LLANDUDNO JUNCTION 3 – 2 CORWEN

FAW Trophy Round 5 – 23rd January 2016

Ground #65: The Flyover, Llandudno Junction, Conwy Borough County

Attendance: 100 Approx.

  • Entrance: £3.00
  • Programme: £1.00
  • Pin Badge: £2.00
  • Chocolate Bar: £0.70
  • Cup of Coffee: £1.00

 

After the first two weekends of 2016 had been complete washouts resulting in the New Year period being a complete ‘groundhop free zone’, I was relieved to finally watch a live game on the third weekend of 2016 when I saw Gap Connah’s Quay beat current Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints 2-0 at the Deeside Stadium. Put that in conjunction with the fact I was commentating again on TNS Radio with the brilliant ‘dynamic duo’ of Rev Stewart Bloor and DJ Sam Thomas, meant the opening game of 2016 for The 94th Minute was a cracker (well perhaps not for the TNS fans….).

Connahs Quay vs TNS 16th Jan 2016
2016’s first groundhop – a trip to an evening game at the Deeside Stadium

With 2016’s groundhopping adventure underway, the fourth weekend of 2016 was earmarked for a hop to somewhere new and to add to the 64 grounds I had previously visited (plus the opportunity to write up a blog for 2016 also). After a browse through all the fixtures in North Wales, one fixture in particular stood apart from the others, and mainly because it allowed me to mix up my usual groundhop routine. Instead of driving to the venue like normal, I would have the opportunity to visit a new ground by train. The last time I travelled by train to watch a match was when I saw Holywell Town take on Penrhyndeudraeth in the final of the FAW Trophy which was held in Llandudno. On this occasion, it would be a near carbon copy to the previous train visit as I would be watching another FAW Trophy cup game at a place with Llandudno in its name….although this time it would be Llandudno JUNCTION. Therefore I would be making the journey down the North Welsh coast to Llandudno Junction to watch the local side take on Corwen in the 5th round of the national cup competition open to clubs applying their trade in  the third tier and below in the Welsh football pyramid .

Llandudno Junction (Welsh: Cyffordd Llandudno) is town of about 6,700 inhabitants located in the far north of the County Borough of Conwy in Mid-North Wales. The town is situated on the east bank of the River Conwy at the head of the Dyffryn Conwy (Conwy Valley), and near the mouth of the river as it flows into the Irish Sea. As the name suggests, it is located near to Llandudno being 3 miles south of the famous seaside town and south of the adjoining town of Deganwy. It is also positioned 5,5 miles west of another famous seaside town in Colwyn Bay, 2 miles north of Llansantffraid Glan Conwy (home of rivals Glan Conwy) and less than a mile from the historic castle town of Conwy, which is directly opposite of Llandudno Junction on the west bank of the River Conwy.

Location of Llandudno Junction
Location of Llandudno Junction in North Wales

The town has great infrastructure connections with the key North Wales artery of the A55 Expressway running along the south of the town, before heading under the River Conwy with a tunnel that was built in the late 1980s. However the town is famous for being a major railway junction on the North Wales coast railline and has the busiest railway station in North Wales. The station is the junction for travellers to get the connecting train to Llandudno (hence the name of the town), or switching to the Conwy Valley line to travel to major settlements inland like Llanrwst and Betws-y-Coed before the line terminates at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Originally the town was known as Tremarl and part of the ancient parish of Llangystennin, before the original railway station (located west of the current station) was built in 1858 to serve the branch line to the expanding seaside resort of Llandudno. Further traffic to the station increased in 1863 with the completion of the Conwy Valley Line which ran to Llanrwst originally, but then later extended to Betws-y-Coed and subsequently to the slate town of Blaenau Ffestiniog where passengers could join the Ffestiniog Railway.

Eventually the huge volume of passengers during the “golden era” of railways in the late Victorian period, in conjunction with the town’s population increasing around the station, forced a new enlarged station to be built.  Therefore in 1897 the present station was opened which could cope with the demand from both mainline and branch-line traffic which required a diverting of the Conwy Valley branch to make the new station successful, as well as the demolition of the old station. Over the years the station has varied from its initial design with certain platforms being shut down during the ‘Beeching Axe’, or the accommodation of a freight terminal (now disused). Currently Llandudno Junction has four platforms, with Platform 1 being used for eastbound trains, Platform 2 for the hourly Llandudno-bound trains, Platform 3 being a bidirectional platform and Platform 4 used for westbound trains.

Llandudno Junction Station
Llandudno Junction Station [Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llandudno_Junction_railway_station ]
Because of its railway history, the main industry in the area was working in the major steam locomotive service depot and extensive goods facilities situated to the south east of the station. The depot was originally given the code ‘7A’ by the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, but was altered to ‘6G’ in March 1952. Eventually as fewer steam locomotives were used on British railways, the service depot became slowly obsolete until it was finally closed in 1966. Today the 6G site has been redeveloped and now accommodates both business and retail parks as well as leisure facilities, and a new section of the A546 (carrying the name “Ffordd 6G Road”) also crosses the site.

