jitters in the home ranks, but Coultress wastefully headed a free-header over the bar and Cummings fired over from the edge of the area, but Llandudno saw the final few minutes out safely enough to ensure the points were staying with them.

Post-match, it was back from whence we came, eventually ending up at the small micropub TAPPS, which looks far more like a house than a bar from outside! Inside is different yet it remains a smallish area split into at least two rooms – somewhat maintaining its original form. Anyway, after a pint of real cider in there (£3.90) we finished off at the Nevill directly outside the station doors where I finished up with a pint of Holsten (£3.90), before Dan and I then somehow managed to get split-up as he left to do something or other a few minutes before me. Eventually, we did meet back up, it turned out I’d walked past him and he hadn’t seen me either. Both safely on the train by departure time, a trouble-free journey back to Manchester was completed before what (hopefully) looks to be the final bus trip home I’ll have to face for a while, now the Northern/RMT strikes have finally been ended with an agreement of sorts. Let’s hope it lasts!

TAPPS

Nevill

With that promising end, let’s recap this trip. The game was very decent and again showed the improvements of the “plastic pitches” in recent years and I really don’t have much of a feeling against their wider use anymore. Of course, grass will always be better, but the artificial stuff is getting there, in my opinion. Maesdu Park is a smart ground and has changed a fair amount from my (admittedly blurry) memory from my previous visit a decade earlier. Food was fine, the programme a good read too and little to complain about travel wise. So that’s another week in the books and a visit to a historic old ground which is soon to be consigned to the history books is in the works….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 7

Food: 7

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Broughton (Airbus UK FC)

Result: Airbus UK Broughton 1-1 CPD Porthmadog (Cymru Alliance)

Venue: The Airfield (Saturday 2nd February 2019, 2.30pm)

Att: 225

Another weekend where my plans were put into disarray came around and I again entered Manchester Piccadilly station with no concrete plans of where to go. A vote was put out before I realised it was a little later than I’d counted on and so my choice was made all the easier. I was desperate for goals this weekend after two straight nil-nils at Eccleshall and Brighton respectively – and so I’d originally planned to pay a visit to Breightmet United, just outside Bolton, for their game with Hindley Juniors – two teams with a total goal difference of over -190 and seven points between them. Of course, this was called off during the week and so I hoped that the hop over the border to Broughton and Airbus UK would provide my first sight of the net rippling for some time.

Grabbing the train at a little before midday, I arrived in Chester an hour later, missing the quick bus by mere seconds. No worry, I thought, I’ll jog over to the bus station and get it….whereupon I again missed it by seconds. Superb; it looked like it was going to be one of those days. I did eventually manage to board a Mold-bound service heading to Broughton and was disembarking outside the Airbus factory with around an hour to kick-off. After securing a programme, I back-tracked to the first pub I’d seen – the New Glynne – only to find it closed which, at half-one in the afternoon, didn’t bode too well. As such I made my way over the road to the Mill House, a pleasant enough modern foodie pub located in the midst of a retail park. With little in the way of drink options available on draught, I opted for a Peroni (£4.70) which was fine enough.

Mill House

Heading to the ground

Broughton is a small district within Flintshire, not far from the England/Wales border and just outside Chester and is generally grouped together as the community of Broughton & Bretton. Known as home to the Airbus U.K. wing making factory and adjoining Chester-Hawarden Airport, the factory was completed in 1939 and went on to produce 5,786 Wellington bombers whilst in use by Vickers-Armstrong, prior to being passed on to De Havilland Aircraft who produced many different aircraft under their name. It currently makes the wings for many different models of Airbus craft – including the “super-jumbo, the Airbus A380. However, this model’s wings are not flown by the famed Beluga and are instead ferried to Mostyn by barge along the River Dee.

It used to be home to a manor house, Broughton Hall, which no longer stands and the war memorial institute was built in lieu of a memorial stone/cenotaph to hold events for the local community after WWI. Broughton is also twinned with the small French commune Auzeville-Tolosane, just outside Toulouse  – which is one of the places the Beluga primarily connects the Airbus factory here to, along with the one in Hamburg.

With the clock already heading towards quarter-past two, to the Airfield it was – but first I paid a visit to the clubhouse/social club across the road by the name of the Broughton Wings. The members’ club for the Airbus staff, the place was decorated with a number of aircraft pictures and the like (which I’m sure you know by now excited me no end) and one of the two guys working there had a short chat too which is always nice to see. A quick pint of Dark Fruits (£3.19) was had with only ten minutes or so to the advertised kick-off, prior to entering the ground directly opposite. £6 in was decent and I found I needn’t have rushed as the teams hadn’t made their way out of the warmth of the dressing rooms, and I wasn’t blaming them for staying in there. The wind blowing across the open expanse of Hawarden Airfield was bracing and bloody cold. However, I knew that something was approaching that would induce the warmth to me up a bit. Beluga.

In the Social Club

Arriving at the Airfield

Airbus U.K.

The Airfield is a smart ground and features three stands. One of these is a few rows of seating joined by the hospitality room and tunnel/dressing rooms, whilst an all-seater stand is located behind the far-end goal. The opposite side of the pitch from the main building is the Main Stand, which is another all-seater affair and gives a decent enough view over the action from the rear. The remainder of the ground is open, hard standing. That’s Airbus’ home in a nutshell, and this is the story of the Wingmakers’ many names….

