Cymru Alliance – 12th March 2016
Ground #67: Y Traeth, Porthmadog, Gwynedd
- Entrance: £5.00
- Programme: £1.50
- Pin Badge: £2.00
- Mug: £5.00
- Burger: £2.20
- Cup of Coffee: £1.00
- Raffle Ticket: £1.00
March can be considered, in footballing terms, as the start of the “business end” of the football season. A time when that club’s form can easily define the rest of the season. Heading into Spring with great form can potentially set up a club for great success come late April / early May, or poor form can lead to a couple of months of despair, as well as somewhere in between the gulf of the two extremes. Plus with fewer unplayed games left in the calendar, potential points become more fervently contested for as they becoming increasingly scarce, especially if a club is experiencing one of the two extreme states previously mentioned.
The third month of the year is also a time when the fixtures start coming in thick and fast, especially in the Welsh leagues. All the games which were postponed during the winter months (and there were a lot of them this season) are pencilled in for midweek fixtures in March and April resulting in clubs often playing twice or even, in extreme cases, three times a week. For groundhoppers however, it is the arguably the best time of the season. The time of the season when groundhop opportunities are extensive every week leading to being occasionally ‘spoilt for choice’. Therefore March can be considered, in groundhopping terms, the start of the ‘feast of football’ after the ‘famine’ of winter games created by the swathe of postponements.
My March groundhopping activities had started with a double visit at Park Hall to see two games played by the current Welsh Premier League champions, The New Saints. Naturally I was returning back to appear on TNS Radio and be part of their superb commentary team, with the dynamic duo of The Rev Stewart Bloor and DJ Sam Thomas. As always, I am incredibly grateful for the invite to appear on the radio with the pair of them, and continually enjoy discussing all topics with them live on air. For the record, the two games I saw was the Welsh Cup Quarter Final match (and reply of last season’s final) as TNS once again bested Newtown by scoring the game’s only goal. Then the following weekend, TNS progressed one step nearer to reclaiming the WPL title when they defeated third-placed team Llandudno with the score line of 2-0 under the Friday night floodlights.
Even though I thoroughly enjoy my visits to Park Hall, I have already written a blog about TNS and Park Hall from a previous visit (as found here). Therefore the third weekend was earmarked for a visit to another ground where I could write a new groundhop blog for, as the last blog was the Rhayader blog back in mid-February (found here). Initially I was planning on visiting Conwy Borough in their Cymru Alliance League Cup match against Flint Town United. This choice was down to two reasons; firstly I haven’t written a blog about Conwy yet even though I have previously visited Y Morfa – the only CA club where I have this anomaly, and secondly the kick off time was the earlier time of half 1, meaning I could watch the game and return back to Holywell in time to watch the crunch 6 Nations match between Wales and England on television (providing the game didn’t go into extra time).
Just on the off chance on that Saturday morning before the Conwy game, I decided to plan out my groundhops for March and April so I had an idea what games were coming up, and could prepare my future blogs accordingly (yep some planning goes into them). As I might have mentioned previously, I have set myself a personal challenge of visiting every Cymru Alliance ground by the end of the season. Consequently I wanted to plan when I could visit the remaining three clubs on my checklist whom I had not yet been to: Holyhead Hotspur, Llanfair United and CPD Porthmadog.
Planning for Llanfair United were fairly straightforward as my team Holywell Town had yet to play them at Mount Field (a postponed match in early March was the result of that, and lead to me going to the TNS versus Newtown cup match instead), plus they had plenty of home games yet to be played. Holyhead were a tad trickier to plan but again they had plenty of home fixtures within the next couple of months where I could decide on a visit (and this time not miss the train to get down there!). However planning for Porthmadog was becoming problematic, mainly because they only had two home fixtures remaining and they would all be in March. Another issue was that one of the games were being played when I was not in the country meaning I only had one chance to visit Porthmadog this season!! If I wanted to complete my personal groundhopping goal this season, I would have to travel the 65-70 miles down to the port town that very day!
So this lead to a conundrum – do I continue as I had initially planned and head to Conwy, with the aim of watching the rugby game later on, or do I take the 90 minute drive to Porthmadog on the spur of the moment for my only chance of seeing them play home game there this season, but miss the majority of the crucial grudge match in the 15-a-side game? If you haven’t already guessed what I chose in the end, it might be best looking at the title of this blog page again…
Porthmadog is a historic port town of approximately 4,200 inhabitants located in the Eifionydd area of Gwynedd, in north-west Wales. Situated within close proximity to the Snowdonia National Park, Porthmadog lies on the north bank of the Afon Glaslyn estuary before the river runs into Tremadog Bay and the Irish Sea. The town is positioned 5 miles east of Criccieth, 11 miles south-west of Blaenau Ffestiniog, 25 miles north of Dolgellau and 20 miles south of the castle town of Caernarfon.
Porthmadog is situated on the main A487 trunk road which runs down the west coast of Wales from Bangor to Fishguard. The easterly A498 road gives access to Beddgelert and thus Snowdonia to the east, and the A497 runs west through the Llŷn Peninsula to the tourist resorts of Criccieth and Pwllheli. The town also has its own railway station, with the station based on the Cambrian Coast Line between Pwllheli and Machynlleth. Porthmadog can be accessed by trains running from Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and Birmingham, which head through mid-Wales. There are also railway stations for the heritage and tourist Welsh Highland Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway (Porthmadog Harbour Railway Station based at the southern end of Stryd Fawr).
