Cymru Alliance – 7th March 2015
For the first weekend of March, there were a number of high profile games that were available for me to visit. The obvious one was the local derby match involving Wrexham and Chester at the Racecourse Ground, but considering I have already visited there and I could not be bothered with the hassle of it all, that was off the list. There was also a quarter final match being played at Connah’s Quay between the Nomads and cup holders The New Saints which I was very tempted to go see, especially as I had been to a match from Rounds 1 to 4. But again it would be another ground I have already been to. It was the same reason why I never turned up at Halkyn Road for Holywell’s game against Trearddur Bay United in the Cookson Cup 2nd round match (plus I will be seeing them in cup action later on in the month). Therefore I had a search of the fixture lists to spot a standout game and one game stood out for me at a ground I had not yet been to, but had wanted to visit for a while….a trip to Central Park (not the New York City one) to see Denbigh Town versus Caersws in the Cymru Alliance.
I was no stranger to Denbigh Town this season as I had watched them play at Flint way back in late November. That day they had been really impressive against the home side for about 70 odd minutes but almost let a three goal lead slip in the final minutes and just about holding on to win the game 3-2. I was interested to see how they had developed since that day especially as they had brought in some new signings over the winter months, and how they would react playing at home in front of their own support.
Denbigh would be going into their game a lot fresher than their opponents as their fixture the previous week which was scheduled to be played away at Buckley on the Friday night was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. That meant the last match they had played was two weekends ago at their 4-1 victory at home against Rhydymwyn, which confirmed Rhyd’s relegation from the Cymru Alliance (and was the team I visited the previous weekend). For their first season back in the Cymru Alliance, they have had an impressive season situated in 6th position going into the match and just 5 points from 3rd placed Caernarfon Town with a game in hand over The Canaries. They were also on a five game unbeaten streak, winning the last four games and conceding just two goals.
Their opponents would be the Montgomeryshire based team Caersws who would be making the hour long journey up to Central Park. They were a team who I have not seen at all, well not since the days of Holywell Town playing in the League of Wales anyway, and I was looking forward to seeing how decent a team they were. It was also nice to see the team whose ground I would be visiting in two weekends time for the FAW Trophy Semi Final. The Bluebirds were placed 10th in the table on 36 points but with as much as five games in hand over the teams around them. Their previous game was a goalless home draw against Conwy Borough whilst their recent away form has been erratic also by winning just two of their last six away games. However in the opposite fixture back in mid-November, the result ended up 1-1 so Caersws were looking for a similar or better result up in Denbighshire.
Joining me on the trip to Dinbych was my mate Simon who had wanted to come to along to another groundhop for a while. His last appearance was at the game at Bastion Road, when Prestatyn Town, who were at the bottom of the Welsh Premier League at the time of writing this blog, came back from being behind to win Port Talbot Town 2-1 in mid-November. However since that game he has been unable to attend another groundhop game due to work, family or new house commitments, and was therefore looking forward to seeing another game. Once I had picked him up, we took the half an hour drive from Holywell, down the Mold-Denbigh road and over the county border to Denbighshire to the market town which gives its name to the shire.
Denbigh/Dinbych is a town of just under 9000 people, and situated 8 miles north west of Ruthin, and lies to the south of the city of St Asaph. Central Park is located near enough in the middle of the town (hence the name of the ground) just behind the town’s high school and leisure centre and at the end of a road just off the A543 Ruthin Road. Turn off the A543 and head down Park Street, take the first left turn and you will find the ground at the end of the road. There should be a small sign on the left hand side just before the junction pointing the way to the club to let you know you are heading in right direction. There is plenty of parking for supporters at or near the ground as there is a free car park right next to the ground, as well as a lay-by alongside the road leading to the ground. Should the game be a well-attended one, there are free parking spaces at the top of the road opposite the junction. In this instance there were plenty of spaces available and I decided to park in the layby as it was empty and I could get away easily once the game had finished. The ground itself has a large car park where a number of supporters had parked, as well as the coach of the visiting fans who had made the long trip up north from mid-Wales.
Once parked up I got out of the car and immediately nearly got blown over into the road due to the intense gusts that were whipping around the area. Central Park and Denbigh as a whole is very exposed to high winds as the town is situated at a higher altitude but located inside the Vale of Clwyd. Here the winds are funnelled into the Vale by the eastern Snowdonian hills to the west of the town, and the Clwydian Hills to the east, making the gusts more intense and today’s game would be victim to this “wind funnelling”! It was clear the weather would be play a massive impact in the way the game would flow, and that it would make watching the match a very blustery and cold experience. Therefore the cap was kept in the car just in case it was cast off my head and landed in the middle of Denbigh high street later on.