History Lesson:

Airbus U.K. Broughton F.C. was founded in 1946 as the works side of the Vickers-Armstrong aircraft company, though has effectively been the same club throughout its existence, changing their name upon the factory’s change of ownership, duly becoming de Havillands, Hawker-Siddeley, British Aerospace and BAe Systems over the years. During this period the club competed in both England and Wales, within the Chester & District League and Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) respectively, winning the latter’s Division 2 title in 1992 as British Aerospace/BAe Systems F.C. to be promoted. Steadily rising up the Division One table over the years, the club finished as runners-up in 1996 and were promoted to the Premier Division. 2000 saw the club achieve promotion to the Cymru Alliance as WNL champions in 2000 and would then become Airbus U.K. for the following season. They won the league on 2004 by no less than 19 points and would play for the first-time in Welsh Football’s top-tier.

Their first season was something of a struggle, but by the end of the season the Wingmakers had secured safety for a second campaign in the Welsh Premiership – going on to reach that season’s League Cup semi-finals, bowing out to TNS over two-legs. For 2007-’08, the club added the village name to their title – becoming Airbus U.K. Broughton – the name they have carried to this day whilst steadily becoming stronger in the Welsh Premier League, prior to last season. The club reached Europe for the first time in 2013 (known in European competition as the imaginatively named AUK Broughton) appearing in three straight seasons of the Europa League’s First Qualifying Round (exiting to Ventspils, Haugesund and Lokomotiva Zagreb respectively, whilst also finishing WPL runners-up in both 2013 and 2014.

After changing to a 3G surface in 2014, Airbus would reach the Welsh Cup Final in 2016 – again being vanquished by TNS – the Wingmakers missed out on a fourth-straight Europa League qualification by losing to Connah’s Quay in the play-off final, prior to a difficult summer leading to a poor outing last season and a bottom-placed finish meant a return to the Cymru Alliance for the first time in 13 seasons.

The game got underway and it quickly became apparent that this would be an open contest with both sides going for it from the off. Airbus, with their strong home record, looked confident early on though little in the way of overall excitement was created during the first ten minutes, the Beluga’s first appearance of the day being the best highlight of a tentative start.

The Beluga makes its first appearance

Match Action

Match Action

The visitors from Porthmadog would have the better of the earlier chances when they came about with Shaun Cavanagh firing straight at Airbus ‘keeper Dave Roberts. However, it would be down the other end that the first goal would arrive when, on 20 minutes, the hosts forced a free-kick out on the left just as I was ordering a fine spicy chicken burger and chips from the van. I had a feeling something may happen and I was duly proven correct as Steve Tommason rose to head beyond Paul Pritchard and end my goal drought!

Unfortunately for the Wingmakers, their lead would only last seven minutes. Porthmadog were awarded a free-kick a good 25 yards out and, from the angle, Shaun Cavanagh unleashed a fizzing drive which beat Roberts – despite the ‘keeper getting a good hand to it. The wings continued to prove the main areas of attack for both sides but after Curtis Strong was forced off the pitch and eventually carried off to a waiting wheelchair at the break, this seemed to break the home side’s rhythm and Rob Evans twice went close, the first being denied by Roberts before he cleared the crossbar with the last meaningful action of the half. 1-1 at the break.

After an uneventful half-time which only seemed to hasten the arrival of the cold weather, the teams on the pitch tried their level best to keep those watching (and likely themselves too) warm. Sam Hart went close for Airbus early in proceedings, heading off target, before both Iwan Lewis and the dangerous Cavanagh both saw efforts go off target – the former being an extremely presentable chance. The game then continued to seem to be heading Port’s way, with the next twenty minutes or so seeing a fine performance by home custodian Roberts ensure the score remained level, including a fine full-length stop to tip a Lewis shot wide of the upright whilst commanding his box well.

View from the dugouts

SUPERMAN PUNCH!!

From the stand

As the Beluga made its departure into the crisp North Walian sky, Airbus responded by being well on top with fresh legs up front. However, somehow and despite getting to within touching distance of a one-on-one situation on at least three occasions, fine last-ditch challenges would deny them a true chance to trouble Pritchard – Mike Pritchard twice timing challenges to perfection, the latter on sub Joe Chaplin securing the visitors a point they’ll likely be pleased with, despite a later Cavanagh drive flashing just over the bar and Airbus can’t be too displeased either, all things considered. Full-Time, 1-1, and the two go on to meet again next week in a cup Semi-Final at the reverse venue.

After the game, a walk over the road and under an artistic graffiti-based underpass showing what Broughton is about was made and to the Offas Dyke. Slightly further than I thought, I got there eventually before realising the bus back was now, of course, a bit closer than it should have been. A quick pint of Peroni (£4.85) was had in here before the walk back to the retail park and bus back to Chester was made. Not without a bit of panic though, as I was forced into a cross-car park run to get there just in time for, having gotten lost in a cul-de-sac and then only to discover that the New Glynne that was shut earlier in the day was now open for business and looking decent in doing so. This all while being the most sober I’ve been getting back from a day out in quite some time….

