28th February 2015 – Cymru Alliance
The final weekend of February saw myself looking for a new ground to visit to stay on track of my aim of getting to a total 50 grounds visited by the end of this season. Despite a very tempting offer to watch Holywell Town play against bottom club Llanfairpwll on Ynys Mon, especially as I haven’t been to Llanfairpwll’s ground yet, I had to stay fairly local as I had to get back early for engagements in the evening. Therefore a trawl through the fixtures throughout the leagues was required and one Cymru Alliance fixture stood out straight away for me!
Rhydymwyn were scheduled to play Penycae at home, and as I have wanted to watch a Rhyd match for a long while plus the added bonus of it being local to my home, it was a “no-brainer” really! Rhydymwyn F.C. (@FCRhydymwyn) are located in the rural Flintshire village of the same name which is located to the north-west of the market town of Mold and to the south of Halkyn/Rhosesmor. It has the main A541 road (locally known as the Mold to Denbigh Road) running through the village and also a fine pub in The Antelope (well worth going for a quick drink if you’re in the area). The ground itself is located in the west of the village and sandwiched between Dolfechlas Road, where the entrance to the ground is located, and the Mold-Denbigh main road. It is known as either Vicarage Road (the same name as Watford’s ground) or Dolfechlas Road, which I prefer as the name due to its uniqueness.
I have driven past their ground a vast number of times but never had the opportunity to travel up and watch a game despite them being a local side, so I was excited to finally seem them play in a match which seemed interesting in paper despite both clubs being at the wrong end of the Cymru Alliance table this season!
As you can see from the table above, Rhydymwyn were having an horrendous season in the Cymru Alliance having only achieved one single win all season (3-1 against Llanidloes Town) way back in late September. However a three point deduction for the club after playing an “ineligible player in a Huws Gray Alliance league fixture” meant they have been left with no points on the table for the majority of the season! Their fate was finally sealed in their previous match, when a 4-1 defeat to local rivals Denbigh Town confirmed their relegation to the third level of the Welsh football pyramid after a three season tenure in the Cymru Alliance. Although their season had been a write-off, I was eager to see how the team would react now the inevitable had happened and whether there would be upturn in fortunes in their final six match now the pressure was off as they prepared for life in the Welsh National League next season.
If Rhyd were to get another victory this season then there was a good chance of it occurring against their opponents Penycae. Wrexham-based Penycae were also having a poor season in the second tier being situated in 14th position on 19 points. Despite a decent start to the season, picking up 14 points out of a possible 21 points and losing just the once in their first seven games, they had only won just the additional time since mid-September. That win came in a home 6-1 victory against their opponents today. However they were on a eight game losing streak with their previous game being a 1-7 mauling to the impressive Buckley Town, so confidence was not high for either team it seemed which made it an interesting and potentially open contest. A win for either team would be a welcome confidence boost going into the final months of the season!
The drive from my home to the ground took me about 25 minutes and I paid £5 entrance fee to the steward at the gate, as well as an extra £1 for the programme produced – standard prices for Welsh football at this level. Within the ground compounds, there is a decent sized car park behind the goal nearest to the entrance, and it is where I managed to park my car. Unfortunately I had to squeeze my car into a tight space as there were no markings defining car spaces which resulted in large spaces being left between cars already parked up, although not enough space to put a car into. That was something which I found a little frustrating considering all the space that was being wasted.
I found Dolfechlas Round to be a great little ground, possibly one of the best in the local area in my opinion. It has the standard Welsh league template of having a big clubhouse which houses the changing rooms for the teams, snack hatch and toilets, and also has a covered stand alongside one side of the pitch where supporters can either stand under one part or use the 100 covered seat available. Around the other three sides, supporters can stand and be exposed to the elements but the huge bonus is experiencing the fantastic picturesque views of the surrounding countryside, which adds to Dolfechlas Road’s quaintness and appeal. Be aware there is no concrete path surrounding the three non-covered sides of the pitch like other grounds have, so wear suitable footwear when visiting as the ground could be potentially muddy especially during the typical Welsh winters. Although on this occasion the grass was relatively firm right around the pitch.
Once parked up, I bought a cup of tea from the serving hatch at the clubhouse which cost £1. I’m not sure if they sell hot food or not although I did not see any other supporters with burgers/hotdogs so I’m presuming they don’t or didn’t for that particular game. Despite that there were the usual snack items available for the average groundhopper to snack on. For the first half I decided to stand by the clubhouse to watch the match, mainly because I didn’t want to stray too far from it as I had to return the mug I was drinking the tea from at the time ha. For those wondering, I didn’t see any Rhydymwyn branded mugs on sale so I couldn’t add to the mug collection this time around….maybe next time!
For the game, Rhydymwyn were playing in their traditional home strip of royal blue shirts and socks with white shorts, whilst Penycae wore their away strip of silvery-grey shirt with a sky blue & white stripe on the front, silvery-grey shorts and sky blue socks.
Penycae started off the much brighter of the two teams and had their first chance of the match when Penycae’s #8 managed to make space for himself just outside the penalty box, and hit a curling shot towards goal. Unfortunately for the visitors, the effort did not curl enough and drifted past the post. A minute later and Penycae managed another close effort on goal when their number 11 arced a long cross-come-shot from the right hand side of the pitch towards goal. It almost caught out the Rhydymwyn goalkeeper Andrew Ruscoe as it was on target to sail between his head and the bar, but at full stretch Ruscoe successfully managed to acrobatically flick the ball over the bar for a corner. From the resulting corner, the danger was eliminated as the keeper rose above everyone and caught the ball.
About 5 minutes into the game, Rhydymwyn managed to finally get into the game as they slowly built some possession and passed the ball out to the left wing. From there, the cross was perfectly delivered to the Rhydymwyn forward waiting in the space at edge of the penalty box but had his back to goal. The forward managed to skilfully flick the ball over his head and volley it towards the goal. However the volley wasn’t quite on target as it just fired over the bar, which was a huge shame considering it was a lovely piece of skill to craft an effort on goal.
Despite this early chance, Rhyd couldn’t get a foothold into the game and it was their opponents who had the momentum strongly in their favour. Another Penycae corner from the right hand let to another chance for the visitors. The corner was neatly flicked on by the leaping #7 Asa Hamilton to Penycae’s #4 who managed to connect with the pass but could only volley over the bar also. Penycae were putting huge pressure on their hosts and were forcing the Rhydymwyn defence into making mistakes at the back. A defensive mix-up between the Rhyd defenders allowed Penycae #10 to run free towards goal and square the ball to the onrushing Penycae #9. Luckily for the defence, the shot was a poor one as Penycae #9 under pressure from the onrushing keeper, rushed his shot and fired it against the host goalie, who made yet another critical save to keep his side in the match early on.
Rhydymwyn were let off the hook once more after a collection of defensive errors in and around the penalty box allowed Penycae #9 to have a free shot on goal. He managed to beat the keeper this time around but couldn’t avoid the woodwork as his effort hit the post. From the resulting goal kick, a Wimbledon-esque route 1 fashioned goal allowed Tom Potts to go 1-on-1 with the Penycae keeper, but the visiting keeper stayed on his feet and was able to comfortably divert the shot out for a corner.
The official in charge was starting to get more attention from both teams as his decisions were becoming more contestable and upsetting players on both sides. A few too many choice words from Josh Jones towards the referee for his decisions resulted in a yellow card for dissent. This would not be the only yellow card for dissent during the game…
Nearly half an hour into the game and Rhydymwyn were becoming more frustrated with their performance as their passing game was breaking down and were losing possession cheaply. Lost possession allowed Penycae #9 to streak through on goal but Roscoe kept the scores even as he saved the effort when the Penycae attacker tried a cheeky lob which didn’t have the angle to comfortably clear the goalkeeper. Frustratingly another Rhyd defensive mix-up five minutes later allowed Penycae to win another corner. From the corner, Rhyd’s frustrations were becoming more prevalent as a tough challenge from Josh Jones outside of box resulted in a direct free kick for the visitors, which eventually came to nothing.
Rhydymwyn’s defensive shape was collapsing and they were clinging on for the half time whistle to try and get some respite from the intense Penycae pressure. They were lucky to stay on terms as they gave Penycae #11 far too much space and time on the left hand side of the pitch and gave him the opportunity to rocket a goalward effort, but again the ball just only lift over the bar.
