Cymru Alliance – 14th November 2015
Ground #63 – The Oval, Caernarfon, Gwynedd
Attendance: 270 approx.
- Entrance (with Raffle Ticket): £5.50
- Programme: £2.00
- Steak Pasty: £1.70
- Cup of Soup: £1.00
November is always a crucial month in the football calendar – the early season enthusiasm of teams and supporters has diminished at this point, and it is the deep breath before diving into the madness of the Christmas-New Year period. By the start of the fourth month of fixtures, a team can get an idea how the rest of the season will progress: either title/promotion challenges, mid table security/mediocrity or a potential relegation battle. However. the eleventh month of the year is also the period of the season when the miserable autumnal weather conditions can appear and can postpone football matches, or at least cause serious travel conditions for supporters.
The first weekend of November was spent watching Welsh Premier League football back at a ground which was the scene of possibly the greatest ever groundhop I have experienced in my travels. It involved a trip down the North Wales coast to the picturesque seaside town of Llandudno and to the fabulous Maesdu Stadium (now the with the newly sponsored name “mbi Maesdu Stadium”). The home of mbi Llandudno F.C., as well as the temporary home of Welsh Alliance Division 1 side Abergele Town, was the scene of Holywell Town’s epic 4-2 victory over then fellow Welsh Alliance team Penrhyndeudraeth back in April to win the FAW Trophy for the second time in their history.
On that day, a large number of Wellmen supporters made the train journey to the coast, and proceeded to paint the Victorian architecture resort red and white as the Wellmen captured their second trophy in a week, and part of a historic treble-winning season. A memorable day for many reasons with the Wellmen support being at its zenith in terms of the partisan ultras support, but it would also make the debut of a now embraced Holywell legend – Cecil the Crocodile! Whether it was scaling the roof of the stand, to being sent off for pitch invading, or perhaps bouncing off the head of the FAW President, that inflatable amphibian made itself a cult hero on that sunny April day and has now seen Cecil become the official Holywell Town mascot!
I had returned back to a very windy Llandudno because I was making a media appearance and reappearing on The New Saints’ online radio station (my first appearance being the TNS vs Holywell League Cup match), and would be part of the #TNSRadio commentary team providing commentary on the WPL match between Llandudno and The New Saints. It was great to be invited back to the commentary box and spend the afternoon with Rev Stewart Bloor, DJ Sam Roberts as well as TNS Media guru Gilbert Woolley discussing many subjects (such as Jaffa Cakes – are they a cake or a biscuit?) whilst providing match commentary on a thrilling 4-3 victory for the Welsh champions. Once again I absolutely enjoyed my second appearance on TNS Radio, with the TNS crew being warm, friendly and welcoming as always. Thanks again for inviting me back and I am already planning on the next appearance!
Feeling pleased with my guest appearance on TNS Radio (and with a newly acquired Llandudno F.C. mug bought for the ever increasing mug collection) and being part of the media for one weekend, it was time to return back to the familiar surroundings of groundhopping and visiting new Welsh grounds. The plan for the second weekend in November would be for another fixture at an unvisited Cymru Alliance ground, and another step nearer to visiting all the Cymru Alliance grounds! Most importantly it would be an opportunity to watch the Wellmen play away from Halkyn Road…
….well that was the initial plan anyway….
Alas that cold November rain that Axl Rose sang about would cause issues to the Llanfair United pitch, and unfortunately there were no Slash guitar riffs to make it more palatable to the weekend plans when the game was called off in the early morning of the Saturday after a pitch inspection. The combination of gusts from storm Abigail, and the relentless rain of ex-hurricane Kate, plus the potential for further heavy downpours in the Montgomeryshire area on the Saturday afternoon, meant a maelstrom of conditions which were fulfilled the criteria for a postponement. A visit to Llanfair Caereinion will have to wait until later on in the season, when weather conditions are a bit more football friendly.
With ‘Plan A’ gone by the wayside, it would be my groundhopping accomplice Greg who would make the suggestion for ‘Plan B’. He brought to my attention that the Caernarfon Town game against Rhayader Town was still on, and seeing as I had not previously visited The Oval, that it would make a very acceptable alternative. A quick check on the club’s Twitter feed confirmed the match was still scheduled to be played (for the time being), and despite the temptation to see Wrexham take on Gateshead in the National League game at the Racecourse Ground, we both agreed to travel down the North Wales coast to Caernarfon for the game. Whether the game would still be on when we got to the castle town was another issue.
