Welsh National League Premier Division – 31st October 2015

Ground #62 – The Ring, Llay, Wrexham Borough County


Llay Welfare Logo

  • Attendance: Approx. 50
  • Entrance: FREE
  • Programme: N/A
  • Cup of Tea: £1.00


October has been a strange yet hectic month for myself in terms of groundhopping and blogging. With October having five Saturdays and thus five opportunities to add to the blog count of this site, but alas no blog has been produced for any October weekend so far. Before you start the abuse (please don’t abuse me ha), please allow me to explain my lack of blogs this month…..

The first couple of weekends were spent watching football at grounds I have previously written about. Firstly a return to Ruthin to see Holywell Town take on Ruthin Town in the first round of the Welsh Cup meant no blog would be written as there was already a Ruthin blog produced by my good self (see here for the Ruthin blog). Considering the absolutely mad scoreline on that day, there was no way I could have topped that blog entry! Perhaps I may edit it in the future to add the history of Ruthin and Ruthin Town…..

Welsh Cup 1st Round: Ruthin Town vs Holywell Town on the 3rd October
Welsh Cup 1st Round: Ruthin Town vs Holywell Town on the 3rd October

The second weekend of October was a hastily rearranged match where I watched the Flintshire derby between Buckley Town and Flint Town United (again another place I had previously blogged about). My initial aim for the second weekend was to visit Brickfield Rangers, but unexpected time constraints resulted in the visit unfortunately becoming being a non-starter. However I did manage to meet fellow groundhopper and co-creator of the fantastic LostBoyos Matt Harrison at Buckley, who would be taking in some Welsh football before heading into Wrexham to watch Wales play Bosnia and subsequently qualify for Euro 2016 (read about his Buckley visit here). Weirdly the last time we had met was at Belle Vue, Rhyl and on that day we saw Rhyl lose to Connah’s Quay before Wales had beat Israel 3-0 away later on in the evening to solidify their position at the top of the table!

Buckley Town vs Flint Town United on 10th October
Buckley Town vs Flint Town United on 10th October

The third weekend was all set to become a blogging weekend and I was all prepared to head to Llanrwst to see The Rwsters take on Barmouth & Dyffryn United in a Welsh Alliance Division 1 match. However as expected with changeable weather and temperatures, bugs and viruses tend to appear more fervently during this period. Alas I was afflicted with such an autumnal bug resulting in a bad cold leaving me a cold, shivering, broken shell of a man condition (commonly known as the dreaded “man flu”) and ensuring I would not be venturing anywhere beyond the bed covers during the weekend. Llanrwst will have to wait for another day!

The fourth weekend of October was always going to be a write-off in terms of blogging as I would be on holiday in Northern Ireland celebrating my groundhopping sidekick Greg’s 30th birthday. Even though I was tempted in watching a match over there (Downshire YM would have been my nearest ground of choice), in the end I decided against it, mainly due to a lack of transport in a rural area, miserable weather and a rotten hangover…. By the way, if you are considering visiting Northern Ireland and Belfast, I would highly recommend that you do. Beautiful countryside, very friendly people and the place has a good nightlife, it’s a must visit especially if you want to do a bit of groundhopping over there!

At the Titanic Museum in Belfast
At the Titanic Museum in Belfast

[I hope the Northern Ireland Tourism Board are pleased with that gushing compliment to the six counties!!]

Therefore the Halloween weekend would be the final chance of visiting a new ground in October. This weekend would also see the second round fixtures of the Welsh Cup being played, with The Wellmen playing Mid-Wales League team Knighton Town at Halkyn Road. Had the fixture been at Knighton, then I certainly would have made the long journey down into southern Powys for the match. However being fully aware I had not produced a blog in about four weeks, and there already being two blogs from visits to Halkyn Road already produced, an alternative venue for football would have to be found. Thankfully there were plenty of opportunities to visit a new ground this weekend.

