Mawddach Challenge Cup Semi Final – 11th April 2015
Ground #46: Cae Ffwt, Glan Conwy
- Entrance: £3.00
- Hotdog: £1.70; Tea: £1.00
With the 2014-15 Welsh football season rapidly coming to a conclusion, the personal goal of reaching my 50th visited ground by the end of the season is becoming a more realistic and achievable goal. With just five grounds remaining and with at least 6-7 game weekends left to play, it is looking more possible that my aim will be achieved. Providing I see a game every weekend and Bank Holiday, I will hopefully complete my quest on the May Day Bank Holiday!
For the second weekend of April, and my 46th ground, I had a few options of locations which I could have visited. The initial choice was a trip down to the historic club of Chirk AAA to see them take on Penyffordd in the Welsh National League. However considering I shall be seeing a number of WNL games towards the end of the season, and my mate Nick Owen wasn’t playing for Penyffordd in the match (busy visiting the future in-law family up on Tyneside), I decided to postpone a trip to Chirk for a later date. Plus considering the WNL would be playing games into May, I wanted to take advantage of the other leagues whilst they were still competing to vary up the end of season run-in. The Cymru Alliance were concluding this weekend so I was becoming more aware of viewing other leagues before they finished until next season!
As a result the focus turned to the Welsh Alliance teams where there were a few fixtures that were potential visits. A notable match, for obvious reasons, would have been a trip into deepest Gwynedd to see Holywell Town take on Llanberis, which by many accounts is a picturesque ground to visit. However Greg, who would be accompanying me on this groundhop, had the choice of game and he chose a very interesting match which involved Welsh Alliance teams but was a cup match. He chose the Mawddach Challenge Cup semi-final which would involve Llanrug United taking a short trip down the coast to Glan Conwy. Considering I have not been to Glan Conwy before and I was expecting a good match, plus it was a fairly straight forward drive there (I was driving on this occasion), I was more than happy taking a trip westwards to see the cup match.
The village of Glan Conwy, or Llansantffraid Glan Conwy (‘The church of St Bridget on the bank of the [River] Conwy’ in Welsh) to give the location its full name is located just 1 mile south of Llandudno Junction, and 5 miles south of Llandudno, and just off the A55 Expressway. The village also faces the castle town of Conwy across the River Conwy estuary. The main road running through the village is the A470 trunk road which runs through the whole length of Wales from Glan Conwy to Cardiff. The village also has its own railway station, which is located on the Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog Conwy Valley line.
According to village tradition, the parish was founded when St. Bridget (or Ffraid in Welsh) is supposed to have landed on a bank of the River Conwy near the village after she had sailed from Ireland on a green turf, however records show the parish was created by Maelgwyn Gwynedd in the 5th century. The village’s traditional industry used to be dry docking and chandlery for the port of Conwy, however when the Telford and Stephenson bridges were built downstream in the mid-1800s, the village became cut off from the high seas and thus began a period of decline. Today the village is considered a ‘dormitary village’ with the majority of the population either retired or commuters.
The village has a small business park, the Cae Ffwt Business Park, which is located between the A470 and the Conwy Valley rail track/River Conwy, which has seen a number of business set up base in the village. It is also the location of the ground for Glan Conwy, and it too is called Cae Ffwt which is situated on the corner of the road leading into the industrial complex. They have played at the ground since it opened in 1998 after a nomadic period when they played at grounds in Llandudno and Llandudno Junction.
A team for Glan Conwy was originally created in 1922 when they became founding members of the Vale of Conwy League and played at the former Gala Field, with a club nickname of the “Jolly Boys”. They remained in the Vale of Conwy League until the outbreak of World War II but didn’t reform after the war, probably due to a lack of playable pitch as a result of fields being reclaimed for agriculture to relief food shortages in the country in the post-war period.
The club were eventually resurrected in 1979 and rejoined the Vale of Conwy League the following year where they stayed for the next 18 years until they got promotion to the Gwynedd League, which also coincided with their move to their permanent home. They only stayed in this league for a single season before they were again promoted as league champions to the Welsh Alliance, where they have been ever since. They have never won the Welsh Alliance league title although have managed to finish runners-up twice during their tenure in the league. They have also had some modern cup pedigree particularly in the FAW Trophy, when they reached their first final in 2007 but lost heavily to Wrexham-based team Brymbo. However a very successful 2009-10 season, where they pipped local rivals Llandudno Junction for second place in the Welsh Alliance, they finally managed to claim their first major honour by winning the FAW Trophy after hammering South Wales outfit Clydach Wasps 5-1.
Accompanying me on this trip to Glan Conwy would be my regular groundhopping accomplice Greg, as well my mate Stuart who would be popping his groundhopping cherry (hopefully another convert). After picking the two lads up a bit later than I had initially planned, the drive westwards down the surprisingly clear A55 Expressway from Holywell to Glan Conwy took about 35 to 40 minutes and we were entertained with the wide range of songs the radio was pumping out from “Do The Funky Gibbon” to “I Want to Break Free” with a loads of songs in between. You have to love the radio when they play such a heady mix of songs which normally don’t go together!
[Sing along to either or both :-)]
The 94th Minute group arrived at Cae Ffwt at about 14:15 just as the teams were heading back into the dressing rooms after warming up prior to the match. The road into the Cae Ffwt industrial complex was blocked off a gate with Glan Conwy stewards at the entrance collecting the entry money. Entry was just £3, which in consideration with other teams in the same league is very cheap for a game of football, especially for a cup semi-final. Because the road was gated, it controlled the amount of traffic coming into the industrial complex and allowed all supporters to park along the Cae Ffwt industrial park road and car parks. I decided to park on the side of the road a bit further down from the field which allowed quick access when leaving and avoiding any potential stray ball from hitting the car. There would be a lot of stray balls during this match…but more of that later on!
Weather conditions were not too bad on the River Conwy with the sun shining and temperatures a steady 12 degrees. In the shade things were naturally a bit more chilly and there was a strong wind whipping up from Snowdonia which caused the temperature to dip a bit and would have a substantial effect in the upcoming game also. However staying out of the shade, and wearing a required coat, the day was pleasant enough and your standard dry Spring afternoon. Alas the pitch surface itself had seen better days and was showing the effects of a long season as it looked cut up and very bobbly.
Once parked up we made the short walk along the road to the pitch which is located on the corner of the Cae Ffwt road as stated previously. As is common with many Welsh clubs at this level, the ground is dominated by the clubhouse complex that houses both the dressing rooms for the teams, as well as an area for supporters to buy food and drink whilst watching the game. There are no large permanent stands at the ground although there is a wooden smoking hut to the side of the clubhouse in the corner of the ground, which could be considered a stand as it faces out to the pitch (well Greg considered it a small stand whilst Stu considered it a smoking hut – I will leave you to make your own conclusion when you visit). There are brick built dugouts on the opposite side of the pitch whilst a concreted path runs around three sides of the pitch allowing supporters to stand, with the fourth end accessible to supporters but grass covered.
We headed to the clubhouse to get some refreshments and snacks prior to the match starting. The food area for supporters is large with many tables and chairs to enable supporters to stay indoors eating whilst providing a good view of the pitch – ideal for the winter games no doubt. Dotted along the walls are canvas pictures of Glan Conwy’s previous achievements and games, with a few pictures of their FAW Trophy victory in 2010 – a proud moment in the club’s history!
Anyway from the clubhouse, I bought a hotdog with onions for £1.70 and a cup of tea for £1.00, Greg bought a hotdog with a can of coke (lent has finished so he can now drink fizzy drinks again ha) whilst Stu bought a fizzy drink adorned with an Angry Bird haha. The hotdogs were good for the price with two sausages placed into the bap and a good helping of onions, which is always a bonus in my opinion. Adding ketchup became a bit of a nightmare as a build-up of pressure in the bottle resulted in it spraying large globules of red sauce all over my front when I popped open the top. However Greg fared slightly worse as he managed to drop all the onions placed on his hotdog onto the floor outside of the clubhouse – I think Stu did the right thing and avoiding the hotdog. Good guy Greg managed to pick up all the ketchup-laden onions from the floor and place them into the bin. That lad is forever keeping Wales tidy!
We would be making a right hash of consuming the food just outside of the clubhouse when the game kicked off. Both teams would be playing in their home kits with Glan Conwy in their Celtic styled white and green hooped shirts, white shorts and green socks, whilst Llanrug were in red shirts with white trim, white shorts and red socks.
The game would be seeing 12th take on 3rd with Glan Conwy struggling at the wrong end of the league whilst Llanrug were looking to secure third spot behind Llandudno Junction and champions-elect Holywell Town. Glan Conwy were going into the match as the underdogs with a slight dip in confidence after losing their fierce derby match against Junction 3-0. However they could be encouraged for this cup match as the last time they faced their opponents in the league, coincidently played the previous weekend, they beat them 4-3 at Eithin Duon after being 4-1 up for a majority of the match!
The road to the semi-finals was not an easy one for the Jolly Boys, earning themselves a tough 3-2 away win at Llandyrnog United in Round 1 and then winning the Conwy Derby against Llanrwst United in Round 2, beating their local rivals 5-3. In the quarter finals, they faced tough opposition in Barmouth & Dyffryn United but managed to put their opponents to the sword at Cae Ffwt, beating the Magpies 4-1.
Llanrug were looking to reach another final and achieve a potential cup double as they had captured the Cookson Cup in late March when they defeated favourites and cup holders Holywell Town 2-1 at Y Morfa, the home of Conwy Borough (I went to that game and I’m still hurting over that defeat). They warmed up for this game with a massive 5-1 away victory against bottom side Llanfairpwll on the Tuesday prior to the game after their disappointing defeat to their opponents on the previous weekend.
Rug’s route to this match was no less difficult that their opponents starting with a close 4-3 victory against Meliden in Round 1, and needing penalties to dispatch Glantraeth in Round 2 after both teams scored 2 goals apiece. They would continue their difficult run through the rounds when a tight 1-0 victory at home was just enough to dispatch Llanerchymedd and make it to the last 4 of the cup competition.
The first half was certainly not the best half of football I have seen all season, with the pitch conditions and wind playing its part in this game. The pitch surface hampered any passing along the ground due to bobbles constantly diverting any passes, whilst any high balls or crosses were being taken away by the wind and not meeting its target. Although both teams’ performances were not at the standard they have shown for most of the season, and from what I expected from a cup semi-final.
Throughout the first half Llanrug were clearly the better team and the game proved to be very one-sided although the finishing from the away side left a lot to be desired. They had a few chances and half chances although they couldn’t get many on target with a number of chances either flying wide of the post or well over the bar. Matty Phillips probably had the best chance of the half to open the scoring when he missed a sitter five minutes before the break which should have given the visitors the lead.
At the other end, Glan Conwy just could not force a way into the match as they were getting dominated in midfield and their striker #9 was isolated up front. He was a willing runner all game but any time he got possession of the ball, he had little support from midfield and subsequently lost the ball. Either that or any balls pinged up in his direction to run onto were easily dealt with by the Llanrug defence. I cannot remember any major chance from the home side in first half and they didn’t look like they would threaten Rug’s defence.
Despite Llanrug’s dominance in the game, the game would continue to be goalless going into the half time break.
HALF TIME: GLAN CONWY 0 – 0 LLANRUG UNITED
After that poor first half, we decided to move from our viewing position in front of the clubhouse at the end Llanrug were attacking towards to the other side of the pitch next to the dugouts and closer to the other goal. On the walk around I took some pictures of the picturesque River Conwy estuary which runs next to the ground as well, as the view of Conwy Castle situated on the other riverbank. We stood beside a culvert which was located on the edge of the ground where a brook, which ran between the ground and garden centre, flowed into.
On the other side of the pitch, it was much better viewing as the Snowdonia mountains could be clearly seen in the distance and landscape was amazing. Needless to say that the landscape view was much better than what was being shown on the pitch ha!
The second half continued in the same vein as the first half with Llanrug dominating the game and possession but not managing to make the breakthrough and get the opening goal, whilst Glan were getting slim pickings at the other end. However added into the way the game was flowing, both teams’ defences adopted the tactic of “if in doubt, hoof it out”. Cleared balls were being launched towards the rail track/River Conwy or a bush of nettles at the ends, or bouncing off the parked cars on the clubhouse side or even being launched into the garden centre next door to the ground. Greg said that he saw one woman nearly getting taken out by a descending football whilst admiring the petunias outside, although that is probably an exaggeration….they were probably crocuses! The high fences surrounding the pitch were making no impact as balls were being hoofed out beyond their reach resulting in the match using more balls than a National Lottery draw!
With chances going begging for Llanrug and balls being launched in every direction out of the ground, it was starting to look like that neither club would score this afternoon and that this match could go into extra time. Finally just before the hour mark, the deadlock was broken and Llanrug’s dominance in both possession and chances paid off. Their goal came from a corner when Kev Lloyd whipped an in-swinging cross into the box where the ball came off Andy Williams’ face to deflect the ball past the home goalkeeper and open the scoring.
Glan Conwy 0 – 1 Llanrug United
Not the cleanest of connections with the ball but they all count and it was a relief for the visitors who had wasted a number of decent goal-scoring opportunities throughout the game.
With the home side now trailing, they had about half an hour to try and get back into the game but they just couldn’t get control of the ball, let alone the game. Any rare opportunities they had with the ball were either wasted through lack of support or poor passing. Plus they didn’t seem to exude the urgency of a team desperately trying to force their way back into a semi-final match. So much so that their keeper was the most vocal player on their team, and was repeatedly geeing up his team mates to communicate more and become increasingly vocal, which seemed to fall on deaf ears. It was looking increasingly unlikely that they would nick an equaliser at this point of the game!
As a result, if any team was going to score again, it would have been the visitors but they were keeping it tight at the back and content to hold onto the ball to maintain their slim 1-0 lead. The final 20 minutes became a procession to Llanrug capturing the win with the visitors easily stamping out any attack Glan Conwy tried to create for themselves, whilst spurning a few chances themselves at the other end.
FULL TIME: GLAN CONWY 0 – 1 LLANRUG UNITED
Never have I been more glad of a full time whistle being blown as this was arguably the worst game I have seen all season (I hate having to say that) with the second half being particularly dire. The conditions certainly did not help the flow of the match and the constant hoofing of balls out of the ground ensured the game was stop-start, especially throughout the second half, whilst being very frustrating for myself and the supporters viewing. I am thankful someone scored in regulation time as I don’t think the three of us could have coped with another half an hour of attack versus defence with the attack unable to score.
Llanrug clearly deserved the victory and should have scored more than their single goal had their shooting been more accurate on the afternoon, but considering their opponents showed very little going forward, it became obvious that just one goal would be enough to win the tie. Not the greatest performance they have produced but it can be considered a “professional performance” by getting the result despite not firing on all cylinders. They now progress to another final and a great chance of a potential cup double, where they could face The Wellmen again should Holywell win the other semi-final against Kinmel Bay.
As for Glan Conwy, I was bitterly disappointed with their performance all afternoon. With a potential final on the horizon, against a team they beat a few weeks ago and with the added advantage of playing at home, I thought they would fully up for the game and would cause real problems for Llanrug. However they came across as showing very little drive and initiative, with their attacks easily quenched throughout the game. Possibly this could have come from tiredness, which could be expected towards the back end of a long season or their game plan was completely wrong. Whatever the case, they did not giving a fighting performance which the scoreline suggests they did and what I expected them to produce. The result will hurt but the performance should hurt more!
Despite the game not being the best I have seen, the ground itself was in a cracking little location. Near and easy access from the A55 whilst being situated just off the A470, and with the train station just a 5-10 minute walk away from the ground. There were a couple of pubs in the village for the travelling supporter to visit although the best part were the views of Snowdonia and the River Conwy estuary. It’s one of those grounds that need to be fully appreciated on a nice sunny day like we experienced to take in the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Also the people helping out at the club were really friendly and welcoming and they are a credit to the club itself.
So if you’re in the Llandudno/Conwy area for a holiday or whatever, may I encourage you to take a short trip down to Glan Conwy to experience the “Jolly Boys” and Cae Ffwt and I promise you will enjoy the visit! Just make sure you don’t park too close to the pitch though if they decide to hoof it out again ha!
May I wish Glan Conwy all the very best for the rest of the season, especially in their relegation dogfight to stay in the Welsh Alliance Division 1. Good luck to Llanrug United for the rest of their season also. Normally I would wish them well in the Mawddach Challenge Cup Final but if they happen to play Holywell Town again, and after what they did in the Cookson Cup final, well….. 😉