The entrance to the ground is at the end of the road on the right hand side, and when myself and Si got there, it looked as if the entrance was locked by a padlock even though there were people milling around inside. A quick look around for another potential entrance was done until the programme seller opened the entrance gate for us. The gate was actually open and the padlock was just resting on the bolt, but they had just shut it to stop it flapping around in the strong winds – yep we did feel a bit foolish for not actually trying to open the gate in the first place… Anyway once through the gate, we paid the entrance fee of £5 (standard entry price for Cymru Alliance games this season) and paid an extra £1 for the half time lottery draw the club were doing. I also bought the club’s programme from the volunteer who had opened the gate for us for a further £1.
Central Park has the standard layout to many Welsh football grounds in that it has the huge clubhouse that houses the facilities for supporters, as well as the team’s changing rooms (although strangely just for Denbigh as the visiting teams change in a portakabin attached to the clubhouse). It also has a main roofed stand on the same side of the pitch as the clubhouse which can house a couple hundred supporters but it has just steps rather than benches or actual seats. Opposite to the clubhouse/stand side are the dugouts but the other three sides are open for standing. There is a path running right around the ground so there is no risk of getting any muddy shoes from standing and it has floodlights to allow the team to play games in the evening. Plus there are fantastic views of the hills in the distance, and are a welcome sight which adds to the ground’s appeal.
The clubhouse and snack serving hatch is directly in front of the entrance, and that would be the first port of call for us in the ground. From the hatch we both bought cups of tea for £1 which were served in mugs emblazoned with Welsh Alliance sponsors Lock Stock on them – memories of when they were in the Welsh Alliance the previous season and beat Holywell Town to the title and promotion (it still hurts although The Wellmen will be joining them in the Cymru Alliance next season…hopefully). Whilst slurping down the cuppa by the clubhouse, we were watching the players warm up and it was clear from the warm up that conditions would be difficult as balls were flying in directions they weren’t meant to be travelling to, or coming backwards if hit into the wind. With all of these balls flying around haphazardly it was natural that one of the balls would hit someone…and surprise surprise, guess who it hits?? One of the balls struck my arm, the one holding the cup of tea, spilling a good third of it up my arm and all down the front of my coat!! Nightmare! Strangely the last time Si had come with me to watch a match (see the Prestatyn Town against Port Talbot Town blog), someone had their tea knocked over by a rogue flying ball. I guess it’s a danger of the tea wielding supporter or Si has some kind of aura that causes teas to be knocked over by footballs…who knows?? 🙂
Anyway with the teas sunk (and partially dried off in my situation), we headed towards our viewing spot for the first half between the clubhouse and the main stand and next to a floodlight which partially shielded us from the wind. Not before we stopped to allow an gentleman to quickly walk past us as he chased his flat cap which had rolled along the ground as it was pushed forward by the wind ….I knew I made the right decision not wearing the cap!
For the first five to ten minutes of the first half, both teams were trying to come to grips with the intense gales that were causing havoc on the passing games of both sides with Denbigh struggling the most as they were playing against the wind in the first half. They weren’t the only ones who struggled with the wind as both myself and Si were getting buffeted by the wind and had to cling onto the guardrail a few times to avoid being blown over ha! Many of the smart supporters were situated in the shelter of the main stand, however we are made of hardy stuff and continued to stay in our wind-exposed position! Despite the gusts being to their disadvantage, the home side managed to start the brighter of the two teams by having early control of ball possession. Through this they managed to manufacture a couple of high through balls to run on to, but either through decent defending or the high passes being caught by the wind meant any potential chances resulted in nothing being achieved early on. This would continue throughout the whole of the first half as the wind disrupted their passing game.
Caersws then started to get an influence into the game by utilising the conditions to their maximum advantage, and earned their first chance 7 minutes into the match. Caersws #10 managed to bypass a couple of Denbigh defenders and dribble his way into the penalty box from the left hand side of the pitch only for him to blaze his shot over when pressured by the Denbigh centre back. With the winds at their backs, it would be the first of many goal scoring opportunities for ‘Sws in the first half even during periods when Denbigh had more of the possession but struggled to cope with the breezy conditions.
Unfortunately for the Bluebirds, their task of achieving something from the match was made much more difficult when they had a player dismissed by the official Mr. John A. Jones in the 12th minute of the game. Their midfielder Dane Griffiths dived into a slightly late but dangerous challenge when he went into a robust slide tackle but with his foot over the ball and his studs showing. From where I was standing, I had a good view of the challenge and it looked dangerous tackle and could have caused serious injury had he connected with the Denbigh player fully. A player is always in trouble when the studs are showing going into a tackle, so the straight red card was the right decision from the official in my opinion! Amongst the commotion of the dismissal, another Caersws player was booked by the referee after he disagreed a bit too harshly about the decision.
With a man disadvantage, Caersws rallied as a team and with the wind advantage, they continued to maintain the pressure on their opponents by having a prolonged spell of possession and chances. A couple of corners 25 minutes into the match caused some worries for Denbigh defensively but were cleared, as was the chance five minutes later when a long mid-height cross was whipped in from the right hand side. The cross curled into the box, only for the goalkeeper to divert it out of the danger area but only into the path of Caersws #9 who had surged into the box but saw him crowded off the ball and the danger fizzled out.
The shots continued to rain down on the Denbigh goal as first Caersws #11 launched a rifled shot from the edge of the penalty box that was saved, and then Caersws #7 tried his luck from distance only to see his effort well wide of the left post. Their #9 was also becoming very influential in the game by exploiting the space given to him on their left hand side due to the Denbigh right midfielder not providing adequate cover for his right back. With plenty of space to run into, and a pace advantage over the right back Peter Hoy, he would become involved in a number of chances on the Denbigh goal. He was brought down by Denbigh #6 on 32 minutes (who was cautioned for his challenge) as he surged towards the penalty box, and won a dangerous looking free kick just outside of the box. The resulting free kicked looked as if it was curling into the top corner but was safely caught by the Town keeper as the wind hindered the curl of the ball. Caersws would test the keeper twice more through their #10, as he fired long range shots into keeper’s hands at the first occasion and then wide of the post a couple of minutes later on.
Denbigh were getting possession of the ball during this period of Caersws chances and tried to create chances themselves. Yet again playing against the wind harmed their play as they continued to persist with the high arching through ball for their strikers to run on to, but the persistent strong winds ensured they either curled out of play, fell short or easy for the Bluebird defence to deal with. They were having serious problems trying to string together a decent attacking opportunity, but they almost managed a breakthrough of their own when their #10 managed to burst through the depleted Caersws midfield and pass the ball to #6 who attempted a long range strike of his own. Just like the opponents long range efforts, the ball could only fire straight into the hands of the keeper.
With the first half rapidly coming to a conclusion, Caersws were unlucky not to get the opening goal when a defensive error from Denbigh’s #2 Peter Hoy left Caersws #9 able to run down the left and launch a low cross into the danger area. The cross got a deflection from the home defender #4 which looped towards goal but it just managed to clear the crossbar and avoid the own goal being scored. That would be the final chance of the half and despite the numerous of chances from the visitors, both teams would go into the 15 minute break on even terms.
HALF TIME – DENBIGH TOWN 0 – 0 CAERSWS
During the break, both of us quickly headed back to the snack hatch and some temporary shelter from the howling gusts that had been causing us stability problems all first half. Unsurprisingly a majority of the supporters who had been standing around the pitch all had the same idea and were congregated around the snack hatch looking for some well needed food and drink. Seeing the opportunity for something to fill the now empty and grumbling stomach, I bought myself a polystyrene box full of freshly cooked chips for the reasonable price of £1.20. There are other nibbles available at the snack hatch like crisps, chocolate bars as well as the standard football grub of pies and pasties on offer but the chips seemed the ideal snack to fill the void and warm myself up. The majority of the break was therefore spent stuffing my face full of fries (which were very good by the way and well worth a recommendation) whilst trying to cower from the wind and hoping the chips didn’t get blown away. I also had to wait for Si to get his box of chips from the hatch after he had the hunger prang once he saw the sglodion on offer!
Whilst wolfing down the sglodion I came very close to winning the club lottery as my strip of numbers was just one number out from the strip that had been drawn, so whoever had arrived at the ground before me had won the club’s lottery! Whoever that lucky soul was, they must have left the ground or didn’t want the prize as a redraw had to be done, and the second time I was nowhere near winning….maybe third time lucky?? As soon as the sglodion had been consumed, and Si had received and ate most of his chips, we moved out from the shelter of the clubhouse and moved across to the other side of the pitch to watch the second half. Our position was situated between both of the dugouts next to the halfway line and more conveniently the wind was now at our backs and not smashing into our faces like it had been for the first half!
