Welsh Alliance League Division 2 – 14th March 2015
For the second weekend of March, I decided to head westwards down the A55 to the county of Conwy to see a Welsh Alliance game at Mochdre. I was looking at a number of games to potentially visit when a tweet from Mochdre Sports’ account (@MochdreSports) brought their game to my focus. When I had a look at their fixture list, I found that they had almost finished their league campaign with just three league games left to be played this season (they finish at the end of March!!). This meant that a trip to Swan Road was required sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t be able to get a chance to visit on the other two March weekends, and I would have had to have waited until next season for the next opportunity to visit had I passed up on this weekend. Plus these past few months, I have focused a lot on the Cymru Alliance and Welsh National Leagues and sadly neglected the Welsh Alliance games, so the decision was made to travel about 40 minutes down the road to Mochdre!
Mochdre is a village of just under 2000 people located to the west of Colwyn Bay and east of Llandudno Junction in the Conwy County Borough, and is known for being the home village of former Wrexham, Manchester United & Chelsea player, Welsh international and F.A. Cup giant killing legend Mickey Thomas. Mochdre Sports are the village team and they are based in the south of the village, sandwiched between the surrounding industrial estate and the A55 Expressway on Swan Road.
The team shares the ground with the local cricket team and so the pitch is at the southern end of the field. Because of this, there is no permanent stand nor floodlights located at the pitch, and the pitch is temporary fenced off with cord running around the pitch to define the pitch and viewing area, however there are permanent dugouts for the teams. The field could be a little muddy during the winter months so wear appropriate footwear when visiting as you have to cross the field to get to the pitch. Due to the field being used for the cricket team during the summer season, the football team have to play their first few games of their season away until September when the cricket season finishes. Despite this, the shared ground has a huge benefit in that they can pool their resources together to have a fantastic clubhouse!
I arrived at the clubhouse just before 2pm after a fairly straightforward journey along the A55 and old Conwy road (although I did make just the one wrong turn but that was the Sat Nav’s fault…honest!). The ground is situated in the middle of the small industrial estate so you have to drive past a few of small warehouses/workshops before you arrive. The ground has plenty of parking room for visiting fans and I just managed to get a space, although there is additional room for parking alongside Swan Road should the car park become full. The car park was busy as a good number of visiting Gaerwen fans had arrived for the match, plus a number of locals had arrived to either watch the game or the Wales versus Ireland 6 Nations match that was being shown in the main bar room. There was no-one at the gate to take any money from supporters so entrance was free, but there was also no programmes available to purchase either.
As standard with a number of clubhouses in the Welsh leagues, it houses the dressing rooms for the teams and officials, as well as having a large bar room that served drinks and snacks for supporters as well as showing any sporting events – on this day it was the rugby. There are also a couple of snooker/pool rooms should you wish to pass the time before the game or decide to hustle the locals for their money! As I’m usually very inconsistent at pool being great one game and poor the next, I decided to pass on the opportunity of showing the locals my erratic pool skills. It was certainly one of the best (if not the best) clubhouse I have visited this season so far!
When I stated that I would be visiting Mochdre on Twitter, they replied back to head to the bar when I arrived and introduce myself there. Anyway when I got to the bar I was introduced to a few members of the Mochdre Sports committee. They gave me a really warm welcome to the club which I appreciated, and they asked me about my experiences with groundhopping as well as the blogsite as well as discussing general local football issues. They said they have had a few groundhoppers visit previously because of their promotion, and it was always nice to see new visitors to the ground. Mochdre will be one of the venues of the annual Welsh Alliance GroundhopUK pilgrimage this August Bank Holiday weekend, so they were asking questions about that and how they were preparing for the wave of groundhoppers on the Friday evening of the weekend. If you have any suggestions of things you would like to see at the club, please contact them accordingly.
