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Saturday 9th January 2016 ko 14.00

Welsh League Division 3

STM SPORTS 4 (Worsley M Nessbert 48 Davenport 63 83)

ELY RANGERS 1 (K Johnson 65)

Att 80

Entry & Programme £3

It has to be said that I’m a lucky boy. I have a girlfriend Robyn who loves football, and she asked to come to one of my non-league jaunts. Now that gave me one of those problems you love to have, which ground and game to show her? I settled on an icon of the Welsh game for her first Welsh non-league game, the frankly stunning Blandy Park, home to Garw, on the basis that if she didn’t like it there, she wouldn’t like non-league full stop. Of course life never quite works out how you plan it does it?

It does seem like it’s been raining continuously for weeks, and Garw were very good, phoning me to tell us the game was off waterlogged with enough time for us to divert to Cardiff. Robyn became quickly acquainted with two features of the groundhopping lexicon, the Football Traveller directories, and the 3G weather insurance policy!

So we dashed down the A48 to the University of Cardiff Playing Fields in Llanrumney. Those with longer memories may remember the Welsh Groundhop visiting Splott Albion here in 2008 with Sky Sports televising us. That was on the grass pitch nearest the entrance, although both clubs do use the same changing room block.

STM is a abbreviation of St Mellons, a district of Cardiff, but that block very nearly scuppered their rapid accent through the Welsh pyramid. They were only formed in 2007 and started in the bottom division of the Cardiff Combination, but do have the distinction of having sprint Olympian Darren Campbell as chairman.

Last season they won the final South Wales Amateur League, and as champions expected to play the final South Wales Senior League champions Pontlottyn for one promotion spot. But the FAW turned down STM over a wrangle over their changing room block but while the club successfully appealed, the delay meant that the normal ground used for the playoff, Aberavon was unavailable.

Eventually the South Wales FA pulled a real rabbit out of the hat,  managing to switch the the game to the Cardiff City Stadium! It was one of the more, well interesting games the new stadium has hosted, click here, not least due to Lloyd Nessbert’s highly unusual way of departing proceedings early!

If STM are on the up, then sadly Wenvoe-based Ely Rangers are struggling. Their struggles with the local authorities over getting floodlights are the stuff of local legend, and club stalwarts Bob Fry and Steve Mounter are the kind of gentlemen who’ve put more time and effort into their team than anyone could reasonably expect. But they’re at the wrong end of a league that is threatening to relegate 5 clubs, and the nerves are jangling.

There was a time when artificial pitches were described as “All Weather,” but this game and others proved the fallacy of that description. The rain was relentless, Aberbargoed’s game on the 3G at Ystrad Mynach was abandoned waterlogged, and this game came close to a similar fate. Referee George Ridgeway confirmed after the game that he’d consulted both captains after an hour. Despite the obviously waterlogged pitch both teams were happy to continue so the game was concluded.

That reflects well on Ely, who’d agreed to switch their home fixture to here to get it played, and when the decision was made to carry on were 2-0 down, and could easily have opted to abandon and take their chances later on in the season. As it was STM won comfortably, we all got wet, and I drove Robyn home hoping I hadn’t drowned her desire to go groundhopping!

The good news is that on the way home she asked where we’re going next….

 

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