FAW Trophy Final – 18th April 2015
Ground #47 – Maesdu Stadium, Llandudno
- Entrance: £4.00; Programme: £1.00
- Cheeseburger: £2.20; Chips with Curry Sauce: £1.50
The 18th April 2015 was a date that was brightly highlighted in my calendar and I had been looking forward to it arriving for a long period of time. It would be FAW Trophy Final day, and yet again Holywell Town would be competing in it!
The FAW Trophy is one of the oldest national cup competitions in Welsh football and has been running annually since 1890. The tournament was originally open to all Welsh amateur clubs (hence its original name of the Welsh Amateur Cup) but today is open to all Welsh teams who play in the third tier of the Welsh football pyramid and below, thus Welsh Premier, Cymru Alliance & Welsh Football League Division 1 clubs cannot compete for it. Many famous names of Welsh football have won the trophy during its illustrious history including my team Holywell Town, and they were hoping that they would be successful once again.
As readers of this blog may or may not know, the name for this blog is inspired by the last time Holywell Town were involved in an FAW Trophy final. On that day in April 2011, Holywell managed an amazing comeback in injury time to win the game 3-2 against a very talented Conwy United (now Conwy Borough in the Cymru Alliance) at Rhyl’s Belle Vue stadium. Being 0-2 down on the 89th minute, two late penalties from Steve Thomas and a 94th minute winner (yep that’s why this blog has that name) from Tony Hogan resulted in the national cup coming to Halkyn Road for the very first time.
Four years on from that memorable day and the Wellmen had a great chance to replicate that event by winning the trophy for the club again. To make history repeat itself, they had to overcome a difficult team in Penrhyndeudraeth at the seaside town of Llandudno to capture the trophy for the second time in their history.
Holywell Town’s Road to the Final:
- Round 2: Amlwch Town 4 – 0 (A)
- Round 3: Nantlle Vale 4 – 0 (H)
- Round 4: Tywyn Bryncrug 4 – 1 (A)
- Round 5: Gresford Athletic 5 – 1 (A)
- Quarters: Hakin United 4 – 3 (A)
- Semis: Abergavenny Town 1 – 0 (at Caersws)
As you can see above, the path to the FAW Trophy final for the Wellmen was not an easy one as they had to travel away for all but one of their cup games, playing just the solitary game at Halkyn Road in the third round against Welsh Alliance Division 2 team Nantlle Vale. The most impressive result of the journey was the fifth round demolition of previously undefeated Gresford Athletic of the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area). To go to Clappers Lane and put five goals past a team who were undefeated (like Holywell were at the time) and also looking for promotion to the Cymru Alliance by winning the WNL was the result of the season in my opinion.
The Quarter Finals resulted in the Wellmen having to travel down to the opposite end of the country to take on the Vikings of Hakin United, a team who played in the Pembrokeshire League and were two tiers below the Wellmen in the football pyramid. The odds were stacked against them as they faced a David against Goliath match in tough conditions in an hostile atmosphere. The Wellmen were 2-3 down and had a player dismissed with just 10 minutes left in the match, but two late goals from Jack D’arcy and Phil Lloyd meant they just sneaked into the semi-finals.
There they faced Gwent County League Division 1 team Abergavenny Town, who were also undefeated in their respective league. Again in a tough David versus Goliath encounter at the neutral venue of the Recreation Ground in Caersws, they managed to just weather the storm from their inspired opponents and hit a very late winner through Tom McElmeel. The Wellmen are establishing a reputation for late goals in this competition and this one at Caersws ensured their progression to the final for the fifth time in Holywell’s history.
The Wellmen would be going into this final in the greatest confidence possible having just secured the Welsh Alliance title on the previous Tuesday after a 3-0 victory at Llanrwst and finally achieving promotion back to the Cymru Alliance after nine seasons in the third tier. Buoyed by this celebration, and going into the match knowing they had beaten their opponents 5-0 they last time they played them in November, the Wellmen were going into the match as favourites but Penrhyndeudraeth would certainly be no pushovers!!