The major manufacturing company Hotpoint had a huge presence in the town due placing its factory in the town. As a result, it became a huge employer in the area and would also lay the foundations for the town’s football team (as Hotpoint FC). Alas this factory closed down in the latter part of the 20th century leaving the town short of employment options. However part of the old Hotpoint factory was bought by the Welsh Assembly Government, who hoped to regenerate the area by creating a governmental hub in North Wales. In May 2010 the three-year development was completed, with the WAG ‘Northern Hub’ creating 525 jobs in the area, as well as relocating 100 employees from Cardiff to the Llandudno Junction site.

Llandudno Junction Badge

The town’s local team are Llandudno Junction F.C., and they play at their ground called ‘The Flyover’ which is located in the south-west of the town. Llandudno Junction are nicknamed either “The Junction” or “The Railwaymen”, and play in navy blue kits with yellow trim. Junction’s main rivals are the local teams of Llandudno, Conwy Borough and Glan Conwy (who also play in the Welsh Alliance Division 1 alongside Junction). The current club has played at The Flyover since 1998 although it has its roots in the town since the club’s foundation the mid-1970s.  Despite Junction’s recent history, football in Llandudno Junction has been quite eventful…

There are records of football being played in Llandudno Junction since 1910, when the first incarnation of Llandudno Junction F.C. entered the North Wales Coast League Division One and duly finished fourth (their best positional finish during their NWCL tenure). They would continue to play in the North Wales Coast League either side of the Great War, with many of their players representing the “League East” against the West in 1914. Junction would later be admitted to the Welsh National League in 1922, and it would be the start of a brief but successful period for the club. The 1924-25 season was the highlight of this purple patch of form for Junction as they finished runners-up to Mold Town in the WNL and included a 21 match unbeaten run. They also managed to reach the third round of the Welsh Cup before losing 0-6 against championship rivals Mold Town. Alas for this first Junction team, they would resign from the league at the end of the 1926-27 season due to the “depression”.

The second appearance of a Llandudno Junction team appeared just before World War II when they joined Vale of Conwy League and recorded a balance of £23. Post-war Junction would join the Welsh League (North) in the 1946-47 season, where they would finish again as runners-up this time to Caernarfon Town. Despite having the same points as the title winning Cofis they finished second due to an inferior goal average. They also enjoyed their best ever Welsh Cup campaign by reaching by the fourth round of the competition before they were eventually knocked out by South Liverpool (when English clubs competed in the Welsh Cup), losing to the Merseysiders 1-2.

Famous for their maroon tops and white shorts, the following years saw expansion for the club especially with their Nant-y-Coed pitch. For the 1948-49 season, supporters managed to widen the playing field as well as erecting terracing down on side of the pitch, before installing an 800-seat stand in October of 1949. However despite their successes on the field and expansion, the club was starting to suffer financially. By 1954 things had gotten so financially bad for Junction that they merged with local rivals and fellow Welsh League (North) team Conwy Borough to create the “super club” Borough United. The merger seemed to make sense at the time with both teams slumping in form by finishing in 16th and 17th places respectively in the 18 team league prior to the merger.

Borough-United

Despite the loss of the name, the new club was sort of a continuation for Llandudno Junction as the new club continued to play at their Nant-y-Coed ground, as well as wearing their maroon and white strip. With the combined resources of two clubs behind them, Borough United soon established themselves as one of the strongest sides in the Welsh League North, eventually winning their inaugural league title seven years after the merger by claiming the 1958-59 championship, beating local rivals Llandudno by three points and scoring 146 goals in the process. A couple of top three finishes would follow as well as an incredible unbeaten home record which would stretch for four years, before they would repeat the winning feat. Borough United won their second league title in the 1962-63 season, winning by two points from Holyhead Town.

However it would be their Welsh Cup campaign in that title winning season which would ensure Borough United would eternally have a place in Welsh football folklore. After beating local rivals Llandudno, they subsequently beat Rhyl, Denbigh Town and the then cup holders Bangor City before beating Southern League team Hereford United in the Welsh Cup semi-final. The two-legged final was against Football League Fourth Division side Newport County, and Borough United were the huge underdogs. In the first leg at Nant-y-Coed, Borough came from a goal down to beat their more illustrious opponents 2-1, with goals from Billy Russell and Joe Bebb giving them the initial advantage. In the second leg at Somerton Park, Borough United produced a herculean effort to secure a goalless draw to bring the trophy back to Llandudno Junction.

The Welsh Cup victory meant that the Llandudno Junction-based team qualified for European competition by competing in the now defunct Cup Winners Cup. The first round draw saw Borough paired with Maltese Cup winners Sliema Wanderers, however a massive and desperate fund raising effort was required before they could embark on their European journey (the club only had £4 in the coffers). After a less than ideal journey from Liverpool Airport, when their plane had to land in Marseilles en route due to engine troubles, and they arrived just four hours before the scheduled kick off time, they managed a creditable 0-0 draw on the George Cross island. In the return leg played at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, over 17,000 supporters crammed into the stadium to see Borough overcome their Maltese opponents by two goals to nil to become the first Welsh team to reach the second round of a European competition.

In the second round of the Cup Winners Cup, Borough played the Czechoslovakian Cup holders Slovan Bratislava. The Slovaks had an impressive team with five Czechoslovakian internationals in their ranks and included the future Aston Villa and Celtic manager Josef Venglos within their ranks. Despite a spirited performance against the Eastern European team in the first leg losing by just the single goal at the Racecourse, Borough’s team of part-timers were no match for the Belasí as they lost the second leg 0-3 in Bratislava to end their historic European odyssey.