The ground I chose to visit for Halloween weekend was aptly named The Ring (no, not the horror film of the same name…), the home ground of Llay Welfare. They would be taking on local rivals Coedpoeth United in the Welsh National League Premier Division, and with both teams occupying the bottom two positions in the league, it looked like it could be a potentially interesting fixture. Plus ideally it was just a short drive from HQ, which considering I could be potentially feeling the effects of Greg’s 30th birthday meal the night before, was essential when picking a ground. It was all about location, location, location for picking this game!!

Llay (Welsh: Llai) is a village of about 4,900 inhabitants situated near to the Wrexham-Flintshire border in the Wrexham County Borough. The village is bordered by the villages of Gresford (home of Gresford Athletic) and Gwersyllt, and located 4 miles north of Wrexham and 2 miles south-east of Hope. Llay is positioned in the large meander of the River Alyn (a major tributary to the River Dee), with the main north-to-south A483 road dividing Llay from Gresford in the east of the settlement and the Borderlands Line railyway running to Wrexham to the west. The nearest railway station to Llay is Cefn-y-Bedd which is on the Borderlands Line and only 1,5 miles west of the village.

Cefn-y-Bedd Station [Taken from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4025204 ]
Cefn-y-Bedd Station
[Taken from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4025204 ]
Just like many other settlements on the Wrexham outskirts, the history of Llay is based upon coal mining with the first shafts being sunk in 1913 and full production beginning in 1923. The rise of the village’s population correlated with the rise of production in the colliery as more miners moved to the area for work. By the 1930s the mine employed over 3000 people, with 450 families moving into the new housing estates of Llay. The mine developed so greatly that by 1952, the Llay Main Colliery became the largest colliery in Wales and the deepest pit in the UK and was a major employer in the area. Alas with many coal pits in the area, the Llay Main Colliery closed in 1966 when the coal reserves were exhausted.

Today the village is a commuter settlement for people working in either Chester or Wrexham although industry still exists in the village. There is a large industrial park just on the outskirts, the same size of the village, where are number of companies (such as Sharp Electronics) have established factories. Llay also has a country park called Alyn Waters where people can visit and enjoy the countryside either through the numerous walking paths or cycling paths.

Llay Industrial Estate [Taken from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/204706 ]
Llay Industrial Estate
[Taken from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/204706 ]
Football was introduced into Llay by the mining company who were keen to foster sporting activities amongst the miners. The first Llay club “Llay Main” were founded in 1921 and joined the Ffrith and District League that season. They initially had trouble fulfilling fixtures due to the working hours of the mine not allowing players to play in matches. Despite this issue, the club continued to compete, with them making the 2nd qualifying round of the Welsh Cup in the 1923-24 season, and then moving to and playing in the Wrexham Amateur League between 1929 and 1931.

The Llay Main Colliery Memorial in front of the Miners Welfare building
The Llay Main Colliery Memorial in front of the Miners Welfare building

As the population of the village expanded, the number of teams founded also increased, with such teams as Llay Pals, Llay Rangers and Llay Institute Rovers being founded in the 1920s, Llay Wednesdays and Llay United in the 1930s. Another mining-based team founded in the 1930s was Llay Miners Welfare which was founded in the 1930-31 season and were probably the successors to the original Llay Main team. As their name suggests, they are linked to the Miners Welfare Institute building and grounds which were built in 1931, and was the largest such building in the country at its completion.

Llay Welfare's badge
Llay Welfare’s badge

Llay Welfare initially joined the Wrexham & District Amateur League in the 1932-33 season and had some early success when they finished runners-up in their second season in the league. The period of 1935 to 1937 was hugely successful for the Welfare as the club won the Welsh Amateur Cup (now the FAW Trophy) beating South Wales team Treharris Athletic 3-1 after a replay. They also achieved their best achievement in the Welsh Cup, reaching the sixth round of the national cup competition beating local rivals Llay United and Hereford United on the way. Their glorious cup run would be ended by the eventual cup winners Crewe Alexandra 2-9.

After the Second World War, Llay Welfare joined the newly formed Welsh National League (along with local rivals Llay United who would win the league in the 1946-47 season), the league which replaced the disbanded Wrexham & District Amateur League in the area, and the league system they would spend most of their history within. The Welfare had some post-war success when they reached another Welsh Amateur Cup final in the 1949-50 season, but this time lost 0-2 to Caerau Athletic in Aberystwyth. Rivals Llay United had reached the previous season’s Welsh Amateur Cup when they beat Hanwood Welfare 2-0, ensuring Llay would become the only village in Wales to have two different Welsh Amateur Cup winners.

Despite being stalwarts of the WNL, the Welfare have only won the league on the single occasion when they won the league in the 1962-63 season against tough opposition. During the 30 game season, they managed to win 25 games, draw three and lose just the two games but scored an impressive 97 goals, whilst pipping Welshpool Town to the title by just three points (Welshpool scored an incredible 141 goals that season!). Llay Welfare also managed some success in the 1970s when they managed to win the North East Wales FA (NEWFA) Challenge Cup in the 1976-77 season. Another Llay-based team Llay Royal British Legion were also successful in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, appearing in the Welsh Cup many times before disbanding in the mid-90s.

Llay Welfare (now the sole Llay senior team, as Llay United are a successful youth team) have been members of the WNL Premier Division since their first season in 2001-02 where they have consistently finished in a mid to lower half league position. The Welfare’s highest position during their WNL Premier stay was when they finished in 6th position (out of 16 teams) in the 2004-05 season, although they achieved 7th and 8th league finishes during 2007 to 2009. After a couple of difficult seasons where they finished second from bottom on consecutive seasons (2011-12 & 2012-13), they managed a vastly improved 8th position in the 2013-14 season and the Welfare achieved an 11th place finish last season in the WNL Premier Division.

The WNL Premier title in the 2014-15 season
The WNL Premier title in the 2014-15 season

This season has been a huge struggle for the Welfare as they were going into the match against Coedpoeth in 14th position (out of 15 teams) with only two draws and two points from their first eight fixtures. Despite a solid start to the season, drawing 3-3 with FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay, Llay Welfare went on a nine game losing streak in all competition which included heavy defeats in August with a 0-8 defeat to Queens’ Park and a 1-9 hammering by Llangollen Town respectively. However the Welfare would be going into this fixture with some confidence as they earned their first point since the opening game when they grabbed a 1-1 draw against fellow early strugglers Borras Park Albion in their previous match.


Coedpoeth United, situated just 5,5 miles away from Llay Welfare and located to the west of Wrexham, are having a worse start to the season than their opponents. Despite finishing above Llay last season (finishing 9th), they were worryingly languishing at the foot of the table, losing all 10 league games this season so far and conceding 51 goals in the process.

The WNL Table before the Halloween game
The Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division table before the Halloween game

They too had a disappointing August, conceding eight at Penyffordd in the cup and ten at Saltney Town in the league with September’s games providing no respite in the defeat sequence. October started with some promise as Coedpoeth only just lost to Penyffordd 1-2 at the Castle Ground, however 1-4 and 2-5 defeats to FC Nomads and Penycae respectively has continued the difficult start to the season. Despite the early struggle, this fixture was their best chance of getting their opening 3 points of the season and potentially kick-starting their season.

With both teams struggling to pick up points this season, the upcoming match would be interesting affair which could go one of two ways. Either the match would be a dull, gritty affair with neither team looking to give an inch to their opponents and hoping to steal a goal that could snatch the points, or both teams will commit players to the attacks and be positive in surging forward knowing that both defences are susceptible to conceding goals. Thankfully the game would prove to be the latter rather than the former!

The drive to Llay’s ground only took 25-30 minutes from The 94th Minute HQ, taking the route eastwards along the A55 before heading south through Penyffordd and Hope before reaching Llay just over the county border. Before setting off, I was a little unsure where the park the car as there seemed to be a car park behind the ground in a housing estate, but with no clear access to the ground, or whether it was best to just park in the Miners Welfare car park and walk down. Looking at The Groundhog’s (fellow groundhopper) previous visit to Llay for reference, I decided to just play it safe and park in the Welfare’s main car park and avoid any ‘Halloween Havoc’!

The front of the Llay Miners Welfare building
The front of the Llay Miners Welfare Institute building

The car park at the front of the Miners Welfare building is massive so there are plenty of available spaces of visiting supporters to park up there. In addition the building itself is an impressively solid looking and imposing structure, with an aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching white façade which would delight the architecturally appreciative groundhopper. Being appreciative of good building design myself, I was impressed with the building’s classic 1930s styling.

The back of the building with the immaculately kept grounds
The back of the building with the immaculately kept grounds

The ground is located at the bottom of the Miners Welfare grounds, so a short walk past the building and the spotlessly maintained bowling green and gardens is required before you can access the football pitch. Certainly it was one of the most picturesque and calming walks from a car park to a pitch in my groundhopping adventures so far! As with a few grounds in Welsh football (such as Mochdre Sports and Gresford Athletic), the football pitch is actually part of the huge cricket pitch with the club using the outfield for their pitch, and the cricket club’s clubhouse as their changing rooms also. Again the changing rooms building is an impressive structure, in that stereotypical cricket clubhouse style you would expect to see, complete with standard black cricket scoreboard.

The cricket & football changing rooms
The cricket & football changing rooms

Unlike the two clubs previously mentioned, the pitch had a metal standing barrier surrounding the entire perimeter separating the standing section from the playing surface, and not a temporary rope barrier on the cricket pitch side of the pitch as installed with other clubs. I would presume that the metal barriers are removed during the cricket season (would be awkward for the outfielders if they weren’t), but was still an impressive sight to observe and displays the club’s forward thinking for potential ground development should promotion to the Cymru Alliance become a possibility in the future.

The view of the ground
The view of the ground

Llay Welfare’s ground has three covered stands for supporters, with two stands on the southern end of the pitch, and one located in the top corner nearest the changing rooms. The two southern stands look more modern, with about 30 seats available for supporters in one of the stands, whilst the other is for standing room only. They are both located behind the permanent brick-built dugouts, with the home dugout being considerable bigger than the away one. The other stand is located up in the corner, and it is here where the snack & tea bar is located also. The ground doesn’t have any floodlights and there are no toilets by the pitch (that I know of), and therefore I had to head back to the main building to use their facilities.

The green stand with the snack bar
The green stand with the snack bar

There is a concrete path around the southern half of the pitch connecting the three stands together but naturally there is no path crossing the cricket pitch or the walk from the changing rooms down to the pitch. As a result, the field could be muddy in the winter months and perhaps a little difficult for disabled supporters who had parked up in the Welfare’s car park. On this day there was a bit of mud on the field due to the rainy conditions we had experienced a couple of days before this match took place.

The Ring, home of Llay Welfare
The Ring, home of Llay Welfare

As I arrived at the pitch, the two teams were already warming up using other parts of the cricket pitch near to the changing rooms to do some pre-match routines. I decided to head towards the concreted path side of the pitch and stand a little distance away from the stands to get a clear view of the pitch and nearer to the action. Because the Welfare building was hosting a Halloween party in the afternoon for the village’s kids, a couple of spooky costume clad women and equally costumed children came down to the stands to talk to a couple of people, but they soon returned back to where the party would be commencing. Alas there would be no jelly & ice cream available for us supporters this afternoon ha!

Coedpoeth United warming-up
Coedpoeth United warming-up
Llay Welfare pre-match routines
Llay Welfare pre-match routines

As I found the perfect spot for viewing the first half, with many other supporters arriving prior to kick-off, the two teams were heading down towards the pitch from the cricket/football changing rooms building in preparation for the game. Llay would be playing in their traditional home kit of white and black striped shirts with black shorts and socks, whilst Coedpoeth were in their home strip of an all green affair with white trim. It would be the away team who would win the coin toss and commence the game for this afternoon.

Team Selections

Llay Welfare showing the red card to discrimination in football!
Llay Welfare showing the red card to discrimination in football!

Conditions for today’s match were mild (well very warm considering it was the end of October) with a light breeze. The ground was a bit muddy with the weather very overcast throughout the match.

The coin toss for the kick off
The coin toss for the kick off



The kick-off becoming delayed due to continuous encroachment
The kick-off becoming delayed due to continuous encroachment

Rather uniquely, it would take three attempts to get this game started as a result of two aborted kick off opportunities. Over-eagerness from the Llay forwards to wrestle early possession of the ball meant they raced into the centre circle on two occasions before Coedpoeth (who were equally of guilty of dillydallying with the ball) had a chance to kick-off. The first time I had seen it happen in a game and would set the tone for a unique game. Finally on the third attempt of kicking-off, Coedpoeth successfully started the game without any Llay encroachment.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (15) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (14)

Two minutes after the chaotic kick-off, and Llay had the first real chance of the game when a through ball almost caught the Coedpoeth defence napping. Fortunately for the visitors, their keeper, Max Butler, was alert to the one-on-one danger and rushed out from his box to successfully fling a hand in front of the shot ultimately deflected the ball past the post.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (16)

Both teams had half chances in the early few minutes, although eight minutes into the match and the home side found the early breakthrough and punished the leaky Coedpoeth defensive unit. A Coedpoeth attack broke down when they lost the ball due to sloppy passing in midfield allowing Llay to exploit their pace down the flanks to unleash an effective counter-attack. Taking the ball from midfield, their #9 Matthew Worrall was unleased down the left flank and supposedly broke the Coedpoeth offside line (this was debatable as he could have been fractionally offside). With Worrall advancing unopposed, it brought the Butler off his line to tighten the angles and eliminate a potential shot fr0m the forward. Alas with the Coedpoeth defence struggling to return back, and Butler stranded in his area, Worrall unselfishly squared his pass towards his teammate #8 Ryan Harden, positioned in the centre of the box, to calmly tap the ball into an empty net.

Llay Welfare 1 – 0 Coedpoeth United

A hammer blow to Coedpoeth to concede a goal so early on the counter-attack! However they almost replied within a couple of minutes of going behind with two impressive chances themselves. Firstly a corner allowed the unmarked #5 Neil Roberts to attempt an audacious overhead kick towards goal, but the connection was scuffed and the ball drifted wide of the post.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (17) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (18)

Then their #10 Peter Hope went on an amazing mazy, dribbling run from near the centre circle which electrified the crowd watching. Hope jinked past a number of poor tackle attempts and challenges from the Llay midfielders and defenders, and continued to surge into space on the right hand side of the penalty area. With the angle rapidly becoming tighter but the goal opening up for him, Hope struck a venomous shot towards goal which looked like was going to nestle in the back of the net. However a fabulous fingertip save from the home keeper, Charlie Williams, denied Hope a world class goal as he diverted the rifled shot just over the crossbar.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (19)

From the subsequent corner, Coedpoeth were denied an equaliser once again, this time through the woodwork. A scramble in the Llay penalty area which was failed to be cleared effectively allowed the Coedpoeth player to strike a ball towards goal. The effort beat Williams in goal but could only bounce off the base of the left hand post before it was finally cleared by a Llay defender.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (20)

Having survived the Coedpoeth onslaught on their goal, Llay took the upper hand in the game and started to control both the possession and chances. Within the space of four minutes, the home side had three chances of goal. Firstly Harden advanced into the left hand side of the box to unleash a firm low shot on target, but the keeper managed to save the shot with his feet. A minute later and #10 Mikey Wright turned and shot just outside the Coedpoeth area, but the effort was easily gathered by the keeper. Finally #11 Ben Richards exploits the pace down the flanks as he broke through the visitors’ defensive line to find himself one-on-one with Max Butler. Once again the United keeper came rushing out to quench the danger and successfully managed to block Richards’ initial shot with a flailing arm. The rebound bounced kindly to Richards, who squared the ball to Wright who was onrushing on goal. With the goal seemingly empty but the United defenders looming down upon him, Wright rushed his shot, forcing him to blaze his effort high over the crossbar. A let off for Coedpoeth and disappointing for Llay!

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (21)

The game was opening up as both teams went on the attack. Coedpoeth almost punished their opponents for their failure in front of goal when their #9 Rhys Hughes forced their keeper into a fine low diving save from his centrally positioned effort to maintain Llay’s clean sheet. They would get another chance four minutes later when a superb cross from #11 Scott Davies from the left flank found Hughes unmarked in the box and hoping to side foot it past the stranded Williams. Alas for the visiting forward, his connection with the curling cross was a poor one and his placed effort could only trickle past the right post.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (23)

Llay had come incredibly close to doubling their efforts when a 25 yard long range shot from Richards bamboozled the Coedpoeth keeper as the trajectory twisted and diverted in flight, leaving the #1 stranded in mid-flight. Despite beating Butler, the arc of the ball couldn’t dip enough in time and it cannoned back off the crossbar. It was starting to look like it could be one of those days for the Welfare where the second goal just wasn’t going to happen!!

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (24)

The home fans need not have despaired as the constant Llay pressure being applied on Coedpoeth’s defence finally produced some reward for the second time of the afternoon on the 35th minute of the game. However it took a moment of magic to be crafted for the Coedpoeth rear guard to be breached once more. From a corner, the ball was successfully cleared away by the United defence but it could only reach #2 John Rhys Edwards who was lurking 25 yards out outside of the box on the left hand side of the pitch. The full back spotted Butler off his line and attempted a wonderful curling shot which drifted over the scrum around the penalty spot, over the Coedpoeth keeper, and into the top right hand corner of the net. A goal of top draw quality worthy of any level! Superb!

Llay Welfare 2 – 0 Coedpoeth United

With Coedpoeth still reeling from conceding their second goal of the game, than Llay put them to the sword and took full advantage to score a quick fire third goal, a minute after they were celebrating Edwards’ wonderful finish. A long ball pumped forward to Matthew Worrall caught out the napping Coedpoeth backline as the home attacker broke the offside trap. Max Butler, spotting the potential danger from the long ball, came rushing off his line to attempt a clearance. Alas for the keeper, he was half a second too slow off his line as Worrall managed to connect with the long pass before Butler could get to it, allowing the forward to prod the ball past the right side of the stranded keeper and bounce over the goal line.

Llay Welfare 3 – 0 Coedpoeth United

Llay go 3-0 up!
Llay go 3-0 up!

In the space of two minutes, Coedpoeth found themselves facing a manageable one goal disadvantage to an imposing three goal deficit away from home. If United were to start clawing their way back into the match and get something from the game, they needed to find an opener and quickly. Thankfully for the visitors, their captain #7 Tom Redman rose to the challenge and almost found that opening goal for Coedpoeth when a cutting pass allowed him to break clear of the Llay defence and take him past Charlie Williams to shoot clear on goal. Alas for the visiting captain, his shot didn’t have enough power behind it and goalscoring hero Edwards managed to protect his advanced positioned keeper by heading the ball off the line and out for a throw-in.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (26) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (27) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (28) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (29)

From the resulting throw-in from the left byline, the ball arrived back at the feet of the captain Redman, and this time he made amends for his open goal chance by slamming a 25 yard screamer past the helpless Llay keeper and into the top right hand corner of the net. A fantastic captain’s goal on the 40th minute of the game and a lifeline for Coedpoeth – could they now start a comeback??

Llay Welfare 3 – 1 Coedpoeth United

Llay ended the first half as the dominant team as they looked for a fourth goal before the break, which would have ended Coedpoeth’s resolve. One chance was declared offside, but defensive error from the Coedpoeth defence allowed Wright to gain possession of the ball in the penalty area. Again he unselfishly squared the ball to the onrushing Richards who had darted into space in the centre of the box, but the winger failed to punish Coedpoeth’s mistake by blazing his shot over the crossbar.


Coedpoeth conducting their half time talk on the pitch
Coedpoeth conducting their half time talk on the pitch


With Llay trudging back to the changing rooms, and Coedpoeth conducting their half time team talk on the pitch, I decided to head to the snack bar in the green stand for some refreshment. As with normal snack bars, they sell the standard snacks for supporters as well and on this occasion some bacon sandwiches for £3.00. Despite the glorious smells of the sandwiches, I resisted the temptation of the delicious looking bacon (avoiding an apparent health risk if you take the health news reports seriously…which I don’t…) and instead plumbed for the “safe option” of a cup of tea for the standard £1 price. I would happily slurp down the tea, under the cover of the green stand before moving to the Welfare building side of the pitch as the second half commenced.



Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (32)

With the second half only two minutes old, the first chance of the half effectively ended the game as a contest as Llay found their fourth goal of the day. Initially a fierce shot from Ben Richards was superbly diverted out by the Coedpoeth keeper, Max Butler, but conceded a corner. From the subsequent corner, a lapse in defensive calmness ensured the ball couldn’t get cleared effectively as a scramble endured in the box. Finally the ball ricocheted into the path of the unmarked #5 Jack Edwards at the edge of the penalty area who lashed the ball towards goal. Despite Butler’s best efforts of getting a diving hand to the shot, the velocity behind the shot ensured the ball zipped off his hand and into the back of the net.

Llay Welfare 4 – 1 Coedpoeth United

The fourth Llay goal completely knocked the stuffing out of the visitors as their early enthusiasm for a possibly comeback was immediately extinguished. As to be expected, the tempo of the match after Llay’s fourth goal dropped as Llay were happy to maintain their lead and hold onto ball possession whilst probing away looking for chances. On the other side, Coedpoeth were becoming increasingly frustrated as they tried to regain ball possession, with communication between the United players becoming progressively heated as time ticked away.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (33) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (34) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (35)

As the second half gradually drifted along, Llay were in complete control and would be the team to get the next goal of the half, should it indeed appear. An effort by Matthew Worrall clear on goal whizzed past the post, whilst the forward failed to connect with a low cross from #6 Hari Gould directed from the right flank. Worrall would be involved again on the 71st minute when a throw-in from substitute #16 David Browning allowed him to drive into the left side of the penalty box. Great vision from the forward allowed him to square the ball to the better positioned sub #12 Adam Burgess in a central position to have a chance on goal. Alas for the substitute, his low strike could only drift beyond the wrong side of the left post.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (36) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (37) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (38)

Another chance for Worrall went begging when he received the ball in acres of space on the right hand edge of the penalty area, but could only see his impressive curling finesse shot spin just wide of the right post. Six minutes after the Worrall chance, and Llay came incredibly close to increasing their lead through a direct free kick located on the edge of the area. A monumental rocket from the Llay midfielder Ryan Harden left Max Butler completely helpless in goal as the ball thundered back off the crossbar and left the bar wobbling for a good 30 seconds.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (39) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (40) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (41)

On the 81st minute of the match, the most controversial moment of the game occurred through an innocuous challenge. A coming together with Coedpoeth’s #4 Aled Wyatt and Llay substitute #16 David Browning left the pair of them on the floor as the play progressed past them. It was at this point when the incident happened, and an incident I had a very view of! Both men were struggling to get back to their feet with Wyatt seeming holding the Llay player as he was attempting to stand. This lead to Browning reacting badly by flicking his held leg out and catching the visiting player in the stomach with his studs in a stamp-like action which didn’t look pleasant.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (42) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (43) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (44)

The Coedpoeth manager, Karl Fenlon, who was running the line due to a lack of assistant referees, clearly saw the incident as he was on the same side of the pitch as I was, and was immediately enraged with Browning’s actions and addressed his opinion to the player. Now I am unsure the referee completely saw the incident as play had past the players by when the flick out occurred, but was aware something had happened to provoke a reaction from the Coedpoeth manager. It is this lack of a clear view that he cautioned the Llay player rather than dismissing him. I believe had he fully seen the incident, then the substitute might well have been given his marching orders.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (45) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (46) Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (47)

Alas it would be the Coedpoeth manager who would be sent from the pitch and into the standing section for protesting too much at the official, especially when the “lenient” yellow card was shown. Even though he apologised to the referee after he had reacted unfavourably to the official’s decision, the referee had enough and dismissed him from the field. It was left to another member of United’s coaching staff to take up the flag on the line whilst Fenlon fumed behind the metal standing barrier.