Beluga makes its departure

The Broughton Mural

Offa’s Dyke Hotel

Getting back to Chester Station in easy time, the train back to Manchester was trouble-free and after a final drink in the City Arms across from Deansgate Locks, the bus home was made for the final trip of the day. It was good to finally get the Airfield done after wanting to get there for ages now and to see the Beluga both arrive and depart was an added bonus. The game was decent, the food superb. The only downside was the town, which was on the quiet side, though this was expected in advance, so wasn’t too much of a disaster. On to next week now and it’s back over the border to a bit of a dud, no?….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 6

Food: 10

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Connah’s Quay

Result: Connah’s Quay Nomads 0-1 Cardiff Metropolitan (Welsh Cup Semi-Final)

Venue: Deeside Stadium (Saturday 24th November 2018, 2.30pm)

Att: 204

For the first time this season, I would escape the clutches of the English footballing system and head over the border and into Wales, having been spurned in my attempt to go North into Scotland a couple of months back by our definitively not third-world rail system. Though it was to be a revisit in the strictest sense of the word, with me having visited the Deeside with Trafford back in t’day for a friendly, I hadn’t seen much to nothing of the surrounding area beside the River Dee. That was about to change however, as I headed back to Deeside to see the Nomads’ Welsh Cup semi-final clash with Cardiff Met, the side derived from the University of the same name. Also, it was a rare opportunity to see a Welsh Prem leader not called TNS, so there was that too!

Having set off into and going via Warrington, I arrived into Shotton (around a mile and a half away) station at a little after 11 in the morning. Having just missed the bus I was planning on getting up the road, I, set off on the less than troubling 10 minute walk up the road before coming across the Custom House, where I’d begin the day. Not by announcing anything I was bringing I to Wales though, but through DRINK!! A pint of Stella (£3.40) was had for the initial part of the trip as I looked to plan out the rest of my pre-match itinerary. With the interesting looking nearby pub, the Ship, still being closed as I walked on by, I instead found the Hare & Hounds open and ready and so dived in there for one, planning to backtrack to the Ship afterwards, with a back-up of missing that one out if it came to it and heading into the more ‘estate-y’ looking pub by the name of the Red Hall, located across the park to the rear of the High Street.

Connah’s Quay

Custom House

Hare & Hounds

Connah’s Quay is the largest town in Flintshire and lies within the area of Deeside, alongside the River Dee and close to the English border. It also takes in the hamlets of Wepre, Kelsterton and Golftyn. The area had originally Wepre and Wepre Woods in the Domesday Book and was part of Cheshire and the area taking in what is now Connah’s Quay, Shotton, Queensferry and Aston remained largely fields and the odd settlements here and there through until the mid-1800’s, when the silting of the River Dee ended Chester’s port activity and began the area’s growth around the quays and port, with people and commerce growing as time went on. The name Connah’s Quay is believed to have derived from either and industrialist who was one of the more prominent founders of the dock, the old landlord of the Old Quay House pub, a building that still remains standing, a man who owned a chandlery shop on the docks or a lady who owned one of the quays and when people wanted to cross, they would ask to be taken to “Connah’s Quay”. In short, who knows?!

As the docks became more vital, so the railways joined in the party and the latter part of the 19th century saw these grow in number and stature, with Holyhead becoming the Irish’s port of choice and so the docks required a link along the coast. The success of these Irish Mail trains saw further services and links added between Wrexham, Connah’s Quay, Mold and Buckley to transport bricks, clay and pottery and the like, along with a smaller line to Shotton. A steelworks soon popped up (now Tata/Shotton Steel) and it continued to grow from a small port, to a major Ferguson shipyard (including building an apparently famous ship by the name of Kathleen & May) and became a major railway town too. However, the 20th century saw a decline and post-war saw the port cease trading for the most part, the docks silted, fishing ended and an old wooden ship by the name of the Bollam was trapped within, a ship which was believed to have been one of those that participated in the British Expeditionary Force’s withdrawal at Dunkirk. The town’s station closed in 1966 and is now Leighton Street and no remnants are left to say it was there, and growth in the area has seen all signs of any lines all but disappear.

From the park & Connah’s Quay CC

Red Hall

Halfway House

Finishing my pint of Kronenbourg (£3.70) my best laid plans, of course, came apart. The Ship still had its curtains drawn and with no signs of life forthcoming, to the Red Hall it was. Passing through the park which gives views out to the river and the bridge and factories away in the near distance, I soon came upon the hostelry, located behind a small shopping precinct of sorts. Departing from the norm, I decided to try a pint of Worthington’s for the first time. Not bad either, especially for £2.10! It was quiet in there though and after drying up the dregs in my glass, caught the bus from right outside and continued onwards towards the ground via my final pre-match stop, the Halfway House, which stands within view of the Deeside itself. In here I found a pint of Apple and Raspberry cider at the quite astonishing price of just £2, so my decision was quick and easy! The only problem was how easy it went down….

Soon enough it was time to head the short walk to the college campus the ground is located within. Hurdling a short cut at the car park to cut off about twenty seconds (yes, really), I paid my £7 entry, plus a further £1.50 for the programme and on account of the cheapness of said entry and the like, gave a quid into the raffle too. nice on occasion. Thee Deeside itself is decent for an athletics ground. The view from the Main Stand (the only one in truth) is decent and doesn’t seem too far from the action, whilst the other side’s hard standing – near the dugouts – strangely doesn’t seem too set back either. Of course, both ends behind the goal are set a fair way back on account of the track layout, though all offer open, hard standing with the right-hand side also hosting a grass bank for an elevated view. There is a small, covered disabled area located alongside the main stand, the entry way separating the two, with the changing facilities and the like being located down in the bowels of the stand, the food bar just next to the tunnel too. Last time I was here, I was in said dressing areas as a committee member, though was accused (without any substance and despite the cameras being there) of letting others in the main entrance for free by one guy, whom I didn’t come across today. Bonus points already for the day, then! That’s the Deeside Stadium in a brief summary and this is the story of Connah’s Quay’s older Nomads….

History Lesson:

Connah’s Quay were originally formed in 1946 as a youth side under the name of Connah’s Quay Juniors, though the town had seen two previous clubs come and go, the first being Connah’s Quay FC, dating from 1890, whose highlights included Welsh Cup final appearances in both 1908 and 1911, with both ending in defeat – to Chester and Wrexham respectively, though the club would be disbanded shortly after the latter defeat, with an eventual successor being founded in 1920 as Connah’s Quay & Shotton, playing just in behind the Halfway House pub, just a few minutes walk away from the current ground. They would go on to become members of the Welsh National League (North) and would turn professional in 1922. The club moved to Dee Park in 1928, and won a league and cup double in 1929, lifting the Welsh National League (North) title and the Welsh Cup to go with it, overcoming Cardiff City to do so. However, this success would be the last the club would enjoy, as they would disband just six months later having experienced financial woes. However, local side Connah’s Quay Albion remained through to the outbreak of WWII, keeping the footballing sphere going in the town.

Arriving at the Deeside Stadium

The current club came into being post-war, the brain-child of ex-Wales and Everton centre-half T.G. Jones – a Connah’s Quay native and his involvement attracted many of the local youths to join the club and thus they began on a strong footing, winning the Welsh Youth Cup in 1948 with the majority of that side going on to represent the new club in its first foray into open-age football the next season. Joining the Flintshire League, Connah’s Quay Juniors reached the final of the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1951, but came out on the wrong side of the result. After a final season known under the above suffix, the club switched to their current Nomads one and went on to join the Welsh League (North) for the 1952-’53 season. This season saw success come in the form of the Welsh Amateur Cup, Nomads overcoming Caersws Amateurs in their second final appearance in the competition. The club also reached the semi-final of that year’s Welsh Senior Cup, eventually bowing out to Football League outfit Chester City.

Throughout the 1950’s, Nomads would also lift three North Wales Amateur Cups during the decade (’52, ’53 & ’55), though would take a drop back into the local footballing scene for seven years, from 1959 to 1966, prior to returning to the Welsh League (North) and finishing as runners-up twice at the beginning of the 1970’s, before joining the newly-founded Clywd League in 1974, which was won twice – in 1980 and 1981(maybe 1982 too according to the website, but not honours list), the latter season seeing an unbeaten league title campaign accompanied with further trophies, including the Welsh Intermediate Cup final, the Clwyd League President’s Cup, North Wales Intermediate Cup and Clwyd League Challenge Cup. A move into the Welsh Alliance came along in 1987, with the club lifting the 1988 Cookson Cup and a further move up the pyramid three seasons later, in 1990, to the Cymru Alliance, before entering the newly founded League of Wales in 1992, finishing their first season in 8th place.

During their stay here, the Nomads would lift the North Wales Coast F.A. Cup in 1994, the Barritt Cup in 1995 and the 1995-’96 League of Wales League Cup, defeating Ebbw Vale in the final though would end up missing out on the 1998 Welsh Cup in their first final appearance under the Connah’s Quay Nomads name, as Bangor City scored a last minute equaliser before going on to take the silverware on penalties. The club bid farewell to their long-term home at the Halfway House (now a residential area) and moved to their current Deeside Stadium home for the 1998-’99 season, having spent the prior season at Rhyl’s Belle Vue and the 2002-’03 season at their new home saw the club challenge for a UEFA Cup spot, eventually missing out on qualification by a solitary point in finishing 5th, a position repeated in 2007 despite having to play at Flint Town’s home due to drainage issues at the Deeside. 2008 saw the club taken over by gap personnel and being known as GAP Connah’s Quay for the next few years.

Handshakes

Upon league restructuring in 2010, Nomads missed out on the “Super 12 league” and thus found themselves in the Cymru Alliance again for the following season. They subsequently won the title at the first attempt, but were denied promotion to the Welsh Premier League due to a failure to gain a domestic licence. The league was won once again in 2012, with Connah’s Quay becoming the first club to win back-to-back titles in the Cymru Alliance’s history, and with the licence secured this time around, the club were promoted to the Welsh Premier League. The first season back saw the club make the top-six championship, before a controversial one-point deduction saw them instead placed in the lower-half. Despite making the final, the club missed out on a Europa League spot to eventual qualifiers Bala Town in the play-offs. They did so again in 2015, reaching the play-offs once more after a 7th placed finish, only to be seen off by Aberystwyth Town. 2016 saw a poor season start end up in a highly successful finish, with a club-best of 4th being achieved and, once again, a place in the UEFA Europa League play-offs attained. This time they finally made it to European competition with wins over Carmarthen Town in the semis and Airbus UK in the final seeing the reach the Europa League’s early rounds for 2016-’17.

They would go on to defeat Stabæk of Norway 1-0 over two legs, becoming the first Welsh Club in 24 years and 214 attempts to keep two clean sheets across the two-legs of a tie. They would bow out to FK Vojvodina of Serbia in the next round by 3-1, but league success would follow, with Nomads finishing the season as runners-up to TNS. Again, they reached the Europa League for last season, going out to Finnish side HJK Helsinki 3-1 over the two-legs, having overcome the Finns in Wales. Success also came in the Welsh Cup, as this was lifted for the first time under the Nomads name with a 4-1 win over Aberystwyth Town and 3rd place being secured in the league table. A third-straight European appearance was secured with Bangor City being relegated due to licencing issues, though Nomads would go out to the Belarussian outfit, Shaktyor Soligorsk, 1-5 on aggregate.

The game got underway with the Welsh Premier leaders starting off on the front foot as you might expect. However, they struggled to truly create much beyond the Met’s defensive lines and the visitors looked solid in protecting their ‘keeper from danger. Michael Parker would see his shot from close range well blocked by a Met defender and Ryan Wignall saw an effort saved but this was as close as they would get despite their early foothold.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

They would be punished for not taking advantage of their strong start in the 35th minute when Cardiff would strike first to break the deadlock, as the two strove to meet fairytale giant-killers Cambrian & Clydach in the final. A back-pass put home ‘keeper John Danby under pressure and his attempted clearance was charged down by Baker, with Adam Roscrow taking full advantage of his team-mate’s work to slot home. The remainder of the half saw little else in the way of action, bar a penalty shout that was waved away to the angst of the home side, but it was to be Cardiff who would go in at the break ahead.

Eventually settling on a hot dog (which was good I might add) on account of the burgers having been sold out, the second half was soon underway and having undertaken the staple lap of the ground in the first half, I now set up shop in the stand for the last 45, with the darkness setting in ever more swiftly. Nomads began to use Laurence Wilson’s long-throw as a real weapon to try and get in and amongst the sturdy Met defence. As it was, chances would come in more normal fashion, Met’s Elliot Evans striking the post from close range when he likely ought to have done better and Nomads sub Rob Hughes firing wide from the edge the area, before Evans again had the chance to put the result beyond reasonable doubt, when he intercepted a loose ball from Wilson to advance towards Danby, only to tamely find the ‘keeper’s grateful hands.

From the stand

Take notice…

Sir Gawain & Green Knight post-match

The final ten saw Cardiff continue as they had for the previous 80, staying compact and strong in defence and despite a late header from skipper George Horan which narrowly went wide of the upright, Nomads never really came too close to threatening Cardiff’s path to a second straight Welsh Cup Final, whilst Connah’s Quay were left to kick themselves over missing out on a final berth for a fourth consecutive time, this being one of their better chances on paper over recent years.

Post-match, I made a quick exit round the corner to the interestingly named Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a real old pub which seems sort of out of place in its current surroundings and even more so when Lonely Island were mentioned. I decided it best to forego breaking into a rendition of “Jack Sparrow” for all concerned. Even better was the fact it was a Sam Smith’s place and thus cheap beer (£2.75~) is a certainty, come to me Taddy lager! A twenty minute walk later had me back towards the centre somewhat and at the Morrison’s neighbouring Broad Oak (which is well worth going out of your way for) for a Hop House (£3.60) whilst being able to watch a bit of the Spurs-Chelsea clash, before grabbing the bus back to near the Ship from just outside. If it was still closed, I’d stay on through to the Spoons in Shotton. As it was, finally, it was open and gave a chance to watch a bit more of the game in the fine Grade II listed building which definitely has its own character along with a Coors (£3.70). A final bus trip down the road saw me visit the Wetherspoons nonetheless, on account of it being close to the station and therefore preferable to sitting on the windswept platform (Punk IPA £2.99), prior to grabbing the train back to Manchester and meeting Dan to plan out his birthday trip to Lincoln the next week along.

Broad Oak

The Ship. Finally!

‘Spoons being attacked by a seagull earlier on

So ends another trip. Connah’s Quay had been solid if unspectacular on the whole. The game was alright I suppose, an expected cagey contest, the pubs were all solid and the ground, as I said earlier, is good as athletics grounds go. Travel and food all went well and was good respectively, so no complaints over these can be had either. Onwards to the home of the Imps!

Manchopper in….Gronant (Prestatyn Sports FC)

Result: Prestatyn Sports 3-1 Gaerwen (Welsh Alliance League Division 2)

Venue: The (“Fortress”) Recreation Ground (Saturday 26th May 2018, 1.30pm)

Att: 70 ~ (officially 40?!)

It’s the penultimate weekend of my season! Finally, we are almost at a close and everyone will soon be enjoying their off-season break of….approximately two weeks. It’s almost surreal that clubs are being forced into finishing their season as late as the second weekend of June (in the case of the Liverpool Old Boys League), but so terrible was the weather, especially over the late Autumn and Winter months, as well as every Friday night seemingly seeing heavy rain for a long spell, that that’s where we are at. That summer argument gets ever stronger, what with the Health & Safety rules seemingly not helping matters at certain points.

Regardless, such a long season gives us groundhoppers more scope to visit places that might have otherwise continued to elude us and that was the case with my visit to the subject of this very blog – the Recreation Ground in Gronant, current home of Prestatyn Sports. Sports have been making use of the neighbouring village’s pitch for the last couple of seasons, with their ‘spiritual’ home at The Meadows, in the town itself, having been judged not up to scratch for the Welsh Alliance League and after initial problems at their temporary home which saw them kicked out of the league at the beginning of the season, some very decent upgrades have seen it brought up to standard…and comfortably so in my view.

Anyway, more on that later. For now, let’s concentrate on the early part of the day. Having again been afforded a lift into Manchester upon the cancellations due to yet another train strike (*sighs*), I caught the 10am service from Oxford Road station which heads up through Warrington and Chester before crossing over the border, passing the Welsh towns of Shotton and Flint and travelling along the seafront prior to arriving into Prestatyn, where I arrived at a little after half eleven. Well, I pretty much had to guess where we were at times along the route, having been carted along like cattle in an uncomfortably packed out train, which only just managed to take on two elderly people in wheelchairs whilst forcing pushchairs to block the passageways. I’m not sure that is exactly meeting the safety standards nor allowing for a quick and safe exit in an emergency, but there we are. I fear only when something does happen will people take any notice.

Arriving in Prestatyn….

…before moving on to Gronant

Moving on from that ever more depressing views and my mood wasn’t helped upon boarding a bus outside the station neighbouring Royal Victoria which then took me the wrong way and headed up towards the coast. My phone map apparently had switched the stops to the opposite sides of the road, causing the confusion. Great stuff. Further disruption was to follow, as the bus I actually needed was then delayed by some twenty minutes, meaning I eventually arrived at the foot of Upper Gronant at a little before 12.30pm. And it was raining now too. Could it get any more “banterful”?

With the wet stuff beginning to fall and me foolishly having selected to wear shorts and a t-shirt upon awaking in a warm, sunny Mancunian morning, I immediately sought out the nearest pub which seemed to be the interesting-looking Beachcomber Inn of Lower Gronant. It did look a bit different from the outside, that’s true, though there wasn’t much out of the ordinary within. It was decent enough, however, and a pint of Coors was had as the weather swiftly passed through before I headed back towards the crossroads and up the, rather steep, incline to Upper Gronant itself. You can definitely see why it’s called that!

The Beachcomber

Upper Gronant

Gronant Inn

The fittingly named Gronant Inn was next up, a small, local pub hidden away within the village somewhat, despite seemingly being on one of the more “busier” routes. I say busier with quotations, as it certainly wasn’t exactly rammed with traffic it has to be said! I was the only customer at this early part of the afternoon as far as I could tell and after a swift pint of the Carlsberg (there wasn’t too much choice in the way of lagers) in here, it was off to the ground, with kick-off only twenty minutes or so away.

After passing what looked to be a fire damaged house en route, I came upon a play ground at the foot of a road and could spot the players on the pitch beyond. To the left of this stood a small portakabin-like building which played host to the changing rooms and what not, whilst a table outside served as the tea bar and was manned dutifully by a Prestatyn official by the name of Dave (at least that’s what I’d been told by the Sports twitter account!). After purchasing a packet of crisps, a chocolate muffin and a programme (which was rather good too, with a fair amount of original content) for the princely sum of just £2, I continued on towards the railed-off pitch and climbed up the grass mound that sits towards the right-hand end on the near touchline. The far side plays host to the two smart-looking dugouts, whilst also giving views down the valley and out over the Irish Sea and the large amount of turbines dotted around in its water. All sides are open, with no hard standing available, though some can be found on the pitch-side skate-board tricky thing (I don’t know anything about skateboarding other than Tony Hawk).

It truly is….

Stuff about Sports

In addition, a couple of what seem to be temporary dugouts are located behind the right-hand goal which give a little cover to a few lucky punters. One of said punters happened to have “Massiv” emblazoned on the back of his club tracksuit and apparently, according to the programme, he is Sports’ number-one fan. Indeed, his shout of “no win, no trophy” definitely got the most laughs of the day! Anyway, that’s all there is to the ground nicknamed “The Fortress” and this is the story of the team who have definitely made it a formidable one….

History Lesson:

Formed in 2013, Prestatyn Sports Football Club has already had a colourful, and quite tumultuous, start to life in its first half-decade! After first entering the Clwyd League, they finished as Division 1 runners-up at the end of their first season and were also beaten finalists in the R.E.M. Jones Cup. There’s an ‘Everybody Hurts’ joke in there somewhere.

