15th November 2014 – Welsh Premier League
After researching into several options for a game I could watch during the weekend, which included potential trips across the border to watch Football League football, I chose on an easier option and to travel the 20 minute journey down the North Wales coast road to Prestatyn for some intense Welsh Premier League action. Even though Prestatyn is literally “just down the road” for me, it was another local ground and team I had not managed to visit over the years. Therefore it was an easy choice in the end to visit Bastion Gardens and rectify that anomaly of not visiting the Seasiders.
Accompanying me on this short journey was my friend Simon, who was making his first groundhop and attendance of a Welsh Premier game. The ground is fairly straight forward to find (even more so for a local lad like myself who knows the route to Prestatyn/Rhyl very well) and is just off the main coastal road and located near to the Pontins holiday park complex. The advice I would give to any future visitors to Bastion Gardens is to get to the ground fairly early as the club’s car park (situated right next to the ground at one of the goal ends) is not the biggest and can fill up quite quickly. I managed to get their about half an hour before kick-off and was lucky to find a space, with people less fortunate parking along the road heading to the ground. The entrance to the ground is at the end of a residential street so be aware if you have to park up alongside the road. Try not to block people’s drives as I don’t think the locals would be too fond of that!
The entrance fee was £7 for this game which is a very reasonable amount in my opinion and about average for the league also. As you head through the turnstile, you come across the club shop which sells all Prestatyn Town items including replica shirts but also the programmes for the upcoming game. As you can imagine my immediate attention went to the mugs they had selling, and so I added to my football mug collection by purchasing one of them for the very cheap price of £3. Combined that with the programme I also bought and the total outgoings proved to be £4.50!! I was incredibly happy with that result! Alas they didn’t seem to have any fridge magnets on the stall – ah well you can’t win them all!!
Just after the club shop and part of the clubhouse complex is the snack bar which sells all kinds of hot food such as pies, chips, fast food etc. for incredibly reasonable prices. Simon went for the cheeseburger and I went for the hotdog (hoping to compare Mold’s offering with Prestatyn’s). Although the queue was quite long, people were served at a quick pace due to the large amount of people working in the snack bar. Simon’s burger was quick in being produced, however it was without the cheese even though I had paid for it. He didn’t mind too much and seemed to enjoy the burger all the same the way he had wolfed it down ha! Alas my hotdog was not as quick forthcoming and I had to wait a while for it to be cooked – probably because all the cooked hotdogs had gone before I got there no doubt! Anyway after the wait, the hotdog certainly built up to the “jumbo” description and it quenched the hunger prangs in the stomach. For £2.50 each for the burger and jumbo hot dog, you cannot go wrong! Mold Alex take note!!
Whilst the food was being consumed, Prestatyn’s team was warming up on the pitch with some shooting practice at the goal in front of the clubhouse. Needless to say I was not filled with a lot of confidence that were would be many goals in the upcoming game as many of the shots went high, wide and handsome. Some poor supporter who had placed his full cup of tea on one of the benches behind the goal had the misfortune of having it knocked to the floor by a stray shot from one of the home players’ shots. A few more shots were hitting supporters walking behind the goal or the wall of the clubhouse, and not many shots were hitting their intended target of the back of the net. It did not fill me with confidence for a home win I will be honest….
There is one main stand at Bastion Gardens which runs the whole length of the pitch and is the nearest to the Pontins complex, and it is where the majority of the home fans had cascaded towards. We decided to stand on the opposite side which had no coverage nor stands but there was plenty of room and we were lot closer to the action, if greater exposed to the elements. It was this side which has the TV camera gantry building as well as the dugouts for the two teams, and it was also in front of the houses which backed onto the ground. We decided to stand in the corner nearest to the clubhouse/entrance and the goal which the visitors were attacking towards in the first half. In the opposite corner of the ground, located the end of the main stand, were the few Port Talbot fans who had made the long and exhaustive journey up north to the opposite coast to support their team. Even though there were only a few of them, they were very vocal in supporting their team through chants and songs, supplemented by the beat of a big drum which was heard at several occasions throughout the game.
