GAP CONNAH’S QUAY 2 – 1 HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY

Welsh Premier League – 5th September 2015

Deeside Stadium, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire

Attendance: 202

  • Entrance: FREE
  • Programme: £2.00
  • Cup of Tea: £1.00
  • Cheese & Sausage Muffin: £1.30

After the excitement and delight of Holywell Town’s victory over Flint Town United previously in the week, the first weekend of September would be the first occasion when I would be able to watch some Welsh Premier League action since the season began. For this opening foray into WPL action, I would be revisiting a ground which I had very familiar with in the past, but had not visited in many years. I would be travel down the coast to watch Gap Connah’s Quay take on Pembrokeshire-based, and newly promoted team Haverfordwest County.

CONNAH’S QUAY

Connah’s Quay (Welsh: Cei Connah) is the largest town in Flintshire, having a population of approximately 23,000 (with Shotton which it is continuous with). The town constitutes just under half of the population of the greater Deeside conurbation for which is part of, near the border with England. It is located 6 miles west of Chester, 4 miles south-east downriver of Flint and just under 10 miles south-east from Holywell. Connah’s Quay can be easily reached by road from the coastal A548 road, by rail from the nearby Shotton railway station located on the North Wales Coast Line, and also is on the National Cycle Network Route 5 as well as the Welsh Coastal Path.

The entrance into Connah's Quay from the western direction [Image taken from https://www.flintshirehousing.co.uk ]
The entrance into Connah’s Quay from the western direction
[Image taken from https://www.flintshirehousing.co.uk ]
The rise of the town coincides with the decline of Chester as a port in the 18th century due to the River Dee silting up and ending the port activities of the walled city. Therefore the docks at Connah’s Quay became vital to the transport of trade and finance for Flintshire and Chester, which resulted in the town’s population and wealth to increase considerably. Shipbuilding also became an important trade in the town through its Ferguson shipyard, with the most famous product being the historic ship Kathleen & May (now moored in Liverpool).

Further information can be found here: http://www.qwa.org.uk/305/

The town’s original name was New Quay, but due to confusion with other similarly named places, it was renamed sometime after 1860. The town’s name is of uncertain origin, although here are some common theories where it might have originated from:

  • That Connah was an industrialist and one of the principal founders of the dock in the town
  • From a former landlord of the “Old Quay House”, a public house which is still on the docks in what is now the west side of the town.
  • That Connah was a man who owned a chandlery store on the docks.
  • From a lady called Mary Connah who used to own the dock, and so when people crossed the River Dee from places opposite, such as Parkgate orNeston, they would ask, “Could you take me to Connah’s Quay”.

In conjunction to the port’s increasing importance, Connah’s Quay would also become a major railway town in the 19th century. The town was located on the main Chester to Holyhead line, which linked Great Britain with Ireland via the port at Holyhead (which had become the preferred port for Ireland) resulting in goods and passengers coming to and fro from Ireland on a regular basis. In addition, a railyard was established at the dock itself, with its primary rail link to the nearby town of Buckley, which used the dock to transport bricks, clay and pottery products. The dock also had small feeder lines to the connections at Shotton, which would then redirect goods from the dock onwards to Chester and Liverpool on their specific rail lines.

Connah's Quay old train station [Image taken from http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/c/connahs_quay ]
Connah’s Quay old train station
[Image taken from http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/c/connahs_quay ]
Alas the natural phenomenon which helped propel the town’s fortunes also helped in its decline, as by the 1950s the port had virtually ceased trading due to the River Dee silting up the two docks (this would subsequently propel Mostyn to become the major port further down the river on the Flintshire coast). If the port’s demise wasn’t enough, the power of the railways was also on the terminal decline and would have a detrimental effect to the town’s fortunes. Connah’s Quay’s train station would become a victim of the Beeching Cuts of the mid-1960s, and the Connah’s Quay-Buckley rail line was completely pulled up by the 1970s due to the decline of industry in Buckley.

As with many towns in the county, Connah’s Quay has become a commuter town for people working in the Deeside Industrial Zone (which the town is south of, with the zone on the opposite bank of the Dee), Airbus or within Chester itself. However it does have its own gas fired power station, named Connah’s Quay Power Station, to the north of the town, which employs a number of people from the town and produces electricity to the local area.