HALF TIME – RHYDYMWYN 0 – 0 PENYCAE
The hosts were incredibly fortunate to go into the break with a clean sheet as they kept making basic errors all over the pitch to keep handing the possession and momentum back to their opponents. The defence were getting harangued by the constant pressure of Penycae’s forward line and being forced into mistakes, whilst the midfield couldn’t maintain possession by constantly gifting the ball back to Penycae through sloppy passes. Finally their striker Potts was isolated when any potential attack was possible as his support had to go deep to regain possession. To top it all, the officials’ performance was also starting to frustrate them as decisions were going against them, harshly on some occasions.
On the other side, Penycae could consider themselves very unlucky not to be 2 or 3 goals up at the break as they had done everything possible to enable them to score but just couldn’t find a way past the fantastic Rhydymwyn goalkeeper who was in inspired form. However if they kept up their pressing of the Rhyd defence and maintained their slick passing, it surely would only be a matter of time before they would break the deadlock if their opponents continued to make life easy for them.
During the first half, I overheard some supporters talking about my team Holywell Town. They were discussing the upcoming cup matches in Caersws and Conwy (both games which I am aiming to attend by the way) and their fabulous form this season which impressed them and led to one of the supporters describing them as “the best team in the local area”. They were also very complementary on the huge partisan support the Wellmen were receiving! It really pleased me to hear that Holywell’s efforts on and off the pitch this season were producing a load of positive attention from other supporters, and they were the “talk of the town”.
For the second half, I decided to venture across to the other side of the pitch, near to the dugouts to get a better view of the clubhouse and stand for some pictures.
The second half did not start in the same manner as the first as Rhydymwyn had the proverbial “kick up the backside” as they started the brighter. No doubt they had to play better in the next 45 minutes and possibly thought their luck might be in their favour for this game considering they were outplayed yet still on even terms. The bottom club were sensing they could snatch only their second win of the entire league campaign if they picked their performance up!
As the hosts started the brighter, it would be them who would have the first real chance of the first half a few minutes into the second half. Some decent build up from the Rhyd midfield allowed Jack Roberts some space just outside of the penalty box, from which he launched an effort from. There would be no cheer from the home support though as the effort just grazed the top of the bar. Despite this miss, it gave Rhydymwyn the confidence they needed to force a way back into the game and take the game their opponents.
With Rhydymwyn pushing on more, it opened up some space in the back for Asa Hamilton to play into. Hamilton would become more influential as the second half progressed and started to probe the additional space the hosts were making. He managed to receive the ball inside the penalty area and angled his pass across the danger area. His pass managed to find a team mate but Tom Potts could only manage to volley his effort very wide of the goal.
As the game progressed, more space was appearing for both teams as both hosts and visitors were committing more men to attacks, eager to wrestle control of the match if they got the first goal of the game. For a large while the game produced an exciting end-to-end affair with both teams having half chances or blocked chances in each other’s penalty areas, and made the game an entertaining affair to both supporters and this neutral viewer. The only down point to the game, which was becoming an increasing issue, was the performance of the official whose inconsistent and incorrect decisions were frustrating both teams equally. The frustrations started to bubble to the surface when Penycae #6 expressed his displeasure of the referee’s decisions too strongly and was booked for his troubles in the 65th minute. Despite obvious frustration in both the referee and their inability to break their opponents down, Penycae almost broke the deadlock as Hamilton went clear through on goal, but could not beat the brick wall of the Rhyd keeper who managed to easily divert the shot aimed in his direction.
As per standard with the flow of the second half, the action would flow from end-to-end as the hosts would successfully counter and streak down the other end to have a chance of their own. The substitute Owen Williams had his shot saved after he exploited the space on the right hand side of the pitch to cut inside and fire on target. Yet again the ball was down the other end of the pitch and in akin to Rhydymwyn’s chance early in the first half, a piece of “unbelievable tekkers” almost paid dividends for the visitors. Penycae #11 managed to whip a ball into the penalty box, which allowed the influential Hamilton to hit an audacious overhead shot. Yet again he could not get passed his nemesis for the afternoon as his effort was gathered up Ruscoe.
A couple more yellow cards were shown by the official as Penycae #11 was also booked for dissent, whilst Harry Murray was booked for a strong if slightly late defensive tackle.
With the game increasing becoming more frantic and attack minded, Penycae were caught out on the counter attack by Alex Williams as he blazed down the space available to him on the right wing and managed to fire an accurate cross into the penalty box. However Lee Jones failed to get a clean strike on the ball and could only scuffed his effort and the ball dribbled to the safe hands of the Penycae keeper. A let off for the visitors who were pushing hard for a single goal which was looking more likely to claim all three points.