At the start of the game, the home crowd was in fine form as they encouraged their side to produce a strong performance, especially needed after the loss against coastal rivals Connah’s Quay Nomads in their last match. However the home crowd were silenced early on when a defensive mistake by the Prestatyn left-back Jack Lewis resulted in him sloppily giving possession to Port Talbot deep inside his own area. Talbot then took full advantage of the defensive error by Martin Rose putting into the back of the net to take an early lead. Not the start the home side was planning especially after their sketchy form these past few weeks! Port Talbot would dominate early in the first half by having the lion’s share of the possession and chances, whilst the home side could not keep possession and were loose in their distribution. Against the run of play Prestatyn got a chance on goal and took it by getting the critical equaliser to completely change the game. They managed to get the equaliser through Mike Pritchard after Talbot keeper Steven Cann kept out an initial chance from Ross Weaver. Port Talbot’s day got even worse when defender Leigh De Vulgt was sent off on 41 minutes for a clear stamp on one of the Prestatyn players. Thankfully the players got some treatment and managed to carry on in the match. Both teams went into the break 1-1 with Prestatyn lucky to be just 1 goal down but now had a full half with a man advantage.
At half time I went to pick up my mug which I had left at the club shop stall due to them not having any carrier bags prior to kick-off and they had to go looking for one. Whilst I was doing this, Simon made another trip to the snack bar and bought himself a tray of chips for £1. As stated previously, the prices and quality of the food were excellent and having nicked a few chips from the tray, I can say the chips were exceptionally good! As with other clubs there is also a bar within the clubhouse to buy alcoholic drinks as well as cups of tea and other warm beverages, although this time around I didn’t purchase any hot nor alcoholic drink.
The second half started as the home team looked a more solid outfit after the break, no doubt galvanised by the proverbial ‘kick up the backside’ by the management and the number advantage. The equaliser had lifted both the home team and supporters as they could sense they could get another goal whilst Talbot were now on the defensive and looking to get something from the game. Through ever louder support from the fans around the ground, and encouragement from the Port Talbot fans who could see the momentum swinging against their team (the drum was banged even louder and more frequently) the second goal eventually came for Prestatyn in the 56 minute. It was some decent skill from the midfield that unlocked the Talbot defence. After some good build up play by Weaver on the left, Jordan Weaver was slipped in with a great vision through ball and he managed to squeeze the ball in between the goalkeeper and his inside post at a difficult angle. The home side had further chances to kill the game off as a contest however the Talbot ‘keeper Cann made some decent saves to keep his team still in the game, or the shots were flying past the posts or bar just like in the pre-match warm up!! Thankfully no other cups of teas were spilt ha!
Towards the end of the match, the temperature had dropped and the cold winds were whipping up ensure our position in the exposed side of the ground was not a comfortable one. Both of us were feeling the effect of the coldness and were eagerly looking forward to the full time whistle and getting back into the warmth. You could tell other supporters were feeling the effects of the temperature drop as they all started to congregate nearer to the exits. Just before the full time whistle, the TNS Director of Football, Craig Harrison, walked past us on his way to the car park on an early departure from the ground (obviously looking to avoid to mad dash out of the ground). Clearly he had been on a scouting mission by observing the Port Talbot team as TNS were playing the Steelmen in semi-finals of the Word Cup on the Tuesday night. I would imagine he also kept an eye on Prestatyn as the Seasiders were playing in the other Word Cup semi-final against Bala Town and thus could potentially meet them in the final.
After an endless amount of injury time and much jogging on the spot to keep warm, the official finally blew the final whistle which was followed by a huge roar from both the Prestatyn team and the supporters around the ground. Cue the mad dash out of the ground and into the warmth of the car, with the heating on full blast to try and regain some feeling in the feet!
The match itself was a great game with the red card making a huge impact on the game. Port Talbot could and should have been more than just a single goal ahead prior to the equaliser but ultimately paid for not taking their chances when they dominated in possession. Even though they were defensively suspect early in the game, full credit must go to Prestatyn for managing to work their way back into the game through effective substitutions and taking their chances effectively when they had the number advantage. As for the ground itself, I was really impressed with it as they had good facilities for their level and the food on offer was a huge bonus. A lot of money has been invested into the ground due to them rising up the Welsh pyramid, and they have invested it wisely as it is one of the better ground I have visited this season. Yet again the stewards and volunteers who worked at Bastion Gardens, and I came into contact with, were helpful and friendly and made the visit a great one. I wish Prestatyn all the best of luck for the rest of the season and I am already looking forward to the next visit to see the Seasiders in the future!
Prestatyn’s match report:
Port Talbot’s match report: