Welsh Alliance Division 2 – 25th August 2015
Mainetti / Alpha Park, Greenfield, Flintshire
- Entrance: £2.50; Programme: £0.50
As I might have mentioned on Twitter previously, I am currently going through a very busy period of the year with a large amount of weekends being taken up with events. An example of this “intense period” is the Bank Holiday weekend where I will be attending a best friend’s wedding on the Saturday (plus attending pre-wedding drinks on the Friday), but typically also means I will miss a large chunk of the Welsh Groundhop event also taking place over the weekend. Because of my busy schedule, I have the option of either going without a game for a week, or think about going to a midweek game, which is something I tend not to do often.
Having missed Holywell’s game against Cefn Druids the previous Saturday and would miss all the games the upcoming Saturday, I was eager to find a convenient midweek game which wouldn’t require much travelling. Thankfully such a game would be played, and it could not have been any closer to HQ. Having looked on the various leagues’ fixture pages, I found a fixture which peaked my interest and fulfilled all the criteria required. In addition, I was also made aware of the game by the away team’s Twitter account! Mochdre Sports (@MochdreSports) sent me a message to say they were playing a midweek game at Greenfield and that I should attend as it was my “neck of the woods”. Spot on! So I would make the incredibly short journey literally down the hill to see Greenfield take on Mochdre Sports in a Welsh Alliance Division 2 match.
[In a delightful opposite manner, the match would be the visitors of the final game of the Welsh Groundhop weekend taking on the hosts of the first game of the Welsh Groundhop weekend.]
Greenfield (Welsh: Maesglas) is a Flintshire village with a population of about 2700 people, located on the banks of the River Dee estuary and situated on the North Wales coast. It is positioned five miles north-west of Flint, and 1,5 miles north-east of Holywell and is connected to the town through the locally named “Well Hill” B5121 road, named as it runs past the catholic shrine of St. Winefride’s Well. Due to its location on the coast, both the traditional North Wales coastal road (A548) and coastal rail line run through the village, although it does not have a railway station with the local station, Holywell Junction, closing in the 1966 as part of the Beeching Axe.
As with Holywell, the foundations of the village are down to religious reasons as Basingwerk Abbey is located within the village. Founded by the 4th Earl of Chester in the 12th century and ran by Cistercian monks, it is now in a ruined state (since the time of Oliver Cromwell and his popish purges) but continues to act as a huge visitor attraction as part of the Greenfield Valley heritage park complex. The Greenfield Valley is certainly worth visiting if you’re in the area and there is a nature trail through the woods from Holywell to Greenfield which follows the old railway line. There is also an agricultural museum which details traditional farming methods and building, and is another worthy attraction.
Greenfield was also historically the starting point for pilgrims to start their journey from St. Winefride’s Well to either Bardsley Island or St. David’s Cathedral as many people sailed into the village from the dock on the river’s edge. Today the dock is primarily used by the local fisherman as well as cockle pickers who harvest the mud banks of the river, and provides great views of the estuary as well as the Wirral peninsula on the opposite side of the river. Again another location that is worth visiting if you are in the vicinity.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, Greenfield has been a hub of industry with the many mills, such as copper, flannel and most famously paper, being built in the Greenfield Valley and harnessing the power of the constant water flow of the Holywell Stream – one of the first areas in the world to harness water to power industry (the monks of Basingwerk Abbey had done the same to run a corn mill a few hundred years previously). Today a lot of the mills are in ruined state but are also visitor attractions as part of the heritage park complex. However for the majority of the 20th century, the village was dominated by the immense textile and chemical works of Courtaulds which employed many locals in the factory. Since the closure of the factory in the 1980s and its subsequent demolition, the area is still used for industry and now has a few business parks situated on the old Courtaulds site, where many local and nationals companies, such as Kingspan, have established sites.
History of football in the village can also trace its roots back to Courtaulds through its factory team which enjoyed its most successful period during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Courtaulds Greenfield F.C. were one of the founding members of the Clwyd League in the mid-1970s and eventually won the Welsh League (North) in the 1981-82 season. They also enjoyed a great Welsh Cup run, reaching the quarter-finals where they eventually lost to the now defunct Hereford United 1-2. Alas the team disappeared in the mid-1980s when the Courtaulds factory shut down leaving Greenfield without a senior club for many years.