Borough United continued to do well in the Welsh League (North) by consistently finishing in the top five positions of the league but alas the glory days were now sadly behind them. The lowest point of the Borough United story came in 1967 when they were forcibly evicted from their Nant-y-Coed ground by their landlords, the Roman Catholic order ‘Oblates of Mary Immaculate’ based in Dublin. Six years after competing against Europe’s best, the side were now without a home and had to resign from the Welsh League (North), and were forced to eke out an existence in the minor Vale of Conwy League. Unsurprisingly the club could not survive without a permanent home, and the Borough United story sadly fizzled out in 1969 when they folded as a club.

The third club to appear with the “Llandudno Junction” name appeared in the 1980s, when they were reformed as a club under the management of Ken Lloyd.  This team picked up where Borough United had abruptly ended by briefly operating in the local Vale of Conwy League. This side played at The Flyover for a number of years before history repeated itself and another merger with a Conwy team occurred. This time however it meant that this team moved across the River Conwy to the walled town to become Conwy United Reserves. Once again Llandudno Junction F.C. disappeared from the North Welsh football scene!

A fourth Llandudno Junction team appeared in its current guise in 1998 but can traces their roots back to the mid-1970s and the Hotpoint factory based in the town. Hotpoint Football Club was formed in 1975 as a Sunday League team for Hotpoint workers and played at Victoria Drive. After a season of Sunday League football, they switched to Saturday football and joined the local Vale of Conwy Section B League. Hotpoint FC would play in this league until the 1984-85 season when they won the Section B league as well as winning the Ron Jones Trophy in a double winning season. Two seasons later would be another double winning season for the Llandudno Junction based team, as they topped the Section A table and captured the NWWN Challenge Cup.

In the 1987-88 season, Hotpoint FC joined the Gwynedd League but success was less forthcoming as it had been in the Vale of Conwy League. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1990s when they managed to claim their first piece of silverware as a Gwynedd League club, winning the 1994-95 Cwpan Gwynedd. At the final held at Llandudno, it was an all-Llandudno Junction final as they beat town rivals Crosville FC 3-2 to lift the league cup. This started a period of reasonable success for Hotpoint as they finished Gwynedd League runners-up in two consecutive seasons between 1995 and 1997, whilst finishing as 1996-97 Cwpan Gwynedd finalists and reaching the semi-finals of the FAW Trophy.

Despite the success, the team’s future ambitions to climb the Welsh football pyramid were hampered by the limitations of their Victoria Drive ground. Therefore in the 1996-97 season in the quest for future success and development, the club moved away from the Victoria Ground and Llandudno Junction on the whole, and moved 9 miles westwards into Llanfairfechan FC’s Recreation Ground. They spent two seasons at Llanfairfechan, changing their name in the 1997-98 to Llanfairfechan Athletic to connect with their new home and attract local support, and also to remain at the Recreation Ground. Their enforce exile away from their true home was only a short one, and the team returned back to Llandudno Junction in the 1998-99 season. They did not return back to the Victoria Ground, but moved into their current Flyover ground, which was previously the home ground of their town rivals Crosville FC.

Their return back to Llandudno Junction proved to be an inspirational move, and the team (still known as Llanfairfechan Athletic) had a fantastic season. They managed to win the Barritt Cup, were finalists in the Cwpan Gwynedd / Gwynedd Cup once again, and finished 3rd in the Gwynedd League with only Glan Conwy and CPD Penrhyndeudraeth above them. This third place finish in the league was enough for the team to get promotion to the third-tier Welsh Alliance League. To reflect this promotion up to the third tier of Welsh football, the team changed their name once again to the current moniker of Llandudno Junction FC, becoming the fourth team to use the name.

Since their first season in the Welsh Alliance League in the 1999-2000 season, when they finished in a respectable 5th position, they have continually applied their trade in the Welsh Alliance League. Throughout their time in the third-tier, they have normally performed admirably without really setting the league alight, with a usual mid-table finish being the result of their efforts each season. Junction were under threat of getting relegated in the 2007-08 season, when under the management of Gary John Jones and then Darren Barrett, they finished bottom of the Welsh Alliance. However they were reprieved from a potential relegation back to the fourth tier as none of the teams in the old Clwyd League structure were eligible for promotion.

Even though league performances were continually steady without being eye-catching, Junction achieved greater success in the cup competitions. In the generally successful 2006-07 season, under the leadership of local manager Gary John Jones who also achieved a 7th place finish in the league, Junction managed reach the last four of the FAW Trophy. The following season, this time under the dual management of player-managers Daryl Smith and club captain Dwyfor Williams, they reached the semi-finals of the Cookson Cup (whilst finishing 12th in the league). Arguably one of their best seasons in recent times was the 2008-09 season when Shane Cartwright took sole charge of the squad. Under his tenure, the Railwaymen achieved one of their best league finishes of 6th place, but crucially brought some silverware back to The Flyover when they won the Barritt Cup for the second time in the club’s history, but the first under the Llandudno Junction name.

The following season and Llandudno Junction had their best Welsh Cup run when they reached the fourth round of the national cup competition. En route to the fourth round, they beat Llanrhaedr-ym-Mochnant 1-0, Llangefni Town 2-1 and Llangollen Town 3-1. This set up a money spinning home tie against that season’s league champions The New Saints, however the full time outfit from Oswestry proved too strong for their third-tier opponents and Junction lost 0-6. Despite the scoreline, the team gave a great account of themselves and managed to earn a significant amount of prize money for the cup run.

Welsh Alliance Division 1 Table 2014-15
The 2014-15 Welsh Alliance Division 1 Table

Last season’s campaign in the Welsh Alliance was Llandudno Junction’s best ever performance in the third tier, when they finished runners-up to runaway leaders Holywell Town. Under the management team of Darren Jones and assisted by Mark Orme, they managed to achieve 17 wins and five draws from their 26 league games to earn themselves 56 points. They also did well in the FAW Trophy were they reached the quarter final stage of the competition. Junction managed to defeat Barmouth & Dyffryn United (after extra time), Caerwys, Brickfield Rangers and Penrhyncoch (on penalties) before losing to the Gwent-based team of Abergavenny Town 1-4.

Under the new management of former Junction player Oliver Walters and Martyn Jones, who took over after the surprise departure of Jones & Orme, the Railwaymen currently find themselves 3rd in the league. After last season’s performance, Junction were considered one of the favourites for the title and promotion and they are currently living up to the pre-season predictions. Despite being 3rd in the table, they have lost only 1 of their 13 league games so far by having an undefeated home record and have accumulated 30 points. They also have four games in hand over early league leaders Llangefni Town who have a ten point advantage. In their previous game prior to this cup tie, they gained some momentum through an impressive 5-0 victory over Gwalchmai with a brace from Ryan Hughes and goals from Brad Jones, James Hobson and Ricky Jones securing the win.

WA Table 21st Jan

The road to the 5th round for this season’s FAW Trophy started against the same opposition as last season’s campaign when they needed another extra time victory over Barmouth & Dyffryn United to progress to the next round. This was followed up by two high scoring victories over Anglesey based teams Gaerwen and Aberffraw in the third and fourth rounds respectively.

  • R2: 2-0 vs. Barmouth & Dyffryn United [h]
  • R3: 8-3 vs. Gaerwen [a]
  • R4: 6-1 vs. Aberffraw [h]

Corwen_FC_Logo

Today’s opponents for Llandudno Junction would be the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division side of Corwen. They are currently in 10th position in the league having only won four of their eleven league games and earning 14 points from a possible 33 points. After having the previous weekend’s game against Chirk AAA postponed due to the miserable January weather, their last game was on the 9th January when they drew 1-1 away at Overton. This was their first league match since the 28th November after a combination of cup games and postponements ensured it would be a month before they would continue in their WNL campaign. On this occasion, they came from behind to draw with the 10-men of Overton, with the equaliser coming from a Wil Roberts spot kick.

WNL Table 21st Jan

Not only would they be going into this match with a week’s rest over their opponent, but they had great momentum in cup competitions as they enjoyed a good cup win prior to the New Year. In late December, Corwen managed to defeat current WNL leaders FC Nomads 2-0 in the North East Wales FA (NEWFA) Challenge Cup. This was no surprise as the men from the banks of the River Dee have been impressive in the cup competitions and the FAW Trophy in particular this season. Having seen them defeat another Welsh Alliance Division 1 team in St. Asaph City way back in September (which I blogged about), their progression through the rounds hasn’t been an easy one. A tough and close home victory over current WNL Division 1 leaders and local rivals Llangollen Town was followed by an impressive away victory at another Welsh Alliance Division 1 team, when they travelled to Anglesey to defeat Glantraeth.

As the Holywell area does not have a train station of its own, it meant I had to make the short drive down to Flint to catch the train to Llandudno Junction. Having parked up at Flint Station and buying a day return ticket to Llandudno Junction for the cost of £16.70, I picked up the direct train to Llandudno at 12:10 from Flint. The journey westwards took about 35 minutes, and there were plenty of seats available in the carriages that gave me the perfect opportunity to view the beautiful scenery North Wales has to offer as the train chugged along the coast (the coastal view between Junction – Colwyn Bay – Abergele & Pensarn being my particular favourite part of the journey). To keep me entertained on the journey, I was listening to previous editions of the Radio 5 Live’s “Fighting Talk” podcast – check them out as they are a decent listen.

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Awaiting the Llandudno Junction bound train at Flint Station

I arrived at Llandudno Junction station just before 12:40 and was one of a few people who descended from the carriages onto the platform. No doubt the rest of the travellers continuing their journey to the seaside and hoping for a day at the picturesque Llandudno (or potentially watching the League Cup Final which was being held at Llandundo FC’s Parc Maesdu…who knows??). The station is in an ideal location for the groundhopper as it is situated next to a supermarket and a pub, and is only a 5 minute walk from Llandudno Junction’s ground.

