8th November 2014 – Welsh Cup 2nd Round
This weekend was cup weekend all over the country with the FA Cup, Scottish Cup and Welsh Cup all taking place during the bonfire weekend. Despite the allure of other games being played on the other side of the border, there was only one game that I wanted to go and visit when it was drawn and that was the Flintshire Derby in the Welsh Cup. Mold Alexandra would be hosting my team Holywell Town in the second round of the Welsh Cup with both teams hoping and confident for a victory over their local rivals.
On paper Mold Alex could have been considered slight favourites as they are currently playing in the second-tier Cymru Alliance and are a league above their local rivals in the Welsh football pyramid. Plus they were going into this cup game on some decent form after a less than impressive start to the season in the league. However Holywell are no pushovers despite their lower league placement and have become a team to avoid in the Welsh Cup over the past few seasons but certainly this season. This is due to them having a good record against Cymru Alliance teams in the cup but most importantly they achieved the historic achievement of becoming the first third-tier team to reach the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup (something which will never be forgotten by Wellmen fans) during last season’s cup campaign. In conjunction with the previous form, the Wellmen were top of the Welsh Alliance Division 1 and they still had a 100% record this season in all competitions going into the match, plus the squad still has a majority of players who played in last season’s cup run. Therefore confidence was high amongst Wellmen fans (and myself) that Mold would become another name added to the list of “cup scalps”.
After Greg had driven to Colwyn Bay the previous week, it was my turn to drive. Therefore I made the short journey, via Flint to pick up Greg, up to the home of Mold Alex, Alyn Park. The ground is situated just on the outskirts of the town but is not clearly sign posted and I had to check exactly where the entrance is using Google Earth the night before. There aren’t any signs in Mold itself pointing you to the ground which I think is a detriment to the club and perhaps something the club could push for in the future. The entrance to the ground is located in between the big Mold roundabout and the Drovers Arms pub on the Mold-Denbigh road, and can be spotted by the sign showing the club badge on the right side (if you’re coming from Mold). As it was a big cup game, the club’s substantial car park was already full so I was directed by one of the club stewards to park in a small company car park which was located on the thin road down to the car park and was thankfully empty. It seemed a blessing in disguise as the main car park is right by the field and prone to stray footballs potentially hitting them so there no risk of any balls going through my windows ha!
The car park was located just outside of the entrance to the ground so it was only a short stroll down to the steward on the gate. Entry to this big cup game was only £5, which I think was great value considering it was a big local derby cup match and this was a Cymru Alliance ground (Holywell charge £4 entry by the way which is cracking value in my opinion). I also bought a match programme for the standard price of £1. A good programme with plenty of information on the home team as well as a brief piece about Holywell – the template of the programme similar to what Holywell produces in their version, which in my opinion is a great thing! As it was Remembrance Weekend, there were also army cadets at the entrance collecting money for the Poppy Appeal, so some money was put into their tins also!
In Alyn Park, the car park continues to run down one of the goal ends, whilst at the other end and far side of the ground is open field where supporters can stand around the advertisement hoardings. All the main infrastructure is located on the nearest side, with the small covered main stand situated on the half way line and occupies the middle third of the side, where people can sit. Underneath this stand is also the home team dug-out. On the end towards the entrance are covered shelters that spectators can watch the match but continue to stand, whilst in the corner nearest the entrance is the club café, a temporary hot food stall and the club changing rooms and toilet. Note the word of ‘toilet’ there – I only spotted one toilet in the whole ground which was situated next to the officials’ changing room and by the entrance to the teams’ changing rooms. There was also a urinal block on the opposite side of the changing rooms block but as expected there were queues to use the sole toilet especially before the match began and at the half time break!
Myself and Greg decided that standing under the shelters would be the best course of action as the main stand looked a bit packed when we got there and we had a good view of the pitch where we were. It was good to see a load of Holywell fans had made the short trip up to Mold to support the Wellmen, with their red and white scarves clearly on show! That’s when I realised that I had left my Holywell scarf in the car – I knew there was something I had forgotten!! Arrrggghhh!! I would rue that decision for the rest of the game when the cold winds started to pick up! Anyway it was great to see yet another large turnout of Holywell fans on another Welsh Cup away day, and as per usual, they were on fine vocal form!!
Prior to kick off there was minute’s silence to remember all of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice and it was perfectly observed by both teams and fans. Once the silence was over the crowd roared to a crescendo with both sets of supporters cheering and encouraging their fans on to victory.
Mold were eager from the kick-off and showed their higher league position early on but having the greater impetus and possession. Alex had a couple of chances within the initial five minutes with both chances coming from Lewis Buckley. However both chances were superbly saved by Town’s keeper Mike Platt – it would not be the only fine saves the Wellmen’s keeper would make throughout the match! From the off, the game had a real derby tempo with quick breaks, tough tackling and commitment to the cause being the order of the game. Tempers got a little frayed early on when a foul by Lewis McNally on Wellmen’s captain Sam Jones provoked a reaction from Jones. However the referee decided to give both men a yellow card and kept the status quo in terms of numbers – some home fans would say the referee “bottled” showing the red card to Jones due to the earliness of the incident.
As the game progressed Holywell started to get more into the game and they had their first real chance within eight minutes when Sam Jones showed his attacking prowess by just putting his first shot on goal over the bar after some great build-up play. It wouldn’t be too long until the captain had another goal-scoring chance, which also proved to be the critical part of the game. Holywell were given a penalty within the first 10 minutes after Mold defender Danny Dalton was adjudged to have committed a deliberate handball in the box, and was given a yellow card for his foul despite some supporters claiming he was the “last man”. Sam Jones stepped up and thundered the spot kick past Alex’s keeper John Burns to put the visitors 1-up!
The penalty seemed to swing the game’s momentum in the favour of Holywell as they gained more possession and confidence of the ball, and had a few chances to double their lead deep in the first half but both chances were unconverted. The hosts thought they had equalised when Aarron Stafford put the ball in the back of the net after some slick build-up passing from the Alex midfield. However the officials (who would not endear themselves to the home support throughout and after the game) disallowed the goal for offside, even though it looked as if Stafford was onside when the through ball was placed. Both teams had chances to score with the best chance going to Mold just before half-time when Buckley had another chance to make the breakthrough for the hosts, but a last ditch tackle from Dafydd Griffith and subsequent clearance by Paul Williams meant Holywell went into the break with the single goal lead.
At half time I decided to have something to eat, and got something from the temporary fast food tent that was pitched up next to the café by the entrance. It was a choice between a hotdog or a burger and in the end I plumbed for the hot dog. Alas I should have gone for the burger as it might have been more value for money than the hot dog. The sausage was smaller than the normal hotdog size with the bun surrounding it visually dwarfing it in size also. Don’t get me wrong, the hotdog was very nice and certainly helped quench the hunger prangs. However I think £1.00-£1.50 might have been more reasonable considering the size of the sausage – put it this way, it was three bites and it was gone! At least the cup of tea from the club café seemed good value with £1 getting you a good amount of tea. The café had good value for other hot beverages (something which was needed by all supporters considering the cold winds that were coming in whilst watching the match) as well as nibbles such as cookies or chocolate bars.
For the second half we decided to return back under the shelters, especially as the weather was getting worse with the winds whipping up and drizzle falling from the heavens. Yet again I raged for leaving the Holywell scarf back in the car!!! The conditions didn’t seem to dampen Holywell’s eagerness as they started the brighter of the two sides after the break as they went in search of the second goal which could kill off the game. As the second half progressed, Mold came into the game and started to win the battle in midfield and in ball possession. Mold proceeded to have a couple of chances with Haydn Cooper shooting his chance wide and a free kick being cleared by Griffith. On the 55thminute, Holywell ‘keeper Platt was called into action yet again putting his body on the line when he produced a world class save to keep out Haydn Cooper’s firm header. The Wellmen’s ‘keeper would injure himself during the save when his head collided with the post but, after some lengthy physio attention and a bandage around his head, he was declared fit to carry on even if he didn’t look the most comfortable afterwards.
Holywell Town desperately tried to regain the momentum and claim the second goal and had a few chances to secure the game when Steve Thomas put his shot wide of the post, and Paul Williams managed to hit the post with his shot. Sam Jones had another chance to double his tally but his effort was tipped over the bar by Alex ‘keeper Burns, whilst Phil Lloyd, who had been dangerous all afternoon, broker clear on goal but fired his chance just inches past the host’s goal. Mold had a couple of chances through Thomas Murray’s free kick and David McElnay’s effort, but Mike Platt was on sublime form despite his obvious head injury and was certainly worthy of his man of the match performance.
With time running out, another major incident occurred when Mold substitute Ross Ankers was shown the red card by the referee Liam Gray after a heavy tackle on Dafydd Griffith which also caused both teams to come together in a “handbags at dawn” melee. There could not be many arguments with the red card for the tackle but yet again Mold could feel aggrieved with the official as he failed to spot a handball by Griffith prior to the clash taking place. From my position it appeared the ball had indeed hit his hand but was not seen by the referee for some reason. After the red card, and with the conditions worsening, both teams’ tempos dropped but not before both sides had a few more heavy tackles and half chances to fully emphasize the derby atmosphere. After an endless amount of injury time, Mr Gray blew the full time whistle and ensured Holywell got the derby victory and a place in the third round of the Welsh Cup.
In conclusion, the match was to be as expected from a cup game involving two local derbies. Both teams gave 100% effort in terms of desire and commitment but it could be argued that the occasion got to the pair of them as neither team played to their full potential. Mold certainly had the better ball possession but I believe Holywell had the better chances to score, and could have gotten a second any other day. I certainly do feel for Mold Alex though as the officials did not have a good performance and made a few incorrect decisions which obviously hampered their day more so than Holywell’s day. Both teams look at a similar level, despite the difference in leagues, and it was only the unbelievable performance of Holywell ‘keeper Mike Platt which proved to be the critical factor in this scoreline.
Overall, I enjoyed the day (obviously the result certainly helped) and it was good to visit one of the local grounds. The Mold officials and volunteers I came into contact with throughout the day were helpful and friendly, and the ground itself is a good one with plenty of space to expand in the future. I think the toilet facilities could be improved by adding more toilets as a single unisex toilet could be hugely problematic when there is a large crowd, but considering it’s all comes as a cost it is adequate for the time being. Plus it’s obvious they are trying to improve the ground so much credit must go to their efforts so far! The big issue I would heavily suggest is having more direction signs in the town showing where the ground is located. I would imagine they might get more people coming to games if they knew clearly where the ground was! Anyway Holywell march on to the next round of the Cup where they’ll meet Buckley – yep another Flintshire derby! This will be interesting…..
Good luck to Mold Alexandra for the rest of the season and I hope they have a successful season! I am already looking forward to returning to Alyn Park for a Cymru Alliance game next season!!
Mold Alex’s match report:
Holywell Town’s match report: