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Wednesday 10th February 2016 ko 19.15

Welsh League Division 3

PONTYPRIDD TOWN 3 (Gullick 25p 61 90)

CAERLEON 0

Att c30

Entry £3

Programme £1

If you want to know where my love affair with Welsh non-league football football started, it was here. It was August 2005 I’d signed up for my first Welsh hop, and the Friday night game was at the (to English ears anyway) the almost unpronounceable Ynysangharad Park. Pontypridd beat the soon-to-fold Gwynfi United 4-0 but the evening wasn’t remembered for that.

Mid-way through the first half, half of the floodlights failed, and with 202 people watching, both organiser and club were made to sweat on whether the light would hold sufficiently to get the game completed! The time of year and the lights from the slip road flyover from the A470 did the job. We all smiled, and moved on the next day to the infamous “Dog Shag” game (don’t ask!) at Carnetown, and goalfests at Abercwmboi and Cwmaman Institute and at the end of it I was utterly hooked, and yes, I still am!

But Ynysangharad is the root of it all for me, so the chance to pay another visit appealed, and the place hasn’t changed too much in the intervening decade. The Park is still far more than simply a football pitch, with a public park, lido and the town’s war memorial too. The town’s most famous son, Tom Jones performed a concert here in 2005 to celebrate his 65th birthday, although I doubt whether that honour will be extended to the town’s second most famous musician, Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell!

The welcome was fulsome, and yes the floodlights were fully functioning. In the club room there was the lovely touch of an on-line commentary for those unable to make the game, the facility can be reached click here  For this fixture the commentary was augmented by the thoughts of Nicky Roberts whose blog “My Year In The Welsh League”  click here gives an authentic favour of football away from the likes of Vincent Tan.

The history of Pontypridd Town has been somewhat chequered since Ynysybwl merged with Pontypridd Sports and Social in 1991. They’ve finished as high as third in the top flight of the Welsh League, but sunk down to near bankrupcy and a 15th out of 18th finish in 2014. This season is seeing a clear renaissance, they’re second behind Abergavenny Town, and promotion looks a distinct possibility.

That’s no bad thing with the Welsh FA insisting that the Welsh League reduces Division 3 back down to 15 clubs from 18. That means that anything up to 7 clubs could be relegated if South Wales clubs get relegated from the Welsh Premier, and the full complement of clubs seek and gain promotion from the feeder leagues. As it stands that would see the loss of two clubs that were big enough to play in the English Western League, Cardiff Corinthians and Treharris Athletic Western. The latter would be especially hard to stomach with the Commercial Terrace ground pitch being so small it’s only allowed in the Welsh League on grandfather’s rights, once its gone, it can never come back.

On a pitch that, well let’s be kind and use a euphemism, it was “difficult” Ponty had to work hard to break down an obdurate Caerleon defence, but in Luke Gullick had a forward who could turn a half chance into a real opportunity. It started with a penalty that was sufficiently nailed on for not a single defender to argue its award, and finished with a gorgeous flicked headed from a free kick that nestled neatly in the bottom left corner.

It was a night of so many feelings, a return to an atmospheric ground, reminiscence, but more than all of that enjoying seeing a decent club on the way back up. But if you are wondering it’s Un- iss- ang- har- rad, I hope, I am English after all!

 

 

 

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