Anyway whilst talking with the Mochdre lads and keeping one eye on the opening salvos of the rugby game, I bought myself a can of coke for 85p. As you would expect from a bar, they do sell alcoholic drinks as well as hot drinks (if you’re not driving or need warming up), and it was something the visiting Gaerwen fans took advantage off when they waiting in the bar room. I did notice they Mochdre Sports mugs that the teas were coming out in but alas I did not ask if they had any for sale to add to the collection as it slipped my mind…maybe next time during the Groundhop event? Once I slurped down the well-known band of cola (I’m not advertising unless they pay me ha!) I made the walk down to the pitch through a gap in the cricket fencing. The cricket field is surrounded by white fencing which I liked and added to the uniqueness of the ground (something other groundhoppers will appreciate). Because of the downpour the previous night, the ground was a bit soft and muddy on the walk down, so again wear appropriate footwear if visiting as players and supporters need to walk across the field to get to the pitch.
This season is Mochdre’s first season in the Welsh Alliance Division 2 league after gaining promotion from the Vale of Clwyd & Conwy League (another league I need to watch some matches in) and they haven’t done too badly in the inaugural year at the fourth tier of Welsh football. Going into the match against today’s opponents Gaerwen, Mochdre Sports were placed 11th in the table on 21 points but had played a considerable amount more matches (27 games played out of a maximum 30 games) than the teams around them, with 10th placed team Bethesda Athletic having 11 games in hand over them! As stated previously, they only had three games left of the season to play and would be finished by the end of March. With their season swiftly coming to a conclusion, they were not finishing the season in the best of form. Since the start of the year, Mochdre have only achieved one win and one draw in their last nine games, and were currently experiencing a six game losing streak which stretched back to the start of February. Fortunately for them, they were playing a team who were a worse run in form then themselves!
Anglesey-based Gaerwen have had a tough season in Division 2 being situated 14th in the table after finishing 12th the previous season. They had not won a game in any competition this year and achieved their last victory way back in the first weekend of December 2014 with a 4-2 home victory over Blaenau Ffestiniog. That victory has been their sole win in their last eleven games played, and were currently on a ten game losing run. It was also a disruptive time for Gaer when their manager Chris O’Neil had resigned from his post just 24 hours before the Mochdre game, which resulted in their chairman Mathew Thomas having to take temporary charge of the team until the end of the season. Not ideal preparation for a team who have struggled defensively this season, with the team not achieving a clean sheet since the start of the season. However one positive for the visitors was that the clean sheet came against their opponents in a 2-0 victory at Lon Groes way back in August. Plus the team had brought down a large number of passionate supporters who would no doubt push the team on for the upcoming game!
It was going to be a tough match to predict prior to the game as both teams needed the win to kickstart their season because they were both going into this game on horrible form. With both sets of fans vocal in their support, it was interesting to see who (if anyone) would come out on top in this game.
Mochdre Sports would be playing in their home strip of green & white hooped shirt with white shorts and socks. Gaerwen would be in their home kit of red shirt with black stripes with black shorts and socks. I decided to place myself just by the halfway line, on the clubhouse side of the pitch next to the Mochdre supporters as there was plenty of space available. The Gaerwen supporters were congregated on the opposite side and right next to the team’s dugout.
The game kicked off just before half 2 and the early exchanges in the match were fairly equal as both teams tried to size up the opposition and probe their defences. It would be Mochdre who would have the first real chance of the game after just three minutes into the game. Good work down the flanks allowed a cross from the right to be whipped into the penalty area and manage to find the attacker #10 Tom Clarke who had made a yard of space for himself. The forward successfully got on the end of the cross but could only manage to head this goal-bound effort wide of the post. It was a good start for the hosts looking to get an early opener in the game.
About 10 minutes into the game, the home side had another good chance to take the lead when their #7 Niall Owen had the time to aim a curling and dipping shot from just outside of the right hand side of the penalty area. It was looking as if the effort was going to dip under the crossbar but the visiting goalkeeper Phil Evans back pedalled just enough to just tip the dipping shot over the bar. Niall Owen would have another second bite of the cherry when he got another shot on goal from the resulting corner of his first effort. The corner had been cleared into his path and he struck the ball low to catch the keeper out or gain a deflection on the way through the box. Evans managed to see the shot coming and dived down to make a comfortable save in the end.
With Mochdre having the opening chances of the game and playing some decent attacking football, Gaerwen started to box clever and work their way back into the game. A counter attack from Gaer resulted in the home defence giving away a foul to stop the danger. From the free kick, Gaerwen’s #6 hit a long shot from the set piece which was on target but did not test the keeper James French too much as he comfortably saved the shot. A couple minutes after the Gaerwen free kick, Mochdre attempted their own long range effort when an effort outside of the penalty box was skilfully saved by the visiting keeper. From the corner, it was pinpoint directed towards their centre back and captain #5 Craig Roberts, who had leaped higher than the players surrounding him to get a head on the cross. Rather disappointingly for the defender, his head drifted well wide of the left hand post. Cue a Gaerwen supporter to have a Wealdstone Raider moment (I suppose he could be called “the Gaerwen Growler”) and shout the vintage comment “YOU’RE SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” at the opposing player. Something he had been shouting for most of the early part of the first half every time Mochdre missed a shot or an attack broke down.
On the 17th minute the home side had their best chance of opening the scoring through a direct free kick. A challenge about 25 yards out left the home side with a direct free kick which Niall Owen took. He stuck a venomous shot which left the keeper stranded but didn’t dip down soon enough as it cannoned off the crossbar and cleared away by the Gaerwen defence. Cue sighs of relief from the travelling supporters and keeper!
Mochdre were made to pay for hitting the woodwork from the free kick as a minute after the shaking the bar, Gaerwen took the lead although it was slightly against the run of play at that point of the game. A long dipping shot from Gaerwen’s #8 Kieran Jeffreys seemed to be a straightforward catch for the keeper as it was aimed directly at him. However French seemed to take his eye off the ball at the crucial moment as it was dipping into his hands and he failed to hold onto the ball. After a bit of a fumble trying to get a grip onto the ball, it bounced out of his hands and directly into the path of the Gaerwen’s #11 and captain Asa Thomas who had gambled a run into the penalty box, and happily accepted the gift from the keeper to slot the ball past him. An absolute howler from the man between the sticks which allowed the visitors to break the deadlock!
Mochdre Sports 0 – 1 Gaerwen
A minute after the visitors had scored, Mochdre almost had the perfect repost as they came agonisingly close to equalising. Hoping to catch Gaerwen out after they had just scored, Mochdre got themselves a corner which was launched towards #11 Jay Ryan who had clear space in the danger area. Unfortunately for the player but he could only put his effort wide and Gaerwen had received a big let off after being caught napping on the set piece.
On the 23rd minute, Gaerwen almost had a chance to double their lead when Asa Thomas shown great vision to chip a through ball over the Mochdre defence for #7 Cameron Owen to run onto. Alas for the midfielder, the home goalkeeper was on his toes and committed to intercept the threat early, and he just managed to clear the ball before Owen could get the pass under control. With the game being end-to-end, Mochdre bared down on their opponents and had another chance on the Gaerwen goal when Tom Clarke made time for himself to fire a thunderbolt to the keeper’s left. Although the effort was on target, the height was at the perfect saving height for the Phil Evans to acrobatically dive in the correct direction and get strong hands behind the ball to deflect the fierce shot out of play.
Gaerwen’s #6 received the first yellow card of the game from the official after a tough tackle on Craig Roberts when he was on a surging drive forwards from the back. Roberts had brought the ball out of defence on these kind of Baresi/Beckenbauer libero-type attacking runs all throughout the first half, and the visitors had failed to cope with it sufficiently every time the captain progressed from the centre back position.
In the last ten minutes of the half, Mochdre were in the ascendancy as they pushed forward looking for an equaliser just before half time. They had a vast amount of the possession and with that, they were creating chances although only half chances or long range efforts. A couple of efforts went wide whilst Jay Ryan worked well down the flank, cut in from the left and fired a shot from outside of the box. However this effort didn’t find the target as the ball sailed over the crossbar. He would be heavily involved in creating a number of partial opportunities for Mochdre through his wing play, either whipping in crosses into the box or trying to spring Clarke clear of the defence. Just like the rest of the first half, no-one was making the darts into the box to get on the end of his dangerous crosses and Clarke was caught offside more often than not. In the middle of all of this, Gaerwen continued to catch them on the counter attack with a couple of wide efforts and a free kick by #6 which despite its dangerous looking position, was easily scooped up by the keeper after #6 has scuffed the shot.
At the end of the first half, Mochdre could consider themselves unlucky to be 1-0 down as they had a majority of the possession, with decent attacking play and good chances but got caught out by a goalkeeping clanger. As for Gaerwen, an improvement in the playing standard was required if they were to hold onto their lead but the goal gave them the confidence they needed to push on second half.
HALF TIME MOCHDRE SPORTS 0 – 1 GAERWEN
With the players and supporters all heading back to the clubhouse for the half time period, I decided to follow them back up there for something to eat and to check on the rugby score. They have a selection of snacks there but I decided to go for the Snickers at 60p. Whilst wolfing down the chocolate, I watched a bit of the rugby (where Wales were leading the impressive Ireland side) and admired the clubhouse. By the time this was done, I spied the players returning down to the field through the clubhouse window and proceeded to return back to my first half standing position ready for the second 45 minutes of the game.
The second half started with the home side quick out of the blocks, looking to find an early equaliser to snatch some momentum and put pressure on a team who had struggled defensively in previous matches. Niall Owen was in the thick of their early chances as he exploited the space he was given on the right hand side of the pitch. Owen could have got onto the scoresheet when a free kick from #3 Tom Conchie into the penalty area got deflected into his path but he only managed to lashed it wide of the post. A minute late, Niall Owen would become provider as he provided a sublime curling cross from the right, into the dangerous area between the defenders and keeper, which was met by the onrushing Jay Ryan. The quality of the header could not match the quality of the cross and the winger could only get a glancing header off the ball, which then deflected off his shoulder and went agonisingly wide. Had Ryan gotten full contact on the ball, it would have fired past the keeper for the equaliser – he should have scored. A few minutes later Owen crafted yet another chance for himself as he dodged and weaved past defenders on a mazy run into the box from the right, but at the crucial moment he dragged his shot wide of the post and another chance went begging.
With Mochdre threatening to wrestle full control of the game and coming extremely close to finding a way back into the game, Gaerwen finally got going in the second half in terms of keeping possession and started to cause the home side some problems through great attacking play in the midfield. On the 51st minute they got their first chance of the second period through a corner. The captain Asa Thomas directed an accurate cross in the direction of the substitute #15 Dion Jones who managed to get a header on target, but saw his goalward effort deflect off a Mochdre defender. A few minutes later, they would have another chance as a result of them competing more solidly in midfield. Kieran Jeffreys managed to wrestle the ball in the middle of the park and drive at the defence. With players around him, he squared the ball to Cameron Owen who had found a pocket of space in between the defence and midfielders. Owen managed to a long range shot on target, but the effort was easily blocked by the home keeper.
The second half then broke down into an end-to-end contest with neither team getting the upper hand but exploiting the space provided as both teams were pushing forward more often for the next goal. Firstly Mochdre had a great chance on 58 minutes to break their duck when a long cross was whipped into Niall Owen’s path as he was making a clear break into the box. With the keeper rushing out of the box to cut out of the danger and pressure the attacker, he rushed his shot and his low drive was saved by the feet of the onrushing Evans. A few minutes later and Gaerwen would have a player run clear of the opposition’s defence when the substitute #12 Gary Jo Owen broke the offside trap after a free kick to run towards goal. As with the Mochdre chance, the keeper French did enough to pressure the attacker to make a mistake and Owen could only put his effort wide of the post. Gaerwen would also be forced into making a substitution when their left back #3 Gethin Williams was forced off due to injury after a bad challenge left him needing attention for a couple of minutes. Luckily it wasn’t too bad an injury but was taken off as a precaution.
The battle was becoming topsy-turvy with both teams missing solid chances and unable to find the second goal of the game. Mochdre peppered the Gaerwen goal for a couple of minutes with chances going either wide or being blocked by the defenders and/or keeper. The best chance for the home side during this phase was a direct free kick from Niall Owen just outside of the box. It was a good strike but couldn’t put enough spin on the ball as it curled agonisingly wide of the far post. At the other end, Gaerwen’s Gary Jo Owen missed another great chance to make it 2-0 when he timed his run perfectly and broke free of the home defence after a ball over the top. Again in a 1-on-1 situation, he would be shouting in anguish as he blazed his shot over the bar much to his annoyance.
On the 67th minute of the match, Mochdre finally got their best chance of the match to level things up when they were awarded a penalty. Niall Owen had darted into the box from the right and was caught by Gaerwen’s Cameron Owen who lunged in and caught the midfielder from behind with a clumsy looking tackle. The incident was the other side of the pitch for me but from where I was standing, it didn’t look like the player had gotten the ball and there was not too many protests from the Gaerwen players either. Therefore the official had made the correct decision in my opinion. Mochdre’s #9 Craig Wilson stepped up to take the spot kick and was looking confident in equalling the score line, but the forward went for placement rather than power and struck the ball at a comfortable height and distance for Phil Evans, who dived to his left and successfully saved the penalty kick. It was starting to look like it might not be the home side’s day despite their good attacking play.
On the dugout side of the pitch, the Gaerwen supporters were going wild in delight of the penalty miss. Eventually the referee had to go over to them to force them back to the standing area after a few of them were standing inside the dugout. It’s not the first time I have seen a referee have to order supporters out of a team’s dugout in a game to be honest – another uniqueness of Welsh lower league football.
After the penalty miss, it gave encouragement to Gaerwen and galvanised them to hunt for the second goal, and they dominated the possession for the next 10-15 minutes. During that period, they had a few good chances where they could have ended the contest. Firstly on the 70th minute, they had a free kick which was punted into the Mochdre penalty box but headed wide by Kieran Jeffreys. Then a minute after they came extremely close to doubling their score tally when another cross from a set piece, this time from a corner, was firmly headed goalwards into the bottom corner by the substitute Gary Jo Owen. It looked as if they had earned their second but the header was cleared off the line by the defender marking at the far post. About 5 minutes after the cleared header, and after a Mochdre corner which was easily palmed out of danger, they had yet another chance to score their second of the afternoon, once again coming from the determined efforts from Gary Jo Owen. This time he could only manage to fire a direct free kick over the crossbar from the left hand side of the pitch. The substitute was getting closer but frustratingly still failed to get on the scoresheet!!
With seven minutes of the clock remaining, Gaerwen’s pressure paid off and a fine piece of quality finally ended the game as a contest. Gaerwen’s Casey Williams picked up the ball on the left hand side of the pitch and had plenty of time and space outside of the penalty area to carefully pick his spot. He hit a sweetly struck placed shot which curled and looped over James French’s head and into the top right corner of the Mochdre goal. An unbelievable goal and one of the best I have seen this season, especially as I was placed right next to where he struck it. Once it left his foot, you could see it was going to trouble the keeper as it coolly arced over the keeper and curved gracefully into the net! Take a bow son!!
Mochdre Sports 0 – 2 Gaerwen
The visiting supporters were in delirium over the “worldie” and I saw one of the supporters celebrating by diving onto his front on the side of the pitch in a Klinsmann style manner. Got to love Welsh supporters and the Gaerwen supporters on this particular day!!
Mochdre could have made the final few minutes of the game very nervy for the visitors had they taken their next chance more cleanly. Just two minutes after Gaerwen’s second and with five minutes remaining, they earned themselves a corner. From the corner, a wonderful cross came into the Gaerwen box which Tom Clarke managed to get his head on. As a perfect symbol of Mochdre’s afternoon, the chance was spurned as the forward’s targeted firm header was superbly saved by the visiting keeper Evans and put over the bar. No matter how many times they were going to pepper the Gaerwen goal, it just was not going to be a day for seeing a home goal being scored!