With the wind in their favour for the second 45 minutes, unsurprisingly Denbigh had the majority of the chances and possession early on in the half. About five minutes after the restart, the home side’s first chance of the half had achieved in putting the ball in the back of the net when Denbigh #9 managed to launch a well-worked low cross into the space made in the penalty area, which was successfully met by Denbigh #8 to fire the ball past the visiting keeper. Disappointingly for Town, the assistant referee had flagged for offside and the goal was chalked off keeping the match goalless.
Despite having a goal ruled out for offside, it gave encouragement to the home side to push on for the game’s opening goal as they now had the lion’s share of the possession and their passing game was coming together. They came close on the 57th minute when a long cross from the left was connected by Hoy but he could only manage to put his headed shot wide of the post much to his annoyance. The Reds would get another great chance to take the lead 5 minutes later through a set piece. Denbigh #6 launched a long free kick into the danger area which seemed to be aimed into the penalty box but with the wind playing its part in the game once again, caught hold of the high pass and blew it in the direction of goal. Caersws’ keeper had to quickly back pedal to deal with the dipping free kick and just about managed to palm the ball over the crossbar as it was goal bound.
The resulting corner was put wide by Denbigh and Caersws were awarded a goal kick. The visiting goalie was having a nightmare trying to keep the ball still for the goal kick as the wind kept blowing the ball away from the spot every time he attempted to kick it. In the end, the official booked the goalkeeper for supposed time wasting which annoyed the Caersws manager Graham Evans as the official had not booked Denbigh’s goalkeeper who was having the same problems in the first half, and was thus not consistent with his decisions. I think the referee made a bad judgement there as the conditions was making it incredibly difficult to place the ball anywhere on the pitch, so to book the keeper for that was very harsh!
The official would get his book out once again a couple of minutes later when he booked Denbigh’s #6 for a late tackle on the Caersws player just outside of the Denbigh penalty box, after the Bluebirds had made a rare counter up the pitch. From the resulting free kick, the ball ended up in the back of the net for the visitors after the ball went into the area and got a deflection off an attacking player which diverted it passed the Town keeper. As with Denbigh’s opportunity earlier in the half, this was also disallowed by the officials due to the player that the ball had deflected off being situated in an offside position. From my position, I was unsure whether the assistant referee had made the right call but a lack of protestations from the players would suggest they had made the correct decision.
Two minutes after the disallowed Caersws goal, the official got his cards back out of his pocket after an altercation between Caersws #7 and Peter Hoy. Hoy still wasn’t getting much defensive cover from his right midfield which continually left him exposed to counter attacks down his side. One such counter was successfully cut out by Hoy but #7 felt the challenge was a little too rough and lashed out at Hoy with a little kick to show his displeasure. Hoy understandably reacted negatively to this petulant display by grabbing the midfielder and having words with him until the referee had to step in and break up the fracas. The ref having not seen the kick by #7 but seen Hoy’s reaction booked the right back but the visiting midfielder escaped punishment, much to the home manager’s disgust. Had the referee had seen the kick out by #7, he too would have given a caution to the midfielder or more likely a dismal which would have been justified.
With the official missing the potential red card to send Caersws down to 9 men, the home side were the sucker punched by their opponents a couple of minutes later on the 70th minute. Again Hoy was exposed by the lack of defensive cover from midfield and was beaten for pace by Caersws #9 down the flank. #9 then managed to dribble his way into the penalty box from the left and fire a low powerful shot which the keeper managed to save, but he could only divert the effort into the path of the onrushing #11 who calmly placed the ball into an empty net to give the visitors the lead, which considering the state of performances in the second half, was against the run of play.
Denbigh Town 0 – 1 Caersws
Denbigh aggrieved with conceding a goal made a couple of changes to their personnel to make their right hand side more defensively solid, especially with Hoy now on a yellow card, and add some fresh legs into their attack. They got close on the 76th minute when the substitute #14 had time to take a shot from outside of the penalty box but saw his effort sail just wide of the upright. However the changes finally made an impact three minutes later when the home side got the equaliser they were eager for. Some neat build up play in and around the Bluebirds 16 yard box by Denbigh led for the ball to be drifted out to the left back Andrew Stockton who had made a surging run from out wide into the box. He picked up the ball and drilled the ball past the diving keeper into the bottom corner of the keeper’s inside post to level things up once again after being behind for just nine minutes.
Denbigh Town 1 – 1 Caersws
Having worked their way back into the game, Denbigh were back on the offensive and looked the more likely team to get the next goal in the game if it was to appear. They managed a couple of corners that pressurised the visiting defence, and caused the Bluebirds’ keeper to flap at a cross on one occasion but couldn’t quite manage to fashion a clear cut chance on goal as the Bluebird defence held firm. With time ticking away Denbigh almost stole the game at the death when on the 88th minute, a cross from the right back Hoy was successful met by the substitute #15. But instead of putting the ball on target and testing the keeper, he could only manage to put the ball wide and Town’s best chance of a winner had disappeared!
With the game heading towards a conclusion, a very strange incident occurred involving the Caersws management team, the referee and Peter Hoy. The ball had gone out for a throw-in right by the visitors’ dugout, which had gone off Hoy and should have been for Caersws but the referee gave the decision to Denbigh. This incensed the management team who came to the edge of their technical area to remonstrate with the official over his poor decision as they clearly saw that the ball had deflected off the Denbigh right back. I would have to agree with their frustration as I was situated right by the incident and saw the ball deflect off the Denbigh player last. Whilst this was going on, Hoy had grabbed hold of the ball and tried to quickly throw the ball back into play. However he was not fully looking where he was going and ran into the back of the Caersws assistant manager who was standing at the edge of the box trying to get the official’s attention, which caused the tension of the incident to go up a notch. The referee then had to come over to calm the situation down, told the ‘Sws subs to return to the dugout seats and ordered Hoy to throw the ball back into play. Needless to say, the visiting management team were not best pleased with the official’s whole match performance!
A minute after the ‘handbags’, the official finally blew for full time to end an entertaining second half. From where I was standing, the Caersws management continued to complain about the refereeing standard and were adamant not to shake his hand because of his inconsistent performance from the afternoon, although both teams seemed content with a point considering the conditions.
FULL TIME – DENBIGH TOWN 1 – 1 CAERSWS
When I saw how bad the wind effect was on the pitch I realised it could well be a game of two halves and so it proved to be as both team had their best spells when they had the wind at their backs – Caersws in the first half and Denbigh in the second half. Both teams had good chances to score more than one goal during their phases of dominance but good defensive displays meant the majority of the chances were fired from long range which went either wide or easily saved. I think overall Caersws can be the happier of the two teams as they played well for 80 minutes with a man disadvantage, were defensively strong when they needed to be and scored against the run of play in the second half, plus a point away from home can’t be sniffed at. Their #9 was probably the man of the match in my opinion as he took advantage of the lack of defensive cover from Denbigh’s right midfielder and exposed Peter Hoy’s lack of pace to create a number of chances for the Bluebirds from his side of the pitch as well as the assist for the goal. Their #11 also deserves praise as he had good skill down the other flank causing a threat all afternoon, and had great control and awareness to score the goal for them.
For the home side, overall they probably had the more possession for the entire game and were the slightly better team, but couldn’t quite get their passing together in the first half for obvious reasons. In the second half, they constantly looked a threat going forward when they were holding onto possession more and were creating some decent opportunities to score, especially right at the end of the match. They can feel a little disappointed to draw to 10 men at home and fall behind to them but credit must be given for the way they fought back to get an equaliser and also create as many chances as they did in the second half, and could be considered unlucky not to grab victory towards the end of the game. I think a draw is a fair result considering the conditions and both teams have avoided a defeat.
Finally, and I hate having to write the same things every week, is the performance of the official Mr. John A. Jones. I thought first half he had a decent game and kept the game flowing as best as he could. I also think he made the right decision in the dismissal of Dane Griffiths as it was dangerous tackle from my viewpoint. However in the second half, he didn’t stay consistent with his decisions in the first which frustrated both managements. To book the Caersws goalkeeper for “time wasting” was laughable and very harsh, to miss the incident when #7 lashed out was bad, and give decisions the other way was certainly not good. In those instances, his assistants should have backed him up to make the right decision. I know being a referee is the most difficult job on the field and wrong decisions can be easily made considering the pace of the game, but consistency is key and common sense is required when officiating game. In my opinion, I think second half he could have done with a bit more of both which disappoints me to write as I’m tired of criticising the standard of refereeing on these blogs!!!
Anyway it was a decent game to watch and Central Park is a decent little venue to watch football. The volunteers I came into contact with were very helpful and friendly, and the visiting supporters added to the day also. The standard of the ground is very impressive for the Cymru Alliance level and the views of the hills in the far distance are an added bonus. A great venue with brilliant volunteers and a decent team….just remember to bring a coat when you visit…and avoid wearing a hat!! 🙂