This season’s champs, pre-match

From there, they moved into the Premier Division of the Clwyd and Conwy League, becoming 2014-’15 champions whilst also lifting that season’s NWCFA Intermediate Cup, Premier Cup and President’s Cup. Their title win also meant promotion to the Welsh Alliance was attained, though this would eventually mean their home at The Meadows in Prestatyn was no longer suitable and so an enforced move to the Recreation Ground in the nearby village of Gronant was undertaken. However, this move didn’t seem to set the club back too much as they finished 6th and reached another cup final at the end of their first season in 2015-’16, but lost out in the Welsh Alliance Challenge Cup. However, they put that right the following (last) season, winning the Challenge Cup as the second attempt whilst improving to third in the league standings.

At the start of this season, the club was unanimously voted out of the Welsh Alliance League, but were successful in their appeal and were reinstated, while also installing substantial improvements on their current Gronant Recreation Ground home, including permanent pitch rails, dugouts and better changing facilities. This reprieve seemed to fire them up for this season and the club have gone on to win the Alliance’s Division 2 title and with it (likely) promotion to Division 1, with them signing off their time in the division in today’s game. They only lost their unbeaten league record last week in falling to a 2-1 defeat at Y Felinheli, though got back on track by defeating today’s opponents in the reverse fixture just four days ago.

Guard of honour

After the Division 2 champs were given a guard of honour by their visitors from Anglesey, CPD Gaerwen, the game got underway and it was a fairly tight affair early on, with little to really choose between the two sides. Both were also guilty of spurning possession when in good positions, meaning that it took until around the 15th minute for the first true chance of the game to arrive and, when it did, the net was rippling. A couple of misshit overhead kicks eventually fell to a Prestatyn player at the near post and he bundled it over the line, only for the goal to be ruled out for an offside. They went close again shortly afterwards too, when the Gaerwen ‘keeper got down well to save from the home #9, after he’d latched onto a long-ball over the top.

It had been largely Sports who’d controlled the first half-hour without being the truly dominant force and Gaerwen would make them pay for not making their earlier chances count. After winning a free-kick around 30 yards out, the resultant kick was floated in and after the #10 had won the header at the back-post and nodded back across goal, left-back Arwel Williams arrived to force the ball home from a couple of yards. One-nil to the visitors and the champions were looking at ending their season with two defeats, having only lost their unbeaten record the previous weekend.

Williams then forces Sports’ stopper Ryan Jones into a low stop after an accurate free-kick was heading for the bottom corner, before the champs responded with a good ball in being met by #11, whose free header lobbed wastefully into the grateful hands of the Gaerwen #1. However, he could do nothing about Ian Griffiths’ thunderbolt of a shot just a couple of minutes later. The forwards picked up the ball a good 30 yards out and, after taking a couple of touches, unleashed a rocket of a shot that flew into the top-corner with the ‘keeper not even attempting to dive for it. A superb strike and a definite “Goal of the Season” contender in my very prestigious awards….They are. They are.

Match Action

Match Action

Gaerwen open the scoring

The hosts almost went into the break ahead too, when an awkward bounce in front of the visiting custodian led to him losing control of the ball and it falling loose, whereupon the initial shot was blocked before #8 fired wide. Gaerwen too had a chance to re-take the lead just before the whistle, when the #11 hit an effort that looked to be creeping just inside the post, only for Jones to get down sharply to tip it behind. A fine stop to ensure the sides went in level-pegging.

After an uneventful half-time that saw me begin to again bemoan my wardrobe decisions as the wind began to blow in from the sea across the way, we were back underway for a second-half that I hoped would take my mind off it! It began promisingly enough too, with an early free-kick from #5 only being parried by Gaerwen’s ‘keeper and #10 finished to seemingly but Sports ahead, only for it to be, rather questionably, ruled out for offside. It’s a pretty thankless task doing the offsides as a club liner, though, as it’s always going to be under a fair bit of scrutiny from those watching on!

Match Action (includes ‘Massiv’ spotting!)

Jones again was forced into another good stop, when he denied the pacey visiting #7 with his feet after he’d outpaced the defence to get in, but the angle proved a little too tight. As champions do, Prestatyn made him pay for this miss by swiftly creating an attack that saw Griffiths again be released and he rounded the ‘keeper and his shot crossed the line despite the best efforts of the Gaerwen defender retreating back on the line.

Seven minutes later and the home side had sewn up the points when, with fifteen minutes or so to play, a deep free-kick reached the back-post, where the ball was headed across to the near-post, then headed back again before being directed goal-wards by the head of Robbie Dunn who wheeled away having netted the third goal of the afternoon for Sports. Their highly impressive #3 then had a chance to cap his fine performance with a goal, when he set off an a foray forward and was found arriving in the box, but he just couldn’t sort out his feet in time to turn his effort towards goal.

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

With the last-kick of the game, Gaerwen had the chance to net a second that their battling performance deserved, when the dangerous #7 again used his pace to advance into the area. He blotted his copy-book by scuffing his shot across the six-yard box, though this almost worked inadvertently when the ‘hip’ striker wearing the #99 shirt threw himself at the loose ball but after stretching to meet it, it just evaded the unguarded goal. The whistle arrived upon the miss, with Prestatyn running out 3-1 winners and duly being presented with their winner’s medals and the Welsh Alliance Division 2 trophy, as Queen’s overplayed “We are the Champions” played out over the loud-speaker system brought in especially for this moment. Congratulations to them!

After the champagne had been sprayed and the pictures were beginning to be taken, I headed off to the bus-stop where I was expecting to be enduring a 20 minute wait for the bus off to the nearby Bells of St. Mary’s pub and having a pint there prior to returning back to Prestatyn. However, having only been there a matter of seconds, a lad pulled up and offered me a lift back to the town, having been a long-term sufferer of bus stop waits. After a short time, I thought it’d be rude to say no and so took him up on his offer, before being dropped back at the station. Honestly, I was very grateful!

Are they old enough for those Buds?

Bubbles are sprayed….

….before a flare (& Non-Lg Dog) joins the party!

Being back in Prestatyn far earlier than I was expecting, I now had no rush in getting back for the train of course and so decided to have a quick one in the station-neighbouring Cookhouse and leave the Royal Victoria to last, as it stands outside the platform I’d need for the train back to Warrington. A pint of Amstel in the former went down well as I looked to try to formulate a plan that would allow me to include a visit to the Nant Hall Hotel that I’d passed en route to the game earlier. It had looked pretty interesting with a group of statues lining the driveway and populating the gardens, so I figured it’d be a shame to miss out. As luck would have it, I had about twenty minutes or so until the bus that would again be heading off that way and so that was that sorted. Off to the Nant Hall I was!

Arriving there after a five-minute journey passing nearby Prestatyn Town’s Bastion Gardens home, I headed inside to find the lovely decorated bar area fairly well populated. Opting for a pint of the Heineken in here – which at £3.95 wasn’t that bad for a hotel really – I sat down before having a sense of déja-vu imposed upon me as a bride and groom emerged from the room next door, complete with photographers and guests. If you don’t know why I’m mentally scarred by this, see my Ossett Albion blog and you’ll understand why….

Post-match tour starts at the Cookhouse

Nant Hall Hotel

Inside the Nant Hall

After wishing them well via the medium of a few of the guests I’d offered my table too, I quickly headed out as I began to feel a little out of place. I thought I was a bit early too, but it turned out to be a good thing I did leave that little bit quicker, as the bus creeped up on me just as I arrived at the bus stop once again. Phew. Shortly back in the town centre again, I visited the William Morgan free-house (surprisingly not a Wetherspoons) at the foot of the main row of shops where I was delighted to find they had the fine 61 Deep on. I was even more happy with the price – £2.20? That’s fine with me!

After giving up my booth in here to a group of Irish guys and girls (on account that they asked if anyone else was there and I reckoned I’d just move for all of them and swap tables), I headed back to the station and the large Royal Victoria. It doesn’t look too much from the outside, but its far nicer within, that’s for sure. With the Fulham-Villa play-off on TV, I settled in with a pint of Coors (£3.50) before checking in with the train, you know, just to see how it was getting on. It was then I saw the dreaded word: Cancelled. ‘Oh. My. God. Could this day get any worse?’ I thought to myself, though after looking into it a bit more, I found it had only been cancelled from the first two stops and so was still heading back my way. I did try to get my muffin from earlier open too, but only found it crumbled into bits. Great stuff, absolute scenes.

William Morgan

Prestatyn

Royal Victoria

A second pint in here got me through the 20 minute delay before I departed across the road and to the platform where the train was just a couple of minutes off. Upon boarding, I was joined opposite on the tables by a group of lads, one of which looked suspiciously like he was filming me on his phone, as I tried to recover what I could of my ever worsening chocolatey delight. Granted, it must have looked a little strange now that I think about it. Anyway, it turned out this guy knew Prestatyn Sports and the guys there (unless he was just humouring me for the sake of it!) and I was soon joining them in drinking canned Gordon’s. I don’t even drink gin, but I did then….

The lads departed at Chester and I continued on to Warrington, the second can of gin unfortunately leaking all over my bag and soaking everything within, though the programme miraculously got away with it for the most part, just getting a little damp on the corners. Everything else survived too as it turned out, though the muffin by now was well and truly dead. It was soon binned. The muffin saga was over (I may write a script about it) and so was the trip soon after, as I got back home in time for a couple more whilst watching the European Cup Final in my parents’ bar. My mum’s a Liverpool fan, so she wasn’t best pleased come full-time….

So what about muffin sa…I mean Prestatyn Sports then. Well, the ground is simple but then there was no surprises there, but the game was very decent and the programme is always a nice addition when at these lower levels of the game. The town of Prestatyn and the village of Gronant are both nice enough too, with the pubs’ offerings being slightly mainstream being the only slight negative, bar the 61 Deep discovery that is. Another bonus is that I’ve now come across Gaerwen’s ground, another that looks good for a visit at some point. On the list it goes.

All in all then, it had been a good trip to probably round off my club football for the season. All that remains to be done? A trip to Wembley next Saturday, and then it’s the turn of the Samba Boys….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 5

Food: N/A (crisps and muffin – no, I’m not talking about it)

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7