CPD Penrhyndeudraeth were currently situated in 5th position in the Welsh Alliance and enjoying their best season in the Welsh football system having reached the third tier of the pyramid for the first time in their history. The current club were founded in 1981 after football had been played in the village under several teams since the 1900s but there were no representation of the village since Penrhyndeudraeth United folded in the 1968-69 season. For the majority of their history, Penrhyn have played in either the Gwynedd League or the Caernarfon & District League and achieved some local success. It wasn’t until the 2009-10 season when Penrhyn started their meteoric rise through the leagues, gaining promotion from the Caernarfon & District Division 2, Division 1 and Gwynedd League in three straight seasons to the Welsh Alliance Division 2. After just two seasons in Division 2, they were promoted as champions in the 2013-14 season and they would be playing in their very first FAW Trophy final.
CPD Penrhyndeudraeth’s Road to the Final:
- Round 3: Castell Alun Colts 2 – 0 (A)
- Round 4: Corwen 1 – 1 (H) – winning 4-2 on penalties
- Round 5: FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay 2 – 1 (A)
- Quarters: Llanberis 5 – 1 (H)
- Semis: Glantraeth 3 – 2 (at Bangor)
The Cockles journey to the final has been a tough one, having to overcome WNL team Corwen on penalties in the fourth round and achieving an impressive away victory in the fifth round against another WNL team in FC Nomads. Their best performance during their cup run was the 5-1 hammering of fellow Gwynedd-based Welsh Alliance Division 1 team Llanberis at Maes y Parc. Finally they confirmed their place in the final after defeating yet another Welsh Alliance team, beating Glantraeth 3-2 at the neutral venue of Bangor City’s stadium at Nantporth, with the goals coming from Carwyn Price and Steve Jones getting a brace.
They were going into the final under some inconsistent form having won three games but losing two since their semi-final victory. Close away victories over low placed Glan Conwy and bottom team Llanfairpwll in March helped their confidence, however April proved to be difficult with the Cockles losing to Kinmel Bay Sports and Barmouth & Dyffryn United in the space of a week. However the game prior to the final, they managed to beat Anglesey-based Gwalchmai 2-1 to pick up some momentum. They would also not play a game in mid-week like their opponents and had played fewer games throughout the season, so fitness levels would be expected to be higher and fresher which would provide an added boost to their chances and confidence.
As stated previously, the final would be played at the neutral venue of the Maesdu Stadium, home of next season’s newest Welsh Premier League side Llandudno F.C. This would be an ideal location for both teams as it was near enough in the middle of both teams with Holywell coming from western Flintshire and Penrhyndeudraeth located near Porthmadog in Gwynedd. Plus the town has great infrastructure as it could be reached easily by the supporters by both road and rail, and it would be by rail I would be making my journey to the famous seaside town.
For my previous visits, I normally drive or travel by car to the ground due to their relatively close proximity to home and/or lack of train station. However considering this was a special game, and the rail links were so good and regular to the town, I decided to “let the train take the strain”. Plus it also meant that we could all have a few ales prior to the game which was a “Brucey Bonus”.
A vast majority of the Holywell fans had decided to make a day of it in Llandudno (who can blame them?) and take the 09:10 train from Flint station. However considering I didn’t fancy going that early and wanted a bit of a lie-in on the Saturday morning, it was decided to catch the 11:10 train from Flint which would see us reach Llandudno just after noon. Armed with my Holywell top and scarf, both myself and Damo (who makes his debut in the 94th minute blogs) got a taxi down to Flint station. There we met regular groundhopping accomplice Greg, who had walked down from his house to meet us, and Shaun (another debutant in these blogs) who was missing the Wrexham versus Braintree game to come and watch the Wellmen, plus there were additional Holywell fans who thought the later train was the more agreeable option.
The train arrived at Flint station on time (there’s a first) and off we all travelled down the North Wales Coast line towards Llandudno station. As this was a direct train to the seaside town, there was no need to change at Llandudno Junction which you sometimes need to do if you’re on the train to Holyhead. On the route there we chatted about the upcoming match as well as the Premier League & FA Cup matches being played during the weekend whilst the beautiful Welsh countryside and coast past us by (the views of Conwy Castle and the coast are spectacular by train by the way).
Anyway we all arrived in Llandudno station just after midday and the weather conditions were superb for a cup final. An expected slight cold breeze came in from the coast but otherwise the sun was shining brightly, the sky was blue and there wasn’t a cloud above us – Llandudno was in full majesty for our arrival it seems. So where was our first stop in the seaside town? The glorious promenade with views out into the Irish Sea? The Victorian pier, an essential location for the sightseer? An ascent up the dominating Great Orme?? Nope, it was direct to the first pub to meet up with the other Holywell fans whom had made the earlier train journey and were no doubted well-oiled with alcoholic beverages at this point of the day!