As with many towns in the area, Porthmadog is a predominantly Welsh speaking community with 74,9 percent of the population speaking the language, and 96,3% of the 10-14 age range speaking Welsh. Porthmadog has also hosted one official National Eisteddfod back in 1987.
The town’s most famous resident is T.E. Lawrence, who was born in Tremadog in 1888. Otherwise known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, he was known for being heavily involved in the Arab Revolt during the First World War and writing about his experiences during the Great War. The famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley also resided in Porthmadog after he rented a house in the town. During his stay he managed to write the famous ‘Queen Mab’, before he made a hasty departure after a nocturnal intruder made an alleged attempt on his life. Shelley had antagonised locals by criticising their production of sheep for consumption and ran up debts with local merchants, as well as not paying any rent for the house he was staying at.
The town’s origins commence from the building of a sea wall (known as ‘The Cob’) by William Madocks in 1810 to reclaim a large proportion of Traeth Mawr from the sea for agricultural use. The building of the sea wall caused the flow of the Afon Glaslyn to be diverted, and thus scouring out a new natural harbour which was deep enough to allow small ocean-going sailing ships to sail into the estuary. As a result, the first public wharves were built along the shore in 1825 by individual quarry companies, who would use Porthmadog as a port to export the slate quarried in nearby Ffestiniog. The slate would be carted down from Ffestiniog to the quays built along the Afon Dwyryd, which would then be boated to Porthmadog before being transferred to seagoing vessels to export to the continent and beyond.
By the second half of the 19th century, Porthmadog had developed in to a flourishing port with its population exploding from 885 in 1821 to over 3000 by 1861. This was because the demand for high quality roofing slate had rapidly increased due to the industrial cities of England increasing in size and building more housing for workers. To cope with the added slate demand, the Ffestinog Railway (opened in 1836), the Croesor Tramway (opened in 1864) and the Gorseddan Tramway (opened 1856) were built to export the slate from the quarries in Ffestiniog and Llanfrothen down to the port. So much slate was being exported that by 1873, over 116,000 tons went through Porthmadog carried in more than a thousand ships.
In addition to the port, a number of shipbuilders were active in the town who built all types of ships but specialised in building the three-masted schooners (known as Western Ocean Yachts) which were developed for the salt cod industry in Canada. Shipbuilding came to an end in the town in 1913 when the last vessel was built. There were also iron foundries which produced slate working machinery and railway equipment for the slate quarries in the area, as well as the drains and manhole covers for Caernarfonshire’s roads.
The fortunes of Porthmadog as a commercial port started to reduce when the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway was opened in 1867, with quarries (especially the Ffestiniog quarries) using the railways to transport slate to the industrial cities in Britain rather than by sea. However it would be the First World War which would effectively end the port when the lucrative German market for slate naturally disappeared, as well the ships exporting the slate either being sunk by enemy action, sold off or replacement not being built. By 1925 less than 5% of Ffestiniog’s slate output went out by sea via Porthmadog, and by 1946 the final load of slate left Porthmadog’s dock with the railway connecting the port to the slate quarry ceasing commercial operations.
Today Porthmadog has become a tourist town, hoping to encourage tourists to visit the town as part of trips to Snowdonia or the numerous seaside locations in the area. The 19th century wharves still survive in the town, although the slate warehouses have been replaced by holiday apartments and the harbour is used by leisure yachts, being home to both Porthmadog Sailing Club and Madoc Yacht Club. Porthmadog is also an ideal location for angling with many decent locations for fishing dotted along the coastal villages, as well as the Afon Glaslyn being a great area for trout and salmon fishing. The town is also a decent area for cycling, with the main Holyhead to Cardiff Lôn Las Cymru (the Welsh national cycle route) running through the town.
In addition to the many former industrial areas being converted to the tourism industry, the Ffestiniog Railway is now a how a heritage narrow gauge railway. It allows tourists to travel from the western terminus in the centre of town, through deepest Snowdonia, to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog where the slate caverns are also a tourist attraction. There is also the Welsh Highland Railway which runs from the town, and takes tourists through stunning scenes in western Snowdonia before the line ends at the castle town of Caernarfon.
The name of the town derives from the founder William Madocks, with the earliest documented references of the settlement being named “Port Madoc” in the 1830s when the town’s population was increasing. There is a belief that the town’s name comes from the folklore character of Madog ab Owain Gwynedd, who apparently sailed over the Atlantic and settled in America in the 12th century, and also gives his name to ‘Ynys Fadog’. Despite this, the town was officially called ‘Portmadoc’ until 1974 until it was renamed and reverted to the current Welsh spelling and pronunciation of the town.
The town’s football club, ‘Clwb Pel-Droed Porthmadog’ [English: Porthmadog Football Club] is one of the oldest football clubs in the whole of Wales, as it was established in 1884 (eight years after the foundation of the Football Association of Wales). They first appeared in the Welsh Cup the following year when they beat local rivals Carnarvon FC 2-1 in the first round, before losing to fellow Caernarfonshire side Bangor 0-4 in the second round. They would continue to appear in the Welsh Cup for the next decade, getting only as far as the third round. In the period between the years 1885 to 1900, Porthmadog would be knocked out of the Welsh Cup by either Bangor, a Caernarfon based side (Wanderers or Ironopolis) or would withdraw from the competition completely due to the long distances to travel. The only non-Caernarfonshire team they would lose to in the Welsh Cup during this late Victorian period is Mold, when they lost 0-3 in the first round of the 1888-89 season.