Right at the end of the match, tempers boiled over between the two teams after a bad challenge committed by the goalscorer Casey Williams (which he was cautioned for). Words were said and Mochdre’s #4 Dan Miller and Gaerwen’s #99 Alan Williams (that’s not a typo, forget the ‘false nine’ position, it’s all about the ‘double nine’ position for Gaerwen) were in the heat of the action with a bit of ‘handbags’ that resulted the majority of the players coming into the fracas to break up the aggressive duo. To be fair the official, he could have sent the pair off straight away but he took his time, assessed the situation and spoke to his assistants on what they had seen and made a decent decision, which eventually resulted in Miller getting the talk from the official. Full credit must go to the referee for being calm and making a common sense call. In fairness to the officials they had a good game as they kept the game flowing and stayed consistent with their decisions which was nice to see (it’s nice to praise the officials for once!!). Whilst the referee was busy talking with his assistant trying to come to a decision on the incident, Mochdre’s Tom Conchie, obviously bored waiting for the official quipped “C’mon ref! Take Me Out is on at 7 and it’s the last in the series!”
Not long after the referee made his decision, he blew his whistle for full time much to the relief of the Gaerwen team and supporters. They had gotten through a tough match against a good attacking team, despite suffering with an awkward pre-match build-up due to the management changes prior to the game, and had finally gotten their clean sheet they had clearly craved as a couple were shouting “finally we’ve got a clean sheet!!”. The Gaerwen management team were celebrating with the supporters (who were now on the pitch by the dugout) whilst a few players came over to congratulate Casey Williams for his corker of a goal!
FULL TIME MOCHDRE SPORTS 0 – 2 GAERWEN
Mochdre can feel a little disappointed from this result but can take some positives from the performance as they played well during the match with some nice attacking play and decent chances created. The penalty miss was an obvious turning point of the match as it gave a confidence boost to Gaerwen to push for the second goal whilst the home side were wondering if they were ever going to score that afternoon. Both teams were equal on the day and crafted some fantastic chances to score, with both teams equally guilty of some poor finishing and defending at times. On the performances alone, a draw would have been the fair result but in the end, but ultimately a goalkeeping mistake and a world class finish was the difference between the two teams.
The win will give Gaerwen that boost they needed after the long losing streak to push on and perhaps get a few more positive results before the end of the season. Plus the result was the sort of common reaction that usually happens to teams when there is a chance in manager as it galvanises them to work harder. Also their fans were an absolute credit to their team (even if they fell afoul of the referee at times) and showed more passion than a lot of ‘bigger’ teams’ fans I have seen this season! As for Mochdre, despite the result, the performance was decent and the result could have gone the other way had they put away a couple of their chances. The home support was also decent with a section of them coming up with some chants when the club needed the boost. There’s certainly potential there of having a good foundation of hardcore fans in the future. With just two games remaining, they need to get a positive result from either one of them to ensure their first season in Division 2 doesn’t conclude on a bit of a downer. It’s a long time until August to contemplate on bad results…
Once the match was over, I walked back up to the clubhouse and said my goodbyes to the Mochdre committee members I had met earlier and thanked them for their help. Overall I really enjoyed my afternoon at Mochdre Sports and is probably one of my favourite visits of the season so far. As previously stated, the committee members are a great bunch who have great ambitions and enthusiasm for the club and always give groundhoppers a very warm welcome, which I hugely appreciated. The clubhouse is certainly one of the best I have visited this season and despite the pitch not having any permanent stands, I really liked the quaintness of the ground. If you’re going on the Welsh Alliance Groundhop event in August, you should look forward to visiting this ground as you will most certainly enjoy it… and the Mochdre Sports committee are looking forward to your visit!
Good luck to Mochdre Sports for the their final two games of the season and hosting the Groundhop event in August, and the best of luck to Gaerwen for the rest of the season also. I am looking forward to visiting Lon Groes in the near future!