It was just a short 10 minute walk from the station to the first pub of the afternoon, the traditional and quaint looking The Cottage Loaf, where a large number of Wellmen fans had congregated outside in the beer garden and were taking full advantage of the glorious sunny weather. I opened this afternoon’s drinking with a cool bottle of Kronenbourg (which was on offer) whilst the lads had pints of local ale and we joined the lads outside the in the beer garden. If you’re in Llandudno on a visit, might I highly recommend The Cottage Loaf as it looked like a really nice place to have a quiet drink and meal. Alas with the presence of a number of excited Wellmen supporters present, it was never going to be a quiet affair and I didn’t have a chance to try the food which smelt amazing where I was located!
After a content supping of the beer, we made the quick journey across to the town’s Wetherspoons “The Palladium” for another stop and the day’s second drink. The Wetherspoons has been converted from an old theatre and it has kept the old layout of its former life to make it a really impressive atmosphere, if a little dark, to have a pint and a quick bite to eat. This time we all plumbed for bottles of beer, with myself opting for a bottle of Bremen’s finest of Becks. With this groundhop taking a train journey and visiting a number of pubs including a Wetherspoons for some drinks, it was starting to sound like a Lostboyos adventure!! After a quick go on the pub’s quiz machine (winning nowt), and embracing the “rock and roll groundhop” lifestyle of Matt Harrison and co, it was off to another pub en route to the ground.
The afternoon’s third pre-match drink would happen in a pub called The Nevill which is located directly opposite the train station. Again more Holywell fans had congregated here on the way to the ground and were enjoying a few scoops before the big match. The pub has a football theme with the landlord clearly an Everton fan with the Toffees shirts and memorabilia proudly displayed all around the establishment. More bottles of beer were bought, this time I went for a classic ale – some Holstein Pils! Outside the pub, there is a wooden sculpture of what I think was Alice from Alice in Wonderland in honour of Lewis Carroll who apparently written part of the book in the seaside resort. I had seen pictures of a sculpture of the White Rabbit on the promenade so I presume there’s a few of them dotted around the town. Anyway one of the Holywell fans decided it would be a good idea to climb the large statue and sit on Alice’s shoulders. He ascended on her shoulders with pint securely in hand whilst everyone watched on – a bit cheeky he did it but impressive he didn’t manage to spill a drop of ale!
The noise coming from the Holywell fans outside The Nevill caused the café opposite the pub and next to the station to bring in their wooden chairs from the street. No doubt they were a little concerned that supporters might use them in a nefarious manner, which made us laugh, making us out to be some kind of degenerate hooligan firm looking to cause “naughtiness” (as Danny Dyer would say). However seeing someone climb a wooden statue might give them some justifiable cause for concern I suppose. It would also be here where an inflatable crocodile, later to be dubbed with the name “Cecil”, would make its first appearance and introduced to the supporters. The croc was bought by a supporter on the promenade for £9 and it would make a significant impact on proceedings later on in the afternoon!! Once the third beers were consumed and with time ticking on, it was a short 10 minute walk down Builders Way to the Maesdu Stadium for the match.
Maesdu Park is located within an industrial estate in the south of the town, but crucially a short walk from the train station. The ground was opened in 1991 for Llandudno F.C. (then Llandudno Town) with floodlights being added three years later. Over the years significant improvements have been made to the ground to bring it to Welsh Premier League football standard including new dressing rooms, a clubhouse, two big covered stands with disabled access as well as a press box, resulting in the ground having a seating capacity of 1,013. The ground also has a 3G surface which has recently been installed and allows the community, as well as other smaller clubs (such as Kinmel Bay Sports in the Welsh Alliance this season) to be able to use the stadium without impacting on the playing surface.