The club’s first piece of silverware was winning the North Wales Coast League in the 1902-03 season, winning the league by four points from local rival Bangor. They would then finish in the runners-up spot to Bangor for next two seasons. Porthmadog would continue to play in the league in the interwar period before the league was disbanded in 1935.
The 1950s to the 1970s were the most successful period in the history of CPD Porthmadog. Port won the Welsh Amateur Cup (now the FAW Trophy) two seasons in a row, when they claimed the trophy in the 1955-56 campaign by beating Peritus 5-2. They successfully defended their title when they won the 1956-57 trophy by beating Druids United (they would merge with Cefn Druids in 1992 to form the current Cefn Druids) 5-2 again after a replay. Eventually the team lost their amateur status, but subsequently signed Mel Charles, a member of the historic 1958 Welsh World Cup squad and brother of Wales’ greatest ever player John Charles, from Cardiff City in the 1965-66 season. With players like Mel Charles amongst their ranks, they gained additional success.
In the 1965-66 Welsh Cup campaign, they managed to reach the sixth round of the competition (beating Caernarfon Town in the third on route) where they were drawn to play against Football League team Swansea Town (later City). At Y Traeth, Port managed to earn themselves a replay against their more illustrious opponents when they drew 1-1 in their quarter final match. The replay, back at the legendary Vetch ground, attracted Swansea’s largest crowd of the season when they got an attendance of 10,941 people. Alas for Porthmadog, they were unable to progress to the final four when they got soundly beaten 0-5 in Abertawe.
Porthmadog would consolidated their position as one of the best teams in North Wales when they won the Welsh League (North) five times in the next nine years. Winning their first league title in the 1966-67 season, they scored 104 goals and only lost once in the 30 game season. Port would go on to win the next two league titles to achieve a historic three-in-row league success between the years of 1966 to 69. They would win another two consecutive leagues in the 1974-75 and 1975-76, ending the dominance of Blaenau Ffestiniog who had also won the past three league campaigns. Portmadog were so successful in the Welsh League (North) that they wouldn’t finish outside the Top 5 places in the league from 1965 until 1979.
Port would suffer a barren spell from their glory days in the Welsh League (North) and it wouldn’t be until the 1989-90 season when they achieved their next league title, winning the Welsh Alliance League by claiming 26 wins from the 34 game season. This league victory ensured they were invited to join the newly created Cymru Alliance the following season and Port became founding members of the new northern league for the inaugural 1990-91 season. After a couple of seasons in the Cymru Alliance where they finished in 6th and 3rd places respectively, they would again be invited to participate in another new Welsh league. In 1992 they became founding members of the first truly national league, the League of Wales, which would later become the Welsh Premier League.
In their first season in the LoW, Porthmadog would finish a creditable 9th position with 53 points. This was mostly helped by a late surge of good results thanks largely to their free scoring striker Dave Taylor, a signing from Conwy United. In his second season at Porthmadog, Taylor would become the league’s top scorer as well as Europe’s highest goalscorer thus winning the European Golden Boot. During his spell at Port, he would score an incredible 58 goals in just 59 games! For the 1993-94 season, Porthmadog had an unbelievable strike force in Dave Taylor and a young Marc Lloyd-Williams (who would eventually become the WPL’s all-time top scorer with 319 goals) who netted 70 goals between them. However despite their swashbuckling attacking play where they scored 90 league goals, they also conceded 71 goals resulting in a disappointing 11th position finish at the end of the season. Porthmadog did break another record that season when they had the record attendance for a League of Wales game. A crowd of about 2500 came to Y Traeth to see local rivals Bangor City clinch their first LoW/WPL title.
Their third season in the LoW would see a change of management at Y Traeth when Meilir Owen was surprisingly replaced by former Welsh international Ian Edwards. Alas Edwards would not complete the season as manager as poor results and a slide down the table, after an initial good start, meant he was ultimately replaced. Again Port went down the former Welsh international route when they appointed former Manchester United, Chelsea and Wrexham legend Mickey Thomas as their new manager. Despite the FA Cup hero’s efforts, the team’s form never improved and they came close to being relegated by finishing in 16th position and just six points above the relegation zone.
The 1995-96 season was a tough one for Porthmadog as the club almost folded due to serious financial trouble. Thankfully disaster was averted when the club’s directors relaunched the club as a limited company and raised £10,000 through the sale of shares in the club, as well as extra money through high-profile matches against Blackburn Rovers and a S4C All-Stars XI. Also new manager Colin Hawkins steadied the ship by ensuring Porthmadog finished clear of the relegation zone in a secure 13th position. With the financial situation secure, Porthmadog went on a fantastic run in the 1996-97 season when they stayed undefeated at Y Traeth until the New Year. Alas the sale of one of their most influential players and leading scorer, Paul Roberts (sold to Wrexham for £10,000) led to Porthmadog’s form to dramatically drop resulting in a 10th place finish. However they did achieve a North Wales Coast Challenge Cup victory, beating Caernarfon Town in the final.
Two seasons after securing their financial future, the club would suffer relegation down to the Cymru Alliance in the 1997-98 season. A poor run of form towards the end of the season meant they finished in 17th position, winning just 10 games in their 38 game season. However due to the league being reduced to 18 teams for the following season, Porthmadog were unlucky to fall within the four relegation places (normally just the two relegation places), and were just three points from safety from 15th placed team Haverfordwest County. County condemned Porthmadog to relegation on the final day of the season after they claimed the crucial three points through an away victory against Port’s traditional rivals, Bangor City.
Porthmadog thought they would have a chance to avoid relegation when they were considering legal action against the LoW due to the decision to relegate four clubs was allegedly taken during the season and therefore illegal. When Ebbw Vale was banned from the league, Port thought they were certain of a reprieve, but the FAW forced them to join the Cymru Alliance when the South Wales club appealed against the ban at the very last minute. It would not be the first time the FAW would cause Porthmadog headaches…
The club would spend the next five seasons in the Cymru Alliance rebuilding their squad and improving the facilities at Y Traeth, as they were unable to get promoted in their first season in the CA because the facilities were below the required LoW standard. During the first four seasons in the CA, the club would finish in steady top half positions of 7th, 5th, 6th and 4th, and would claim the CA League Cup against Rhydymwyn in the first season. The management team of Viv Williams and Osian Roberts taking over in the 1999-2000 season, and they would work hard to improve the standard of the squad. Eventually Port managed to get things right on and off the pitch, when they claimed promotion back to the Welsh Premier League in the 2002-03 season. It would be an incredible season for Porthmadog as they won all of their home match, and lost only twice to claim the title with a colossal 19 point margin. They would also add another CA League Cup and North Wales Coast Challenge Cup to their trophy cabinet to produce a treble-winning season.
Their return back to the top flight would be a steady if uneventful one, finishing in 12th position in the 2003-04, before three consecutive 11th place finishes for the follow three seasons. By this period, the management structure had switched around with Osian Roberts becoming manager and Viv Williams assisting. However the 2006-07 season would be memorable for all the wrong reasons when the club was fined £13,500 and deducted three points by the FAW after a mindless supporter had racially abused an assistant referee during a match against Cwmbran Town. Port appealed against this punishment as they felt it was unreasonable because of one individual’s actions (he was banned for life from Y Traeth). The case went all the way to an independent sports tribunal, who sided with Porthmadog. The arbiters decreed that the fine should be slashed by £12,500 and the three points reinstated.
At the end of the 2006-07 season, both Osian Robers and Viv Williams left the club after 7 years in charge. Roberts would leave to become the FAW’s Technical Director of Football (he’s still involved in the FAW today), whilst Williams cited personal reasons for his departure. This lead to a period of instability between 2007 and 2010 when the club appointed four different managers in just three years (Clayton Blackmore, Viv Williams, Paul Whelan and Tomi Morgan), and the results dropped. Once again history would repeat itself when Porthmadog would suffer relegation in the 2009-10 season due to another league reorganisation. With the league reducing from 18 teams to the current format of 12 teams, it meant six teams were relegated from the WPL. A finish of 15th place meant that Port returned back to the Cymru Alliance again.
For their return back to the Cymru Alliance, the club appointed Gareth Parry as their new manager after Tomi Morgan left the club to become the new Carmarthen Town manager. Parry would be in command of Port for four seasons, with a 4th place finish in the 2011-12 season being the best result achieved in the league under his tenure. He also masterminded a superb Welsh Cup run in the 2013-14 season when they reached the quarter-finals, beating historic Welsh Cup foes of Mold Alexandra and Caernarfon Town on route, before being dumped out of the competition by the third-tier team (and history makers) Holywell Town 1-2. Last season, the club’s player-coach, Craig Papirnyk was promoted to the manager’s role and had a difficult job trying to rebuild the squad after the previous season’s league finish of 6th place. Despite some pre-season worries, Papirnyk achieved a respectable result when he lead Port to another creditable 6th place finish. Finishing the season after winning 15 league games and drawing five, they earned themselves 50 points, just two points off 4th place.
This season Porthmadog have had an average yet inconsistent season with the club going into the match against Buckley situated in 10th position with 31 points after 24 league games played. Despite winning 10 league games this season, they have lost 13 games and drawn just the single game (against Holyhead Hotspur in early September). Since the turn of the year, the inconsistency has continued with Porthmadog winning three and losing four games played in 2016 so far.
This inconsistency can be clearly seen in their last two games before the Buckley fixture. They managed a superb victory at a lacklustre Prestatyn in their last away game, when they came from behind to win 2-1. The goals coming from Jamie McDaid in the 75th minute and Cai Jones two minutes from time. In comparison to their previous league match, at home to another Flintshire team Flint Town United, they managed to lose 1-3. Port almost claimed a draw when the score was 1-1 going into the final moments of the game after Josh Davies equalised on the 78th minute. However a 90th minute goal from Paul McManus and a goal from Joe Palmer in the fifth minute of injury time ensured the Silkmen left Y Traeth with all three points.
Their opponents Buckley Town were also having an indifferent season after finishing 4th last season but currently found themselves one position below Port in 11th position. The Bucks were nine points behind Porthmadog but had three games in hand on their opponents. However they had only achieved six wins from their 21 league games, losing eleven of them.
Since the New Year, they too have been erratic in form achieving decent results like the 5-0 and 3-0 home victories over Conwy Borough and Prestatyn Town respectively, as well as achieving a 3-3 draw against Cefn Druids. However they have also suffered a crushing 0-5 defeat to Caernarfon Town at Globe Way, and in their previous league fixture to the upcoming game, suffered 1-5 defeat to Welsh League Cup finalists, Denbigh Town, at Central Park. Goals from Warren Duckett, Michael Sharples, Alan Bull (x2) and Kristian Pierce ensured Tom Taylor’s side suffered their eleventh defeat of the season, with Adam Eden scoring a consolatory goal. Therefore they were heading to Y Traeth looking to replicate their form against Prestatyn and put their previous defeat behind them.
The journey from 94th Minute HQ to Porthmadog was an eventful one, mainly due to the satnav deciding to take me down some dodgy routes through rural North Wales. In the end, I decided to use some common sense and just follow the A55 before turning off at an appropriate location. I had intended to turn off at the Conwy-Llandudno junction and head down the Conwy Valley towards Betws-y-Coed, before onwards to Blaenau Ffestiniog before heading to Porthmadog via Penrhyndeudraeth. However the historic A5 road was closed after Betws after a horrific looking accident had occurred and was causing problems for travellers. Therefore I decided to avoid the Betws area for the time being and look for an alternative route towards Porthmadog.
I decided to turn off the A55 between Bangor and Caernarfon and headed southwards through the Snowdonia National Park, and it was probably the best decision I made. The road going through the mountains was absolutely spectacular and the landscapes as I drove along the sometimes windy road was breathtaking. Had I not been driving, I certainly would have been snap happy with the camera and would have probably taken many decent shots that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a calendar displaying the best views North Wales has to offer! Grand towering peaks touching the low-lying clouds on one side with calm, blue Llynnoedd on the other, whilst quaint Welsh villages occasional appeared along the route = pure delight! With the amount of cyclists and hikers I had to traverse past as I ventured southwards, it would seem the local establishments might have done quite well in potential takings from the Saturday. Alas I could not stop off for a quick bite in one of the many picturesque pubs and villages on route, and continued to venture down to my desired destination.
Eventually the sign for Tremadog appeared after the route through the mountains of the National Park, and I knew I was very close to the ground (as confirmed by the ETA on the satnav). Hopping onto the new A487 Porthmadog bypass, a quick easterly drive along the road quickly brought up Porthmadog’s ground and the turn-off for it on the left hand side. Despite navigational issues and uncertainties during the 95 minute journey, I eventually managed to park up the expansive car park of Y Traeth with about 15 minutes to spare before the game kicked-off! Result!! However the weather down in Porthmadog was not looking good, with a continuous stream of fine rain coming down to ‘soak you through’ whilst clouds and mists were obscuring the surrounding hills and horizons. It could be best described as “dreak” at best!
Y Traeth (English: The Beach) is located in the north-east of the town, in the reclaimed land taken from the Afon Glaslyn, which flows to the east and south of the ground. Because of its position on the natural flood plain, it has been subject to recent flooding, most recently earlier in the season. Around the Christmas period where floods were severely hampering the country, the pitch felt the full force of the above average rainfall and was completely under a foot of floodwater. Thankfully the flooding quickly subsided and the club was able to get Y Traeth back to hosting football games in no time – a huge achievement and a massive testament to the hard graft shown by the club to get things back to normal without too much disruption in the season.
As mentioned previously, the ground is located right next to the newly built A487 bypass road, which connects Porthmadog up with Penrhyndeudraeth and deeper Gwynedd. One of the entrances to the complex is located on the A487, and you have to drive right around the ground before you can access the massive car park on the west side of the complex. You can also access the ground from the town itself on a straight road leading out of the town, crossing the main railway line and going under the bypass. The heritage railway also runs past the ground, and you can often see steam engines pulling tourist-laden carriages peep and chug past Y Traeth during a game.
Y Traeth is one of the most impressive grounds in the Cymru Alliance with seated stands on three sides of the pitch. The Estuary side of the pitch houses 3 separate seated stands, with the middle stand housing the changing rooms for both teams. Next to the turnstiles is the super clubhouse, where supporters can buy alcoholic drinks. It also temporarily currently houses the club shop due to refurbishments in the club shop block. Between the clubhouse and first seating stand is the snack bar where the normal refreshments can be bought. The newest and largest of the three stands is located the far eastern corner (the Glaslyn End) of the pitch.
At either end of the pitch are covered stands where supporters can watch the game. The eastern end stand looks more modern than the western end, and is all-seater, whereas the eastern stand has different segments that allows supporters to stand or sit undercover. Opposite the main stands is the brick-built media centre, located at the halfway line. Here the media can view the game from the media room at ground level, whilst TV cameras i.e. Sgorio can be installed on the first level of the building, providing a perfect panoramic view of the pitch.
Naturally at this level, there are a permanent perimeter barrier between the spectator area and playing field where fixed advertisement hoardings are fixed, as well as floodlights installed in the ground. The paths surrounding the pitch are all concreted, and there is a specific section in the Western stand available for all disabled or wheelchair using supporters, meaning the ground is disabled-friendly.
Parking just behind the western stand of Y Traeth (a risky option considering a stray ball could loom over the low stand and rapidly descend to ultimately ricochet off the motor – parking in a location not protected by the fence installed above the stand to protect cars in the car park), I spotted Buckley Town warming up on the rather sodden looking training pitch just next to the car park. Looking on at their pre-match warm-up was their manager Tom Taylor, who was standing on the edge of the pitch near the cars. As mentioned in previous blogs involving Buckley, I know Tom from previously working in the same department as him at Airbus, although I had since moved onto a new department within the company. I also managed to win £20 off him during a gentleman’s wager in the Welsh Cup tie between Buckley and Holywell last season ha!