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Llandudno Junction train station

The pub opposite the entrance of the station is called The Old Station Hotel but is apparently affectionately known as “The Killer” by the locals. One possible origin of the curious (if a little sinister) nickname is that Victorian train drivers would get drunk there and then go on to drive trains, thus turning them into possible ‘Killers’ [before Network Rail or Arriva Trains Wales attempts to sue me, might I make the obvious comment this thankfully does not happen nowadays!!]. Another origin (and less legally troublesome for me) is that train drivers would pop across and spend their lunch breaks in the pub and thus “killed time”. As it was early afternoon and I was currently going through a personal challenge of avoiding alcohol until the 10th February, I decided to give ‘Y Killer’ a miss on this occasion. However I presume it might well become a favourite haunt for Lostboyo’s Matt Harrison, Gibbo et al when they eventually make a groundhop to Junction in the future. They best start stocking up on bottle of Brewdog Punk IPA now then…. 😉

Old Station Hotel
The Old Station Hotel – the pub opposite Llandudno Junction station [Taken from http://www.pub-explorer.com/northwales/pub/oldstationhotelllandudnojunction.htm ]
As I said previously, the ground is only a short walk from the train station, and so I trudged past the pub and up Ferndale Road (A547) towards The Flyover which would be located on the right hand side. The ground is positioned in an ideal position for supporters as it is next to a large, major roundabout in the town meaning supporters driving to the ground can easily reach it via the A55/6G Road, Conwy or Llandudno/Deganwy. This is because all the major roads coming from them flow into the same roundabout which the ground is beside.

Llandudno Junction Ground
Location of The Flyover to the Train Station

The Flyover (or the “Arriva Ground” to give it its corporate official name) is situated just off Ferndale Road at the end of a short access road. It is surrounded by houses and some woods to the north and west of the ground’s footprint, whilst public fields and parks surround the other two sides. On the walk down the access road, there was a public playing park on the left hand side, along with a small football field which was being used by the Junction youth teams when I arrived. Some supporters had also parked alongside the access road but parking is at a premium near the ground, so please be aware if you’re deciding to drive there. You might have to park by the station/supermarket, or possibly further away.

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Welcome to the Arriva Ground

The ground’s changing rooms, public toilet and snack bar are located along the right hand side of the access path and it’s possible to buy food & drink before entering the ground. Therefore I went into the snack bar and bought myself a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar for the combined total of £1.70. The Snickers bar was chosen as the hot food was still being cooked – the downside to arriving so early! However they do sell the usual hot snacks like burgers & hotdogs there for reasonable prices should you want some nourishment.

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Entrance to the ground is at the end of the access path and past the snack bar, and for this FAW Trophy Round 5 game the price of entrance was just £3! Bargain! I also bought the accompanying programme to the cup fixture for a further pound. Before entering I asked the guy on the ‘turnstile’ if the club sold any pin badges or merchandise as I wish to add to the ever increasing collection of pin badges I am now harvesting. Much to my delight, he confirmed they did indeed sell pin badges, along with key rings, car stickers etc. back at the snack hatch. So I returned back from whence I came and bought myself a cracking Llandudno Junction pin badge for just £2!

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The match programme with Junction pin badge

Upon entering The Flyover, I was very impressed by the standard of the ground and has had some significant investment over the years. There are two stands at the ground – the main permanent stand is located centrally on the north-east side of the pitch which has covered seating for approximately 50-75 people. The other covered stand (the Maurice Naylor Stand) directly next to the entrance, in the eastern corner of the pitch, where people can stand behind one of the goals and be sheltered from the rain which often drifts from nearby Snowdonia. There are concreted perimeter paths on three sides of the pitch although a small culvert/brook behind the opposite goal ensures the path cannot fully surround the whole pitch. As per usual, there are permanent stand barriers which separate the playing area from the supporters’ area, as well as concrete dugouts for both teams. However the club does not have floodlights as of yet, which is often the case for many third-tier Welsh teams.

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Players warming up at The Flyover

Whilst the players were out on the pitch warming up, I decided to walk around the ground taking plenty of pictures for this blog, whilst slurping down the black coffee bought earlier. Having a look around the pitch, it can be seen that should Junction advance up to the next level of Welsh football, there is certainly enough space to expand and improve upon the ground should it be required in the future. All in all, I was enjoying this quaint ground next to the River Conwy and berated myself for not coming sooner!

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Welcome to The Flyover

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For the match, I decided to position myself on the main stand side of the pitch and just left of the away dugout. Coincidentally it was a great position for seeing the landscape beyond the town, as nearby Conwy Castle could be seen looming over the River Conwy (which was its intention when built – to look imposing). Even from Llandundo Junction, the size of the castle is simply breathtaking! Behind the English-built fortress was the natural barrier of the Snowdonia hills dominating the landscape, with a couple of the higher mountains in the distance still having their summits glistening with winter snow.

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Conwy Castle in the background with Snowdonia beyond

10 minutes before the scheduled 1:30pm kick-off time and the home side came out onto the pitch first, accompanied by members of their youth team who were acting as mascots for the day – a nice touch I thought. Some group pictures were taken as the first team and youth team mascots lined up in the centre circle before the Corwen team advanced onto the pitch. Conditions for the game weren’t too bad considering it was January and the weather had been awful earlier in the week. Despite the sky being overcast, it was quite mild for a January day although the temperatures were cooled by a strong westerly breeze coming from Snowdonia. The condition of the pitch was also good for a winter game, although naturally the pitch looked a touch soft in certain areas but nothing that wouldn’t be expected for a pitch in January.

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The home side come onto the pitch
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Team picture
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Corwen arrive onto the pitch
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Jump off!

For today’s match Llandudno Junction were in their usual home kit of all navy kit with yellow trim, whilst Corwen were playing in their home kit of all red with white & black trims.

Junction & Corwen Team Selections
The team selections for today’s game

 

MATCH ACTION – FIRST HALF

Within the first ten minutes of the match the home side were looking the brighter of the two teams by having a few early chances through Adam Hold. After eight minutes he found some space just in front of the Corwen defensive line and tried a shot just outside of the box, however he could only scuff his effort. Two minutes later and whipped a long free kick towards the 6 yard box which forced the Corwen goalkeeper Jamie Bodden to punch it clear of the danger area. Alas the home side were unable to capitalise on the follow-up chance, but they were putting the early pressure on their opponents.

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Despite the early Junction pressure, Corwen began to find their way into the match and started to threaten their hosts goal through their lethal looking forward partnership. Sam Griffiths started the Corwen attack down the left flank and launched the ball forward to his more advanced teammates. After great hold-up by #10 Ryan Jones, who had his back to goal, he spotted his attacking accomplice #9 Tom Williams making a darting run into the box. A lovely layoff into the path of the advancing Williams and he was clear on goal with just Junction’s keeper Gwydion Owen to beat. With Owen rushing off his goalline to quell to threat, Williams superbly knocked the ball past the keeper and towards the open goal. Unfortunately for the visiting fans, the ball didn’t have enough power to roll into the bottom corner of net and could only trickle towards the goalline. This allowed enough time for the covering Junction defender to rush back and clear the danger.

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Yellow card coming up

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Tom Williams had another half chance a couple of minutes later when he broke clear of the Junction defensive line, but had his squared pass to Sam Griffiths intercepted. Griffiths would have scored had the pass had reached its intended target.  Even though Corwen were unlucky with their first and second efforts, third time was definitely a charm on the 17th minute as the roles were reversed for the Corwen attacking line. This time great strength from Williams, who held off the challenging Junction defender for just enough time to slip the ball to Ryan Jones who had copied Williams’ earlier darting run, and looked just onside. Having broken the Junction offside trap, he jinked past the challenging yet helpless Owen in the one-on-one situation, and slotted the ball into the empty net.

Llandudno Junction 0 – 1 Corwen

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (27)
Corwen take the lead

Llandudno Junction were trying to conjure up an early equaliser, and it looked as if their attacking full backs might be key to levelling things up. Firstly their right back Joel Hewitt had surged forward with the ball in a Brazilian full back style attack as space opened up in front of him down the right flank. With no Corwen defender closing him down in time, he managed to fire a vicious looking strike from 25 yards out. Unluckily for the ‘Conwy Cafu’ his excellent effort just curled wide of the right hand post at the last moment. Hewitt would be involved in a set piece a couple of minutes later as he whipped a dangerous cross into the box. Alas his cross was missed by everyone around the penalty spot but connected by his captain Ian Pattinson who had drifted towards the back post. Unfortunately for the midfielder, he was always stretching to reach the cross and could only scoop the ball over the crossbar.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (28)Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (29)

Corwen’s plan seemed to employ the “gegenpress” tactic made famous by Juergen Klopp’s teams, and it worked a charm as they continually harassed any Junction player who had possession of the ball. At one point three Corwen players had quickly surrounded the home captain Pattinson, and forced him to concede a throw-in in his own half. From the resulting throw-in, the ball was passed towards Tom Williams upfront who again held the ball up well looking for advancing runners either side of his position. He again spotted the run of Ryan Jones and hit the through ball for Jones to run onto. This time Owen was aware of the tried and tested tactic Corwen were employing and rushed off his line early. This quick rush forward forced Jones to strike the ball early and he fired a low shot towards goal. On this occasion Owen was equal to the goal scoring opportunity and deflected the shot away with an outstretched foot.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (32)Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (34)

With the half time interval approaching, the game opened up resulting in an end-to-end attacking display from both teams. Again Junction threatened down the flanks through their full backs. This time their left back Sam Sinkinson had driven forward and went on a mazy run down the left wing that would have impressed Gareth Bale. Sinkinson evaded a couple of challenges and advanced into the penalty box where he decided to test the keeper. Alas for Sinkinson, his shot was an easy gather for Jamie Bodden. At the other end, Corwen’s forward line-up were bullying the Junction defence as they won the physical battle. Again Tom Williams held off two home defenders as he was allowed to turn towards goal. This time he attempted a shot outside of the box, which was easily dealt with by Gwydion Owen.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (36)
Corner to Junction trying to find an equaliser before half time

Just as it looked like Corwen would go into the break with the advantage, Junction had a couple of corners attacking their opponents’ goal. Firstly the initial corner was deflected out of play by a Corwen player who conceded another corner. From the resulting set piece, Jamie Jones arced the ball towards the bustling crowd on the edge of the six yard box. Bodden came off his line hoping to punch the ball but amongst the clamour in the box, James Hobson climbed above the gathering to divert the cross into the net. A crucial time to score!!

Llandudno Junction 1 – 1 Corwen

That would be the final action of the half, and both sides went back into the changing rooms on an equal footing. This cup tie on the banks of the River Conwy was starting to look very intriguing!

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (38)
Half time and it’s all square

HALF TIME: LLANDUDNO JUNCTION 1 – 1 CORWEN

Half time was spent catching up on the madness that was going on at Carrow Road with Liverpool and Norwich both adopting the Kevin Keegan tactic of scoring one more than the opposition whilst possessing a leaky defence. Whilst I was wolfing down the Snickers chocolate bar which had been bought earlier, the youth team mascots were attempting penalties in one of the goals. Considering some of the penalties that were pinging into the back of the net with some venom, Junction might have a promising wave of first teamers coming through in 10 years’ time!

 

MATCH ACTION – SECOND HALF

With the equaliser coming just before half time, Llandudno Junction approached the second half with more enthusiasm and with the momentum behind them. This was certainly reflected in their increased amount of ball possession in comparison to the first half, and they were passing the ball around more successfully. Once again they were getting success down the flanks, and Adam Hold almost punished Corwen when he ran into the box from a right wing position. As he attempted the square the ball across goal, it was cut out by the Corwen defender and cleared from danger.

Despite Junction’s increased possession and increasingly threatening set pieces, Corwen continued to cause problems for the home defence with their forward pairing. On the 54th minute, the visitors had their first chance of the half through a Ryan Jones – Tom Williams connection once again. A long ball was flicked on by Williams at the edge of the penalty box towards his attacking partner who had advanced ahead of him towards the far post. However his header had a little too much velocity and went just beyond Jones and past the right hand post. Jones would create another half chance a few minutes later when he ran into box towards the left hand byline, hoping to square the ball across the box for a team mate to run onto. Alas the cross was easily intercepted and cleared by the Corwen defenders.

The game was opening up with both teams having fantastic chances to take the advantage in the match. Just after the hour mark and Junction had their best chance of the game through another set piece. A corner from the right was curled into the box, where Joel Hewitt had jumped above the crowd bustling around the penalty spot but headed just over the crossbar. At the other end, Williams and Jones teamed once more resulting in Williams attempting a lobbed shot over Gwydion Owen and into the top right hand corner. However Owen pulled off an amazing one handed diving save to scoop the ball beyond the right hand post. A critical and game changing save!

The importance of Owen’s save would become evident on the 69th minute when Junction would take the lead through an optimistic and powerful yet successful effort from Ricky Jones. The Railwaymen’s #7 had enough time and space in the centre of the park to attempt a speculative shot from about 30 yards out. It looked as if Jamie Bodden had the dipping strike covered by unfortunately for the Reds’ number 1, he slipped at the most crucial of moments and was left sprawling on the ground as the ball bounced just in front and over his outstretched legs (attempted to kick the ball away as he landed on the ground) and just inside the right hand post.

Llandudno Junction 2 – 1 Corwen

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (49)
Junction take the lead 2-1

With Junction having a slice of fortune for their second goal, they pushed hard to secure a third and potentially winning goal. Two minutes after taking the lead and they had a great chance to double their advantage. A throw-in from Sam Sinkinson found Adam Hold just outside the left hand side of penalty area. From his position he attempted a half volley which was on target and looked destined to nestle into the top right hand corner of the goal. On this occasion Bodden made no mistake by finger-tipping the dipping effort just over the crossbar for a corner. From the following corner, the set piece was directed to the centre back Rob Marshall-Jones who managed to connect with the cross and head towards goal. Alas the defender could only see his attempt go the wrong side of the bar as it sailed inches over the right corner of the woodwork.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (51)Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (52)

With time ticking away, both teams were on the attack with Junction looking to kill off the game whilst Corwen were looking for an equaliser. Within the space of two minutes, both teams have golden chances to score but failed on both occasions. Firstly on the 79th minute, Adam Hold surged down the space on the right hand flank and squared the ball across to the goalscorer Ricky Jones who had moved into space in a central position on the edge of the penalty box. This time Jones couldn’t quite get his firm attempt on target and blazed his shot over the crossbar. At the other end of the pitch, Corwen had an opportunity to level things up through a corner after the substitute Ifan Davies’ strike had deflected out for a corner. When the cross came in, Gwydion Owen came forth to punch away the ball but the cross got a deflection before he could claim it and it zoomed towards goal. Fortunately for the home keeper, a defender had stayed on the far post whilst defending the corner, and managed to clear the ball off the goal line.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (53)

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (54)
Goalscorer Ricky Jones on the attack

Corwen were punished for missing their chances when on the 82nd minute, the match seemed effectively over when the Railwaymen scored their third goal of the afternoon. A cross came in from the right hand side which was aimed towards Hobson in the middle of the penalty area but Jamie Bodden judged the flight of the ball perfectly to punch the ball clear. Alas for the keeper, luck was not with him this afternoon as the flight of the punch dropped into the path of Ricky Jones who had loitered outside of the area looking to pick up stray balls. Taking advantage of the clearance, he fired the ball past Bodden from 20 yards out and into the back of the net. It was looking as if Llandudno Junction would be heading into the quarter finals of the FAW Trophy.

