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Monday 22nd August 2012 ko 11.00am

Mid-Wales League Division One

WELSHPOOL TOWN 3 (Longford 9 I Jones 31 Mitten 39)

LLANSANTFFRAID VILLAGE 5 (Austin 11secs 25 72 Clarke 2 Matthews 40)

Att 211

Entry/Programme Hop Ticket

Badge £3

So, the final day of the Welsh hop, and the club whose game was the most difficult to schedule. With Welshpool having played in the Welsh Premier League comparatively recently, a lot of hoppers would have already visited. As organisers we knew that if the game was scheduled either at 3pm on any day, or as the last fixture many hoppers would either go elsewhere or head for home. Revisits aren’t popular, but Welshpool are members of the league, and as such deserve a decent turnout as much as anyone else.

Those who saw Welshpool struggle to take a point off Llansantffraid in the reversed fixture on last year’s hop, saw just how badly they’ve fallen from grace. Ten days before that season they’d had no players and were close to folding. It was hardly surprising that they finished rock bottom of Division One and were spared relegation only because of there was no relegation from the Cymru Alliance, the league above. That season also saw Sky TV’s Chris Kamara guesting for the club when his tv commitments allowed. It provided some much needed publicity, and Chris and I were told by the club that Kamara was “..a joy to deal with.”

Of course a town the size of Welshpool should be able to sustain a club in a far higher league. The town is situated on the River Severn, and its propensity to flood gives it its the Welsh language name Y Trallwng, meaning ‘the marshy or sinking land.’ In fact until 1835 the English name was simply “Pool,” the “Welsh-” prefix being added to avoid confusion with Poole in Dorset.

Whilst Maes Y Dre was never really up to Welsh Premier ground standards, the ground being shared with cricket, there’s a lot to like here. The most obvious is the large pitched-roof stand, although you do have to be careful how you pick your seat, some are broken, others have little leg-room, it offered plenty of cover on a wet day. The cricket pavilion balcony on an opposite corner also served useful purpose. Behind and to the left The Long Mountain (Cefn Digoll) provided a spectacular backdrop.

The club worked hard at their morning. There were bacon rolls, together with Barra Brith and Welsh cakes (The Mid Wales League took Chris’ comment that he loves Welsh cakes totally at face value – barely a club failed to have them on sale!). I enjoyed a cup of tea, before helping out with the line-ups board. Unusually I was able to grab a seat just before kick-off.

That proved to be no bad thing as Llansantffraid scored after a mere 11 seconds, Wayne Austin gliding through a space where a right back should have been to open the scoring. He set up Oliver Clarke a minute later for the second, but after that a shell-shocked Welshpool began to find their feet. James Longford reduced the arrears before Austin restored the 2 goal lead. Clearly defending was not a priority as Ian Jones scored following a corner, then George Mitten’s superb strike almost unbelievably saw Welshpool draw level. It didn’t last, as the sieve-like home defence opened up once again a minute later,  to allow Iwan Matthews a free shot to make it 3-4 at half-time.

Much as the travellers would have liked it to have been the case, a 7-goal half was never likely to be repeated, and the teams noticeably tightened things up, as the rain fell. There remained the formality of Wayne Austin completing his hat-trick which he did without a fuss, to make it clear what those present had long since known. That is had Welshpool concentrated for the first 10 minutes they may well have got something from this game. Still, unlike the evidence of their hop fixture last year, this time they do at least have something to work with. I wish them well.

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