Just as I was about to talk with Tom, a stray ball came flying over the stand and bounced off the windscreen of a car a few spaces away from mine (yep I was regretting my parking spot now ha). This meant I walked into the ground with a Porthmadog marked football under the arm – I’ll be honest this was a first for me!
Entrance to the ground was the Cymru Alliance standard price of £5 – again great value to see proper ‘grassroots’ football in my opinion. As I walked through the turnstile, I passed the rogue football to the nearest high-vis clad steward. I would like to say at this point that I passed it to him with a 30 yard Andrea Pirlo style pinpoint pass but in reality it more like a yard thrown pass – a missed opportunity there!! With my chance to display off my passing range (or lack of) gone, I decided to purchase a strip of raffle tickets for a pound from the vendor just inside the entrance. No idea if I won or not as I didn’t hear the numbers read out….I’m guessing I didn’t win the raffle ha!
Just beyond the raffle ticket seller, and located just outside the clubhouse, was the programme seller from whom I naturally purchased the match programme for the price of £1.50. The programme is a very decent standard with detailed information about both teams, including the history of Buckley Town, and the status of the Cymru Alliance league this season. A programme well worth the money!
After buying another programme to add to the ever increasing stash of match programmes gathered over the years, I headed into the clubhouse. Porthmadog’s clubhouse is a cracker with the traditional layout of being a large room with the bar selling drinks at one end, with photographs and mementos of past Porthmadog glories displayed on the walls. When I strolled in, a number of fans were in there taking cover from the fine rain outside, whilst supping down pints as they watched the Ireland-Italy 6 Nations game being broadcasted on the large TV in the corner of the room.
As well as taking cover from the rain, the real reason to venture into the clubhouse was to buy some club merchandise seeing as the club house had been housed temporarily in the clubhouse. As expected, a table displaying the finest of CPD Porthmadog-clad wares were on show with two gents looking after the stall. As regular readers of the blog will know, I like to collect pin badges but especially mugs, so imagine my delight when I spotted red mugs with the Porthmadog badge emblazoned on them sitting on the table, alongside a number of Port pin badges. After an passing of £7 across the table later and I was now in possession of a Porthmadog mug and pin badge, both welcome additions to the respective collections!
With kick off rapidly approaching and the rain still falling, I decided to make a trip to the snack bar next door to the clubhouse. Painted in red and black (the colours of CPD Porthmadog), it is easily identifiable within the ground and located between the clubhouse and main stand complex. From said snack bar, I bought myself a burger with onions with a large cup of coffee for a total of £3.20, which about standard price within the league. I didn’t have to wait long for the burger (which was really good quality by the way) and the coffee was good value, when compared with the coffees at other clubs, with a large coffee provided for a single pound.
With burger and coffee in hand, I decided to venture to sit in the nearest covered stand to watch the first half action. Conveniently it was positioned roughly centrally so I had a decent view of the pitch, as well as the action in front of the dugouts. The vast majority of supporters were also sitting in the same stand I had chosen, with a few hardy sporadic gatherings in the other stands dotted around the ground. The more vocal members of the Porthmadog supporters were gathered under cover behind one of the goals in the western stand of the ground.
Conditions for the game were not ideal, with continuous fine rain and low cloud coverage seemingly the order of the day, and the pitch looking heavy and water-sodden in places. The areas just outside the playing pitch, such as the dugout technical areas, looking especially muddy. Full credit must go to the ground staff who must have worked extremely hard to get the pitch to playable condition for this afternoon’s game. As I walked into the ground, they were busy forking the pitch in certain central areas ensuring the water could not pool on the surface, and could drain away easier. As I was sitting in the stand, with burger in hand, I had hoped their pre-match actions would be enough of a preventative action to ensure the game would be played for its entirety!
Porthmadog were in their traditional home kit of red and black striped shirts, black shorts with red trim, and black socks. Buckley were in their alternative kit of black and yellow striped shirts, with blue shorts and yellow socks. Porthmadog would be missing three of their regular starters, with Ceri James, Julian Williams and Eilir Edwards all not available for this game. However their captain and goalkeeper Richard Harvey would be available for the game despite it being only a week before his wedding! In Buckley’s team selection, Tom Taylor would have Adam Eden available after scoring in the previous match, whilst Welsh Premier League winner Chris Roberts would be in the defence. Also a familiar face would be at left back with former Holywell Town stalwart Matty Roberts playing in the match, having signed for the Bucks in January.
MATCH REPORT – FIRST HALF
It would be the home side who would start the brightest in the falling rain, and Port would have the first chance of the game after just three minutes on the clock. Cai Jones managed to cut into the penalty box from the right hand flank and threaten the Buckley goal, but his effort went agonisingly wide for the home supporters. Porthmadog continued the early pressure on the Buckley defence, dominating possession and conjured up another goal-scoring opportunity a few minutes after their opening chance. Once again Cai Jones would be heavily involved in the play, as this time he switched flanks and cut into the centre from the left hand side to create space for a shot. Despite his trickery down the wings, he again failed to hit the target as he pulled his shot and it drifted past Ben Jones’ right hand post.
Cai Jones would continually be a thorn in the side of the Buckley defence as his persistency caused the Bucks problems early in the game. After his two missed attempts on goal, he seemed to have struck ‘third time lucky’ on 17 minutes when he managed to put the ball in the back of the visitors’ net. A cross was whipped towards the edge of the six yard box, where Jones managed to get in front of the challenging Buckley keeper Ben Jones and win the tussle to nod the ball past the stranded goalie. Even though it looked a fair aerial challenge from where I was sitting, the official Liam Gray, adjudged Cai Jones’ challenge to have unfairly impeded his name’s sake attempted catch of the cross, and thus chalked-off the goal for an alleged foul on the keeper.
Despite the disallowed goal, Porthmadog continued to press their opponents and hold the upper hand in possession and chances, as Buckley continually lost possession in midfield as they tried to push forward, and thus struggled to get their attackers into the game. Gruff Williams had another attempt on the Buckley goal, but was incredibly unlucky to see his low effort get deflected off a Buckley defender to make the ball fly just inches past the post.
Buckley were living dangerously and finally on the 20th minute, Porthmadog found the breakthrough they thoroughly deserved from their early domination in play. It was crafted from superb vision from Asa Hamilton, whose delightful sideways flick cut open the Bucks’ defence and allowed Cai Jones to break clear and advance towards the Buckley goal. Ben Jones was quick off his goal line to successfully block Cai Jones’ first attempt on goal, after forcing him to shoot early. Alas for the visiting keeper, the rebound from the initial block was not kind to him, as the ball fell back into the clutches of Cai Jones who had continued his run into the box. This time Cai Jones made no mistake with his second opportunity as he fired the ball low into the corner from 10 yards out, and out of reach of the diving Ben Jones. It was a deserved goal for both the home side and their forward for their early dominance in play!
Porthmadog 1 – 0 Buckley Town
It was at this point when I moved from my seated position in the main stand and stand next to the away dugout. From my new viewing position, it was clear to see and hear how frustrated Buckley’s manager Tom Taylor was with his midfield as they were losing the battle in the centre of the park. He continually barked out orders and advice to his team from the technical area to encourage his team to wrestle some control of ball possession in the match. It wouldn’t be until the 31st minute when Taylor managed to see his side finally craft an opportunity on the Porthmadog goal. Forward Danny Wynne discovered just enough space on the edge of the home penalty box to launch an effort goalwards, but could only blaze the ball over the crossbar.
Despite Buckley slowly working their way back into the match, Porthmadog continued to dominate in possession and chances, with Cai Jones being the forefront of the home side’s goal scoring opportunities. Around the half hour mark, he threatened the Buckley goal when he drove a low strike from roughly 20 yards out, but failed to test Ben Jones in the Buckley goal. Port would have better chance to double their lead five minutes later when fantastic build-up play down in the right flank allowed Asa Hamilton to pull the ball for Gwydion Ifan, who then hammered a low cross across the face of the visitors’ goal. Despite it being a dangerous cross, no Porthmadog player could stretch or advance quick enough to get that final connection on the ball, which undoubtedly would have seen it test Jones in goal had the cross been deflected.
Just before the half time interval, and Buckley could have equalled the scoreline at a critical period of the half when they exploited an opening down the left hand side of the pitch. After some intricate passing between the midfield, it allowed recent new signing Matty Roberts a half chance on goal from about 18 yards out. Despite it being a firm strike from the former Holywell Town player, Roberts could only thunder the ball over the crossbar. That would be the final chance of the first half, and Porthmadog went into the break with a one goal advantage, although it should have been a greater lead had their finishing been more clinical.
HALF TIME: CPD PORTHMADOG 1 – 0 BUCKLEY TOWN
During the interval I decided to quickly pop back to the car to drop off the items I bought from the clubhouse, before walking around the ground to take pictures for this blog. During the break in play, the groundsmen were back on the field forking the pitch, ensuring the rainwater could still drain away easily. Conditions were still “dreak” but the rain wasn’t getting any worse which was a bonus, although some parts of the pitch were starting to look a touch sodden! Hopefully the game would be completed and not be postponed due to the weather!
MATCH REPORT – SECOND HALF
The second half initially continued in the same vein as the first half with Porthmadog looking the brighter from the restart. Port would have the first chance of the second half when some slick movement and passing from the home side allowed Josh Banks the chance to double their lead. Alas for the home supporters, who were situated behind the goal Porthmadog were now attacking towards, Banks crashed his effort over the bar.
Despite Porthmadog having the early momentum, it would be Buckley who would have the upper hand in the early part of the second half and looked the stronger team as they chased an equalising goal. The visitors were hoping to punish Porthmadog’s poor finishing in the first half, and their dominance in possession and territory resulted in a large amount of the play being confined in the Porthmadog half of the pitch. They initially had a half chance from Jack Leamy, who had an opportunity to test Port captain Richard Harvey in the home goal, but Leamy pulled his shot wide of the post.
With the pitch and weather condition worsening, Buckley continued to threaten the Porthmadog goal, and roughly on the hour mark the Bucks had their best chance of the game. Adam Eden whipped a corner into the penalty box which was only partially cleared away by the home defence, which resulted in another cross being put into the danger zone by Buckley. This time former Bangor City player and Welsh Premier winner Chris Roberts managed to find space in the penalty area to get a clear heading opportunity on goal. Unfortunately for the travelling supporters and management, Roberts couldn’t get a decent enough connection with the secondary cross and his effort sailed over the crossbar.
Buckley continued to pressurise the Porthmadog goal as continuous waves of attacks forced the home defence to concede corners with Adam Eden becoming influential for the Buckley attacks down the left flank. However any real efforts on goal were sporadic and comfortably dealt with by the Port defence, with the defensive Port partnership of Iddon Price and Steve Bratt holding firm against the Buckley waves of attack. In addition Gwydion Ifan did a decent job to nullify a number of Bucks attacks coming through Eden coming down the left. The Bucks best chance during this phase of attacking corners was a dangerous Aaron Williams corner which curled enough towards goal to require a headed defensive clearance over the bar.