The village’s current club, Greenfield F.C. (@GreenfieldFC), were founded in 2005 after years of being a successful youth team set-up. They originally started off in the old Clwyd League system, winning both the Clwyd League Division 2 championship and the Halkyn Cup in their debut season. Then in the 2007-08 season, they won the Clwyd League Division 1 championship (as well as Flintshire Sports Awards Team of the Year prize) and the Premier Division Cup in the following season. They gained promotion to the Welsh Alliance Division 2 in the 2009-10 season, where they have played their trade ever since. In last season’s campaign, they finished in 7th position with 12 wins and 42 points.
They have started this season incredibly well, winning their first three games of the season and currently situated in 5th position in the table. They defeated Meliden 4-3 (a few days after I had seen Meliden demolish Amlwch Town 5-0 on the opening day of the season) and Blaenau Ffestiniog 4-2 in their first two league fixtures both away from home, and in their previous match coming from behind to beat Overton Recreation 2-1 in the Welsh Cup 1st Qualifying Round. They have also strengthened well during the summer bringing in Flint Town United stalwart striker Shaun Beck (whose brother Scott is now the manager of Greenfield) and the transfer coup of bringing former Holywell Town captain and Bangor City striker Sam Jones to the club. With such attacking firepower brought into the club, Greenfield have certainly made themselves one of the contenders for the Division 2 title.
Their opponents for this game would be Mochdre Sports, a team I have had great communication and relations with on Twitter (@MochdreSports) since my groundhop visit in March. On the day they disappointingly lost to Anglesey-team Gaerwen 0-2, with Gaerwen’s Casey Williams scoring one of the best goals I saw that season! Despite the result for the home team, it is still one of my favourite groundhops I have experienced since I started this journey as I received a very warm welcome from them, and it would be good to see them play this season. Last season they finished in 13th position in their debut season in the Welsh Alliance Division 2, and they will be hoping to improve upon their 2014-15 achievement of 7 wins and 24 points.
This season they have started with two draws in their first two league games, drawing 2-2 with both Halkyn United and Llanllyfni away from home. The two points earned have resulted in Mochdre situated in 10th position in the Division 2 table going into this game. They also played Llanllyni in the Welsh Cup 1st Qualifying Round, and again it proved to be a close encounter with Sports just edging the tie 3-2 to make it through to the next qualifying round and ensure Tom Sharrocks’ boys maintain their unbeaten streak this season.
Mochdre Sports have also been working incredibly hard to prepare for this season’s Welsh Groundhop, as they will be the first ground visited by the enthusiastic stampede of groundhoppers (not sure what the collective noun for groundhoppers would be….possibly “a bounce of”) during the Bank Holiday weekend. For the opening match of the Welsh Groundhop, they would be facing newly promoted Prestatyn Sports in the “Sports Derby” (or El Sportivo if you want). In my opinion there is no finer ground to start such a weekend and I hope all the groundhoppers who are attending the Welsh Groundhop will enjoy their visit as much as I did!
Greenfield F.C. currently plays at Mainetti Park (also known as The Old Courtaulds Ground) which located on the east of the village on the border with the Boot End of Bagillt. The entrance to the ground is located on the main coast road and is easily reachable by car. If you wish to use public transport to reach the ground, Flint station would be the nearest train station and then pick up the 11 bus towards Holywell. There are bus stops next to and very near the ground and the stops are en-route to Holywell from Flint. The ground is sandwiched between the main A548 coast road and rail track on either end, with the derelict Mainetti factory (hence the name of the ground) on east side of the pitch. The factory was used until very recently when a huge inferno which engulfed the building causing roads to shut and nearby houses to be evacuated resulted in the factory being abandoned and left in its current fire-ravaged state.
During their initial couple of seasons of establishment, Greenfield had to play their games in Gronant as there wasn’t any football pitches in the village, until they moved to Courtaulds Greenfield’s former ground after an agreement with Mainetti (the pitch original owners) was reached. The pitch used to be part of a huge sport complex ran by the Courtaulds’ social club which included another football pitch, bowling greens, tennis courts and a hockey pitch. Alas all of these facilities are now overgrown and the popular social club has long since been demolished leaving hardly any traces of its former glory.
It is at this point where I have to make a confession. Even though I am a Holywell Town supporter, my actual local team should be Greenfield F.C. (before you start arguing, they never came into existence before 2005 and by that point, Holywell were my team!). This is because I grew up in a house on the Glan-y-Don estate, which overlooks their ground and main coast road, and so I got to view the pitch every day as I was growing up on “the Mecca”. I also have many childhood memories playing football on the pitch as a child with either my cousins or my dad in the period between the fall of Courtaulds Greenfield and the establishment of Greenfield F.C, so naturally I have some good memories of that pitch. I am very happy to see the local club make full use of a fantastic pitch once again!
Plus I used to play in Greenfield’s youth teams in the late 1990s (prior to the senior team being established which gives an indication of how old I am). 21 games and 1 goal (alas an own goal!) were my stats as a defensive midfielder before I realised I was useless and beyond help, and so decided to just watch football instead (those who can’t, talk about it huh?). As a result of past playing record as well as many former Holywell Town players currently playing for them, I always keep an eye out for their results.
The journey from HQ to Mainetti Park was a matter of just five minutes and it is probably THE shortest groundhop journey I have experienced since starting this whole groundhopping malarkey. On the short journey down in the car, two classic songs were played over the radio – “Alive & Kicking” by the awesome Simple Minds (a very apt song for the upcoming match) and “Dirty Cash (Money Talks)” by The Adventures of Stevie V (not so apt).
As mentioned previously, the entrance to the ground is on the main A548 coast road opposite the Glan-y-Don estate. It is isn’t signposted but the entrance is just after the business park/recycling centre roundabout on the left hand side if you’re approaching from the western/Prestatyn direction, and just after the Mainetti factory on the right hand side after the speed limits have gone down from national speed to 40 mph should you be arriving from the eastern/Flint direction.
Entrance to the ground for this evening’s game was a very cheap price of just £2.50 – a bargain for midweek football in my opinion, whilst the accompanying programme was just an additional 50p! Entry and programme for just £3 = what a deal!! The programme is great value as it provides match reports on previous Greenfield matches, as well as team statistics, league news and the history on their opponents. It was also in the programme that it provided the information of the ground being called Alpha Park for the foreseeable future.
There is plenty of car parking available for supporters, with the option of either parking alongside the road that runs down the side of the pitch (originally used as an delivery access road for the old factory) or even parking in some clearing in the waste land just next to the internal road. As the road was right next to the pitch, I decided to park there as there were plenty of space and I could easily access stuff from the car should it be required. One thing I noticed about Alpha Park (now using the new name for the place) is the amount of space available for potential future improvements. There was a massive amount of space between the playing area and the perimeter barriers on the road side of the pitch, certainly enough space to put a small stand if required in the future!
Currently Alpha Park doesn’t have any floodlights nor any permanent stand at the moment (common for a lot of grounds at this level), but it does have permanent dugouts on the factory side of the ground, as well as permanent barriers clad with sponsorship boards. There are also brand new changing rooms and a supporters’ canteen on the coast road end – an impressive new addition to this ground this season after acquiring them from local textile company Aberkhan, and completes “Phase 1” of the ongoing ground improvements currently done by the club. It’s worth noting that there isn’t any concrete paths around the pitch as of yet, so access might prove to be difficult and muddy (especially behind the dugouts) at the current time.
For the first half, I decided to stand just where I had parked my car and would subsequently have a decent view of the match, even with the large gap between the pitch by-line and the barriers. Having a quick look through the programme, it wouldn’t be long before both teams appeared from the new changing rooms, accompanied onto the field with a round of applause from the 50 people (an approximate number) who were also attending the game.
After playing in strips with sky blue & dark blue combinations for the majority of their existence, this match would see a change in Greenfield’s appearance and a move back to traditional (and also logical) colours. This game would see a debut to Greenfield’s new kit of green shirts (makes sense considering the name) with black trim, black shorts and black socks – a combination I was used to during the youth team days. Mochdre were appearing in their away kit of blue shirts with white shoulders & sides, blue shorts and blue socks. Brilliantly their keeper, Martyn Feaver, decided to play in a combination of last season’s Barcelona’s home shirt with tracksuit bottoms! It would be the visitors who would start the game in the breezy and increasingly gloomy conditions of Alpha/Mainetti Park.
For the vast majority of the first half, Greenfield were the superior team as they dominated both the ball possession stats and also goal-scoring opportunities, and limiting their opponents to counter-attacks. The hosts’ first chance came after eight minutes when their #8 Adam Price attempted a speculative effort from 25 yards out after finding space between the Mochdre defence and midfield, but he managed to blaze his effort over the crossbar. Two minutes later and their first real effort on goal almost resulted in a fine reward for Gareth Henley. A throw in from Greenfield’s forward #9 Shaun Pritchard, found Henley (who was poorly marked and found half a yard of space) on the backpost to half-volley a shot towards goal. Mochdre’s keeper, Martyn Feaver, was equal to the shot and managed to reactively palm the shot away, but it fell back into the lap of Henley who found himself with another bite of the cherry. This time under pressure from the Mochdre centre back from behind, the forward rushed his effort and lifted it over the bar.
Greenfield would continue to threaten the Mochdre goal when on 15 minutes, a long ball to Shaun Beck forced Sports into conceding a corner. From the resulting corner, their centre back rose above the jostling crowd near the penalty spot and connected with the cross, but put too much power into the header and it whizzed over the bar. Six minutes later and Beck once again caused problems for the Sports defence when he surged into space and fired a shot on goal. Unfortunately for the forward, it was blocked by a diving Mochdre defender who managed to concede a throw-in on the right hand side. From the resulting throw-in, a huge launch from Pritchard found Henley in the box, who flicked a glancing header towards Beck with acres of space on the back post. From an incredibly tight angle and with the ball just behind him, he managed to skillfully back flick the ball towards goal which beat the scrambling Feaver but cannoned off the post.
Around the 25th minute mark and one of the most bizarre things I have seen during groundhopping occurred. The play was continuing as per normal when all of a sudden the referee, Matt Bridges, shouts out in pain and falls to the ground with an apparent injured ankle. After a few minutes of treatment from the Mochdre physio and a couple of failed attempts of putting weight on the injured ankle which proved both too painful for the ref, it was clear he was unable to continue officiating the game.
At this point I was in some confusion of what would happen next – would one of the linesmen take charge of the game or would the game have to be abandoned? Thankfully an alternative solution was found as one of the spectators went onto the pitch to talk with the referee, who clearly recognised him. It would seem the spectator might have been a current or even former referee and so he would have to officiate the match! After relieving the injured of his cards, watch, whistle and shirt (as well as tucking his jeans into his socks), he would take charge of the rest of the game whilst Mr Bridges was helped carried off the pitch, and spent the rest of the half standing by the supporters barrier.
After about five minutes of stoppage and the referees were switched, the game was restarted and Mochdre almost punished their opponents for not paying attention quick enough. The ball arrived to their #7 Kai Davies who had space on the right hand side to whip a cross towards #9 Jordan Phillips in the box. As the Greenfield defenders were not paying attention, Phillips managed to find acres of space in a central position between the centre back pairing and half-volleyed a shot towards goal from about 7 yards out. I was fully expecting the net to ripple, but because he was falling backwards as he took his shot, the ball lifted up too much and rebounded back off the crossbar. A complete let off for Greenfield there!
The restart certainly benefitted Mochdre as they enjoyed a period of ball possession and started to threaten the Greenfield defence. Again injuries were the order of the day as Greenfield sweeper-keeper Danny Stanton came rushing out to head away a dangerous looking through ball from the Mochdre midfield, but also managed to collide with the challenging away attacker. His bravery at stamping out a potential Mochdre chance left him requiring some medical attention for a couple of minutes although he was back up and playing afterwards. Mochdre would get another chance to test the Greenfield defence, this time from a throw-in from the right hand side of the pitch. From the throw-in, the ball was crossed towards their captain #4 Craig Roberts who managed to position himself in front of his marker to get a clear onrushing header on goal. Alas for Sports, Roberts could only send his firm header just wide of the near post.