We all arrived at the ground just after 14:00 and it was already considerably bustling with supporters from both sides. The entrance to the ground looked really smart with shirts hanging up of local players who had done well in the English leagues and national team. Entrance to the ground was just £4, which is a bargain considering it was a national cup final with the supplementary programme costing an additional pound. Not much information in the programme other than pictures of the players and management from both sides. No history of either team provided, even though there is plenty of information on their Wikipedia pages, or even their routes to the final which was very disappointing. Perhaps this is something the FAW could put more research and effort into next season as it came across as just the minimum effort exerted to produce the programme (the programme from the Rhyl-Newtown Welsh Cup semi-final produced by the FAW was also poor!). Granted it might have just cost a pound, but I have seen better produced club programmes this season for the same price!
The changing rooms, clubhouse and snack bar are located at the entrance end of the ground, as well as a club shop which was peaking my interest. Alas just as in Cefn Druids for the Welsh Cup semi-final, the club shop was expectedly closed for the afternoon meaning I will have to return next season when they’re in the WPL to purchase a Llandudno F.C. branded mug! Anyway now having a severe case of “the munchies” from the beer drank and having eaten nothing since breakfast, I decided to queue up for the snack bar whilst Greg and Damo headed into the clubhouse for their fourth ale of the afternoon! I went for a cheeseburger at a reasonable £2.20 and happily wolfed it down whilst looking on the pre-match bustle occurring both on and off the pitch.
A majority of the fans had flittered their way down to the other end of the pitch where the stands were located with the Holywell fans occupying the stand at the opposite goal end. With the Wellmen fans rousing into a chorus already and creating a spectacular atmosphere, whilst the inflatable crocodile was being waved around with aplomb. The Wellmen’s supporter banners were attached at either end although Penrhyn’s fans had achieved an early victory by occuping the prime location for flag positioning, attaching their “cockle town” flag on the press box located by the halfway line for all to see!
Once the cheeseburger had been happily consumed, I decided to head into the clubhouse for a quick comfort break and to try and find the others. The clubhouse is one of the most impressive ones I have encountered this season with a sizeable bar, plenty of seating and booths, and even a pool table for the supporters to enjoy. On the televisions fixed on the wall, they were showing the early Premier League game of Crystal Palace against West Brom which added to the atmosphere. Unsurprisingly it was jammed with supporters looking for final refreshment before kick-off and it was there were I found Greg and a couple other Holywell lads who had walked straight to the ground from the station.
As the final drinks had been glugged down, we went back outside just in time to hear the Welsh national anthem being played and both teams lined up for the pre-match formalities. I had missed them walk out from the changing rooms although I would imagine they got a great reception from the supporters. Once the rousing national anthem had been played, and handshakes completed, it was game time! Myself and Greg decided to stay at the clubhouse end as it would be the goal Holywell would be attacking towards in the first half, and we stood next to the Holywell chairman who had the same idea as us. With the anticipation building up to a crescendo, the Welsh Premier League official for this match, Mr Nick Pratt blew his whistle to commence battle.
Both teams were in their home strips with Penrhyndeudraeth kicking off in their sky blue shirts with white stripes, dark blue shorts and socks, whilst Holywell were in their traditional red and white striped shirts, red shorts with red socks.
Penrhyn would start the brighter of the two teams as they had the early possession and chances of the game. Their first chance came within the first minute as they caught their opponents napping. Mathew Hughes failed to convert a Steven Jones corner as it was blocked by a Wellmen defender and subsequently cleared after a panic scramble in the penalty box. They would get another half chance five minutes later when Paul Roberts lashed his decent shot across the face of the goal but failed to test the Wellmen keeper, Mike Platt.
A minute later and Holywell finally removed the shackles of their cup final jitters when Steve Thomas got the Wellmen’s opening chance of the afternoon. A cut in from the left hand side opened up space in front of goal for Thomas to test Penrhyn’s keeper Robert Watson. However he could only fire his effort straight at Watson and the danger was cleared. With Holywell starting to pick up momentum, they would break the deadlock after just 12 minutes on the clock. Steve Thomas once again involved in Holywell’s early chances as he sent in an arching corner from the right hand side. He managed to find striker Phil Lloyd who, whilst jumping in mid-air and arching backwards, managed to get his head onto the ball and impressively divert the cross past Watson to get Town’s first goal of the cup final!