Llay vs Coedpoeth 31st Oct (48)

If Karl Fenlon was deeply annoyed after his dismissal, he would have incandescent with rage on the 88th minute when his side conceded a dangerous looking direct free kick in a central position on the edge of the penalty box. The deadball specialist Ryan Harden found the just right-of-centre position to his liking and walloped a strike through the Coedpoeth defensive wall. As the ball came through the wall, Butler was left unsighted until the last moment and thus wrong-footed as he had all his weight to the right with the ball drifting to the left of him. Despite a credible effort to dive towards the ball with Butler managing to get a hand onto the ball, again the effort had far too much zip behind it as it glanced off the keeper’s outstretched palm and into the net.

Llay Welfare 5 – 1 Coedpoeth United

Harden's free kick makes it five for Llay
Harden’s free kick makes it five for Llay

Llay’s fifth goal of the afternoon would almost be the final action of the game but unfortunately the official had to get involved with Coedpoeth’s management team once again. Right on the 90th minute, the referee had to dismiss the visiting coach from the away dugout for protesting too much towards the man in black. No doubt frustrated at the free kick given previously, the referee felt the coach’s remonstrations were beyond the pale and sent him off the field of play. The coach would have to spend injury stood just behind the dugout but behind the metal standing barrier. We now had the unique scenario of both the manager and coach of Coedpoeth dismissed and watching the match with the supporters! Unbelievable!

A minute after the referee had removed another member of Coedpoeth’s management staff than he blew his whistle for full time. Llay had earned their much needed first win of the season but had condemned Coedpoeth to their 11th straight league defeat of the campaign!


It's becoming a tough season for Coedpoeth
It’s becoming a tough season for Coedpoeth

Once the match had been completed, it was a short walk back to the Welfare building to make use of the facilities before making the short trip home. Alas trying to look for the gents toilets in the middle of a Halloween party was probably one of the most awkward things I have had to do on a groundhop visit. Thankfully I managed to find them in a short time and soon darted out of building before I was roped into any apple bobbing ha!

With the burning behind the stands, it felt more like Bonfire Night!
With the burning behind the stands, it felt more like Bonfire Night!

This season is becoming a horror show worthy of Halloween when it comes to Coedpoeth’s performance in the Welsh National League as it is not pleasant reading, and unfortunately this game against their bottom of the table rivals indicated why they have struggled so far this season. Here’s hoping they manage to stop the losing streak and manage to get their first points on the board sooner than later. Despite the result, there were flashes in the first half which should give encouragement to Coedpoeth fans for the season with Peter Hope and Tom Redman particularly impressing me.

As for Llay, the relief of picking up their first win of the season was clear to see although some of the supporters were a little surprised by the size of the victory. The standard of some of the goals scored were top quality and left me scratching my head why they were positioned so low in the league. Perhaps this victory will now spur them on to rise up the league, or perhaps as one of the Llay supporters summed up quite nicely:

“It’s Halloween and supernatural events occur!”

I really enjoyed my visit to Llay Welfare as the people I met were really friendly and welcoming, and the ground itself is a cracker. The walk through the grounds was enjoyable, the building impressive and the ground itself surprised me how decent it was for the WNL. In my opinion, it is probably a better standard of ground than Gresford’s pitch in the Cymru Alliance, and there is plenty of room for improvements should Llay progress up the leagues.

Thank you to everyone at Llay for their warm hospitality and wish them, along with Coedpoeth United (who I will be visiting sometime soon) all the very best for the rest of the season.

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