Both teams had chances on goal with firstly Greenfield’s Mark Johnson coming in from the left flank to find space in the box but blazed his effort over, then their Henley attempting to curl a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out which was easily gathered by Feaver. Finally Mochdre’s #11 Bobby Tudor surged into a dangerous looking position just outside the penalty area, but he too fired his shot high over the crossbar.
The final chance of the half fell to Greenfield, and it was the closest to deadlock being broken. #9 Pritchard crossed in from the right-hand side, into the penalty area where a few players were waiting. The Mochdre defender completely missed with his attempted clearing header and the ball fell kindly to #11 who again had drifted into space from the left flank. He managed a shot on goal but scuffed his effort due to him slipping over which fired the ball into the ground and towards goal. The flight of the bounce must have caught out Feaver, as the ball sailed between his flailing diving arms and towards goal. The keeper’s blushes were spared however as a Mochdre defender dived on the line to clear the ball away from danger, and stop a potential opener for their hosts!
HALF TIME: GREENFIELD 0 – 0 MOCHDRE SPORTS
At half time, surprisingly both teams decided to stay on the pitch to receive their team talks and not descend back into the comfort of the changing rooms, especially as the weather conditions were getting worse and fine rain was starting to descend from the increasingly gloomy sky. Crocked referee Matt Bridges had to hobble to the officials changing rooms to get his stuff whilst the substitute referee spent the half time period changing from non-regular referee attire of jeans into the more commonly seen black referee shorts.
With conditions worsening by the minute and the rain falling down, the second half started cagier with Mochdre making the second half a more balanced affair than what the first half produced. Both teams had early chances with Greenfield coming close through Keith Ainsworth putting his effort wide after a scramble in the penalty box. At the other end, Mochdre’s #10 Niall Owen created problems for the home defence but again saw his shot scorch the wrong side of the post. It was also at this point when I decide to switch viewing positions to the other side of the pitch near the away dugout. On this side the barriers were a lot nearer to the pitch, but the grass had overgrown making a bit slippery underfoot.
Kai Davies became the lynchpin for his side’s tactics in the second half, as most of their attacks came through the playmaker midfielder. On the 65th minute, he had great vision in the centre to cross a diagonal ball and unleash Owen to exploit the space on the right flank and fly down the by-line. This tactic caught the Greenfield defence out who had claimed offside, but he was certainly onside from my viewing position and had broken the offside trap. With time to pick his spot, Owen whipped a low ball towards Tudor who was sprinting into the box. Alas for Mochdre, the cross zipped in a little too quickly and Tudor’s reactive low effort fizzed just wide of the post. Mochdre should have been 1-up at that point! Things would get worse for the visitors as the injury theme reappeared as their #9 Jordan Phillips pulled his hamstring chasing a through ball. It looked a bad strain and he had to be replaced straight away – a blow to Mochdre’s attacking threat.
With Kai Davies being influential in Mochdre’s tactics, Shaun Pritchard was becoming just as important to Greenfield’s thinking by adopting a more central position and causing problems for the visitors in the penalty area. He managed a couple of chances on goal, firstly using his height advantage to get on the end of a corner at the back post but heading his shot wide of the post. Then on the 75th minute, from a throw-in by Johnson, Pritchard impressively managed to turn his marker and advance towards goal, but unsurprisingly slipped on the increasingly wet surface when it came to threatening the goal. He scuffed the shot whilst slipped which made it a standard save for Mochdre’s keeper.
Mochdre had a period around the 80th minute mark when they really threatened the hosts’ goal, with Davies pulling the strings in midfield. Firstly the playmaker attempted a hopeful effort from about 30 yards out after finding some space, but saw his shot glide well wide of the goal frame. Three minutes later and another long ball from Davies found Owen with space on the right hand side, but he could only put his shot over the cross bar. Then a delightful run from Tudor from his own half found the forward jinking past a couple of challenges and advancing rapidly towards the Greenfield goal in a central direction. A strong challenge finally managed to stop the marauding midfielder but the ball ricocheted into the path of Owen, who hit a long range effort towards goal which was comfortably saved by Stanton.
With time ticking away and the light fading fast, and with the thought that Mochdre might be pleased with the scoreless draw, Greenfield went in search of a winner. Firstly a corner was palmed away by the Feaver after Pritchard caused problems in the box. A few minutes later, a cross to the right hand found the advanced #3 Danny Henley in space on the edge of the penalty box. He managed to unleash a vicious looking shot towards the bottom left corner but it was superbly saved by Feaver. Finally deep into injury time, a pinpoint cross from the left flank by #11 was met by Pritchard, who found himself with a free header on goal in the centre of the goal. Alas for the big man, the keeper was equal to the challenge and saved the firm header, and it seemed that was that….
I was standing in the rain thinking to myself it was going to end a scoreless draw and moaning it would be the third I had seen in August (compared to just seeing just the one blank score match in the whole of the 2014-15 season). I’m sure everyone else at the ground was expecting the whistle to be blown and the scores to stay blank especially considering the number of chances that were saved or missed during the evening. However football always has ways of surprising you! With one last final punt into the box from the Greenfield midfield, the Mochdre defence suffered a catastrophe! With the visiting players sliding around panicking and missing the ball completely, the ball fell kindly to Pritchard who kept his nerve and coolly slotted the ball past the diving Feaver from five yards out to snatch the win and all three points for the hosts!
Greenfield 1 – 0 Mochdre Sports
As you would imagine, everyone involved with Greenfield were elated with the super late winner whilst Mochdre were gutted to throw the game away so very late in the day. So late in fact, that they only needed to hold out for another 8 seconds before the referee was going to blow his whistle (according to the assistant referee anyway). When they kicked off to restart the match, they punted the ball forward to find a highly unlikely equaliser, with their physio shouting “you only need six seconds to score a goal!!!”. Alas for Sports nothing came about and about 10 seconds after restarting the match, the substitute official blew his borrow whistle and ended the thrilling contest.
FULL TIME: GREENFIELD 1 – 0 MOCHDRE SPORTS
I’m in two minds how to summarise this match – you could argue that because Greenfield had the majority of the chances and had the better ones, especially in the first half, they deserved the victory regardless of how late in the day the winner arrived. However the other school of thought is that Mochdre probably deserved a point from the game as they had good chances of their own, for their improved performance in the second half, and for holding on for long! To lose the game with just 8 seconds remaining is heart-breaking and a real kick to the teeth!
Overall I think both teams can take both positives and negatives from the match and I found the game to be an exciting 1-0 game and not one of those dour games where both teams cancel each other out and only 1 chance separates the teams. Both teams showed attacking intent with plenty of chances on show, and any other day this match could well have ended up a 4-3 scoreline. It is also interesting to see how much the ground has developed over the years and it was nice trip down memory lane for me. Greenfield are doing wonders with the ground improvements and I am looking forward to seeing Alpha/Mainetti Park in the future when additional improvement phases have been completed.
Therefore I would encourage all groundhoppers to come down to Greenfield and check the ground out as well as see the team in action. They’re a team with grand plans for the future and I am looking forward to seeing the team and ground develop over this season and next few seasons. I wish them all the best for the rest of the season and good luck in their Welsh Groundhop Weekend match against Penmaenmawr Phoenix on Monday evening!
I would also like to send my best wishes to both the official Matt Bridges and Mochdre’s Jordan Phillips and hope they both have speedy recoveries from their ankle and hamstring injuries respectively!
Finally I would like to wish Mochdre Sports all the very best in their match on Friday against Prestatyn Sports and hope that everything goes perfectly when they kick off the Welsh Groundhop event, as I know the immense effort they have put into planning for the event. As I have said previously, anyone who is going on the groundhopping tour will certainly enjoy Mochdre’s ground and will receive a warm welcome from everyone at the club there! Happy groundhopping folks!