Holywell Town 1 – 0 CPD Penrhyndeudraeth
Despite being a goal down, Penrhyn continued to have a large amount of ball possession and continued to work an opportunity back into the game. Four minutes after the opening goal and Penrhyn almost levelled things when Mathew Hughes broke clear of the Town defence and bared down on Platt. Thankfully for Wellmen supporters, the keeper was quick off his line to rapidly close down the forward and pressuring him to snatch his shot, which failed to trouble the goal. They would also be dangerous on the set pieces troubling Platt on a number of occasions. The highlight of the Penrhyn set pieces was a fine free kick from Tom Hughes from 25 yards out just before the half hour mark. It looked like it was darting into the bottom left hand corner of the net but Platt just about managed to dive down and save at the foot of the post.
Things got a little tougher for the league champions when the industrious midfielder Tony Roebuck was forced off the pitch through injury, and had to be replaced by John Leonard. Thankfully for the Wellmen, Leonard is a top quality midfielder and slotted nicely into the Town midfield.
With space opening up from Penrhyn’s attacks, Holywell’s captain Sam Jones was becoming more influential throughout the first half, becoming a focal point for most of the Wellmen’s attacking play especially through his great forward partnership with Lloyd. About 20 minutes into the half and Lloyd released Jones for his first chance of the match, but his shot was expertly kept out by Watson. Then half an hour into the half, a quality through ball from Jones released Paul Williams but his heavy touch allowed Watson to thwart the danger. About 10 minutes later and Jones would be involved in another Wellmen chance, this time playing his strike partner Lloyd into a dangerous position. However Lloyd failed to hit the target and blasted his chance wide of the post.
Just before half time and Holywell could and perhaps should have doubled their lead through Matty Harvey. Steve Thomas once again providing exceptional crosses into the box picked out Harvey, who was unmarked an in plenty of space, but his rasping strike could only clip the top of the crossbar. The Wellmen would pay dearly for their missed chances! Deep into first half injury time and with everyone getting prepared for the interval, Penrhyn managed to find a perfectly timed equaliser, which was against the flow of the match at that point. A ball was played into the box from the right hand side to Paul Roberts, who managed to find space goal-side of his marker. He controlled the cross and stabbed the ball home past the helpless Platt to equal to tie up.
Holywell Town 1 – 1 CPD Penrhyndeudraeth
Not long after Holywell has restarted the game, the referee Mr Pratt blew for the half time whistle. However it around this period when the supporter with the green inflatable crocodile called Cecil was stood on the roof of the stand, gaining access via the steps to the TV gantry on the top of the stand. Cue the stadium announcer stating the following:
“Could the supporter with the crocodile please come down from the roof of the stand or you will be ejected from the ground!”.
It wasn’t long before the crocodile and his accomplice was escorted down from the roof by one of the stewards. All in all a truly bizarre and surreal moment in any game, but it wouldn’t be the only misdemeanour the crocodile would cause during the afternoon!
Roberts’ goal on the stroke of half time had changed the outlook of the game and both managers’ half time team talks. Considering the possession they had earlier on in the half, it was probably deserved for the Cockles but left me wondering whether it was going to be “one of those days” for Holywell as it was during the Cookson Cup final. Despite that initial concern, confidence was still high with me and the other Holywell supporters that the Wellmen would come through!
HALF TIME: HOLYWELL TOWN 1 – 1 CPD PENRHYNDEUDRAETH
During the interval, I decided to get even more food from the snack bar – a first in my blogging journeys going back for seconds! The snack bar is next to the clubhouse and has all the usual hot food snacks and drinks for the most committed or rookie groundhopper to enjoy. This time I chose a tray of chips complimented by lashing of curry poured over them, for the grand cost of just £1.50 = bargain!! For the record, the tray had a large number of chips and a healthy amount of curry, which was just the right of spice for my delicate palette. Once chips were bought, myself and Greg moved over to the other end where Damo and the rest of the Holywell fans were located to see the Wellmen attack that end for the second 45 minute period.
The second half saw both teams start very cautiously with neither side hoping to give the early advantage to the opposition. However the league champions started to wrestle control of the game, backed on by the increasingly vocal Holywell fans who were now on full chorus and creating an immense noise from their end. It was much more deafening now I was located amongst the Wellmen support, and whipped everyone up into fanatical singing and encouragement.
The singing section would almost be rewarded three minutes into the half when Steve Thomas saw his stinging strike just tipped over the bar by Watson. However on the 54th minute, the Holywell fans were in full voice as they saw their team take the lead once more. Phil Lloyd whipped a cross into the box from the right and Watson failed to clear the ball effectively under challenge. The ball broke to Steve Thomas who had fashioned some space in the box, and he managed to twist his body to connect with the ball that was slightly behind his position. He managed to accurately hook the ball on the half volley, from a tight angle, into the corner of the net to score in a FAW Trophy final once again. Cue pandemonium from the Wellmen supporters!
Holywell Town 2 – 1 CPD Penrhyndeudraeth
The Cockles might have gone behind for the second time in the game but they almost instantly returned the favour and earn themselves a second equaliser. Adam Griffiths pressurised Wellmen defender Lee Emberton gaining possession and rounded the onrushing Platt for an open goal, but the forward could only slice his shot and hit the side-netting of the goal. A crucial chance missed for the Gwynedd-based side!
Now in the lead, the league champions played with the confidence and style that had won them the lead with three games remaining and captain Sam Jones was conducting the play. Firstly on the hour his slide-rule pass freed Thomas on goal but he could only lash his effort over the bar. Then a minute after his pass, he was brought down in the penalty box after surging into the danger area. I was situated at the ideal spot to see the challenge and he was clearly contacted by the defender who got none of the ball and all of the man. A stonewall penalty surely?? Rather frustratingly to all concerned with Holywell, Mr Pratt failed to give the penalty and encourage play to continue – the wrong decision from the WPL referee!
Not that Penrhyn minded as they hugely benefitted from the error in the official’s judgement by hitting Holywell on the counter from the penalty appeal. Jack Jones delivered a delicious looking cross from the right into Holywell’s penalty area and Tom Hughes successfully connected his left foot to the ball and thundered the ball into the net from a difficult angle. Penrhyn had performed the perfect counter-attack and their supporters were undoubtedly celebrating loudly – the Cockles were back in the match after 63 minutes!!
Holywell Town 2 – 2 CPD Penrhyndeudraeth
Their glee was short-lived however as the Cockles conceded a third seven minutes after they had worked hard to get back into the game. Pressure from Holywell’s forward line allowed Phil Lloyd to pick up the ball and strike a powerful low shot from the edge of the area which left Watson no chance to save it. The ball streaked past the keeper and into the bottom corner resulting in Lloyd’s second goal of the afternoon, and the Wellmen going back into the lead for the third time in the match.
Holywell Town 3 – 2 CPD Penrhyndeudraeth
During the celebration for the third goal, that mischievous inflatable crocodile would make his presence felt in the game as he was thrown onto the pitch in Penrhyn’s goal area. Thankfully he was rescued from capture by the official Mr Pratt when a supporter ran onto the pitch to retrieve the air-filled reptile, although the referee was nonplussed about the supporter going onto the pitch. Cue the Holywell Town fans to start chanting “if we score four, we’re storming the pitch!”.
Penrhyn were starting to get frustrated after going behind once again whilst time was starting to tick away in their disadvantage. With their urgency levels increased searching for their third equaliser, discipline started to disintegrate for the Cockles. Firstly Paul Roberts was cautioned for petulantly kicking the ball away in annoyance. Then three minutes later, on the 79th minute, they committed another foul in their penalty box. A John Leonard throw in was launched into the box and Tom McElmeel was unfairly held back by the Penrhyn defender. Again being in the ideal spot in the stand to see the incident, I can confirm McElmeel was clearly being hindered by his opponent. This time Mr Platt saw the unfair impediment and gave the correct decision of a penalty to Holywell.
The captain Sam Jones stepped up to take penalty responsibilities and shoulder the pressure of this crucial spot kick. Embracing the pressure rather than being crumbled by it, he blasted his shot just right of the keeper and into the back of the net!! Eleven minutes left and Holywell had a two goal cushion – surely Penrhyn couldn’t come back from that now??
Holywell Town 4 – 2 CPD Penrhyndeudraeth
With the fourth Holywell goal and sixth of the afternoon scored, both teams made substitutions for the final ten to fifteen minutes of the match. Penrhyn subbed Griffiths off for Carwyn Price, whilst Holywell secured their lead by bringing on Graeme Williams and Matty Roberts for Emberton and goalscorer Thomas to freshen things up in midfield and make it more defensively solid.
As celebrations still continued in the Holywell end and prior to the teams restarting from the goal, Cecil the green crocodile made his second break for freedom and landed on the pitch again but this time ended up on the wrong side of the referee who dismissed him from the field. This resulted in possibly the craziest sight in Welsh football you will see all year (certainly the funniest thing I have seen this season) with Mr Pratt carrying the crocodile off the field and keeping him captive in the fourth official’s booth until the final whistle. My fellow Holywell supporters, who were fantastic all afternoon coming up with many different songs and keeping a continuous noise through banging the sheet metal stand, were obviously distraught and started to sing about the crocodile being “held prisoner”.
The fourth Holywell goal didn’t quite break Penrhyn’s resolve as they went looking for two goals in the final seven minutes, and they had a few half chances to potentially score a third and provide the game with a grandstand finish. However as the minutes past, it seemed to me that they had expended all their energy and could find any reserves to find two additional goals, and were now coming to terms with the inevitable. That didn’t stop some Holywell supporters biting their nails a little bit, especially when the Cockles were on the attack as they were fully aware that late comebacks can happen in the FAW Trophy final.
After a couple of minutes of injury time, the referee Mr Pratt blew for full time much to the relief and jubilation of everyone involved with Holywell Town. Although Penrhyn had given a fantastic account of themselves and could hold their heads up high from their final performance, they couldn’t quite manage to stop Holywell win their second FAW Trophy and achieve the league and cup double!
FULL TIME: HOLYWELL TOWN 4 – 2 CPD PENRHYNDEUDRAETH
The celebrations began with all the players and management embracing each other on the pitch, and then coming over to our end to applaud the fabulous effort of the supporters who had encouraged them all match. I may be biased in my view here, but the Holywell supporters gave one of the best atmospheres I have encountered all season and I was honoured to have been part of it, as well as experiencing it.
Rather uniquely the trophy presentation podium was constructed outside the clubhouse and not on the pitch like it usually is. Apparently this was to avoid any potential damage being produced on the costly 3G surface, but weirdly it was much better as it allowed the supporters to be close to presentation. Anyway we all moved around to the other end where the podium had been erected in preparation for the trophy lift.
Firstly the officials were awarded with their award from the day, then the Penrhyn players and management walked up to pick up their runners-up medals. It was really nice to see all supporters from both sides give a great sporting gesture and applaud the Cockles, as we all knew they had played really well and gave a great account of themselves and their club. Not surprisingly they looked distraught at losing the game, especially their manager but I am sure they will take a lot of positives from the game and whole campaign once the initial sting of losing has subsided somewhat.
Finally the moment we were all looking forward to, and the trophy presentation. All the Holywell players received their winners’ medals from the president of the FAW Mr Trefor Lloyd-Hughes, and it would be him who presented the FAW Trophy to the captain Sam Jones who jubilantly raised the trophy aloft to rapturous cheering and applause. It was also the cue for champagne to be popped open and sprayed everywhere soaking myself and all the people around me either taking photos or enjoying the presentation, not that anyone minded of course! A fantastic end to a brilliant afternoon and every Wellmen supporter had a massive grin on their face…..well I know I did anyway ha!
Cecil the Crocodile would try and get involved in the celebrations on the podium by firing himself towards the team. The image of a 5ft green inflatable crocodile bouncing off the head of the President of the FAW will stay with me for a long time to come! In all fairness to Mr Lloyd-Hughes, he took it in good humour and if he can cope with airborne, air-filled reptilians, he should easily become the next FIFA vice-president! I bet David Gill wouldn’t have handled it anyway!!
Once the players had departed from the podium, myself, Greg and Damo decided to leave Maesdu Park and walk back to the station and to get the return train back to Flint. On the way to the station we encountered some Penrhyn supporters who were gutted about losing but very gracious in defeat praising both teams. The praise was extended by us to their team and wished them well for the rest of the season and next season’s competition. We got the 17:08 train from Llandudno although this train was not a direct route like the morning train and stopped in Llandudno Junction, meaning we had to wait there for about 20 minutes.