Llandudno Junction 3 – 1 Corwen

Just eight minutes and injury time remaining, the game started to get a little heated with Corwen perhaps showing their frustration at being 1-3 down. Ifan Davies got cautioned after a late tackle which caused a reaction from a number of the Junction players who accused him of making a two-footed challenge. From my position I couldn’t quite see if it was a two footed challenge but it was late and caught the player, and so worthy of a yellow card.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (57)
A flash point after a late tackle

On the 89th minute Corwen were almost gifted a late goal when a defensive header back to his keeper by Marshall-Jones was intercepted by Tom Williams who went clear through on goal. Alas in keeping with the fortune of Corwen this afternoon, he could only scuff his shot and was easily gathered by Owen in the Junction goal. However in the second minute of injury time, Corwen did manage to give the match a grandstand finish when they finally managed to breach the Junction defence for a second time. A swift counter-attack was initiated by Jamie Bodden who quickly released the ball from his box to Tom Williams who had found space down one of the flanks and ran towards goal. Williams advanced forward into the space which had opened up due to the counter-attack and managed to direct the ball beyond the reach of Owen into the far corner of the net.

Llandudno Junction 3 – 2 Corwen

With Junction desperate to maintain possession of the ball and Corwen pushing desperately for a very late equaliser, urgency increased which inevitably lead to a more heated atmosphere on the pitch. On the fourth minute of injury time, another disagreement between the two teams occurred when Wil Roberts was very late in his attempted tackle as Lee Ellis drifted past him down the left byline, resulting in him kicking the player instead of the ball. Cue arguments between both sets of players with choice words clearly being said between the teams. Even one of the Corwen substitutes, who was returning back from the changing room and was standing on the other side of the separation barrier, was having aggressively berating at some Junction players from the side of the pitch. Predictably both Roberts and Junction substitute Lee Ellis were cautioned by the official Mr Robin Williams – Roberts for the late challenge and Ellis for his subsequent reaction.

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (60)
Late pressure from Junction
Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (61)
Late pressure from Junction
Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (62)
Not happy with the late tackle

After seven minutes of injury time, and Corwen fruitlessly attempting to conjure up a late equaliser, the referee Mr Williams finally blew his whistle and ended the contest. It would be Llandudno Junction who would find their name in the draw for the last eight of the FAW Trophy.

FULL TIME: LLANDUDNO JUNCTION 3 – 2 CORWEN

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (63)
Full time and it will be Llandudno Junction into the quarter finals of the FAW Trophy

The match was a fantastic cup tie between two decent teams who were fairly equal in terms of ability. To use the age old cliché, it was ‘a game of two halves’ with Corwen the better team in the first half and Junction to more superior in the second half. Corwen’s forward pairing of Tom Williams and Ryan Jones gave the home defence major problems all game, and some of the interplay between them was simply unstoppable and a joy to watch. Plus their hard pressing in the first half constantly forced Junction’s players into conceding possession and made it difficult for their opponents to find a way into the game. Even though they lost this cup tie, they can take a lot of positives from the game and were unlucky to concede they second goal when they did. Had some of their chances had been converted, especially in the first half, the result might well have been a different affair.

For Llandudno Junction, they home supporters can head home with a smile on their face as their performance in the second half was impressive. They continuously exploited the space down the flanks allowing wing backs Joel Hewitt and Sam Sinkinson to have a huge impact in their attacking play, whilst Ricky Jones became more influential in the second half as he found more space to work with and added a couple of goals for his efforts. They were perhaps lucky with one of their goals, but you make your own luck and their pressure on the Corwen defence forced them to make the errors, which were exploited fully. Also Junction looked dangerous on the set pieces, with which their first goal was scored from. Plus the equaliser was scored at a critical time in the match which crucially helped momentum swing in their favour for the second half.

Just as the match finished, the heavens started to open almost on cue otherwise the second half could have been a damper affair for those standing around the pitch. Therefore the five minute walk from The Flyover back to the station became a little wetter than expected. As I had a good 25 minutes to kill before my return train back to Flint station, I decided to buy a giant Eccles cake from the station café for about £1.70. So my journey would conclude with me sitting on a bench on the platform waiting for the train back, listening to the rain pitter-patter the station, whilst a seagull on the platform was eying up my food. Sorry my feathered friend but there would be no scraps for you this time as I was famished!

Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (66)
Sorry no Eccles cake for you!!
Llan Junction vs Corwen 23rd Jan 16 (67)
Planting my foot back at Flint Station
Flint Castle
Flint Castle

I really enjoyed my train ride and groundhop to Llandudno Junction and would place the journey in my Top 5 visits since I started my groundhopping odyssey. The Flyover has a unique and quaint character which I thoroughly enjoyed, and every member of the Junction volunteers I came into contact with were warm and welcoming, which I really appreciated! So I would encourage you all to make the journey via train or by car to The Flyover and take in the atmosphere. If the landscapes won’t make you love the place, then friendly environment certainly will!

Good luck to Llandudno Junction in the Quarter Finals of the FAW Trophy, where they will face another Welsh National Team in Queens Park, and for the rest of the Welsh Alliance season. I would also like to wish Corwen all the very best for the rest of their season and hope to see both teams again in the future.

Diolch! 🙂

 

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