With time ticking away and the two teams missing plenty of chances, it was looking like this game was going to end as a no-score draw with the points shared. However the turning point of the game came with just 8 minutes remaining as the visitors finally got the breakthrough they were searching for and broke the deadlock. The substitute, Rubem Lima, managed to head a pass to Penycae #6 who had great vision to slot the ball through a crowd of Rhydymwyn defenders directly to an onrushing Hamilton who completed his dart into the penalty box by coolly placing his shot into the far corner and finally out of reach of the superb Roscoe.
Rhydymwyn 0 – 1 Penycae
At this point of the match, all hell broke loose in the match as James Etherington was sent off and Rubem Lima was also booked. I’m not entirely sure what happened between the two players as I was focusing on the ball and it was an off the ball incident. I’m guessing both players were reprimanded for supposed tussle in box which Etherington being the worst offender of the two. Two minutes later and Rhydymwyn suddently went down to 9 men as Josh Jones followed his team mate to the changing rooms early after being sent off for 2 yellows. Again frustration got the better of him and his comments to the official, who clearly was strict on dissent this afternoon, ended the defender’s afternoon for him.
Having being sucker punched by the late goal despite giving a good second half performance, and having two players sent off, the hosts heads seemed to have “gone” as wild challenges were flying in everywhere. The substitute Owen Williams earning himself a yellow card for one such late, reckless challenge. With Rhyd chasing an equaliser, Penycae finally ended the host’s resolve with just one minute on the clock to play and ended the contest. Exploiting the space given to him by having two fewer opponents and with the majority of the Rhydymwyn players at the other end of the pitch after going “gung-ho attack” to gain an equaliser, the mercurial Hamilton dribbled his way through the crumbling Rhyd defence and squared the ball to Lima who had plenty of time and space to place his shot past the home keeper. Penycae would be going home with all 3 points and end the losing streak!!
Rhydymwyn 0 – 2 Penycae
The misery for the hosts was fully complete when Murray became the third man of the afternoon to get his marching orders as he too was sent off for a second yellow, again for dissent against the referee. No doubt making his feelings of the official’s performance well known! Straight from the kick off, and the best indication of Rhyd’s sheer frustration from the afternoon and season as a whole, Roberts blasted the ball straight out of play. Finally the referee ended the nightmare of the final 10 minutes for the hosts and blew his whistle for full time!
FULL TIME – RHYDYMWYN 0 – 2 PENYCAE
Overall it was a fantastic game between two teams who could have scored more than the scoreline suggested. Penycae dominated the first half and would have taken the lead if Andrew Ruscoe had not have been on inspired form and kept his team in the game. When Rhydymwyn came out for the second half, they improved their performance and made the game even which must be commended them. As the game opened up, it resulted in an end-to-end game where it looked like either team could have nicked it late on, with the home team sensing a rare chance of victory was possible! In the final 10 minutes the game was decided through moments of magic from man of the match (in my opinion) Asa Hamilton, as his involvement in both goals was the deciding factor in the three points heading to Afoneitha Road.
I thought the madness of having three players sent off in the final 10 minutes sort of summed up the frustration of Rhydymwyn’s season and the disappointment of conceding so late on. I don’t think the referee endeared himself to either side as many of his decisions throughout the match were questionable and certainly debatable in my opinion, and could have perhaps veered on the side of leniency when it came to giving out second yellows for players who were clearly frustrated at conceding. As it was, he clamped down on the verbals all game (something he did stay consistent with which can’t be argued) resulting in the frenzy of red cards at the end. Clearly someone was not happy at full time as I heard someone shouting in the clubhouse “THE REFEREE IS THE WORST REF I HAVE SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!!”. Perhaps it might be best for the officials to avoid Rhydymwyn these next few weekends….
Vicarage Road / Dolfechlas Road is a fantastic little ground and well worth visiting if you are in the area. The views around the ground are brilliant and the people involved at the club are very helpful, welcoming and clearly passionate about their club, and I enjoyed the day all round. I will be certainly visiting it again some time soon and left me wondering why I hadn’t visited sooner? I wish Rhydymwyn all the best for rest of this season and next season especially in their quest to return back to the Cymru Alliance, and also wish Penycae great success for the rest of their season too. I am looking forward to visiting Afoneitha Road in the near future!