Caernarfon is a historic town and port in the county of Gwynedd with a population of about 9,600 people positioned on the north-west coast of Wales, on the southern bank of the Menai Strait directly opposite the Isle of Anglesey. The town is positioned 8,5 miles south-west of rival town Bangor, 19,5 miles north of fellow Gwynedd port Porthmadog and 8 miles west of Llanberis and the start of the Snowdonia National Park (also about 9,5 miles from the peak of Snowdon). The main A487 road passes through the town although the town does not have a National Rail train station, but a station on the narrow gauge Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway. Caernarfon also has a small commercial airport located 4,5 miles to the south west of the town, and offers pleasure flights and an aviation museum to the public.
The town is positioned at the mouth of the River Seiont, which creates a natural harbour where the river flows into the Menai Strait. It is this natural harbour which has made the location a natural choice for establishing settlements, with the Celtic tribe, the Ordovices, first settling in the area. This was followed by the Roman Empire who established their fort named Segontium during their subjugation of the Ordovices and subsequent conquest of Britain. After the Romans left Britannia in the 5th century, the settlement became part of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd where it remained under Welsh rule (bar a brief period in early 12th century when it was held by the Normans where they built a motte & bailey castle) until the late 13th century.
After the ruler of Gwynedd, Llewellyn ap Gruffudd, refused to pay homage to the English king Edward I Longshanks, it resulted in the English invasion of Gwynedd and Caernarfon fell into English hands. It is during this period of English rule that the town’s most famous landmark, Caernarfon Castle, was constructed at the mouth of the River Seiont. At a cost of £25,000 and taking 46 years to fully complete, the castle and its walls is considered one the most impressive structures built during this phase of English castle building in North Wales. The ultimate aim of Caernarfon Castle was to keep the Welsh populace of Arfon passive and stop any potential rebellions, whilst being the imposing brutal symbol of English conquest of Gwynedd and the seat of English government in North Wales as part of Caernarfonshire.
Throughout its history, the settlement has had many variations of spelling of its name. In the past it was known as the Anglicised spellings of “Carnarvon” and “Caernarvon” before it changed to the Welsh spelling of the town in 1974. The name “Caernarfon” originates from the former Norman motte-and-bailey fort which became known as “y gaer yn Arfon” meaning “the fortress in Arfon” (the region of Arfon itself derives its name from its position opposite Anglesey island, known as Môn in Welsh). Caernarfon residents are known colloquially as “Cofis“. The word “Cofi” is also used locally in Caernarfon to describe the local Welsh dialect, notable for a number of words not used elsewhere in Wales.
Since 1911, the town’s castle has been the venue for the investiture of the Prince of Wales by the British Royal Family and Caernarfon was declared a “Royal Town” in 1974. Despite the royal connections, the town is also a hotbed for Welsh Nationalism and culture. Plaid Cymru MPs & AMs often representing the Arfon constituency, as well as the town having the largest percentage of fluent Welsh-speaking citizens anywhere in Wales (86.1% of the population could speak Welsh fluently according to the 2001 Census). Because of this, Caernarfon has hosted the National Eisteddfod on seven occasions with the last Eisteddfod in the town occurring in 1979. The town was also in the running for becoming the capital of Wales for historical reasons when a vote was made in 1955 to formalise a capital city, however it was heavily defeated in the vote by the winning city of Cardiff.
Over the years, Caernarfon has expanded beyond its medieval walls and experienced heavy suburbanisation, originally being an important port that exported slate from the nearby Dyffryn Nantlle quarries. However since the 19th century it has becoming a major tourist centre and seat of Gwynedd Council, with a thriving harbour and marina. Tourists are attracted to the town due to its close proximity to Snowdonia, as well as the historical landmarks of the castle and town walls, which are now considered a World Heritage Site. As a result of the tourist boom, many of the local businesses cater for the tourist trade with Caernarfon being home to numerous guest houses, inns and pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops.
Caernarfon’s first foray into football appeared in September 1876 when the town’s first club, Caernarvon Wanderers, was founded by local journalist John Humphreys. The Wanderers played at number of grounds located around the town before settling at The Oval in 1888.
Caernarvon Wanderers were also the first team from North West Wales to enter the FA Cup (following Druids and Chirk lead into entering the cup competition). With no qualifying rounds at that period, they were drawn away against Stoke City, who contained three future England internationals in their team. The Wanderers would lose 1-10 to the Potters, not helped with their keeper, John Davies, breaking his wrist against the post early in the game to make an uphill task an impossible task. It was later discovered it cost the team £24 to take the team to Stoke despite their share of the gate receipts being only £8, and claimed that club secretary John Humphreys had to pawn his watch to get the team back home. It would be another 43 years before another Caernarfon team would enter the FA Cup.
Five years after the FA Cup tie and the Wanderers went out of existence, and so began a period when a number of clubs were founded then dissolved in the Caernarfon area. In 1894 Caernarvon Ironopolis was founded, and they managed to win two North Wales Coast Leagues and reach two Welsh Cup semi-finals before folding in 1903 after a league dispute. Then came Caernarvon Colts and Caernarvon Royal Welch Fusiliers, who would later combine to create Caernarvon United who would win both the Welsh and North Wales Amateur Cups.
After the Great War, Caernarvon Athletic were founded by demobbed soldiers, becoming a professional club in 1926. Becoming professional brought instant success as they won the Welsh League (North) championship in 1926–27, ahead of rivals Bangor City and Rhyl, and repeating the feat in 1929–30 having finishing runners-up to the 1929 Welsh Cup winners Connah’s Quay & Shotton 12 months earlier. However this team is best remember for their FA Cup run in 1929 where they defeated then Welsh Cup winners Connah’s Quay & Shotton, Macclesfield Town and Darlington on their route to the second round, before going out to Bournemouth 2-5 away after a replay. The first Second Round game at the Oval, which Athletic drew 2-2, drew a massive attendance of about 9,000 supporters. Alas success would be brief for Athletic as they suffered financial difficulties and liquidation, before the re-founded team suffered issues with using The Oval ensuring Athletic would be folded for good.
The next club in the town’s football history was Caernarfon Town, who were founded in 1937 and entered the Welsh League (North). They would play in this league for 39 years, winning the league in the 1946–47 and 1965–66 seasons whilst finishing runners-up in both 1956–57 and 1957–58 and once again in 1972–73. History would repeat itself as internal problems led to the club’s withdrawal from the league in 1976, but they would return back to the fold a few months later and complete a fairy tale story by winning the league in 1977-78. They would then successfully defend their title the season after, losing just the single game over the two championship winning seasons.
In 1979, the Canaries were granted permission by the FAW to play in the English league pyramid and would join the Lancashire Combination League, where they would win the Combination Cup in 1981, and then the league championship by two points from Colne Dynamos the season after. Caernarfon Town then moved into the newly created North West Counties League, where they gained promotion to the first division at the first attempt of trying, before being elected into the Northern Premier League in 1985.
It was during this period of playing in the Northern Premier League that the Canaries enjoyed their best spell in the English system, under the management of John King. He would lead the Cofis to their most successful FA Cup run in the 1986-87 season, reaching the third round of the competition. They defeated Fourth Division Stockport County at the Oval before overcoming Third Division York City after a reply, before the run was ended by Second Division team Barnsley one goal to nil after a replay. That season they also finished third in the league, and could have won promotion to the Football Conference had the FA Cup run not affected their league form. They would finish third again in 1987-88 campaign, and would reach the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup before they were knocked out by Cardiff City 1-2 on aggregate.
The 1990s was a problematic time for the Canaries, suffering relegation to the first division of the NPL structure but it was the creation of the League of Wales which would be most problematic. The FAW’s insistence that all Welsh teams applying their trade in the English non-league system must return back to the Welsh football pyramid and become part of the newly created national league was not accepted by Caernarfon and the seven other clubs (known as the “Irate Eight”), and the Canaries chose to stay in the NPL structure. Because of their refusal to return, the FAW forced them into exile by refusing them allowance to play in Wales. This ruling lead to Caernarfon playing 100 miles away at Curzon Ashton. Despite a high court case against the FAW being won in April 1995 allowing them to play back in Wales, Caernarfon made the decision to return to the Welsh league pyramid and finally joining the League of Wales in August 1995 after some uninspiring performances in the NPL First Division.
The decision to move to the League of Wales initially proved to be the correct one, as they finished sixth in their first season and reached the semis of the League Cup. The following season they would challenge Barry Town for the league title before fading off and finishing fourth, missing out on European qualification by an inferior goal difference to Ebbw Vale. The Canaries would achieve another 5th place finish in the 1998-99 season, as well as being League Cup finalists to Barry Town. However their tenure in the national league would come to an abrupt end at the turn of the millennium due to crippling financial restraints, which resulted in the club being forced to part company with all their players. Caernarfon Town ended up finishing bottom in the 1999-2000 season with just 1 win and 11 points from their 34 game campaign.