During that period, I am almost confident that I passed the Daily Post’s fantastic local football reporter Dave Jones (I’m a fan of his reports and blog) who was also waiting for a train, although not wanting to make a fool of myself in case it wasn’t him, I decided to let him contemplate in peace. If that was you Dave, apologies for not saying hello and I hope your train journey home was a decent one and you enjoyed the game! Anyway the adjoining train arrived at the station, the train from Holyhead to Cardiff Central, which stopped at Flint and we hopped aboard on the journey home. Although that is not quite the end of the story….
As we were sitting on the train homeward bound, we had a discussion with a fellow passenger on the table opposite about the election and the state of the current political landscape. As the train stopped in Colwyn Bay, a passenger came into the carriage and sat in the empty next to Damo whilst he was ranting about the state of both Labour and the Conservatives during the election campaign. Immediately I recognised the passenger and rather ironically considering the conversation that was happening, it was former Welsh First Minister and Cardiff South & Penarth MP Alun Michael, who was now serving in his capacity as South Wales Police & Crime Commissioner. Being a person who has done a politics & government A-Level (yep I have one of those….and it got an A grade if you’re interested….) I can recognise most politicians and he was quite influential in Welsh politics during my period of politics study.
We all said hello to him and some friendly pleasantries, and I decided to not bother him as he brought out a report on something important that he wanted to read through, plus considering the conversation going on in the carriage, it was probably best not highlighting him as a politician ha. Damo, who had spotted his official looking report next to him, politely asked him about it and in all fairness to Mr Michael he actually described to us his role as Police & Crime Commissioner. According to him, he had been up in his home town of Colwyn Bay for a few days to both visit the family and to help in the canvassing of his daughter-in-law who was campaigning in the Aberconwy constituency. He was travelling on the train back down to Cardiff to continue his role as Police & Crime Commissioner.
Poor Mr Michael, I did feel sorry for him when Damo did his best Jeremy Paxman impersonation asking him loads of political questions and talking about errors the Labour government had done including the controversial Iraq War. The poor guy probably wanted a quiet train journey back catching up on documents and here he was getting quizzed by Damo haha. In all fairness to both parties, Damo didn’t harangue him too much and talked about how he had written to parliament campaigning against the war, whilst Mr Michael was very open, honest and friendly and didn’t mind answering the questions put to him. He also gave a brief insight into the meetings that took place with the Labour party and his constituency during the Iraq War period which I found fascinating.
Just before 18:00 we arrived back at Flint station and Damo’s light grilling of Mr Michael had to come to an end (much to his relief no doubt ha), and we said our goodbyes to him and the other traveller who was involved in the political discussion. I hope Mr Michael managed to get through his reports on the way back and I would like to thank him for being so honest and friendly with us lot.
The whole day was fantastic and the result certainly helped in that regard, although the weather was perfect for a day out in Llandudno also. It was great to see so many Holywell fans who had once again turned out in droves to support the team and for them to make sure a fantastically vocal support throughout the game was a joy to behold. It was great that both fans mingled well together and respected both teams, and the Penrhyn fans I had encountered during the day were great people. The Cockle fans were a great testament to their team and all branches of the clubs gave a great performance on the day.
It was also great that the 510 people who came to watch the match were treated to an excellent game between two teams who performed to the maximum and could both hold their heads up high. As stated previously, Penrhyn would be initially disappointed with the result but their performance was spirited and hard-working and did their club very proud! I would like to wish them all the best for the rest of this season and next season and hopefully they’ll go one better and win the trophy!
As for Holywell, they certainly celebrated well into the Saturday night in town and I don’t blame them as they have completely earned it, achieving one of the most successful weeks in the club’s history. I would like to send my congratulations to Johnny and the lads for their hard work and efforts this season and thank them for providing us Wellmen supporters one of the best seasons ever. I would also like to acknowledge and give thanks to their secretary Steve Roberts who has worked tirelessly for the club over the past few years. He was with them when they were struggling in the Welsh Alliance and for him to now experience the feast after the famine is a great thing to see and he fully deserves it! Thanks Steve!
Finally for those who are wondering what happened to Cecil, he managed to get a ride home with the team and is now a full blown mascot of the team! The last I heard was that he was still out partying in Holywell and enjoying his new found fame whilst trying to appeal against his three match ban.
So to sum up the visit to Llandudno in three words, it would simply be:
BEST. GROUNDHOP. EVER.
Also if you want to read on an additional blog of the FAW Trophy, check out this amazing blog:
And here are the video highlights of the game from the official FAW website: