29th November 2014 – Welsh Cup Round 3
Anticipation was at fever pitch prior to this Welsh Cup match between two Flintshire rivals, with the match getting the deserved attention and build-up in the local media. In fact the promotion and local excitement of the cup fixture started as soon as the draw was made as it was set to be a clash between two Flintshire teams who were having fantastic starts to the season. Buckley Town had begun the season in impressive (if surprising considering the pre-season predictions) form by sitting high in the top half of the Cymru Alliance table and staying undefeated at Globe Way all season so far. Holywell Town were having an even better season by being 10 points clear in the Welsh Alliance Division 1 table looking like certainties for promotion, whilst also winning all their cup games up to this point ensuring The Wellmen still maintained a 100% record in all competitions in the 2014-15 season. With this ferocious local battle between two inform teams, it would be intriguing to see who would come out victorious and which record would come to a screeching halt: Buckley’s home record or Holywell’s 100% winning record.
In the newspapers both managers were cranking up the pressure by saying the opposing team were the favourites going into the match. On paper Buckley could have been considered favourites due to their higher position in the Welsh football pyramid, playing the second tier Cymru Alliance whilst Holywell Town applied their trade in the Welsh Alliance Division 1, a league below. However Holywell had reached the Welsh Cup semi-finals in a historic cup run last season and defeated a number of higher-league placed opposition along the way before they were finally vanquished by Welsh Premier League team Aberystwyth Town. This season they were dominating their league and had defeated another Flintshire-based Cymru Alliance team in Mold Alexandra in the previous round (my report of the game can be found here). Therefore it was tough to predict which team would come out victorious, especially as the old football cliché of “form books can be thrown out of the window” can be used to describe such a derby cup match.
As you can imagine, I was looking forward to this derby match as much as a kid looks forward to Christmas Day, especially as it meant a short away trip to Buckley. There was added spice in this fixture this time around, as opposed to the previous derby cup game against Mold, as I work with Buckley’s manager Tom Taylor. As soon as the draw came out, the banter began in the office and a small gentlemen’s wager was agreed upon with Tom betting Buckley would win, whilst I backed a Holywell victory (of course), So with the ‘massive’ amount of £20 riding on the result, I was super keen for Holywell to come out on top in this encounter!
Having been warned prior to the weekend that parking at Buckley’s ground might be problematic, I decided to make the journey up to Globe Way earlier than initially planned. Heading up there didn’t take too long even though I had to stop in Flint to pick up regular groundhopping accomplice Greg. There’s a number of ways to get to their ground but the easiest I found was to take the turnoff for the St. David’s Hotel in Ewlow, follow the roundabout around until the sign for Buckley and follow that road. Then a mile up the road, there’s a sign for an industrial estate on the left and you take that left turn. The ground should be on your right about half a mile up from the junction perched like a church on a hill. Even though I had arrived there in plenty of time (about 45 minutes before the big kick-off), the ground’s car park was predictably full and supporters were already parking along the road. Even though it was acceptable to park along the side of the road if the car park is full, I decided to venture back down the road and park my car in the public car park for the nearby Etna Country Park. The reasoning behind this was there was less risk of passing car clipping my side mirrors (this had happened the previous week outside my house which I was not best pleased about), the car park was empty which was a bonus, and it was only a 5 minute walk from the entrance to the ground.
When we finally got to the turnstile, there were already a steady stream of supporters filtering into the ground with a majority of them with Holywell scarves or coats on. It seemed like the Wellmen fans were out in force for this grudge game!! Anyway entry into the ground was the standard Welsh price of just £5, with the accompanying programme costing an additional pound.
Globe Way is developing into an impressive venue after having some major investment the past few years and we were both pleasantly surprised with the standard of the ground so far. As per standard for Welsh league clubs, the main stand runs alongside one side of the pitch although it does not run the entire length of the pitch and covered about two-thirds of it. There were portakabins next to the stand although I am unsure what they were used for as they were not open. On the other side of the pitch, opposite the main stand, is another smaller stand which is placed in the nearest half of the pitch to the entrance. The rest of the side is standing room only with the dugouts situated on this side of the pitch also. There is only standing room at either end of the pitch with the players coming onto the pitch from the end nearest the turnstile. This is because the changing room complex is perched on a hill above the pitch. In this building are public toilets as well as a snack bar for hungry supporters. In one of the corners, higher upon the hill is the clubhouse which sold alcoholic drinks to the punters. What was additionally impressive was that the clubhouse had a decked veranda which overlooked the pitch, so it was possible to watch the game whilst supping on a few pints. Surely there are no better ways of watching Welsh Cup football (or any football for that matter) than on a clubhouse veranda drinking a few ales??
As it is quickly becoming a pre-match ritual for me, I decided to get some yfed a fwyd prior to the game to see how reasonable the prices were and how decent the food was. The regular snack options were available at the food bar so you wouldn’t be disappointed if you like the usual football grub. I went for a hotdog (£2) and a cup of tea (£1) which came to a grand total of £3 outlay. The hotdog was a proper size and reasonable for the price, and the same could be said with the cup of tea. All in all, I was very content with the snacks as the hotdog tasted good and the cup was a good sized amount. It gets a thumbs up from me!!
Once food was consumed, we decided to take our place with a group of Holywell fans who had congregated by the small stand by the dugouts. As everyone was sitting on the front row of the stand, we decided to sit nearer the back of it and soon found out why everyone was sitting on the front row. I found the seats to be too narrow with very little leg room, and not ideal to sit through 45 minutes let alone 90 minutes worth of football. Considering my dodgy knee was already aching with pain after a couple of minutes, an alternative viewing position was required. Therefore we moved from the stand and walked further down the pitch to stand by the away team’s dugout. Other supporters came up with the same conclusion and stood along the same side, whilst the vocal ‘Holywell Ultras’ were all grouped together behind the goal Holywell would be attacking towards in the first half. The path behind the dugouts was quite muddy and some people had trouble walking through it – it wouldn’t be ideal if anyone disabled or had mobility problems wanted to get past. Perhaps Buckley could sort something out there in the future by removing the mud or tarmacking that section to make it easier for people to get past behind the dugouts before someone slips and suffers a potential injury.
For the match, Buckley were in their home kit of red & white striped shirts, black short and red socks, whilst Holywell were in their away kit of white shirts and shorts with black socks. It would be the Wellmen who would get the first chance of the game as Sam Jones crossed a dangerous ball into the penalty box only for John Leonard to shoot just wide of the post. It was unlucky for Greg as he had drawn out the 2nd minute in the first goal sweepstake raffle that Buckley were doing this afternoon (I had drawn out the 86th minute which I was hoping would not win as my nerves would not be able to handle that). The Bucks then had their first chance of the game when Lee Reynolds fired a shot wide of Holywell ‘keeper Mike Platt’s goal. It would prove to be end-to-end stuff in the first quarter of an hour with both teams having chances through set piece plays. From an indirect free kick, the mercurial Sam Jones put another accurate cross into the heart of the danger area, this time being met by Matty Harvey who rose above all to head the ball goalwards, but Buckley’s goalie Ben Jones (who would be the focal point of all of the Holywell Ultras’ chants throughout the half) was equal to the shot and gathered up the ball well. Buckley then had the best chance of the match so far to take the lead when another free kick was floated into the Holywell penalty box and managed to find Lee Davey. However his effort was more than matched by Mike Platt who managed to successfully stop the ball from hitting the back of the net. In my opinion at this point of the game, Buckley were just edging the battle in midfield and had slightly more possession than Holywell.
This would change as the defining point of the match took place about 15 minutes into the first half when the home side were reduced to 10 men. Buckley’s Lee Reynolds was adjudged to have kicked out at Holywell’s John Leonard in an off the ball incident after a slightly clumsy Leonard tackle (a bit like Beckham in 1998). Like Arsene Wenger “I did not see the incident” due to my position on the pitch and players blocking my view of the tackle and supposed reaction, so I can’t confirm what had happened. The instant reaction from both sets of players and management was enough to justify that something major had occurred. After some consultation with his assistant, referee Gwynne Vaughan decided the reaction was worthy of a red card and sent Reynolds off meaning Buckley had to play for about 75 minutes with a man disadvantage. The decision enraged Buckley’s manager Tom Taylor who launched a fierce verbal tirade at the officials! Referee Vaughan had to walk over to the Bucks’ manager to defuse the heated situation and calm him down. Taylor can consider himself lucky the referee did not take a stricter stance against his protests by making him join Reynolds by being ordered off the pitch also.
Rather than letting their heads drop, the sending off galvanised the resolve of the Buckley team as they put extra effort to ensure the man disadvantage was as limited as possible by taking the game to the visitors. They almost got their reward when former Holywell Town player, Danny Sullivan, managed to get free from the Holywell defence and exploit the space by getting a shot on target. However the impressive Mike Platt was on hand yet again to keep the scoreline level by saving Sullivan’s effort. Not long after Holywell had their best chance of the half when Phil Lloyd tried to latch onto a chipped through ball ahead of the onrushing Ben Jones. Lloyd managed to control the ball by heading it over Jones’ head leaving the ‘keeper stranded in no-man’s land and scrambling back towards goal. With the goal gaping Lloyd angled himself to launch a placed shot which would have resulted in a sure-fire opening goal. Just as Lloyd was about the pull the trigger, he was challenged by Buckley’s Jack Jones whose pinpoint accurate sliding tackle ensured the danger was averted by taking the ball off Lloyd’s foot and putting it out for a corner. An unbelievable last ditch tackle which got all of the ball and none of the man, which would have been a certain penalty had he clipped the attacker. It was worthy of any Sky Sports/BBC pundit analysis – fantastic defending!!! From the resulting corner, Matty Roberts crossed the ball to Matty Harvey who managed to get his head on another cross but this time could only put his effort over the crossbar.
With the first half coming to a conclusion, and with neither team taking full command the game due to sloppy play in the middle third of the pitch, it would be the visitors who would strike first and finally taking advantage of their extra man on the pitch. Holywell’s captain Sam Jones, who would be instrumental in a majority of the Holywell chances during the afternoon, managed to beat the challenge of a Buckley defender and whip a curling cross into the penalty box. The key cross was met by the industrious midfielder Tony Roebuck, who had acres of space and managed to flick the ball with his head beyond Jones’ reach to give the Wellmen a 1-0 lead. It would be a hammer blow to the home side who were looking to go into the break on equal terms despite playing most of the half with 10 men and having great goal scoring opportunities of their own. As the official blew for half time, it would be Holywell who held the score and man advantage much to the delight of the travelling (and vocal) Wellmen support and the chagrin of the Buckley management.
HALF TIME – BUCKLEY TOWN 0 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN
During the half-time period, we decided to change our viewing position from beside the away dugout, which was prone to stray balls being fired in our direction, to a safer place in the main stand to get a wider view of the pitch and avoiding potential hits to the cranium. Therefore we headed to the back row to get the best scope of the pitch. The seats in the main stand were much more comfortable than the smaller stand had been prior to kick-off and had plenty of leg room for 6 foot odd Greg and me with my dodgy knee. Naturally the majority of the home support were gathered in the covered main stand although even here it seemed as if they were outnumbered by the Holywell fans. The Wellmen fans were certainly more vocal than the Bucks fans that were there, plus a lot more Holywell scarves were on show compared to any Buckley paraphernalia.
The second half began as the first half ended with both teams trying to dominate the midfield but failing to do so due to sloppy passing and giving possession away too cheaply in the middle third. Despite their man advantage, Buckley were not showing any weaknesses and were equal to Holywell in effort and commitment, whilst putting in some big challenges – some less acceptable to the official than others. The first half-chance of the second half fell to Holywell when Matty Harvey tried to put another through ball in for John Leonard, who would have been through on goal had the pass been a little less weightier and not gone beyond Leonard’s reach. It was at that point that the momentum and ball possession started to swing in Buckley’s favour as they became increasingly urgent to find an equaliser whilst Holywell were happy to defend, sit back and hit them on the counter attack. As a result, Buckley had a couple of chances to score, both falling to Adam Eden. Firstly through a free kick which Holywell ‘keeper Platt gathered routinely, and then a through ball which Eden nearly scored from. Eden latched onto the critical pass, managed to ride the challenge of John Leonard and took his chance which unluckily for him was brilliantly saved by the impressive Platt, before it was cleared to safety. It could have been argued that had Eden had gone down under the challenge instead of staying on his feet, it could have been a penalty. Have a look for yourself in the highlights from the Buckley website:
Even though Buckley were seeing more of the ball, their sloppy passing ensured Holywell managed to break out and threaten a second goal. An attempted overhead kick from Phil Lloyd on a loose ball in the box was adjudged to be too dangerous for the referee’s liking after he collided with the onrushing Jack Jones, and was cautioned for his foul play whilst Jones had to go off for some treatment because of the collision. The captain Sam Jones again became heavily involved in his sides chances to score as the forward crafted another good chance to double their lead. He received a threaded through ball from Tom McElmeel (who was imperious all day in the centre) which put Jones clear on goal. Unfortunately for the captain his shot was blocked by his namesake in the Buckley goal.
As the game went into the closing stages, the hosts cranked up the pressure on the visitors’ defensive capabilities even more as they were becoming more desperate to find a way back into a game, which was starting to slowly slip away from them. Adam Eden had another chance to make himself a hero but just couldn’t find the net as he rushed his shot to put his effort wide. Tom Taylor made full use of his substitutes to refresh his side who were starting to flagging in energy trying to cover the extra ground. Substitute Phil Molyneux almost became “super-sub” as he chased onto a through ball but before he could get his effort on target, Matty Harvey managed to put a last ditch tackle in to clear the ball to safety and another Bucks chance went begging much to the delight of the visiting supporters.
Holywell kept catching Buckley on the counter-attack on occasions as the Bucks pushed further forward looking for the sort after goal. Another through ball by Sam Jones put Tom McElmeel through but yet another fantastic defensive tackle from the Bucks defence stamped out any danger before Paul Williams nearly had a chance to kill the game off as a contest. Williams broke clear from the home defence and darted into the box from the right-hand side but his shot was palmed away by Ben Jones for a Holywell corner. From the resulting corner, Holywell came agonisingly close yet again when the colossal Harvey soar above everyone once more but this time saw his bullet header cannon off the crossbar. Buckley could have, and perhaps should have taken it to extra time but Eden (who was a constant threat for the Holywell defence making threatening runs at the defence) was having an unlucky day in front of goal as yet another shot was saved by his nemesis for the afternoon, Mike Platt. Right at the end Danny Sullivan could have inflicted pain on his former team-mates and take the game into extra time. Much to the agony of the home fans, and relief of the visiting supporters (who no doubt had bitten all their nails off by this point) he could only place his effort wide of the goal!
After a few minutes of injury time and the game slowly fizzling out due to both teams giving everything, the referee Gwynne Vaughan blew his whistle for full time followed by a huge roar from the Holywell players, management and supporters. Holywell Town had booked their place in the fourth round of the Welsh Cup again and another Cymru Alliance “scalp” was claimed by the Wellmen, plus a bonus of £2500 prize money.
FULL TIME – BUCKLEY TOWN 0 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN
The Wellmen successfully applied the through ball all afternoon and defended strongly away from home especially during the Buckley possession surge late on. Plus it was great to see another amazing turn out of Wellmen fans making the trip away to support the team – at least 125 plus Holywell supporters were in the crowd!! Buckley can feel aggrieved by the sending off as it ultimately changed the game and made it an uphill struggle for them for the rest of the game. Despite this, they worked hard to keep it an equal contest and never let their effort levels drop even when they went a goal down, and had plenty of possession and chances to get back into the game especially deep in the second half. Had they had taken their chances more efficiently and not given away possession so frequently in the midfield, they could have gotten the equaliser and put more pressure on the visitors. They certainly did not play like a side who had a man disadvantage anyway!!
Overall I really enjoyed the short trip up to Buckley and I was very impressed with how much Globe Way has been developed, and also how well the team played against Holywell. A great venue for watching football especially if you are making full use of the clubhouse veranda! Just a shame from my point of view there was not a club shop or area which sold club memorabilia as I would have loved a Buckley Town mug or fridge magnet to add to the collection! Haha!
Still though I am £20 up in winnings which makes the day even sweeter for me…. 😉
Buckley Town’s match report:
Holywell Town’s match report: