Cymru Alliance – 13th February 2016
Ground #66: Y Weirglodd, Rhayader, Radnorshire, Powys
- Entrance: £5.00
- Programme: £1.00
- Pin Badge: £2.00
- Hotdog: £1.50
- Cup of Soup: £1.00
- Raffle Ticket: £1.00
There was romance in the air for the second weekend in February, as it was Saint Valentine’s weekend – the time of year when people publically show their affections for the people that they love or adore. Personally I find Valentine’s Day to be a corporate-created money-making scheme which forces poor love-struck people into paying inflated prices for meals/flowers/etc. just to show their affection on a specifically defined day. All piffle if you ask me! I mean why do you need a specific day to show affection ha?
Perhaps I am becoming cynical in my advancing years, perhaps there is no Mrs 94th Minute on the scene currently (applications for the vacancy are welcome haha) or maybe a combination of the both has resulted in my opinion of the day. Either way, my Valentine’s weekend would be a quiet (yet cheap) one, which I didn’t mind too much if truth be told. However the romance shall not completely pass this fellow by, as the Saturday of the weekend would be spent embracing the things I admire. Naturally it would be an alluring combination which involved my love of groundhopping with viewing my beloved Holywell Town at an exciting new location…and my word was this groundhop date all set to be an absolute beauty potentially!
When the original Cymru Alliance fixtures were announced prior to the season commencing, I had a scout to spot all the fixtures when Holywell were playing away at locations I had not previously visited and plan future groundhops. During that initial research, one such fixture stood out and immediately peaked my interest due to the fact it would be the longest journey I would be making to watch a Holywell Town Cymru Alliance game this season. This journey would be a two and a half hour drive, at a length of 97 miles (155 kms), down into deepest mid-Wales to see the Wellmen take on the Red Kites of the Powys town of Rhayader.
Rhayader (Welsh: Rhaeadr Gwy) is a small but important rural market town of about 2,100 inhabitants situated within a meander on the eastern bank of the River Wye (Welsh: Afon Gwy). The town is one of the main conurbations within the predominately rural historic county of Radnorshire in mid-Powys, and is also the first town the River Wye flows through from its source on the Plynlimon range of the Cambrian Mountains 20 miles west of Rhayader. The Wye is also the source of the town’s name “Rhayader” as it is corrupted from the original Welsh name of the town “Rhaeadr Gwy”, which literally means ‘Waterfall on the Wye’. Alas little remains of the original waterfall nowadays with it being destroyed in 1780 to make way for the bridge linking the town with Cwmdauddwr and the Elan Valley.
Rhayader is situated centrally in Wales, and is roughly the midway point between North and South Wales on the main A470 trunk road (which runs from Llandudno to Cardiff) that goes through the town. Positioned in the north-west of Radnorshire, the town is 12 miles north-west of Llandrindod Wells, 14 miles north of Builth Wells, 24 miles south of Newtown and 35 miles east of Aberystwyth. The B4574 mountain road which connects Rhayader to the seaside university town of Aberystwyth is considered by the AA as one of the ten most scenic drives in the world! Despite Rhayader’s key location within Wales, it does not have its own train station with the nearest train station being located in Llandrindod Wells.
There is evidence of ancient settlements being located either in Rhayader or within the close locality from the Bronze Age to the Dark Ages. Such prehistoric artefacts like Neolithic axes, have been discovered in the area. Plus an abundance of cairns and standing stones that dot the hills surrounding the town indicate Bronze Ages settles were lived and travelled through the area. Centuries later the Romans arrived in the area hoping to ford the River Wye at Rhayader on their way to accessing the numerous lead and silver mines situated in Cardiganshire. Evidence of Roman activity was proved when a huge Roman treasure horde was discovered on Gwestedyn Hill (located to the south of Rhayader) in the late 19th Century. The trove of Romano-British gold jewellery that was discovered is thought to have belonged to the local princess Rowena.
However it is not until the 12th century when documented history of Rhayader commences, when an outlying castle was built by the Lord Rhys of Debeubarth in 1177 to protect his kingdom from the ever encroaching Norman and Flemish Marcher Lords, and in particular Roger Mortimer, Earl of Wigmore. After Mortimer forces had ambushed and killed two local princes after returning from an Eisteddfod (held by the Lord Rhys), Lord Rhys responded to the outrage by constructing a wooden fort surrounded by a dry moat (the moat still exists) on the banks of the River Wye. The castle was originally burnt down by Marcher forces (with Lord Rhys captured) but was rebuilt in 1194 by a newly-released Lord Rhys who realised the strategic importance of its location. The castle lasted approximately fifty years under Welsh command before it was eventually captured and burnt down by Mortimer forces in 1231, after the passing of Lord Rhys a year earlier.
The location of Rhayader has resulted in the town always being an important stopping point for travellers moving across the country. Along with the earlier settlers as mentioned previous, Cistercian monks plodded through the town on their arduous journey from Strata Florida to their sister abbey at Cwmhir. Later cattle and sheep drovers would drive their livestock through the town for a quick stop-off before heading towards the lucrative markets in the growing cities of England. Even the mail coaches on their way from London to Aberystwyth would stop in the town for a change of horses, some food & drink and shelter when required. The location is so significant when travelling through Wales that the clock tower in the middle of Rhayader, is considered to be the historic crossroad midway between North and South Wales.
In the first half of the 19th century, Rhayader and the local area were subject to rioting through the unpopular toll system that was in place. Rhayader had six toll gates on the roads into the town, which resulted in making journeys or bringing goods/livestock/etc. into the town incredibly expensive. This additional cost really burdened the tenant farmers and farm workers, who were already struggling financially through low prices for food, poor harvests and an increased levy on tithe payments. A maelstrom of a dire financial situation with a perceived lack of interest from those in power, resulted in furious storm of violence from the local populace against the tolls, which were perceived a symbol of their grievances.
To avoid detection from the authorities, local tenant farmers and workers would dress up in women’s clothing and call themselves “Rebecca and her daughters” as they attacked the tollgates. No-one is sure why the rioters created the icon of Rebecca and the cross-dressing daughters as a disguise, but it is thought it comes from Genesis book of the Bible where Rebecca recommends that some “possess the gates of those which hate them”. The ‘Rebecca Riots’, as they are known in history, began in Rhayader in October 1843 when “Rebecca” first appeared with her “daughters” and demolished three tollgates. The following month the ‘Rebeccaites’ reappeared and destroyed the North, East and Rhayader Bridge tollgates. Eventually a Commission of Inquiry was established to determine the reasons for the Rebecca Riots, and many of the grievances that forced Rebecca to appear were righted in 1844.
Towards the end of the 19th century, and the rapidly expanding city of Birmingham (then dubbed “the workshop of the Empire”) was in desperate need of an additional source of clean, safe water especially after an few outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery had struck the city. The ideal water source they acquired was 70 miles west of the city to the Elan Valley, and this decision by Birmingham would change the nearby town of Rhayader forever.
Rhayader would become the “Gateway to the Elan Valley” as thousands of workers would arrive in the town via the railway (which had reached the town in 1864) to help build the massive complex of dams and reservoirs that would serve Birmingham’s water requirements. Work started on the monumental Victorian engineering project in 1894, and they were officially open in 1904 by King Edward VI. With the construction of the dams, Rhayader expanded with many hovels replaced by the three storied buildings which are in existence in the town today. Also shops in the town centre were all enlarged or rebuilt to accommodate the growth in population, as well as the increasing tourist trade engendered by the newly opened reservoirs.
Today the town embraces its position as “Gateway to the Elan Valley” becoming the base of a tourist trade which focuses on the reservoirs and the surrounding hills of both the Elan and upper Wye vales. There are many hotels, bed & breakfasts, camp / caravan sites available, as well as plenty of restaurants and cafes providing food within the town. The town fully accommodating for tourists who wish to explore the Elan Valley and beyond from Rhayader or who are traditionally using the town as a stopping point before continuing their journey through Wales.
Colloquially Rhayader residents are sometimes known as “Bwgyites”, named after the River Bwgy which used to flow along an artificial channel through the town before flowing into the River Wye near the Rhayader Bridge. The river was considered “the pride of its inhabitants and the bane of travellers” as it supplied houses in the town with drinking water. There are a few local sayings which state that “the finest children Wales can have are those that drink bright Bwgy’s wave”, and that anyone who dipped their feet in the Bwgy would always return to Rhayader. Even though the Bwgy has been piped underground since 1877, the river still has a strong link to the town resulting in the local nickname for its residents today.
There are records of a football team playing at Rhayader as far back as 1884, when a side playing at Y Weirglodd complex gained a 1-1 draw against fellow mid-Wales side Newtown. This early result can be considered a decent achievement considering Newtown were one of the strongest and successful teams in Welsh football during that late Victorian period.
A Rhayader side named ‘Turfs Rhayader FC’ were formed in the post-WW2 period where they applied their early trade in the Mid-Wales (South) League from the 1947-48 season onwards. However after a few seasons, they moved into the Mid-Wales League when the Northern and Southern sections combined to make one league. In their first season of the combined Mid-Wales League, they finished bottom of the league with just two points earned from one win (back when a win was worth two league points) throughout the whole season. Rhayader seems to disappear from records after that season, but they eventually reappear in the Mid-Wales League in the 1965-66 season when they finished second from bottom in the league, with only Tywyn below them. In the 1966-67 season, they achieved their first piece of silverware when they were victorious in the Radnorshire Cup competition.
Rhayader continued to play in the Mid-Wales League throughout the 1960s and 1970s although they didn’t particularly producing any highlights during their sixteen season stay in the league, often finishing near the bottom of the table. On occasions Rhayader struggled and finished bottom of the league in particular seasons, with the 1971-72 season being particular awful for Rhayder earning a single point from 26 league games. However when the league changed its name to the ‘Central Wales League’ in the 1981-82 season, Rhayader’s fortunes began to improve as they slowly climbed into more respectable league positions. The highlight of this period in the 1980s was when they finished in 5th position in the 1987-88 season earning 24 points from 24 games.
The creation of the League of Wales in the 1992-93 season proved to be beneficial to Rhayader’s position in the football pyramid as they moved up a tier to accommodate a position in the Cymru Alliance. The Cymru Alliance required new teams to fill its ranks after losing half of the previous season’s teams to the newly established national league competition. After a period of adjustment to the second-tier of Welsh football, where they achieved a 13th place finish in their debut deason, they soon established and consolidated themselves both on and off the pitch in the Alliance. The team consistently improved and finished in solid mid-table positions between 1993 and 1995.
The breakthrough season came in the 1995-96 season when improved on their previous mid-table finishes to complete the league campaign in an impressive 6th position, scoring 66 goals and recording 20 league wins along the way! Under the management of Richard Cross, the Red Kites dramatically improved the following season and using the momentum gained from the 6th place the previous season, managed to comfortable win the Cymru Alliance title (winning it by 7 points from runners-up Rhydymwyn) and gain promotion to the League of Wales. During the title winning campaign, they scored a ridiculous 79 goals whilst conceding 25 goals, and only lost once during the season. They also backed up the Alliance title by claiming the Central Wales Cup to complete a historic double-winning season!
Their promotion to the top flight led to a series of ground improvements to Y Weirglodd to bring it up to the league’s standards, resulting in the impressive ground that exists today. Even though they never lit up the top flight during their five season stay, they achieved four consecutive lower half table finishes [15th, 15th, 14th and 12th] to maintain their position in the League of Wales. However in the 2001-02 season, the odds were against them and they suffered relegation after only achieving three league victories and 15 points in a 34 match season.
Rather surprisingly, Rhayader chose to drop a further tier down the pyramid to take the place of their reserve side and rejoin the Mid-Wales League rather than second-tier Cymru Alliance. This was down to it being more financially beneficial to play more local teams in the Mid-Wales League than the more extensive area covered by the Cymru Alliance, which would have increased travel costs. However after four seasons in the Mid-Wales League, the club suffered from a lack interest from potential officials. Therefore in the summer of 2006, the club resigned from the league and ceased to exist meaning the town had no representation for the 2006-07 season.
Thankfully the ‘Bwgy’ only had to wait a solitary season before they would be represented again and Rhayader Town were reformed. Under the guidance of local player-manager Dylan McPhee (who is still player-manager today), they went on to achieve the Mid Wales (South) League and Cup double on their return back to competition, as well as winning promotion back to the Mid-Wales League. After their first season back finished in a sixth place finish, the following season saw them return back to the second-tier and the Cymru Alliance as they finished runners-up to league champions CPD Penparcau. Penparcau chose not to get promoted, and as per FAW regulations, the runner-up was allowed promotion (providing the ground was to Alliance standards) which resulted in Rhayader heading back to the Alliance.
Their stay back in the Cymru Alliance lasted only one season, when they were relegated back the Mid-Wales League alongside Welshpool Town, with both teams occupying the bottom two positions. However they rebounded back to the second tier after claiming the 2011-12 Mid-Wales League title by a single point from nearest rivals Montgomery Town. They have played in the Alliance since their re-promotion back to the Alliance in the 2012-13 season, finishing 11th in their first two seasons back. Last season they suffered a slight drop in results when they achieved a 12th position finish but were involved in a relegation fight with four teams getting relegated from the league. In the end, their points’ total of 30 points was just enough to hold off local rivals Llanidloes Town to maintain their Alliance stay courtesy of a single point advantage over Llanidloes.
This season has been a struggle for the Red Kites as they are currently situated 15th in the table, having just achieved 3 wins from their 17 league games so far. After achieving 4 points from their first two games, they only achieved one win (against last season’s Mid-Wales League champions Llanfair United) from the following 11 games but losing the other 10 fixtures. The worst result of that period was a 1-7 loss against Caernarfon Town (which I saw and blogged about). However within the last couple of games, results have improved for the Thin Red Line. In their previous league fixture, they just lost a close encounter away against Llanfair 1-2, but in their previous home fixture they achieved a confidence boosting 3-2 victory over Flint Town United. They were hoping lightning would strike twice and they would achieve another victory over a top half Flintshire side at Y Weirglodd!
Their opponents for this match would be Holywell Town, who were flying high in the league in 3rd position. Since getting promotion back to the Cymru Alliance, they have vastly exceeded pre-season expectations by earning 35 points from 17 games played. Going into the match, the Wellmen were just four points off league leaders Caernarfon Town but with a game in hand. However the bad weather since the turn of the New Year has severely hampered Holywell’s season as they have only played two games prior to this match in 2016. In their last match, they achieved a hard-fought away victory against local rivals Prestatyn Town (which I went and seen). In a very tempestuous match, a second-half strike from Graeme Williams claimed all three points for the Wellmen in their first league match of 2016.
Holywell were supposed to play Caernarfon in a Cymru Alliance League Cup (the Huws Gray Cup) match the previous weekend to the Rhayader match, but a waterlogged pitch at The Oval ensured Holywell had another free weekend this year. Although there is a worry that the momentum of the Prestatyn win might be disrupted, they should be fresher for the long trip down to Radnorshire.
When I viewed the initial fixtures, I was concerned that February weather conditions could problems for the game being played. Imagine my despair when weeks prior to the match, games would be postponed left, right and centre, with Holywell games inevitably being postponed seemingly nearly every weekend. Plus weather forecasts for the week prior to the Rhayader game were not looking ideal with high risks of snow or rain cascading down over the Radnorshire area. The looming scenario of another postponement was looking like a distinct possibility and the Rhayader trip would be delayed for later on in the season!
Viewing of the Rhayader & Holywell Twitter accounts on the Friday before the game were rife, with fingers, toes and any other appendages crossed hoping the game would take place on the Saturday. My hopes were initially dashed when the backup game (always got to have a Plans B, C, D and beyond during the winter months) of Llanfair United versus Mold Alexandra was postponed on the Saturday morning after a 9am pitch inspection. Would another Holywell fixture allude me for another weekend? Thankfully the football gods were smiling down upon me on this romantic weekend as confirmation of the game came through on Twitter. Mother Nature had decided to take a breather this weekend and the pitch condition at The Weirglodd was acceptable! It was game on!
I would not be venturing to the banks of the River Wye alone as regular groundhopping sidekick Greg would be accompanying me and superbly decided to drive down, meaning I could be passenger for the day. However because he was driving down, there would be two conditions – the first was I had to drive to meet him at his sister’s house in Broughton, meaning no drinks in the clubhouse (no problem). The second was that he had to get back home rapidly after the game as he was taking his lovely wife Becky on a Valentine’s meal that very evening. Considering she was very understanding allowing him to go a 5 hour round trip to watch a match, I thought it was a fair deal!
Therefore we set off from Broughton just after noon (humming Golden Earring’s Radar Love – very apt considering the time of year and place name), heading down the A483 to Newtown. From Newtown we journeyed west towards Caersws (where we both visited in late September for a Holywell game), before latching onto the main A470 trunk road. Staying on this main road, we ventured through Llanidloes (another future potential groundhop venue) before arriving at the beautiful town of Rhayader just before 2pm. Thankfully the traffic conditions were relatively clear on the way down meaning we could easily arrive in town with plenty of time before the 2:30pm scheduled kick-off time.
Y Weirglodd is located to the south of the town, between the town centre and the bend of the River Wye. The entrance is located at the end of Water Lane, with the lane junction being situated just before the bridge crossing over the Wye. There are signs located at the junction pointing down the lane to ensure all visitors are heading in the right direction. I couldn’t spot any signs in the town centre itself showing direction, so keep a look out when driving past junctions. We initially drove past the Water Lane and had to double back on ourselves before we followed the correct route.
The football ground is located in close proximity to the town’s rugby club and you have to drive past the rugby clubhouse before arriving at the large car park outside of the football ground. The car park is a good size with plenty of opportunities to park one’s car. Please be aware that there were a few potholes about and the surface can be a little slippery with mud, so take aware when walking from the vehicle to the entrance of the ground. When we arrived in the car park, the Holywell Town coach was already parked up waiting, whilst there were a few other cars which had taken space in the car park. As mentioned previously, the car park was muddy when we disembarked the car although considering the weather we have had over the past few months, it is to be expected.
From the car park, the entrance to the ground can be clearly seen as well as the cracking view of the ground and the landscape beyond. Going through the entrance, I paid the Cymru Alliance standard price of £5 entry, along with purchasing the accompanying match programme for an additional pound. The programme is colour printed and is quite thin considering other programmes produced in the league. However considering it just had facts on both teams and not pages upon pages of advertisements that some clubs produce in their programmes, it made a pleasant change.
Upon entering the ground and having a quick comfort break, we decided to kill some time before kick-off (and to get out of the bitter coldness of the open air) by venturing into the clubhouse which is situated next to the turnstile block. Inside, the clubhouse has an old school pub type of feeling which I really enjoyed and was a pleasant surprise, with a bar in one corner and a hatch to the snack bar at the end of the clubhouse (it can also be accessed from outside). On every wall were pictures and news clippings of previous Rhayader teams who had achieved some success in the past. There was also a Welsh international shirt and cap hung up on the far wall although I was unable to see the reason for why they were displayed. It looked impressive anyway!
Upon entering the clubhouse, there were a few Holywell Town supporters had also made the long journey down to Y Weirglodd, either by car or on the coach with the players. They were busy supping on drinks ordered from the bar whilst watching Jeff Stelling presenting Soccer Saturday, which was being shown live on the TV in the clubhouse. I also noticed a sheet of paper pinned up on the wall of the clubhouse stating that pin badges were available for £2.00 each! After a quick enquiry to see if they still had any badges left, a Rhayader Town pin badge was acquired from the snack hatch to add to the ever increasing collection! Fantastic stuff!
Further trips to the snack bar were soon made when I ordered a hotdog accompanied with fried onions and lashings of ketchup, and then a well-needed warming cup of chicken soup for a grand total of £2.50. With cup of soup in hand, myself and Greg decided to venture out into the cold Powys air and take in the upcoming game.
Rhayader’s ground Y Weirglodd is a cracking little ground in my opinion and really impressed me when I first came through the turnstile. The main stand is located at the halfway line of the pitch, on the same side as the entrance & clubhouse. It has about 200 covered seats for supporters, with the sides of the stands also enclosed with clear Perspex to keep out the howling winds which must be filtered through the Wye Valley. Within the main stand complex are the changing rooms for both teams as well as toilets for supporters which can be accessed around the back of the stand. This orientation leads to a unique route for teams to walk onto the pitch by having to walk around either side of the main stand, rather than come from beneath or from the front of it as is the usual case.
There is an additional stand at the town side end of the ground, which is called the “Bill the Coal” Stand. Named in honour of “Bill the Coal” (no idea who he is but I would presume he was the local coal merchant who helped out the club in the past), the stand is a uniquely slightly curved stand with an old school, almost agricultural style feel to the area in terms of its wooden, barn styled pillars. Again it has approximately 150 covered seats for supporters, although I found a number of the seats had been broken or were in a state of disrepair, which was slightly disappointing to see.
The ground has a concreted path around the circumference of the pitch, so easy and safe access for disabled supporters. As is the norm with grounds at this level, there are permanent brick dugouts located by the main stand, floodlights surrounding the pitch, whilst the supporters’ area and pitch is segregated by a permanent divider that displays a number of advertisement boards. There is also a brick-built media gantry opposite the main stand that can be used for the Sgorio cameras, should they decide to record a game at Rhayader. Finally a line of trees surround three sides of the ground, separating the football stadium from the rest of the Rhayader sporting complex. The line of trees in combination with the background views of the Cambrian Mountains made for very pleasant viewing in my opinion!
Curiously there was also a standing stone next to one of the floodlights just opposite the turnstile. It looked as if something had been displayed upon it at one point due to remnants of adhesive still visible on the face of the stone, however nothing was shown currently. If anyone from Rhayader could provide more information on the standing stone, it would be gratefully received!
With the cups of soup slowly defrosting an almost frozen 94th Minute team, we decided to stand between the home dugout and standing stone to initially watch the match. As the match would progress, we would eventually make our way around the pitch, eventually ending up in the Coal Stand towards the end. Eventually the teams ventured onto the pitch from either side of the main stand, with Rhayader coming from the right and Holywell Town from the left hand side of the stand. Rhayader were in their home kit of red shirts with white sleeves, red shorts and socks; whilst Holywell were in their away kit of white shirt with black trim, white shorts and black socks.
MATCH REPORT – FIRST HALF
The game started well for the home side as they had the first chance after a few minutes of the game which resulted in the deputising Paul Turner into making a fine save. However as the game progressed, Holywell worked their way into the match and started to dominate in possession and chances.
Holywell’s first chance of the game involved a great interchange between midfield before a corner from Graeme Williams was dropped by Ash Roberts and conceding a corner. From the resulting corner, the ball fell to Connor Littler but he could only see his half-chance just go wide of the post. Captain Steve Thomas was getting a lot of space down the right hand flank, and exploited it many times. On one occasion he used his speed advantage to beat Gethin Jones and whip a threatening looking cross into the danger zone. Unfortunately, his cross couldn’t reach any Wellman and it was eventually cleared by the home defense.
Holywell continued to apply the pressure upon the home defense, and they would threaten the Rhayader goal once again, this time from their #7 Tom Rowlands. Rowlands, a new signing from Conwy Borough, had a great chance on the right side of the penalty area, but his low shot into the corner was superbly saved by Roberts in the Red Kites goal. Steve Thomas would again cause problems down the flanks, and once again he was influential in another Holywell chance. From an indirect free kick, he managed to arc a dangerous cross towards the penalty spot where the crowd of players were bustling and from the crowded group, forward Phil Lloyd leaped the highest and managed to connect with Thomas’ set piece. Alas for attacker, his header just grazed the top of the crossbar.
With Holywell’s missed chances racking upwards, Rhayader continued to threat the visitor’s goal through dangerous and rapid counter-attacks. One such counter almost managed to be fruitful as Dane Griffiths exploited the space ahead of him to surge forward and launch a chance on the Wellmen’s goal. Again Steve Thomas was proving to be hugely influential to the game as he managed to clear the threat created by Griffiths, but the ball fell kindly into the path of the advancing Sean Powell. Once again the right winger attempted to put his side ahead but could only see his effort scorch over Paul Turner’s crossbar.
Around the 43rd minute and Holywell had their best opportunity to break the deadlock through Rowlands. He managed to gain possession in the box but didn’t have the space to craft and effort on goal. Using skill in the box, he managed to twist and turn to find just enough clear air and cannon a low shot into the bottom corner. It seemed as if the former Tangerine might score the first goal of the afternoon, but Ash Roberts reacted quick enough to palmed the ball away with one hand. It would seem Roberts was looking unbreachable this afternoon!
Just as it seemed both teams would be returning back to the dressing room on an equal footing, the home side grabbed the initiative in the fixture. Firstly a perfect Rhayader counter-attack found Dane Griffiths breaking clear of the Holywell defensive line and into a one-on-one situation from the left hand side of the box, but his effort was saved by Paul Turner for a corner. From the resulting corner, Dane Griffiths found himself clear at the near post to drill the ball past Turner and give his side the lead at a critical time in the game.
Rhayader Town 1 – 0 Holywell Town
It would be the last action of the half, and the official would soon blow the whistle to end the half. Rhayader might not have had their possession, but their counter attacks caused Holywell problems.
HALF TIME: RHAYADER TOWN 1 – 0 HOLYWELL TOWN
At half time we decided to move from our standing position from behind the Wye-side goal towards the Coal End stand as Holywell would be attacking that end in the second half. As we continued our ramble around the pitch, we passed someone with an official looking clipboard taking some notes underneath the media gantry. Not entirely sure what he might have been noting down on his clipboard. Was he putting together a scouting pack for one of the other teams in the league or was he an adjudicator on the officials’ performances? The mystery continues….
The mysteriousness continued on the walk around as I spotted a tree I have dubbed ‘The Levitating Tree of Rhayader’, as it one of the shielding trees which had a large segment of its trunk removed, but with everything above the cut still standing upright. Although the tree stump was clearly visible, the rest of the tree had meshed tightly together with the adjoining evergreen resulting in a “floating tree”. Ha the picture I took doesn’t do it justice but the sight of a large tree just hanging there with its stump underneath it was surreal to say the least!
After being impressed with Mother Nature defying the laws of gravity (clearly the newly discovered gravitational waves were a tad ‘choppy’ on that tree), we sat in the “Bill the Coal” Stand and awaited the Holywell reaction to being a goal down in the second half. The Holywell fans in the stand wouldn’t be disappointed with the effort given…
MATCH REPORT – SECOND HALF
Straight from the whistle, it would be Holywell who would be starting the spritely, eager to overturn the deficit in the scoreline. The Wellmen’s first half-chance of the second half came a few minutes from the restart through a set-piece. A good free kick from the left hand side was launched into the box and connected with Jonathon Jones. Alas his firm goalward header was cleared by the Rhayader defence. A few minutes later and the Rhayader defence was tested again through another Holywell set-piece. This time they managed to initially block a Graeme Williams’ free-kick, which was situated in a dangerous position just outside of the penalty area. However the rebound fell kindly to Luke Douglas, who finding space in front of goal, managed to get a shot goalwards but disappointingly could only lift it over the crossbar.
Holywell were cranking up the pressure on their hosts and it was only a matter of time before the equaliser eventually came for the visitors. On the 65th minute, a corner from the left hand side was launched towards the back post where centre back Dafydd Griffith rose above everyone to divert the ball into the back of the Rhayader net. Yet another important header from the former Rhydymwyn man!
Rhayader Town 1 – 1 Holywell Town
With the game’s momentum now in their favour, Holywell pressed for a second goal. Firstly Phil Lloyd had a shot deflected wide of Ash Roberts’ post, then Connor Littler had an clear opportunity on goal but was superbly denied by Roberts. Tony Roebuck then had a 25-yard long range chance which looked as if it would hit the back of the net, but agonisingly drifted just wide of the Rhayader goal. Holywell were starting to pepper to Rhayader goal but it was looking as if the second goal just wouldn’t appear.
For all of Holywell’s possession and opportunities, they were almost made to pay for their numerous missed chances when Rhayader’s counter attack almost caught them out again. Sean Powell broke clear of the Holywell defence down the left hand channel and advanced into the penalty box. However the winger made the wrong decision when surging forward as he chose to continue towards the byline instead of taking a shot on goal when an opportunity arose. Unfortunately as he ran toward the byline, hoping to whip a cross into the penalty box, he had too much of a heavy touch and the ball could only run out of play for a goal kick.
With the threat of Rhayader almost retaking the lead, Holywell continued to harass the home side’s goal and dominate ball possession. Another set-piece almost provided rewards for the Wellmen when the influential Steve Thomas curled another pinpoint free kick into the box. In a similar situation to their goal, the free kick was fired to the back post where goalscorer Dafydd Griffith was waiting. This time he headed the ball across the goal which allowed Phil Lloyd to attempt an audacious and acrobatic overhead kick. Alas the bicycle kick was blocked by Rhayader and cleared away.
After constant pressure from the visitors, they would have the ball in the net for a second time of the afternoon when Phil Lloyd broke clear, got on the end of a left hand cross and headed past the advancing Ash Roberts. However the officials would chalk off the winner as the linesman deemed Lloyd was offside when the cross came in. As you can imagine, the Holywell players were not happy and felt it was the wrong call. In fact the officials were not having a great game as they missed a number of fouls including a blatant push on Connor Littler in the penalty box! If they were being assessed, they would not be getting a too high score in my opinion!
A great sight for all Holywell fans was the return of Paul Williams from injury, who came onto the pitch as a substitute. Williams had been out injured since the home fixture against rivals Flint Town United, when the midfield broke his leg. It was great to see him back in the red and white striped shirt! He almost made a dream return when he whipped a cross into the box towards Connor Littler, but pressure from the Rhayader defenders around the young striker pressured him to put his header over the crossbar. Holywell were throwing the kitchen sink at the Rhayader but it just was not looking like the second goal would ever come.
Rhayader continued to counter Holywell as they pushed further and further forward looking for a winner. Another attack down the wing from the home side almost punished Holywell, but a superb save from Paul Turner ensured Holywell would not be caught out late like they were in the first half. The home side would also suffer a man disadvantage late on in the game when Christian Jones was dismissed for a very late and rough tackle on Tony Roebuck. The right decision from the official as it looked a dangerous tackle from where I was positioned.
Despite all of Holywell’s chances and possession in the second half, the official blew for full time a few minutes after the dismal. Rhayader successfully managed to hold on and stand firm again the Wellmen’s pressure to claim an important point for the relegation-threatened team. Holywell would rue their missed chances and feel they could and perhaps should have taken all three points from this encounter in Radnorshire.
FULL TIME: RHAYADER TOWN 1 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN
With Greg eager to get back to Flintshire for his Valentine’s meal, he quickly darted back to the car at full time to warm both himself and the car up before the long journey back home. Just before I headed back with him, I had a quick chat with a senior Rhayader fan. We talked about the game, where he was very complimentary towards the Holywell team’s performance and the number of supporters who had come down, whilst I returned the courtesy by saying how I thought Rhayader had defended well and I was super impressed with the ground. We chatted about attendance levels for both teams and he seemed impressed with the support Holywell received in the league. Alas I couldn’t stay too long to chat with him as I knew Greg was probably looking at the clock and wonder where I was haha. Anyway a quick glance back at the superb ground and the Wye Valley landscape behind it before it was a rapid dart into the car, and the 2.5 hour trip back through Wales to Holywell.
Anyway what can I say about Rhayader? Despite the result wasn’t what any Holywell fan wanted considering the way Holywell played, I absolutely loved the whole groundhop as a whole. The town itself seems really interesting and if I had more time in Rhayader, I would have explored the town a lot more. The ground itself is an absolute cracker, and has a unique character which I found charming and delightful – something which is in keeping with a lot of mid-Wales football grounds. The landscape beyond the ground are something to behold and add to the beauty of the town and ground. However the warm welcoming of the Rhayader officials, volunteers and supporters were second to none and a great advertisement for why Welsh football is so brilliant in my opinion!
So if you’re in the area or have a chance to watch a game at Rhayader, please make the effort to both visit the town and Y Weirglodd. I am confident would you would enjoy it as much as I did (providing your team doesn’t get hammered of course ha). It is a must visit ground!!
May I send my best wishes to everyone at Rhayader Town and wish them all the best for the rest of the season, and thank you for the warm welcome we received! J