Caernarfon would return back to the top flight after just a single season’s hiatus, getting promoted as Cymru Alliance champions and CA League Cup winners. The Canaries would continue to play in the Welsh Premier League for the next eight seasons although they would not see the same level of success as their initial stay in the top flight. Seven of the eight seasons in the WPL saw Caernarfon finish in the bottom half of the table with the 2003-04 season being their best performance during that period finishing a creditable 9th position. However extreme financial difficulties would again end their stay in the top tier of Welsh football, finishing bottom of the league in the 2008-09 season with 20 points, as well as being deducted 3 points for fielding an ineligible player at the start of the season.
Things would get even worse for Caernarfon Town in the 2009-10 season as they suffered a second successive relegation down to the third-tier Welsh Alliance League after they finished 16th out of 17 teams that season. This was in a season which saw 10 teams relegated from the Cymru Alliance due to the WPL being reduced down to current 12 team format.
They would spend three seasons in the Welsh Alliance system consolidating their position and establishing a firm financial foundation, finishing in 5th and 4th positions respectively before finally achieving their main aim of promotion back to the Cymru Alliance in 2012-13. They won the Welsh Alliance Division 1 in 2012-13 by achieving a total of 66 points from 28 games and piping title rivals Holywell Town to the crown. It would be a successful season for the Canaries as they managed to win the national FAW Trophy, demolishing Swansea-based team Kilvey Fords 6-0 at Latham Park, Newtown, as well as the Cookson Cup to complete a historic treble.
During the Canaries brief period in the Welsh Alliance, they would also come up against another Caernarfon-based team, the resurrected Caernarfon Wanderers. Founded in 2007 with the aim of saving the Cae Top Playing Fields in the town, the team quickly rose up the local leagues and found themselves in the Welsh Alliance Division 1 with their more illustrious rivals. They would become the first team ever to play at Bangor City’s newly built Nantporth Stadium, but the highlight of the club’s history would be the Caernarfon Derby held at The Oval, which attracted a massive attendance of 1900 supporters (a gigantic amount for third-tier Welsh league football). Disappointingly, the new Wanderers fell to the same fate as the old incarnation when financial problems, on this occasion failing to get funds for required permanent changing rooms, resulted in the club having to fold in 2013.
Since they have returned back to the Cymru Alliance, Caernarfon Town have had great success in the last two seasons in the second tier under the management of previous manager Lee Dixon. In their first season back in 2013-14, they finished the season in an impressive 3rd position finishing behind champions Cefn Druids and just one point behind runners-up Conwy Borough. Last season, they improved on their first season in the Cymru Alliance by finishing runners-up to Llandudno, and finishing just 5 points behind with 66 points. They also had the best defensive record of the league conceding just 25 goals in 30 games.
This season the Canaries were considered one of the favourites for the Cymru Alliance title, along with WPL-relegated teams Cefn Druids and Prestatyn Town, even when they had a change in leadership to player-manager Iwan Williams. They were certainly my pre-season pick for the title before the season began. Despite losing to both title rivals earlier in the season (2-4 against Prestatyn and 0-1 against Cefn Druids), they have since performed to their pre-season hype and found themselves in second position going into this match against Rhayader. Having obtained 24 points from the first 12 games, Caernarfon have positioned themselves just two points and a game in hand behind league leaders Denbigh Town. The Canaries have also continued with their defensive solidity from last season in possessing the meanest defence in the league by conceding just a miserly 10 goals.
Since losing to Cefn Druids in mid-September, Caernarfon have been in great run of form staying undefeated for six league matches and claiming 14 points from a maximum of 18 points available. In their last league match, they missed the chance to take top spot but claimed a creditable 0-0 draw away at Holyhead Hotspur, whilst their previous home match at The Oval was a comfortable 4-0 victory over Welsh Alliance Division 1 team Llandudno Junction in the Second Round of the Welsh Cup.
Caernarfon’s opponents for this afternoon’s match were the most southerly based team in the league, facing the Radnorshire based team of Rhayader Town who would be making the 92 mile journey north-west to Arfon. Unfortunately for the mid-Wales side, they were having the opposite start to the season when compared to their opponents’ performance. Rhayader were heading into this match struggling in 15th position out of 16 teams with only fellow mid-Wales team Caersws a point below them in the table. In their first 12 league games, the Red Kites had only earned two wins and seven points from their campaign, whilst possessing the worst defence in the league by conceding 40 goals! In their previous match, they had lost the Powys derby against Guilsfield, losing at Y Weirglodd three goals to six, and would be going into this match on a four game losing streak. Their last league win coming against fellow mid-Wales team Llanfair United in early October, beating the 2014-15 Mid Wales League champions 2-1.
Myself and Greg set off from Holywell on the 51 mile journey down the A55 Expressway to Caernarfon, and the weather conditions en route were horrendous. The A55 is notorious for its standing water and spray during wet conditions, so combine that together with the thumping rain triggered by ex-hurricane Kate overhead as we headed westwards, and the 1 hour 20 minute drive was not the most pleasant one I have experienced. Needless to say I felt sympathy for those Rhayader fans who had to travel through Wales in these weather conditions! As we headed towards Caernarfon, both of us had fears that the game would be postponed before we would arrive and that the journey could potentially be a wasted one for a groundhop. However if the decision to cancel the match was made by the match official, we decided we would do a “castlehop” and visit Caernarfon Castle instead. May as well make a day of it in “Gwlad Cofi” regardless!
We arrived at Caernarfon just before 2pm and using the satnav, we soon arrived at The Oval, home of the Canaries. The ground is located to the south side of the town and close to the edge of the Menai Strait, situated in the middle of a housing estate like many ‘old school’ grounds are located. The ground has a large car park for supporters although when we arrived at The Oval, the car park was already full, so my advice would be to arrive early should you want a car parking spot. However I managed to park my car on the side of the Cefn Hendre road just outside the entrance of the ground, where many other supporters had parked their cars and it would make it easier for me to make a getaway during the inevitable full time scrum.
Despite the awful weather which had claimed so many Welsh league matches, The Oval was standing firm against the conditions and the game was still on when we arrived. The sight of the floodlights being dimly lit plus the bustling of fans already inside the stadium was confirmation the game had not been cancelled!
The turnstiles to the ground are at the far end of the car park, with the Caernarfon Supporters Club on the right hand side of the car park. Fluttering in the stern breeze by the entrance was the recently confirmed county flag of Caernarfonshire – clearly local pride is strong in these parts which is great to see! Entrance to the game was £5.50 per person which also included a ticket to the raffle draw, and I bought a match programme for £2.00. The volunteer at the turnstile said to us “thanks for coming guys, especially in these conditions!” Clearly the weather was putting some fair-weather fans off so it was nice to have our efforts turning up appreciated by the club. So let me say a big thank you for the warm welcome upon entering the ground and we really appreciated it!
Upon entering the ground, I was immediately impressed at the standard of the ground, especially when I’m used to more sparse grounds at similar to lower levels in Welsh football! As you would expect from a club who played in the Welsh Premier League, the standard of the ground is easily WPL standard and one of the best (if not THE best) in the Cymru Alliance.
The main stand is located to the right side of the pitch as you enter the ground, and has about 280 covered seats for supporters. Apparently the seats for this stand were purchased from Shrewsbury Town when they became surplus to requirements due to the demolition of their old stadium Gay Meadow. The players also filter onto the pitch from this stand as it houses the dressing rooms for the two teams. Next to the main stand is the old club shop building, and a small clubhouse and snack bar for supporters to buy the usual refreshments. On the opposite side of the pitch is the media building located at the halfway line, which can house the Sgorio cameras (when they televise the game) as well as media suites for journalists and media officers to use. Next to the media building, there is also terracing steps for supporters to stand on to watch the game.
At the far end of the pitch is the newer stand which houses an additional 200-250 covered seats for supporters to use. At the end nearest the entrance, there is an additional covered stand (the Marcus Street End) which provides some cover for those supporters wishing to stand up during the game, as well as the toilets for supporters to use. As expected at this level, there is a concrete path all around the perimeter of the pitch and of course floodlights available for use – something badly needed for the miserable low light conditions of this match.
With the rain still coming down and the cold gusts biting, we went directly to the snack bar for some bwyd a diod poeth to get some sustenance of the match ahead. I bought a large and very tasty peppered steak pasty for the cheap price of £1.70, and washed it down with a cup of chicken soup for £1. Warm food was something needed in these chilly and damp atmosphere on this afternoon, and the pasty was well worth the money!
After the food & drink were consumed, I decided to venture into the club shop to purchase some Caernarfon Town merchandise to add to the ever increasing collection. Unluckily I had arrived at The Oval at a time of flux for the club shop as I found out from the volunteer inside the shop that the shop’s location was moving. They were moving it from its current position next to the main stand, to a location in the turnstile block building. Because of this impending move, there was no stock available to be purchased and understandably wouldn’t be ordering any new stock until the new club shop was ready. Feeling slightly dejected, as I was looking forward to buying a CTFC pin badge and mug (if they were selling them), we decided to find a spot in the new stand behind the goal to take cover from the conditions and to watch the match from.
