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Wednesday 11th February 2015 ko 19.30

Welsh League Division Two

ABERBARGOED BUDS 1 (McCarthy 50)

CWMBRAN CELTIC 1 (Thomas 7)

Att c60

Entry £5

Programme £1

I wish there were more teams with lights in the Welsh League, I could enjoy mid-week fixtures here a lot more often. It takes my mind back to happy days when the Welsh Groundhop dealt in the cards of the Welsh League and the South Wales Amateur league. We tried to pronounce the likes of Ynysddu, and Blaenrhondda, and quaffed pint after pint in the Otley Arms in Trefforest. As one half of GroundhopUK, we will return to the Valleys one day, and the imminent merger of the Amateur and Senior Leagues will help that process.

Aberbargoed is near to Caerphilly, in the heart of Welsh coal mining country. In fact it used to have Europe’s largest spoil heap (400m tall!), but these days the best known feature is the local war memorial inscribed as it is with the name of Glyndwr Michael, the body in Operation Mincemeat, better known as the subject of the film “The man who never was.” Michael’s body was washed up in Huelva, southern Spain, which oddly enough I have visited (report here).

The Recreation Ground is halfway up a hill on the northern side of the town. It’s basic, albeit with all the necessities of life, including the mandatory cover for 100, courtesy of the Arena catalogue. What there was in abundance was that buzz of anticipation when two small sides meet. This tie had extra piquancy due to the circumstances Celtic found themselves in, and being the Welsh League its a long story.

At the end of the 2012/13 season Barry Town was pulled out of the Welsh League by their “owner” Stuart Lovering, and the FAW decided to put the immediately revived side outside the Welsh League, in as they described it, “Recreational Football.” Barry sued successfully, and in being reinstated saw Llanelli and Bettws reprieved too.

So at the end of last season the league tried to relegate an additional side from Divison’s 1 and 2 to rebalance the divisions. That saw Cwmbran Celtic relegated from Division 1, and Ammanford from Division 2 but they sued, and so the season started with the two sides playing no games, and the fixture list under the banner “Without Prejudice.” Eventually the case was found against the two clubs, the relegations were confirmed, and the clubs are trying to catch up with their fixtures.

You can imagine Celtic’s frustration, perhaps that’s why they made such a fast start, Luke Thomas opening the scoring in the 7th minute. It was a typical South Wales encounter, played at 100 mph and the tackles thudding in. The Buds equalised through a fine strike from Tom McCarthy but the real talking point was whether Owen Llewellyn’s shot had gone over the line a few minutes later. He was convinced, referee Wayne Tregonning and linesman Paul Lewis weren’t and my photos rather lean towards the officials’ position on the matter.

I felt a draw was fair, but I’m a neutral, so my opinion shouldn’t count for too much! What was certain was that this was a wonderful advert for Welsh football, set as it was in the heart of the Valleys.

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