Thursday 10th July 2014 ko 18.45
Europa League 1st Qualifying Round
BANGOR CITY 0
STJARNAN FC 4 (Rauschenberg 53 Bjorgvinsson 61 81 A Johannsson 85)
Let’s be honest here, I’d waited far too long to visit the Welsh club’s new home on the banks of the Menai straits. But the decision to wait proved to be a good one, as a competitive game this time of year is not to be sniffed at, and I’d never watched a side from Iceland either!
Bangor City moved to the Nantporth Stadium in January 2012 vacating their classic, if crumbling Farrar Road in the process. I visited Farrar Road in October 2007 and enjoyed Bangor recording a straightforward Welsh Premier League victory over Connah’s Quay with Les Davies recording a hat-trick, I’ve included some of the photos at the end of this article
It was oh-so-tempting to compare the two visits, Davies is of course a Bangor legend and is still the first name on the teamsheet each week, seven years later on. Yes Nantporth is modern, clean and the sightlines are as excellent from the main stand as they are poor from the Meccano stands opposite, but its difficult to compare the grounds when the place is on a UEFA-sanctioned lockdown.
The bar was out-of-bounds, and if you stood anywhere other than the queue for the tea bar, a security guard interrupted his chewing gum to move you on. You couldn’t leave via the main entrance, and for what purpose? Did UEFA delegate Kurt Zupplinger from Switzerland pay to get in? I did!
Still for a normal game Nantporth will suit Bangor’s needs nicely. Unlike Farrar Road, there’s a large car park, and there’s scope to expand the capacity should the need arise.
Sadly for Bangor there won’t be any more European football this season at Nantporth. Their prospects looked bleak after a first leg 4-0 drubbing in Iceland, but that didn’t stop the people of Bangor turning out in force in hope of a miracle. Naturally they looked to the talismanic Davies for inspiration, but the big forward saw far too little of the ball to have any impact.
I watched the game with the Non League Paper’s very own Sad Hopper, and like him we expected the Scandinavian team to play a passing game, but what neither of us expected was just how good Stjarnan would be at it. The first half consisted of Bangor working hard to close their visitors down, but once Martin Rauschenberg’s piledriver opened the scoring after 53 minutes it was only a question of how many and when?
Maybe £14 entry was £6 more than normal to watch a game but Veigar Gunnarsson’s pass for the second goal was worthy of all the entry fee, never mind the increase. Not only did the pass from the centre-circle bisect both midfield and defence but it also rolled perfectly for Amar Bjorgvinsson to stroke home. In fact that tragedy is that I’m unlikely to see a better pass all season.
The Bangor fans got behind their team and their “Shoes off if you love Bangor” chant was immediately adopted by the Srjarnan fans stood in front of them. The mutual respect was clear for all to see even after Gunnarsson produced another defence splitting ball to set up Bjorgvinsson’s second, and Bjorgvinsson turned provider for Ayli Johannsson to tap home for 4-0 on the night, and 8-0 on aggregate. Put simply, over the two legs Bangor was passed to death.
It was a realistic scoreline and Motherwell manager Stuart McCall and assistant Kenny Black quietly watching from my left will have had plenty to think about as Stjanrnan’s opponents in the second round. As one Bangor fan put it, “They may only be part-time, but they’re very good part time.”
As for me, I exited missing cold nights at Farrar Road.