[I suppose I have a good reason to return to The Oval – I have to get a pin badge & mug from the new shop now ha!]
The rain improved slightly to a light drizzle when the two teams ventured out from the warmth of the changing rooms, with the home side appearing on the pitch first. The Oval’s pitch does have a slight slope towards the main stand which ensures any potential pools of standing water gently run down the slope and off the pitch. However massive credit must go to the groundsman for getting the pitch into an impressive looking condition despite the deluge of rain with the last 24 hours before kick-off, and ensuring that this game went ahead when other games were less fortunate.
One major change for the home side line-up was the return of former Cofi talismanic midfielder and local lad Darren Thomas who had been signed by manager Iwan Williams earlier in the week. After being a crucial part of the Canaries resurgence from the Welsh Alliance to the Cymru Alliance, he would be re-joining The Oval outfit from Welsh Premier League side Aberystwyth Town after leaving Caernarfon in the summer.
Both teams were in their home strips for this match, with Caernarfon in their famous yellow shirts with green trim and single hoop, with green shorts and yellow socks. Rhayader were in their kit of red shirts with white sleeves, red shorts and red socks with white hoops.
MATCH REPORT – FIRST HALF
For the second consecutive game I have watched this month, the game started with a flourish with the home side scoring a goal within the first minute of the game. Former Everton and Torquay player (and current Head of Football in the Community for CTFC) Nathan Craig gave Caernarfon the perfect start to the game when he blasted a vicious shot from a central position 25 yards out that curled beyond the Rhayader goalkeeper Luke Evans into the bottom right hand corner of the net. The ball swerved and moved during flight which bamboozled the young keeper and left him unable to keep out the effort from his attempted diving save.
Caernarfon Town 1 – 0 Rhayader Town
Despite conceding a goal after a minute, Rhayader responded instantly to the early setback and almost found themselves level within a minute of going behind. The Kites’ forward Dafydd Carruthers punished the Canaries’ defence for switching off slightly and managing to create space in the penalty box to fire off a low shot on target and potentially trouble home stopper Paul Pritchard. Unfortunately for the visiting player, his shot drifted just inches wide of the post with Pritchard looking like he had the post covered also.
With Caernarfon almost caught on the counter, the home side employed an attacking tempo looking to trouble the league’s most porous defence. They continued the energetic start to the match when they pressurised the Kites’ defence into committing a foul three minutes into the game. Craig threatened the Rhayader goal through a dangerously positioned free kick just outside of the penalty area, but Rhayader’s number one Evans was equal to the effort to superbly keep out the pinpoint set piece. The home side had a chance to follow up on the rebound but Evans managed to gather up the ball and eliminate the danger on the second attempt.
Throughout the first twenty minutes of the match, Caernarfon increasingly dominated the game and had the lion’s share of ball possession. The slick passing and smart movement amongst the Canaries, especially between their attacking players, enthralled the Cofi supporters watching but left the visitors frustrated and constantly chasing the ball. Jamie McDaid and Nathan Craig proving constant thorns in the side to Rhayader as they probed and threated the Kites’ full-backs through their darting forward runs.
With all this ball possession, slick passing and continuous probing of the Rhayader defence, it was only a matter of time before the Canaries doubled their lead. The second goal of the afternoon came after the 24th minute courtesy of a critical cross from Craig coming from flanks. His cross into the danger zone was met by Rhayader midfielder Gethin Jones, who attempted to firmly head the ball clear from danger. Alas for the Kites player, the pace of the cross resulted in the ball zipping and spinning off his forehead, which inadvertently diverted the flight of the cross away from Evans’ path and into the top right hand corner of the goal. When you’re at the bottom of the table, the luck is never with you…
Caernarfon Town 2 – 0 Rhayader Town
With a two goal cushion, Caernarfon continued to maintain ball possession whilst probing the Rhayader defence for an opportunity to extend their lead. The returning debutante Darren Thomas came close to scoring a third, whilst Jamie McDaid continued to threaten from the right hand flank and had a chance to open his tally for the afternoon. Disappointingly last season’s leading scorer for the Canaries could only fire his effort wide of the post and Caernarfon could not further capitalise on their domination in the match. Dafydd Carruthers had another rare shot on goal by turning and firing low in the box, which forced Pritchard into a fine save but otherwise Rhayader rarely troubled the home goal in the first half. Carruthers becoming isolated at times as the lone striker when the ball was punted in his direction, or sloppy passing from the Rhayader midfield cheaply conceding possession back to their hosts some of reasons for Rhayader’s blunt attack of the first 45 minutes.
No further chances would take place in the half, and despite Caernarfon’s superiority in the match, they could only manage a two goal lead at the half time interval.
HALF TIME: CAERNARFON TOWN 2 – 0 RHAYADER TOWN
During the first half, myself and Greg had decided to move from our seats in the new stand behind the goal to seats in the main stand to get a better view of the whole pitch. The main stand is an impressive structure and gives a great view of the pitch, and it was bustling with many other supporters keen to shelter from the rain. However for the second half, we decided to move viewing position once again to the Marcus Street End and stand under the cover of the stand there. It was also the end Caernarfon would be attacking at in the second half, so I was expecting most of the match’s action to be located at that goal. The stand would be have great atmosphere during the second half as many other Cofi fans, who were standing on the opposite side of the main stand in the first half, had the same idea as the pair of us and congregated under the Marcus Street Stand.
On the way around I decided to get another cup of soup from the snack bar, and would be cradling the plastic cup for warm (the winds were still biting at this point) whilst slurping it down when the teams returned back onto the pitch for the second 45 minutes.
MATCH REPORT – SECOND HALF
The second half started how the first half began with Caernarfon firmly on top in the contest and threatening early in the half. Perhaps they were disappointed at having just a two goal advantage at half time despite a dominant performance, concerned Rhayader might launch a second half uplift in performance, eager to improve their goal difference in the league (which could prove vital at the end of the season), or perhaps a combination of all three reasons but Caernarfon’s second half display was very impressive!
Just three minutes into the second half and Caernarfon started to put the hammer down on their mid-Wales opponents by extending their advantage to three goals. Darren Thomas proving to be a superb addition to the Canaries’ playing staff by assisting the third goal with the cross into the penalty box. Forward Jamie Breese ghosting into the area completely unmarked leaving him with an easy chance to pick his spot and nod it into the top corner past the helpless Luke Evans to score his eighth league goal of the season. Last season’s Cymru Alliance top scorer is proving to be top quality signing since arriving from relegated Llanidloes Town in the summer.
Caernarfon Town 3 – 0 Rhayader Town
The third goal lifted the Caernarfon players and crowd allowing the home side to have complete domination of the possession and become encamped within the Rhayader half for the majority of the second half. Nathan Craig was putting in an eye-catching performance, and he would be involved in the Canaries’ fourth of the afternoon past the Kites defence. Making another forward run deep into the Rhayader half, his surging advance opened up space ahead of him to allow an effort on goal. His firmly struck shot outside of the box hit the Kites’ player-manager Dylan McPhee as it accelerated forwards, allowing a slight deflection on the flight of the ball but just enough of an impact to divert it past the diving Evans.
Caernarfon Town 4 – 0 Rhayader Town
Nathan Craig would inflict more misery on the men from Radnorshire on the 55th minute when he grabbed a second half brace, this time coming from the penalty spot. The match official Mr Gray awarded the home side a penalty following a clumsy and late challenge on substitute Danny Brookwell in the box which caused him to trip over in a goal scoring opportunity. Despite protestations from the braying crowd behind the goal, the Rhayader defender only received a yellow card for the offense in the box. Craig coolly stepped up to the spot, and in front of the Cofi fans, the left wing back calmly sent the keeper the wrong way and placed the shot into the right hand corner of the net much to the delight of the home support.
Caernarfon Town 5 – 0 Rhayader Town
The Canaries had further chances to extend their lead all of which were put wide or high of the woodwork, or produced superb saves from Luke Evans. Jamie Breese, Airbus UK Broughton loanee Ellis Healing, Darren Thomas and substitute forward (the recent signing from Llanrug United) Kevin Lloyd all came close to adding to the score line, but couldn’t quite get their efforts on target. Luke Evans also produced a world class save to deny Craig his hat-trick after the wing back looked certain to score when he picked his spot in the top right hand corner. However the impressive Evans managed a get a firm right hand behind the shot to superbly deflected the shot away and keep the score line down. The visiting keeper might have conceded five this afternoon so far, but he was trying hard to keeping the score line respectable and produced an excellent performance for the Wyesiders.
Despite behind hemmed into their own half for the majority of the second half, the visitors never quit, continuing to chase every ball and displaying a high workrate which should be highly commended. Their relentless running and harassing of the Caernarfon players was eventually rewarded when they managed to score a late consolation goal through their lone forward Dafydd Carruthers. Carruthers had cut a lone furrow all afternoon but had worked admirably to try and hold the ball up whilst defending off the Cofi defence. He finally got a clear chance on goal when a through ball allowed him to run into the Caernarfon box, and under pressure from the surrounding Caernarfon defenders, he fired low beyond the onrushing Paul Pritchard’s reach to give the visitors a silver lining from their afternoon.
Caernarfon Town 5 – 1 Rhayader Town
Despite conceding a consolation goal, Caernarfon would soon restore their five goal cushion in the fixture when substitute Danny Brookwell added a sixth goal for Caernarfon with a delightful effort from outside the area. In the fading light of the afternoon, the former Royal Navy representative went on a jinking run through the middle of the Rhayader midfield and the replacement found enough space from 20 yards out to delicately dink the ball over the pressing Kites’ defence, putting enough velocity and spin on it to drop just under the crossbar and into the top left hand corner of the Marcus Street End goal. A wonderful goal in front of the Cofi fans and I had the perfect view of it from my viewing position in the Marcus Street End.
Caernarfon Town 6 – 1 Rhayader Town
With the match almost over and the game going into injury time, the home side managed to grab a seventh and final goal in the first minute of injury time to compound Rhayader’s difficult afternoon against one of the title contenders. After another darting run down the right hand side of the pitch sent the Caernarfon player clear, it brought out Luke Evans from his goal to try and breakdown the one-on-one situation. However as the keeper rushed out to quench the danger, the ball was squared across the penalty box to the onrushing Darren Thomas. The playmaker had the easiest of chances and plenty of time to calmly tap the ball into the empty net and complete a superb debut performance. A dream start for the new signing from Aberystwyth in his first game back at the Canaries!
Caernarfon Town 7 – 1 Rhayader Town
The seventh Cofi goal would be the final action of the game and the official Mr Grey soon blew his whistle to end the game once play had restarted. A magnificent performance from the Canaries who dominated the game in difficult weather conditions.
FULL TIME: CAERNARFON TOWN 7 – 1 RHAYADER TOWN
A tough day for the visitors having to make one of the longest journeys in the season, under miserable conditions, to concede seven against the home side. Even though they were encamped in their own half for majority of the second half, they can take some positives from the game. Their team showed great spirit and drive, always harassing and pressing the home players into making a mistake, and continuing to work hard for the team for the whole 90 minutes. Forward Dafydd Carruthers worked tirelessly to hold up the ball for support to drive forward, and battled hard with the Caernarfon centre-backs. His goal in the second half was just reward for a battling performance leading the line for the Kites.
However the visitors’ star performer was their keeper Luke Evans. Despite conceding seven goals in the afternoon (some of them he was unlucky to concede due to deflections), the Kites’ number one kept the score line down and pulled off some amazing saves to ensure the Caernarfon score did not go into double figures. He also had a good rapport with the Cofi fans behind his goal, especially in the second half, having banter with the fans and chatting to the ball boys behind the goal. An absolute credit to his team!
As for Caernarfon, it was a fantastic performance against a team who are struggling to keep out goals currently. Their second half display was truly impressive with slick passing and clever movement and interchanges between the players. The re-signing of Darren Thomas seems an inspired signing, and with the attacking threat of top scorer Jamie Breese, Seren-y-Gem Nathan Craig, Ellis Healing and Jamie McDaid, not to mention the strength in depth on the bench with Danny Brookwell and Kevin Lloyd (who had impressed me when I saw him play for Llanrug United), they look a devastating attacking force in the Cymru Alliance this season! That win moved them temporary to the top position in the league and it would hugely surprise me if they weren’t challenging for that position come the business end of the season!
Despite the weather conditions, I was glad we had decided to come down to Caernarfon for a rearranged groundhop. The ground is one of the best in the league and would be a great venue for Welsh Premier League football when the Canaries return back to the top flight. The Cofis fans were in fine form and ensured the atmosphere was electric providing great support as always, and maintain their reputation for being some of the most committed fans in the Welsh leagues. Finally everyone who I spoke to at the ground was so warm and welcoming, and provided a great atmosphere to watch football in!
I am looking forward to returning back to The Oval when Holywell Town play the rearranged fixture later on in the season (rearranged due to Welsh Cup games), and hopefully the new club shop will be ready by that point ha! May I wish Caernarfon Town and Rhayader Town all the very best for the rest of the season, and I will hopefully be down in Rhayader in February.