As the second half progressed, both teams started to tire with the pitch becoming increasingly heavy and muddy due to the continuous rain. The segment of the pitch in front of my viewing position was becoming visibly waterlogged with the rainwater starting to pool. However there was no risk of the game being abandoned at this point of the match because the game was so far in, however had the rain worsened, then it could have become a problem. Thankfully it kept to a steady rate which allowed the game to complete the regulation 90 minutes.
During a break in play, it was really good to see the Ffestiniog Railway finally chug past the ground, peeping its whistle, as it returned back to Porthmadog. It went past the ground towards Blaenau Ffestiniog as I was just parking up in the car park, so it was nice to get a picture of the steam train as it trundled back to the western terminus.
For the final part of the second half, both teams cancelled themselves out as attacks from both sides were dealt with successfully and the teams were left with only half chances on goal. Adam Eden and Danny Wynne continued to be the main sources of attack for the visitors, although they couldn’t quite breach the strong Port defence. Also Buckley’s manager Tom Taylor was becoming frustrated with the performance of the referee Liam Gray, and became more vocal with the official’s decisions. Eventually the referee had to walk over to Taylor to advise him to calm down, otherwise he would be sent to the stands.
Personally I thought Mr Gray’s performance in the second half was a little frustrating. He made a couple of incorrect calls including an offside decision when Buckley were on the attack which looked onside (I was sitting level with the line of players as the pass went forward), and overruling his assistant who was in a better viewing position. However he must take credit for calming things down when tempers flared up on certain occasions, and didn’t show the red card when perhaps certain other officials might have been more eager to dismiss players involved in “flare-ups”.
In the last 10 minutes of the game, the result of the game could have gone either way. Strong runs from Asa Hamilton and former Caernarfon player Jamie McDaid (who I had seen earlier in the season playing against Rhayader for the Cofis) managed to catch the Buckley team on the counter-attack and almost managed to secure the game for the home side. However on both occasions, the attacks faltered ensuring Buckley still had a chance to snatch a late equaliser. Alas despite their best efforts, Buckley couldn’t quite break down the Porthmadog defence and the home side held out long enough to claim the three points, and earn themselves only their third clean sheet of the season.
FULL TIME: CPD PORTHMADOG 1 – 0 BUCKLEY TOWN
Even though it wasn’t the best of games, especially in the second half, Porthmadog would be ecstatic about the result. Port completed a league double over Buckley (winning 2-1 at Globe Way in late November), bringing an end to a run which has persisted over five seasons, and they would be claiming just their third clean sheet of the season. They would also be heading into their next league fixture against Holyhead Hotspur on the same points as their opponent (34 points), and opens up a gap of 12 points between themselves and Buckley.
As for Buckley, it would be a long trip back to Flintshire for Tom Taylor’s side. Despite improving their performance in the second half, they couldn’t quite test the Porthmadog keeper Richard Harvey to force the equaliser. It was their first half performance which ultimately cost them and I am sure Tom will work hard to ensure his side can stay competitive in both halves, especially when it comes to the midfield battle. Buckley have some big matches coming up, especially away trips to local rivals Flint and Holywell, as well as winnable matches against teams below them in the table. The Bucks need to pick up some points from these gaps if they are to avoid themselves being dragged into a relegation battle.
With the weather still fairly grim, I decided to take the long journey back home. With the England versus Wales 6 Nations rugby match on the radio, I decided to take a different journey back home than the route I arrived at Y Traeth. I decided to go through the quaint towns of Penrhyndeudraeth and Blaenau Ffestiniog (I now know where their grounds are located meaning potential future groundhops can be planned in the future), before heading north through Betws-y-Coed and Llanrwst (yet another groundhop which will be planned sooner rather than later). From Llanrwst, it was turn east through Llangernyw and Llanfair Talhaiarn before rejoining the A55 at Bodelwyddan. Rather annoyingly I came out in Bodelwyddan at a point where I thought I was taking a wrong turning, so my long journey to Porthmadog could have been different. Ah well I got to see some fantastic sites on the way down!
After travelling down the A55, I managed to arrive back at 94th Minute HQ in the middle of the second half, meaning I got to see the exciting, if ultimately futile, late comeback from Wales live on TV. However the journey back from Porthmadog was an epic journey for me, with many fantastic landscapes seen going through North Wales, as well as many football grounds for potential groundhops spotted. Plus it helped there wasn’t much traffic on the way back meaning I could make decent progress on the way home.
Overall, even though the game nor the weather conditions were the best I have encountered, the trip to Porthmadog is one of the best groundhops I have done – not bad for a ‘spur of the moment’ decision. The ground itself is a cracker and worthy of Welsh Premier League football, whilst the people involved with CPD Porthmadog were very warm and welcoming all match, which I really appreciated, especially after a long drive down. I would especially like to say a big thanks to Dylan Rees, Porthmadog’s Marketing Officer, for his help and welcome on Twitter, which was greatly appreciated! You can follow him on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/rees48wesla
Thanks again to everyone at Porthmadog for the warm welcome, and I would like to wish them all the very best for the rest of the season. Also I would like to wish Buckley good luck for the rest of their league fixtures, and look forward to seeing both teams in the near future!