13th December 2014 – Welsh National League (Wrexham Area)
For this whole week prior to this weekend, I was completely undecided on which game to travel to. Cymru Alliance games at Conwy and Llandudno looked very appealing, as did the Welsh Premier game at Bala and even venturing over the border to Eng-er-land to see Witton Albion play was also on the list. However after some careful consideration, I committed myself to head in a southerly direction into delve into deepest Denbighshire to encounter my first game of Welsh National League action this season. The WNL game I would endeavour to watch was Ruthin Town take on Penyffordd in another Denbighshire versus Flintshire derby. This match stood out for me initially as Buckley Town’s manager Tom Taylor advised me it would be a potentially decent game to go visit from the list stated above. Plus I was keen to see the standard of football in the WNL this season as I have not been to a WNL match in a long time, and to compare it with the standard of the similar levelled Welsh Alliance (both leagues are on the third tier of the Welsh football pyramid). Finally it was a great chance to tick off another ground from the list as I had not visited Ruthin’s ground before.
It looked promising to be a decent match as it was second versus third in the table, with Penyffordd having the better start to the season. They were 6 points ahead of their rivals today but had played a couple more games. Both teams were looking to get back on track after both suffering defeats the previous weekend – Penyffordd surprisingly losing in the NEWFA Challenge Cup to fellow Flintshire side AFC Brynford 3-1, whilst Ruthin had taken the lead but were narrowly beaten by league leaders Hawarden Rangers 2 goals to 1 in their last WNL game. With both teams aiming to regain some momentum going into the Christmas & New Year period, I was looking forward to this match!
I had hoped to see my mate and fellow ‘Bus employee Nick Owen (@NickOwen1) make an appearance in defence for the visitors as I knew he played for Penyffordd. However he would not be available for the game as he tweeted he was out with work i.e. getting hammered for Christmas ha! Well I guess it’s that time of year!! Not a problem, I would still take the 40 minute journey from Holywell down to Ruthin to see both teams in action!
Ruthin Town play at the Memorial Playing Fields, and their ground is located just behind the fire station on the outskirts of the town. As per standard with Welsh clubs, they have a large clubhouse which houses the snack bar, toilets, team changing rooms and function room. Although the club does not possess any floodlights yet, it does have a small brick stand next to the clubhouse and car park. The car park within the ground is large enough for visitors if you get there early, however I parked my car in the small car park just outside the entrance as it was fairly empty. Entry to the ground was also very cheap as I only paid £3, although there didn’t seem to be any programmes available so I couldn’t purchase one of them for this game. It is also one of the most picturesque grounds I have been too as it has great views of the Clwydian Hills and is overlooked by the towering peak of Moel Famau. Hopefully the views come across as well in the attached pictures!
For this match I thought I had arrived with plenty of time spare to check out the ground before kick-off, so imagine my bemusement when the game had already kicked off and was already 5 minutes old. I had committed the cardinal sin of arriving at a game after kick-off!! I had assumed the game was at half 2, the kick off times for games in the other Welsh leagues, and had judged the leaving time from my house accordingly. Little did I realise the game kicked off at 2pm, no doubt starting early to avoid the game finishing in the fading light of the short winter day due to there being no floodlights. Thankfully I had not missed any goals through my lateness although I would inevitably miss the first goal when I was buying something at the snack bar. Whilst at the snack bar Ruthin had taken the lead through a tidy Sam Jones goal which I had completely missed as I was ordering a cup of tea (£1) and a chocolate bar (Double Decker for 50p). Alas the snack bar didn’t seem to have any hot food when I was there (no hotdogs = disaster!!!). I’m not sure whether that is the normal practice or whether it was just for that day, so if you are visiting Ruthin’s ground in the future, be aware of that fact!
Anyway with cup of tea and Double Decker in hand, and being annoyed with myself for both arriving late and missing the first goal, I was hoping I had not missed the only notable action of the game. Thankfully my prayers had been answered as not long after the initial goal had been scored than Ruthin doubled their lead with their second shot on goal. The goal came from poor defending as Penyffordd’s defence failed to clear a dangerous Ruthin corner which resulted in Justin Harden to poke home the set piece. It was only early in the first half and the Penyfford defence looked shell shocked and were completely all at sea, allowing Ruthin to completely dominate the game. The home side’s domination would inflict further pain upon their league rivals as their third shot conjured up yet another goal for the Town. This time the goal came from Jak Newell who benefitted from fine build-up play on the right hand side of the pitch to utilise his searing pace to drive into the box and fire a powerful shot into the net. It would get even worse for Penyffordd as Ruthin continued the onslaught by grabbing a fourth not long after their third goal. Yet again Penyffordd’s defensive frailties at set pieces was dramatically exposed by Ruthin as Tom Sharples exploited the acres of spaces awarded to him through sparely operating marking to nod home Ruthin’s fourth of the afternoon. Ruthin had 4 shots on target and four goals and the first half was barely half way through!! It would seem the Penyffordd defence also thought the kick-off time was 2:30pm like I did the way they not got going at all!
Four goals down with the defence looking shaky at best and the home running rampant in the midfield, the visitors finally managed to wake up from their slumber and force themselves into the game with a counter-attack on the Ruthin goal. Some slick passing left the clinical Danny Barlow free in the box to peg a goal back for Penyffordd and possibly start a potential, if unlikely comeback for the second placed team. Any hopes of the momentum swinging in Penyffordd’s favour were dashed soon after as Ruthin attacked again with purpose and we well rewarded for their endeavour. Osian Jones threaded the ball to Tom Sharples down the right who then unselfishly squared the ball to an onrushing Jordan MacCarter to make it 5-1 to the hosts. Sensing their opponents being on the ropes, Ruthin continued to put them to the sword and added a fantastic sixth goal before half time. MacCarter initiated the attack down the right once again and managed to dribble his way into the box. There he passed to Sharples in space, who then instinctively back heeled the ball into the path of the surging Sam Jones to rifle a shot on target and leave the Penyffordd goalkeeper with no chance of saving the effort. As the half time whistle blew, every supporter was left astounded by the scoreline as Ruthin went into the break 6-1 up with Penyffordd looking completely devastated at that first half display!
HALF TIME – RUTHIN TOWN 6 – 1 PENYFFORDD F.C.
Penyffordd were hoping for an improvement in the second half, no doubt looking to make the scoreline more respectable and reducing the impact the game was having on their goal difference. So much so the team came out 5 minutes earlier than their opponents, no doubt with their manager’s ‘hairdryer treatment’ still ringing in their ears! Alas the premature arrival onto the pitch for the second half did nothing to stem the tide of Ruthin goals as Penyffordd conceded yet another directly from kick off. The impressive Sam Jones collected the ball out wide, easily dispatched a few defenders by jinking past them with ease and slammed the ball past the keeper’s near side from an acute angle to score his third and Ruthin’s seventh goal of the afternoon! A nightmare start for Penyffordd from a completely dismal afternoon for them!
With a 7-1 lead, Ruthin appeared to take things easier and allowed Penyffordd to finally get into the game, and maintain ball possession easier than they had in the first half. Penyffordd would make their possession count as they went on the attack looking for goals and managed to get a couple in quick period of time. Firstly they scored directly from a freekick, which was deliciously whipped into the top corner of the net by Richard Lawrence for one of the game’s best goals to make the game 7-2. Then Penyffordd got a third goal not long after their second as Danny Barlow claimed his second goal of the afternoon with a fine finish in the box after the Ruthin defence had switched off their focus briefly to make the score 7-3 to Ruthin.
With his team starting to tire, the Ruthin manager started to make some substitutions and brought on the young striker Tomos Jones who instantly made an impact to the afternoon’s proceedings with this constant threat through strong running and solid hold up play. He would be rewarded for his bright start when a sublime through ball from Pat Hinchcliffe gave Jones a one-on-one chance with the Penyffordd keeper. The young lad showed no hesitation to take the ball around the ‘keeper and cooly place it into the corner to get his first goal in Ruthin colours and his side’s eighth goal of the game. In what was becoming an end-to-end game, Penyffordd would subsequently restore the four goal deficit this time benefitting for a set piece. In akin to Penyffordd’s defending at corners in the first half, Ruthin seemed to emulate their performance by allowing Barlow time and space to bullet a header into the net. Poor marking had allowed Barlow to claim his hat-trick and ensure the game scoreline was an incredible 8-4!!!
With both teams tiring, it was left to Tom Sharples (who was incredibly influential all afternoon) to run the show in the last 10 minutes of the game. His efforts late on ensured he got his second of the afternoon and made the scoreline 9-4 to the home team when he fired a blistering shot into the bottom corner from about 20 yards out. He then had two fantastic chances to claim his hat-trick and get Ruthin’s tenth goal of the game. Firstly he managed to nutmeg a tired Penyffordd defender, play a cheeky one-two with his team mate and found himself clear on goal but his effort could only rebound off the post. In the final act of the match, incredibly lax tackling from Penyffordd’s defence allowed Sharples to reclaim the ball three times from standing tackles and bear down on the keeper yet again. However his composure failed him at the final moment as his shot was just lifted over the bar much to his annoyance. That was that, and after a couple of minutes of injury time, the referee blew time on a quite incredible encounter which no-one would have predicted. Ruthin Town 9, Penyffordd 4…..unbelievable Jeff!!!
FULL TIME – RUTHIN TOWN 9 – 4 PENYFFORDD F.C.
Well how can I sum up a game like that?? Clinical finishing from both teams, haphazard defending from both teams also, more so from Penyffordd especially in the first half and goals galore! It’s one of those games that you very rarely see and I was especially glad I came to watch it (Tom you chose a good game there!!). Ruthin have some decent players in their team who I could see easily playing in a higher league and providing they managed to hold onto them and possibly add to the squad, I could see Ruthin Town play in the Cymru Alliance soon enough if they want promotion. As for Penyffordd, I think I caught them on an especially poor day and they certainly did not give a true reflection of the team, especially as they’re still positioned 2nd in the table. Danny Barlow is a lethal striker and Richard Lawrence’s free kick is as good as the best ones I have seen this season, so there’s some silver lining from this storm cloud. As for Ruthin’s ground, it is adequately equipped for its level and average attendance, and the clubhouse looks very impressive. Although it might lack in floodlights and a choice of hot food, it certainly makes up for it in the warm and enthusiastic people who help run the club and the picturesque views the ground provides of the surrounding countryside! Well worth visiting if you’re in the area!!
I wish both teams well in their respective WNL campaigns for the rest of the season, and look forward to possibly watching them again in the future….and next time I will get the kick off times correct!!!
Ruthin Town’s match report:
Penyffordd’s match report: