20th December 2014 – Welsh Alliance Division 1
It was the final weekend before Christmas and unlike previous weekends where there were an option of games I would have liked to have visited, there was only one place I was planning on venturing to for some festive entertainment – the home of Holywell Town, Halkyn Road!! My hometown team were playing in their final game of 2014 at home in a Welsh Alliance League game against Llanrug United, in what was all set to be an excellent game to finish off what has been an incredible year for the Wellmen.
As you might have read in previous blogs I have written, Holywell Town (@HolywellTownFC) are having an amazing season, arguably their best season ever in the history of the club! The Wellmen are enjoying a 100% winning record in all competitions so far this season, achieving 20 wins from 20 competitive games with 11 of those wins coming in the Welsh Alliance Division 1. Their previous league fixture had been a hard fought victory away at Pwllheli, where they managed to resist a resolute home comeback and tough team to win 5-3 and continue the winning streak. This had left the Wellmen top of the table on maximum points (33 points) and 10 points clear of second-placed team Llandudno Junction (who would be the opponents for the first home game of 2015). Holywell were also looking to go through the whole of 2014 undefeated at home, as their last home defeat had come in early December 2013. However on that day they had lost 2-0 to today’s opposition!
Their opponents Llanrug United (@LLANRUGUNITEDFC) were currently sitting 5th in the table on 19 points, and were coming off the back of a confidence boosting 7-0 derby victory over the division’s bottom club Llanfairpwll. The Arfon based team had only lost twice in the league so far in the season and also have a great record over Holywell, gaining 4 points out of 6 available from the two league games they played in the 2013-14 season. Also as previously stated, they won this fixture last season in December 2013 and were going into this match looking to continue their fine run of being Holywell’s “bogey team”.
Armed with my Holywell Town scarf, I made the incredibly short journey up to Halkyn Road hoping to see another Wellmen victory and round off the year nicely. The Halkyn Road ground is just a 5 minute walk from the town centre and is located just behind the town’s cottage hospital, with the entrance to the ground at the bottom of the road for the hospital turnoff. As with a majority of Welsh league clubs, Holywell has one main permanent stand running alongside the pitch which has covered benches and seats for supporters who wish to watch the game and be protected from the unpredictable Welsh weather. For those hardy souls who enjoy the outdoors, there is opportunity to stand on the other 3 sides of the ground, especially as the club have made some major improvements in the past few seasons to make this possible. There are also plenty of car parking available either behind the main stand or either side of the entrance – again improvements have been made to these areas in recent times.
A new addition to this season has been the inclusion of the new permanent clubhouse built next to the main stand in the corner nearest to the entrance. In line with other clubs in the area, it allows supporters a chance to buy hot food, relax before or after the game by watching televised games on the TVs, purchase both hot and alcoholic drinks and can act as a function room for the club (which can potential add extra revenue to the club). Dotted around the clubhouse, attached to the walls, are large photos of Holywell’s historic Welsh Cup run from last season to remind supporters of the journey to the semi-finals, and which prize money paid for the clubhouse and other ground improvements to be possible. The clubhouse was also my first port of call when I arrived at the ground!
Entrance to the ground cost me just £4, with an extra pound going towards the excellent programme they produce. The programme, which is compiled by club secretary Steve Roberts (@SteHolywell), has won numerous league and national awards for its high quality of information and layout, and is a must-buy for any groundhopper, programme collector or even local who visits Halkyn Road in the future! Once parked up, I headed to the new clubhouse to get some pre-match food and drink. I went for the usual choice of hotdog (it’s becoming a habit now…) which was only £1.50 but had two sausages in the bun! Absolute bargain!! Tea costs the standard £1 from there and rather uniquely for Holywell is given in a ceramic mug, which is collected later on or can be handed back into the bar once the tea has been drank. This time however I went for a can of cola which cost me 80p although other drinks were available.