Coleg Cambria's logo
Coleg Cambria’s logo

In addition to industry, Connah’s Quay is also a centre for further education in the county through the Coleg Cambria complex. Formally known as Kelsterton College and Deeside College, it is a further education and industrial college campus which merged with Yale College in Wrexham to form Coleg Cambria. I am also proud to say I am an alumnus of the college, spending two years there studying – one year on an engineering course, then spending the first year of my apprenticeship there. I may have won some engineering awards during my study there but that’s another story….

The Flintshire Bridge which dominates the Connah's Quay skyline
The Flintshire Bridge which dominates the Connah’s Quay skyline

Finally the skyline of the town is dominated by the imposing Flintshire Bridge. Situated on the outskirts of the town, and located to the east of the power station, it is 118 metres high and was opened in 1998 costing £55 million to construct. The bridge is the largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridge in Britain, and its function is to carry four lanes of the A548 coast road coming from North Wales over the River Dee Estuary towards the Deeside Industrial Zone and beyond.

GAP CONNAH’S QUAY

Football first appeared in Connah’s Quay in 1890 when the town’s first football club was founded and played in the Golftyn area of the town. This first Connah’s Quay club achieved some success by reached two Welsh Cup finals in the early 20th century, but lost both finals to local teams – losing the 1908 final 1-3 to Chester, and the 1911 final 0-6 to Wrexham respectively, before they disbanded soon after the 1911 final. After the First World War, a new club, Connah’s Quay & Shotton, was established to represent the town and they played on rented land at the rear of the Halfway House Hotel. They would become members of the Welsh League (North) and then become a fully professional club in 1922.

The club’s move to Dee Park, Shotton in 1928 preceded a historic year for the Connah’s Quay club as they completed the double by winning both the Welsh League (North) and the prestigious national Welsh Cup in 1929. In the final, held at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, they defeated the English First Division club Cardiff City 3-0 to lift their first (and still CQ’s only) Welsh Cup trophy. This was an impressive win for the Quay side as they defeated a Cardiff team which not only was in the English top flight but still contained members of that famous FA Cup winning team of 1927 where they beat Arsenal 2-1. Alas the success would be short-lived, and six months after their historic cup victory, Connah’s Quay & Shotton would fold due to having debts totalling more than £1,000.

The present-day club was formed in 1946 as Connah’s Quay Juniors by former Everton and Wales centre-half T.G. Jones, who was a native of Connah’s Quay and wanted to bring football back to the town. With the Welsh international’s star appeal, the club attracted the best young players in Deeside and became a major force in the North Welsh youth football cumulating in winning the Welsh Youth Cup in 1948. Naturally a senior team was established in the same year as the Youth Cup victory, and the club’s suffix changed to the commonly recognised “Nomads” in the 1952-53 season. During this period, they played in the Welsh League (North) and managed to win the Welsh Amateur Cup, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup, losing to Chester at the Racecourse Ground.

The old Connah's Quay Nomads badge
The old Connah’s Quay Nomads badge

By the mid-70s, the club joined the newly formed Clwyd League where they would spend the next 12 seasons and win the championship twice during their tenure, as well as winning the Welsh Intermediate Cup (now the FAW Trophy) in 1981. Following a three season spell in the Welsh Alliance, they would become founding members of the both the northern Cymru Alliance league in 1990, and then the national League of Wales in 1992 (like local rivals Holywell Town and Flint Town United).

The majority of their initial stay in the League of Wales was under the management of Nev Powell (the current Bangor City manager). Under his regime, they built themselves into a team challenge for European qualification through the league as well as gaining some success in the cups. A LoW League Cup victory was achieved in the 1995-96 season, beating the now defunct Ebbw Vale, before reaching their first Welsh Cup final as the Nomads. At the Racecourse Ground, they would concede a last-minute equaliser before heartbreakingly losing on penalties to Bangor City.

In June 2008 the club was taken over by the recruitment company Gap Personnel, who would change the club’s name to its current form. They also mooted the idea of a potential merger with local club Flint Town United, which resulted in the breakaway club FC Nomads being created, but that plan was soon shelved. The Nomads would become victims of the league structure when the Welsh Premier League was reduced to 12 teams, and they became one of the eight teams to be relegated to the feeder leagues. They would win the Cymru Alliance two seasons in a row under player-manager Mark McGregor (now player-coach at Flint) before successful obtaining a domestic license and gaining promotion back to the WPL in 2012-13, after failing to get a licence the previous season.

Gap Connah's Quay current badge
Gap Connah’s Quay current badge

For the three seasons they have been back in the Welsh Premier League, the Nomads have finished in the bottom six conference of the league split. In their first season back, they managed to finish in sixth place before the league split into the two conferences. Rather controversially, the FAW deducted one point from the Nomads for fielding an ineligible player resulting in them dropping down into the Relegation Conference and Carmarthen Town taking their place in the Championship Conference. They would eventually finish 8th that season and then get defeated in the Europa League qualification playoffs by Bala Town, who went on to take to the European berth.

WPL Table 2014-15
WPL Table 2014-15

In the following season, the Nomads disappointingly finished in 10th position, and another struggling start in the 2014-15 season would see Mark McGregor leave the club by mutual consent after 5 ½ years at the Deeside Stadium. First Team Coach Allan Bickerstaff and Assistant Manager Jay Catton took charge and put together a good run of form that saw them finish 7th in the league and top of the Relegation Conference. This result allowed them to compete in the Europa League playoffs but once again they would miss out, getting defeated by Aberystwyth Town 2-3 after having been in the lead for the majority of the match.

DEESIDE STADIUM

Connah’s Quay’s home ground is the Deeside Stadium, which is located on the Coleg Cambria campus on Kelsterton Road in the west end of the town. The ground can accommodate approximately 1,500 spectators, allowing 500 of them to be in covered seating in the main stand. The ground has one large main stand which houses the raised, covered seating, as well as the changing rooms and tea bar underneath the seating area. There is also a small stand to the right of the main stand which allows supporters to stand under cover. On the opposite side is the small media stand where the Sgorio cameras are usually positioned during live games.

Location of the Deeside Stadium
Location of the Deeside Stadium

The reason the seating is raised is due to the fact the ground is originally an athletics stadium and thus has a running track circling the perimeter of the pitch (very continental). Because the stadium is owned by the college, it is used for the Sports Faculty of Coleg Cambria, as well as the local athletics club, and is often used for athletic galas for the county’s schools. Because of the running track, the action is a bit distanced from the supporters in the stand which may not please the “football purist”.

The Sgorio camera stand
The Sgorio camera stand

The club’s original home was the Halfway Ground, where they played in the period between their formation in 1947 until June 1998 when the Deeside Stadium was completed at Deeside College. The Halfway Ground has since been demolished and is now the site of a residential development.

Connah’s Quay have had to play at a couple of other stadiums whilst work has been done on the Deeside Stadium. In the season prior to moving into the Deeside Stadium, they had to play their matches 25 miles down the coast at Rhyl’s Belle Vue Stadium. Then in the 2006–07 season, the Nomads temporarily played their home games in Flint Town United’s ground, Cae-y-Castell, due to drainage problems with the Deeside Stadium pitch, which have since been fixed.

PRIOR FORM

Going into this fixture, both teams were looking for their first points and goals of the season as they occupied the bottom two positions after two games of the new season. Connah’s Quay would not have expected to be in this position so early on considering the number of signings they had made pre-season. Bringing in such vast experienced players such as former Chester stalwart John Danby to replace former captain Terry McCormick (who had left to join Flint Town United, then Rhyl), the impressive Ashley Ruane from Rhyl, and the coup signing of Bangor City legend Les Davies, they were expected to have a good start to their campaign and were being talked as dark-horses for a Top 4 finish this season.

The position of the two clubs in the table prior to the game
The position of the two clubs in the table prior to the game

In their opening game, they lost at home to Europa League heroes Newtown 0-2 through a Neil Mitchell goal and an own goal from Paul Lingwood. Their tough day was compounded when they went down to 10 men after Danny Harrison had received his marching orders for a tackle on Newtown’s Craig Williams. Their first away game saw them travel down to Carmarthen Town, who had been demolished 5-1 by Airbus UK Broughton on the opening day. With their opponents’ confidence shaken, the Nomads were looking for all three points to take back to Flintshire. However a Lewis Harling strike on the 31st minute would ensure Connah’s Quay would return back empty handed resulting in no points and no goals after the opening two games of the new season and situated in 11th place.

Haverfordwest County's badge
Haverfordwest County’s badge

Haverfordwest County were finding life tougher than the Nomads in the Welsh Premier League as they were rooted to the bottom after the first two games. Having snatched promotion from the jaws of Cardiff Met at the final match of last season’s Welsh League Division 1 campaign, County were the bookies favourite to make the return trip after just one season back in the top flight.

They would be given the toughest test of all in their first season back in the highest level since 2011 when they took on league champions The New Saints at Bridge Meadow. Despite a spirited performance, it was tough lesson on the standard of the WPL with the champions coming away with a 4-0 victory. Things would get tougher for the Bluebirds when they found themselves on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline the following weekend against Newtown. Two games in and they were confirming the bookmakers’ fears by shipping in seven goals, and planted to the bottom of the table on goal difference.

PREVIEW

I decided to head to Deeside for this latest groundhop as I had eager to visit the Deeside Stadium for some time. As stated previously, I was a student of Deeside College (now Coleg Cambria) and would see the ground every day I was at the college, but after my completion of my apprentice, I had not been there for many years. Therefore I had been determined to head to back to an old favourite to see if had changed much since my apprentice times. This would also be the first time I would see Connah’s Quay since their impressive away win at Rhyl last season, and it would be the first time I would see Haverfordwest since I started groundhopping.

Joining me on this trip down the coast would be regular groundhopping accomplice Simon, who had a free weekend from work and wanted to watch some local football. I had chosen to watch this fixture when the WPL fixtures came out in the summer, and rather conveniently this match would also be declared as free entry for all supporters. The Nomads had allowed free entry for their opening game against Newtown but alas I was at my good friend’s wedding so I was unable to take full advantage of this offer. So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the tweet from their official Twitter account, declaring the game to be free entry!

I would imagine that the committee announced this game to be free entry as they were hoping to encourage people to avoid watching the international football and rugby being shown on TV and come out to support their local side. In addition to the football, there was also an open day at Airbus Broughton where members of the public were able to view the inner workings of the factory as well as other events being organised throughout the day on the airfield. With a majority of the local populace working at the factory, a load of potential supporters would be going there also.

Why didn’t I go to the Broughton Open Day I hear you asking? Well I didn’t get the tickets and pack for it (a long story which involves them not sending the pack to the correct address), plus I was committed to the groundhopping cause ha! Anyway I thought the free entry was a fantastic gesture especially to those committed County fans who would be making the four hour diagonal journey along windy roads from one corner of the country to the other (it still amazes me how poor the infrastructure is from North to South Wales and visa-versa).

Simon picked me up at about 1:45pm and it took us about 15 minutes along the coastal road, through the traffic in Flint to reach the Coleg Cambria campus on the outskirts of Connah’s Quay. Free parking is available for supporters inside the campus and near the ground, therefore Simon turned left at the roundabout in front of the main entrance of the college and parked up in the large car par to the left of the entrance. Clearly the away side had arrived as their coach, which had “Haverfordwest County AFC” emblazoned along the side of it, was parked up in the same car park.

The home side warming-up
The home side warming-up
The Bluebirds pre-match
The Bluebirds pre-match

A short walk from the car park, down the steps and through the turnstiles, located to the left of the main stand, and we were into the ground for the grand total of zero pounds. I did buy a raffle ticket for £1 (still haven’t won anything on the raffles yet) and bought the match programme for £2. It is a fantastically produced programme with plenty of photographs and information for supporters to read. It had a match report of the previous home match, as well as information and pen pics of both teams, and weirdly, considering my previous blog, there was a section about the Welsh League (North) when Holywell Town won the league in the 1952-53 season. As you can imagine, I really enjoyed that section of the programme… 🙂

The excellent programme for the match
The excellent programme for the match
Can this happen in the WPL one day?
Can this happen in the WPL one day?

Before we decided to head up into the seating area of the main stand, we decided to get some nourishment ready for the game ahead. Two cups of tea was bought from the snack bar for a pound each, and this was followed up by a delicious cheese & sausage muffin which I saw advertised and temptation got the better of me. It is at this point that I must say the ladies working at the snack bar were very friendly and helpful, in fact all the volunteers I spoke to throughout the day were really friendly and gave a welcoming atmosphere which was fantastic and must be highly praised.

Protecting the running track from the studs
Protecting the running track from the studs

Whilst at the snack bar, I asked if the club had any merchandise to sell as I was hoping to add to the mug collection, or at the very least add another pin badge to the increasing amount of them I was harvesting from clubs. One of the ladies at the snack bar went off to ask, but alas she came back to say that on this occasion they didn’t have any merchandise available. Gutted I wasn’t able to buy any Nomads merchandise (hopefully I will be able to get something when items come in again), I thanked the ladies for enquiring and their help, and then myself and Simon walked up the steps into the raised seating area. We found some seats just by the centre line and they provided a great view of the entire pitch, even if the action did feel some distance away at times – an expected disadvantage when having a pitch surrounded by a running track although it was something I generally didn’t mind about. Just wished I had brought a more powerful camera with me when the action was at the far by-line haha.

My viewing position for the first half
My viewing position for the first half

The Nomad Ultras were also located in the main stand, although on the other end of the stand to where were were sitting and situated where the flags were draped over the safety barrier. Amongst the ultras, one of them had a drum which was beating furiously when the players ascended from the changing rooms beneath us and onto the pitch. In addition to welcoming them onto the pitch, the drum was hammered three times after each Nomad name was readout by the PA as he was reading out today’s starting XI selections for the both sides.

Displaying the flags
Displaying the flags

Conditions for the match would be ideal for football with relatively sunny conditions coupled with comfortable temperatures. As the match progressed, a cooling breeze would increase making being in the shade a little chilly for the supporters especially in the stand. The pitch surface was also in fantastic condition although considering the season has just started, it is to be expected at this point of the season.

The officials getting ready
The officials getting ready

Gap Connah’s Quay would be playing in their all red kit, with white trim home strip for this upcoming match. Their all red kit is still something I have not got used to as I have grown up seeing the Nomads with a white shirt and black shorts, and still consider them to be “Nomads colours”. However since the start of the 2013–14 season, they have played in an all red home kit to complement the introduction of a new club badge which includes the traditional colours used in the Connah’s Quay Town crest.

The Nomads would be starting with new signing Wes Baynes, the former Wrexham player had signed the day before from Norther Premier League club Colwyn Bay, and would be making his debut in this match. Additional loan signings, Corey Roper and Callum Terrell, brought in from the Glyndwr Wrexham Academy, would be on the bench.

Haverfordwest County would be going into the match wearing their traditional home kit of the all blue kit with white trim , hence their nickname of “The Bluebirds”. They would be starting with the likes of Jack Christopher, Jordan Follows and Sean Pemberton.

The home side kicking off
The home side kicking off

FIRST HALF

The game would become a very scrappy and equal affair, but it would be the home side who would start the brighter and on the front foot. Early on they had potential chances for Les Davies and Nick Rushton, but both threats were easily quashed by the defensive line of the visitors with Ryan Batley and Sean Pemberton proving crucial to the defence holding firm.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (9)

Unfortunately for the Bluebird fans, their porous defence would soon be overcome by the power of the Nomads attack and would concede their eighth goal of the campaign after just 11 minutes. Les Davies would make his presence felt in the opposition box, when drifting in from the left, he managed to connect with a cross and strike a low ball into the bottom right corner of the net. Despite Haverfordwest’s keeper Scott James getting a hand on the effort, the ball just about trickled into the net resulting in the home side opening the scoring and getting their first goal of the season, ending a barren run of 191 minutes without a goal for the Nomads.

Gap Connah’s Quay 1 – 0 Haverfordwest County

CQ celebrate their first goal
CQ celebrate their first goal

Their opening goal of the season gave the hosts a wave of confidence and they started to dominate the play, helped in part with County conceding possession in forward positions. After 18 minutes, Ashley Ruane held the ball up well fending off the challenging County defenders and passed the ball to Wes Baynes blitzing down the right hand side of the pitch. A fantastic cross from the debutant was aimed back to Ruane who had moved into space, but his shot was intercepted before he could find the target.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (13)

Not long after Ruane’s potential chance, the Nomads had another opportunity to double their lead. Rushton squared a ball to the onrushing Callum Morris but the midfielder couldn’t quite connect with the cross to make it a 2-0 lead for the hosts. On the 26th minute, the Nomads came close once again through the magic of Welsh Premier League Young Player of the Year (a long title for a prestigious award) Sean Miller. His interception from a loose pass from County, resulted in him into a driving run into the heart of the Bluebird defence. His cutting pass across the box needed just a connection to test James in goal, but Morris once again timed his run slightly incorrectly and failed to pick up the excellent cross.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (14)

At this point, Haverfordwest were starting to wrestle away the dominance of Connah’s Quay ball possession and were working their way back into the match, making the game a more end-to-end occasion. Their first half-chance came through the dangerous Jack Christopher when he almost got a shot on target after a brilliant Ricky Watts run, but a perfectly timed tackle from centre-back George Horan stopped the potential threat.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (15)

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (16)

With both teams now finding the space to test each other’s defences, with debutant specifically Baynes impressing the home fans, the game was becoming more competitive and this resulted in more physicality on the pitch with last-ditch blocks and strong tackles taking place in every area of the pitch. George Horan would be one of those players who would fall foul of the referee’s standard for acceptable physicality, getting a caution for his efforts.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (19)

Flintshire Bridge in the background
Flintshire Bridge in the background

With just four minutes of the half remaining, the hosts would finally find another opening and would take a two goal lead in the match. After a cross from the right hand side from Rushton was aimed into the box, it looked as if it would be comfortably cleared by the County defence. However Pemberton seemed to fractionally take his eye off the ball’s flight resulting in a wild airshot in the middle of the box and the ball drifted past him. The ball floated towards Ruane, who had gambled on a ghosting run at the near post and exploited the ball-watching from the rest of the visiting defence, took his lucky chance perfectly and slotted the ball into the net from 5 yards out. A shocking defensive error from the Bluebirds!

Gap Connah’s Quay 2 – 0 Haverfordwest County

CQ celebrate their 2nd goal
CQ celebrate their 2nd goal

It would be the final chance of the half, and Connah’s Quay went into the half-time break with a deserved 2-0 lead. If Haverfordwest were going to find a way back into the match, they would need to solid up their defence and vary from their tactic of firing long balls to Christopher, as it was easily dealt with the Nomads’ defence so far.

HALF TIME: GAP CONNAH’S QUAY 2 – 0 HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY

At half time, the wind was starting to whip up a little, and being stuck under the shade of the main stand, we both decided to descend from our seated positions and stand by the barriers as our seated position was becoming a bit chilly. We decided to stand were a selection of fans had congregated just by the steps of the main stand by the boardings, but crucially in the sunshine and thus warmth. Little did myself and Si realise, not until the second half began, that we had chosen to stand alongside the block of away fans and would be getting the Haverfordwest fan’s point of view for the second half. They would most certainly be very vocal throughout the second block of 45 minutes as their team went chasing down a deficit.

SECOND HALF

With the away side needing to change their fortunes, the County manager, Wayne Jones, made a double switch in personnel by bringing in Kieran Howard and John Roberts for the departing Declan Carroll and Greg Walters. These substitutions, in combination with Ryan Batley’s “Dave Challenor / Rory Delap-esque” cannonball throw-ins ensured they had an instant impact and the away side started the brighter of the two teams. Batley’s huge throw-ins were causing problems and continuing the momentum for the Bluebirds, but the Nomad defence somehow kept firm under the early pressure.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (22)

However 13 minutes into the second half and Haverfordwest’s attacking perseverance paid off when Jack Christopher rose highest of the scrum in the penalty box and connected with the cross. His downward header managed to beat John Danby on the left post to ensure County earned their first WPL of the season, and their first in four years in the top flight!

Gap Connah’s Quay 2 – 1 Haverfordwest County

The Nomads, now sensing the game’s momentum could potentially swing against them, decided to go on the attack and kill off any possible Haverfordwest comeback. They almost had an instant reply to the County goal when Ruane had an effort blocked at the other end of the pitch, whilst Sean Smith’s mazy run resulted in the ball going out for a goal kick. Baynes threatened with a corner, but that was easily saved by Scott James in the Bluebirds’ goal.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (25)

Paul Linwood on the ball
Paul Linwood on the ball

As the half developed, the pace of the game grew increasingly more frenetic with both teams having chances to score. Ruane had a chance to double his tally for the afternoon after a throw-in by Davies deep in the Haverfordwest half was met by Miller, who then laid it up for the goalscorer to end the game. However the former Rhyl man failed to re-establish their two goal cushion. At the other end of the pitch, Haverfordwest had good chances to bring the scores back level and were starting to dominate in terms of ball possession. A 25 yard shot from Pemberton tested Danby in goal, but he was able to dive to his right and make a solid save. Then the Nomads keeper had to be alert when a scramble in the penalty area resulted in him keeping concentration, which ultimately lead to him eventually clearing his lines after his defence had panicked.

Ryan Batley with the throw-in
Ryan Batley with the throw-in
Batley with another exocet throw-in
Batley with another exocet throw-in

With the game becoming increasingly scrappy as both teams were searching for the next goal to change the complexion of the game, the midfield was becoming more congested resulting in more strong challenges and tempers flaring up. With the visitors believing their opponents to be time wasting (and the fans beside me were making their feelings known about this tactic), tempers almost boiled over into confrontation between the combative midfielders. However great refereeing from the official ensured all raised emotions were calmed down suitably and the game could continue without any cards being shown. Great work from the officials to quell a flashpoint.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (30)

Tempers flaring up
Tempers flaring up

In the final 10 minutes of the match, both teams made personnel chances with Liam Hutchinson making his debut for the Bluebirds, coming on for goalscorer Christopher, whilst fellow goalscorer Ashley Ruane was replaced for Chris Rimmer. With Rimmer’s inclusion, it resulted in Nomads solidifying their defence hoping to maintain their slender lead for the remaining minutes of the match.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (32) CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (35)

Even though the game inevitably petered out with the substitutions, both teams still had chances to score. Haverfordwest were pressurising the home defence, throwing everything at the Nomad goal to claim their first point of the season. However the Bluebirds were caught out by the counter-attacks and could have found themselves conceding a third goal on two occasions. Firstly Baynes managed to dribble past his marker in the Haverfordwest area but had his shot blocked. Then their final clear-cut chance of the match saw Les Davies have an opportunity in a central position and with space, with defenders scrambling back to challenge him, but he could only blast his shot straight into James’ direction and was successfully saved.

CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (40) CQ vs Hwest 5th Sept (37)

Deep into injury time, and Haverfordwest had several opportunities to equalise but could not exploit the urgency and worry in the Nomads’ defence who were desperately holding on. Too much dwelling on the ball meant they were unable to capitalise on their openings, and when the offside flag was signalled in their final half-chance, both the team and travelling supporters knew the game was lost.

FULL TIME: GAP CONNAH’S QUAY 2 – 1 HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY

Full time
Full time

At the end of the game, everyone involved with Haverfordwest were gutted they couldn’t nick that equaliser and gain that point which would have kickstarted their season and given them a huge confidence boost. Alas it would be a long journey back contemplating about their third straight defeat and how tough life would be in the WPL this season. However I hope they could take some positives as their second half performance was much improved and they gave the Nomads a lot of problems when they attacked. Plus I was improved by their work rate in trying to eliminate the two goal deficit. Keep working at that work rate, and eliminate the individual defensive errors, and the positive results will appear for the Bluebirds soon enough.

It's a long journey back to Pembrokeshire...
It’s a long journey back to Pembrokeshire…

Connah’s Quay were made to work very hard to earn their first points on the board, but they can take a lot of positives from the performance which according the home fans was a vast improvement on their last two WPL games. I was very impressed by their new signings with Baynes impressing at right back, whilst the Ruane & Davies (RAD) forward partnership linked up well and shown some flashes of a good combination. Certainly something to watch as the season progresses and the signings further embed themselves into their new club.

Overall I enjoyed the game, and it was good to finally revisit the Deeside Stadium after many years of being away. I was disappointed I was unable to add to the mug or pin badge collection, but I found the volunteers and helpers there to be extremely helpful and welcoming, and a huge credit to the club. Whilst the running track might not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, I continually find the stadium to have a unique charm in the WPL and it has that continental feel of watching football – it is what it is and I like that!

I would like to wish both Gap Connah’s Quay and Haverfordwest County all the very best in their season ahead in both the WPL and the cup competitions, and I hope to see them play again in the near future! I think I need to start planning a trip to Bridge Meadow now….

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3 thoughts on “GAP CONNAH’S QUAY 2 – 1 HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY

  1. myyearinthewelshleague September 15, 2015 / 8:21 am

    Haverfordwest seem to be stuck in that awkward zone. At times last year in the Welsh League they looked completely unplayable and although they only finished 2nd, them, Caerau Ely and Cardiff Met looked a bit of a class above the rest.

    Unfortunately, they seem to be struggling with the adaption to the WPL but I know if they came down to the Welsh League they’d probably bounce straight back up.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I can see them bouncing back and forth for a couple of seasons!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clint Jones September 15, 2015 / 7:51 pm

      I think you’re right, the step up to the WPL is a tough step and they have struggled but perhaps the win over Llandudno might give them a boost in their fortunes.

      Liked by 1 person

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