Just as I was about to leave the clubhouse I noticed something in the corner which instantly got my attention. To my sheer delight in the corner of the clubhouse stood Holywell Town branded mugs that they were selling for £4!!!! As some of you might be aware from previous blogs, I collect club badge branded mugs from clubs I have visited and have quite a big collection of them now. However the one glaring omission from the collection was from Holywell Town itself, so you can imagine my happiness when I saw they were available to buy (yes I do realise I coming across as a sad individual here….ha!). Anyway I bought two HTFC mugs for £8 with one of them going into the collection and another to be used in work! Got to show my support for the Wellmen in the working environment! 🙂
Once the newly bought mugs were put into the car for safe keeping, I took to my regular place in the main stand to watch the game. Holywell were in their home kit of red and white striped shirt, red shorts and socks whilst Llanrug were in their away kit of white shirt with black sleeves, white shorts and socks. All Wellmen fans were hoping for Holywell to continue their winning streak and to do the double over Llanrug after they had beaten the visitors 5-0 at Eithin Duon earlier on in the season. The odds of the Wellmen continuing their streak was increased very early on as they got the ideal start by taking the lead within 3 minutes of the game kicking off. Defender Dafydd Griffith, who was left unmarked in the penalty box, towered over everyone in the area to connect onto Sam Jones’ superb corner and head the ball past the helpless United goalkeeper Dylan Roberts to give Holywell an early 1-0 lead. The home side nearly doubled their lead a few minutes later when Phil Lloyd broke clear from the Llanrug defence and managed an effort on goal. Unluckily for the forward, his shot drifted inches past the post plus the assistant referee had flagged for offside so the effort wouldn’t have counted had it gone in. The hosts were cranking up the pressure early on and managed to get a couple more chances within the first 15 minutes of the match. Matty Roberts advancing forward, broke into space and got another early effort but managed to put his shot over the crossbar, whilst Phil Lloyd was involved in yet another Holywell attack as he turned provider and put through fellow striker Sam Jones on goal. However the captain saw his decent effort well saved by the Llanrug keeper Roberts.
With 20 minutes of the first half gone, Llanrug started to make an impact on the match and created their first real chance on the Holywell goal when Cai Williams saw his shot deflected out for a corner. From the resulting corner, the ball dropped kindly to United striker Kevin Lloyd who sent a low cross across the face of the goal. However for United, the cross was crucially blocked by Town defender Matty Roberts who managed to eliminate the threat by stopping the cross reaching the area where a couple of Llanrug players were eager to capitalise on the pass. Llanrug were now starting to settle into the match and they went close to equalising five minutes after their first real effort on goal. United’s midfielder David Noel Williams launched a shot towards the Holywell goal but saw his effort blocked by Griffith, which then rebounded kindly to Kevin Lloyd to unleash a powerful volley on target. Yet again they failed to equalise this time due to the excellent reflexes of Wellmen keeper Mike Platt who saved Kevin Lloyd’s stinging targeted shot.
The momentum was now with Llanrug and they were getting ever closer to getting level in the match. Kevin Lloyd was again in the thick of the action and causing problems for the hosts as his effort got crucially blocked by Town defender Jack D’arcy. The ball rebounded to Cai Parry but his follow up sailed just over the bar much to the home fans’ relief. United’s period of chances continued when they won a dangerous looking free kick placed just outside of the Holywell penalty box. Yet again the chance went begging as Dylan Owen’s curling effort was saved by Platt once more. At this point of match if anyone was going to score next, it was looking more likely to come from the visitors.
The next goal of the game came just after the half-hour mark but it went against the run of play as Holywell caught their opponents on the counter and doubled their lead. Phil Lloyd used his strength to hold up the ball long enough for support to arrive and layed the ball up to the onrushing Paul Williams, who glanced through the Llanrug defence from the left and placed the ball into the bottom corner and just out of Dylan Roberts’ reach. Just as Llanrug were recovering from that sucker punch, they conceded a quick-fire third goal minutes after they conceded their second goal. The impressive Williams, causing havoc for Llanrug’s defence down the left-hand side of the pitch, drifted past three Llanrug players and surged into the box where he unselfishly placed the ball to Luke Tyson. Tyson scuffed his shot but it managed to trickle its way into the back of the net as the keeper was wrong footed and unable to scramble back, ensuring Holywell went 3-0 up in a rather flattering scoreline for the hosts. The Wellmen had a couple of additional chances prior to half-time through Sam Jones and midfielder Graeme Williams but they were unsuccessfully converted. This ensured the league leaders went into the break with a three goal cushion which was very fortuitous considering how equal the teams were in the first half.
HALF TIME – HOLYWELL TOWN 3 – 0 LLANRUG UNITED
I didn’t move position during the half time period as Holywell would be attacking at the end I was nearest to. Therefore I spent the half time period reading through the excellent programme and taking a few photos of the excellent view from the stand.
The second half started as the first half began with Holywell starting the better of the two teams, as they got the first clear effort of the half. Superb build-up play from the hosts along the edge of the Llanrug penalty box saw the ball eventually slotted to midfielder Tony Roebuck. His wicked shot left keeper Roberts completely stranded as he was clearly beaten, but the shot could not avoid the woodwork as the shot cannoned off the post and was cleared to safety by the United defence. The visitors then had their best chance of getting their way back into the match when a cross was fired towards the unmarked substitute Jonathon Peris-Jones in the Town box. As with chances in the first half, Llanrug just couldn’t breakthrough the Holywell defence as Peris-Jones’ header was cleared off the line by the defensively solid Griffith.
Just as in the first half, Llanrug were to be punished for failing to convert their chances on goal successfully as the hosts ended the contest on the hour mark. Yet again Holywell caught Llanrug on the counter attack through the craft of the influential Paul Williams. Williams gained possession of the ball at the halfway line and drove forward towards the goal beating the tiring Llanrug defenders to go clear on goal. United goalkeeper Dylan Roberts came rushing out to try and narrow the angle available for shooting, but Williams saw Tyson racing into clear space in the penalty area from the right and squared the ball to his team mate. Tyson made no mistake with the extra time and space to slot the ball into an empty net and give the Wellmen a four goal cushion and get his second of the afternoon.
Despite being four goals down, Llanrug’s heads did not drop and refused to give up on the game, and they continued to threaten the Holywell goal ensuring the game did not fizzle out. Kevin Lloyd had yet another chance to get on the score sheet through a direct free kick, but it wasn’t to be his day as his effort narrowly went over the bar. With United pushing for a consolation goal, they almost got caught out with the counter attack once again as Phil Lloyd had a fantastic chance to make it 5-0 to the hosts. Unfortunately for the attacker, his strike was saved superbly by Dylan Roberts, who was having a brilliant game in goal despite conceding four on the day.
With the game coming to a conclusion and Holywell seemingly declaring for the day by taking off man of the match Paul Williams, Llanrug finally managed to get their consolation goal within the final 10 minutes of the game. A goal that was more than deserved from their afternoon’s performance! From a Llanrug corner, the ball bounced out to the youngster Cai Parry who was lurking outside of the box unmarked. He managed to fire a long range, low shot which bypassed everyone in the crowded penalty area and hit the bottom right hand corner of the Holywell net. That would prove to be the final major highlight of the game as the game was closed out by the home team determined not to concede any further goals and the game finished with Holywell beating a resolute Llanrug side, 4-1 at full time.
FULL TIME – HOLYWELL TOWN 4 – 1 LLANRUG UNITED
Overall it was a fantastic match between two very good teams with Holywell Town being very pleased to continue the winning streak to 21 games in all competitions. However they were made to work for the win as Llanrug played very well despite the scoreline. They certainly threatened the home side on many occasions, with Dylan Roberts having a good match between the sticks by making some great saves and blocks. Kevin Lloyd was also impressive upfront, causing problems for the Holywell defence and could have had a few goals any other day, but fortunately for the home side luck wasn’t on his side. I think that was the key difference between the two sides, who were equal for large parts of the game, was that Holywell were more clinical when it came to taking their chances. Crucially Llanrug also failed to cope with the marauding Paul Williams who gave their right-back all kind of problems during the afternoon and exploited the space given to him. He ended up contributing two assists as well as a goal for himself in a man of the match performance. Despite this, Llanrug can take a lot of positives from the game as the scoreline was harsh considering the effort United put into the game and I can’t see too many sides causing them problems from now until the end of the season. They will certainly be in the top 3 of the Welsh Alliance come the business end of the season.
As for Holywell Town, they can finish their historic year on a high and go into 2015 with great enthusiasm and excitement for the rest of the season. The team worked hard against a dangerous opponent and defended very well when the momentum was against them. Their real strength is their attacking prowess as the team can attack with pace and strength with goals coming from all parts of the team and from a wide range of players. I left Halkyn Road feeling very pleased knowing the team had performed well against a tough opponent and would be top of the table over the Christmas and New Year period. A great start to a festive period which was now graced with a Holywell Town mug to drink from…..the best way to conclude 2014!!! 🙂
Holywell Town’s match report:
Llanrug United’s match report: