Welsh Alliance Division Two – 2nd April 2016
Pant Newydd, Pentre Halkyn, Flintshire
- Attendance: approx. 25
- Entrance: £2.00
- Programme: N/A
- Pin Badge: £3.00
- Chocolate Bar: £0.50
- Cup of Coffee: £0.60
For the first weekend of April, I was eager for some groundhopping action as this would be the first time in two weeks I would have watched a live game since my epic journey to watch Porthmadog in mid-March (the blog can be found here). The previous weekend I had been to Dublin for a weekend to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. The weekend in the Emerald Isle’s capital was absolutely brilliant and it was good to be there during the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Risings in the city. Alas during my Irish stay, I wasn’t able to catch a game or even fit in a stadium visit in! I suppose it gives me the perfect excuse to go back there in the future (not that I needed one although the Guinness alone is worth the journey!)
To help me get back into the groundhop swing of things, I had a choice of potential groundhops that I was interested in visiting. Plus with the season rapidly coming to its crescendo, there were some very interesting contests on the compiled list. The main match that I had my focus on was the Welsh Alliance Division 1 match between Llanrwst United against Glantraeth, however, the Welsh weather would again affect my weekend plans. A wave of Spring showers was causing further problems for clubs and supporters alike around North Wales, and rather predictably the game at Gwydir Park was disappointingly postponed. Once again the weather had halted my trip down the Conwy Valley to see the Rwsters play – one day I will manage to get down there!!
With my first groundhop choice being postponed, and a large number on the list being struck off due to the weather, the available options were reducing rapidly. However looking at the fixtures being played in the numerous leagues, I spotted a game being played near 94th Minute HQ which potentially could still be on. Halkyn United were playing Llanllyfni at their home ground of Pant Newydd, for their Welsh Alliance Division 2 game. After sending them a tweet asking if the game was still confirmed, followed by a reply from their official Twitter account @HalkynUtdFC confirming the game was still being played.
Now, this wouldn’t be the first time I have visited Pant Newydd, although it would be the first in a few years. The last time I visited Halkyn United was when I saw them play my team Holywell Town in a Welsh Alliance derby fixture on Boxing Day. On that cold Christmas day, the home side was victorious by winning the game 1-0, much to my chagrin as the Wellmen played well that day. Anyway, I hadn’t been back to the stadium since that fixture, so I was eager to see if the ground had developed in that time and how the current side compared to the eleven that beat their rivals on that December derby day. Plus it was an ideal opportunity to finally write a groundhopping blog on the local Halkyn United club, based in the nearby village of Halkyn Pentre.
HALKYN AND PENTRE HALKYN
The villages of Halkyn (Welsh: Helygain, Flintshire Welsh: Lygian) and Pentre Halkyn (Welsh: Pentre Helygain) are situated in the middle of Flintshire. Halkyn, the older settlement of the two villages, is located 4,5 miles south-east of Holywell, 6 miles south-west of Flint, and 5,5 miles north-west of Mold. Pentre Halkyn is located a mile north of Halkyn, 3,5 miles southeast of Holywell. Both villages are within close proximity to the main North Wales infrastructural artery, the A55 Expressway, being located on the south side of the dual carriageway. They can be reached by road by turning off at Junction 32A of the A55, with Pentre Halkyn particularly looking over the expressway.
The main geographical feature of the area is Halkyn Mountain, which stands about 290 metres above sea level at its trig point. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Blackpool Tower (located 50 miles north) from the trig point, as well as providing perfect views of Merseyside, the Wirral and, the Dee Estuary. Both Halkyn and Pentre Halkyn are situated on the slopes of Halkyn Mountain, with the incline much steeper and prominent in Pentre Halkyn.
Halkyn is one of the ancient parishes of Flintshire, and has had a church present in the village for at least 1000 years. The village was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Alchene’, when it was then part of the palatinate county of Cheshire. Halkyn’s most recognisable landmark is the current church on site, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, which was built in 1878 to replace the previous church in the village. Designed by the Chester architect John Douglas in the gothic revival style, it was paid for by the 1st Duke of Westminster, and is considered a Grade I listed building by Cadw.
Historically the Halkyn area and Halkyn Mountain was a major centre for lead ore and has been since Roman times, where it was excavated before being smelted at Flint. The lead which was produced in the area during the Roman occupation was stamped with the inscription ‘Deceangli’ (Welsh: Tegeingl), which was the name of the Celtic Iron Age tribe who occupied the area in North East Wales.
Although small-scale lead mining had continually existed within the area, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that lead mining started to become intensive within the area. Investment in mining came in the form of the London Lead Company, as well as various Derbyshire mining entrepreneurs, hoping to cash in on the Halkyn lead mines. Their investments provided great rewards as new rich lead veins were discovered, and these were quickly harvested and exploited by the mining companies. As a result of production increasing in the area, a large wave of skilled miners moved into the area looking for work, with many miners coming from Derbyshire to live in the area. The mass influx of Derbyshire workers living in the area influenced the naming of the road leading to the Billins mine in Pentre Halkyn, which was named ‘Buxton Lane’ after one of the main towns in Derbyshire.
As more miners flocked to the area looking for work, the existing villages of Pentre Halkyn, Halkyn, and Rhosesmor grew rapidly as additional houses were created to house the new workers to the mines. By the early part of the 19th Century, Halkyn had many public houses to entertain the large number of lead miners working and living in the area, as well as quenching the thirsts of travelers journeying between Holywell and Mold. Of the many pubs that existed, only the two pubs are still operating: the Blue Bell Inn (famous for its home-brewed cider) and the Britannia Inn (located between the church and A55). In addition to the public houses, many other institutions were established to support the ever-increasing community working on Halkyn Mountain, such as new churches, chapels, schools, and village halls.
It was also by the 19th Century that the lead mines became increasingly well developed and delved deeper into the earth, however, this created problems for the mining companies, especially with the threat of flooding in the mines’ lower levels. To alleviate this flooding threat, deep drainage tunnels were dug by the mining companies. The most important of these drainage tunnels was the Milwr Tunnel which runs for 10 miles from Loggerheads (situated on the south-west of Mold and near to Moel Famau) to the village of Bagillt (a former mining village located between Holywell and Flint), where the excess floodwater from Halkyn Mountain flows into the River Dee through the Bagillt Dock. Water discharges through this tunnel at an average rate of 23 million gallons of water per day, and the tunnel is now owned and maintained by Welsh Water / Dŵr Cymru.
Alas, the lead mining fortunes continually decreased throughout the 20th Century with mining completely ceasing operations in the 1970s. However, limestone quarrying has replaced the mining industry within the Halkyn Mountain area with two large limestone quarries dominating the area to the west of both Pentre Halkyn and Halkyn itself, hoping to extract the vast amounts of limestone rock within Halkyn Mountain. On particularly windy days, the alarms and explosions coming from the quarries can be heard from Holywell town centre.
- 1 x Welsh Alliance League Winners
- 1 x Clwyd League Premier League Winners
- 1 x Clwyd League Division 1 Winners
- 1 x Halkyn Mountain League Winners
- 2 x Halkyn Mountain League Cup Winners
- 2 x Halkyn Mountain League Challenge Cup Winners
- 1 x Arrows Cup Winners
- 1 x Clwyd League Presidents Cup Winners
- 1 x Mawddach Barritt Trophy Winners
- 1 x Cookson Cup Winners
The local football team which represents the villages of Halkyn, Pentre Halkyn, and Rhosesmor is Halkyn United, who currently plays at Pant Newydd, situated on the outskirts of Pentre Halkyn. Halkyn United Football Club was established just after hostilities had ceased in the Second World War, way back in 1945. Rather unsurprisingly, the club would become founding members of the old Halkyn Mountain League, which operated in the local area until the mid-1970s until the league merged with the nearby Dyserth & District League, to create the Clwyd League [this would subsequently split into the North East Wales League and Conwy & Clwyd League in 2011]. During this initial foundation period, the team played their home games on various grounds within the village of Pentre Halkyn.
The earliest known occasion of Halkyn United winning any silverware was winning the Halkyn Mountain League in the 1955-56 season, and the League Cup in the 1958-59 season. Naturally, when the Mountain League became part of the Clwyd League in the 1975-76 season, Halkyn started to compete in the Clwyd League system. During their early period within the Clwyd League, they would play their home games on a council-owned field within Pentre Halkyn. This field was adjacent to the Village Park, with the changing facilities being the nearby community centre (the field still exists within the village today).
It wouldn’t be until the late 1980s and early 1990s when Halkyn’s fortunes began to pick up as many of the influential long-serving officials, who would become instrumental in their rise, started to get involved with the club. Under the management of George Thelwell, Halkyn won the 1992-93 Clwyd League Division 1 title and thus earned a promotion to the Premier Division of the Clwyd League pyramid [then situated in the fourth-tier of the Welsh football pyramid]. In their debut season in the Premier Division, they would finish securely in mid-table but would achieve a cup double by claiming both the Clwyd League President’s Cup and the Arrows Cup. Halkyn would only spend two seasons in the Clwyd League Premier Division before they achieved more success and another rise up the Welsh football pyramid. They gained promotion to the Welsh Alliance League as Clwyd League Premier Division champions, finishing in top spot at the end of the 1994-95 league campaign.
Halkyn continued to make steady progress in the Welsh Alliance, as well as continuing to maintain its excellent record in cup competitions. They would claim the prestigious Barritt Cup in the 1995-96 season, before winning the Cookson Cup the following season. In the 1997-98 season, Halkyn would achieve their best-ever finish when they achieved a fourth-place finish in the league, behind the runaway champions Holyhead Hotspur. However, they were not able to follow up their fantastic fourth place by encountering an indifferent season cumulating in a mid-table finish for the 1998-99 season.
This slump would only be brief and once again the performances improved for the team from Pant Newydd, when the 1999-2000 season proved to be the most successful season in the club’s history. They would win the Welsh Alliance by a clear 11 points from runners-up Colwyn Bay YMCA, remaining unbeaten through the whole league campaign, and would gain promotion to the Cymru Alliance. In addition to the title-winning performance, their cup achievements, particularly in the Welsh Cup would create history for the Warriors. Halkyn would progress all the way to the fourth round of the national cup competition, producing a massive cup shock in the third round when they defeated then League of Wales team Haverfordwest County 1-0 at County’s Bridge Meadow ground. Their Welsh Cup campaign would eventually be halted by south Welsh team Caerleon, in a close encounter at Pant Newydd, losing the cup tie 2-3.
With promotion to the Cymru Alliance achieved, it meant that work on the ground’s facilities was required at Pant Newydd to bring the ground up to the required Cymru Alliance standard. A makeshift-covered stand was erected, whilst changes were made to the changing rooms and showers facilities. With facilities in place, Halkyn’s first two seasons competing in the second-tier were all about consolidating their position within the league. They would finish in 9th position in their debut season in the Cymru Alliance (one position above their local rivals Holywell Town in the 2000-01 season), which was then followed up by a historic 7th place finish the next season (again surpassing Holywell in the table). They would again produce some decent performances in the Welsh Cup when they eliminated mid-Wales side Rhayader Town 2-1 in the third round, before being overcome by Cefn Druids in another close fourth round encounter, losing by just the single and only goal of the game at Plaskynaston Lane.
Despite having success by being competitive in the Cymru Alliance, a huge change in management was enforced upon the club before the 2002-03 season commenced. Long-serving manager, and architect of Halkyn’s rise through the leagues, George Thelwell decided to take a break from club management after over 10 years in the management role. Thelwell was subsequently replaced with a new management duo team of Gareth Thomas (now Denbigh Town manager) and former Holywell Town manager Andy Nichols. Despite the flux created by the change of management, and the loss of certain key players in the close season, Halkyn exceeded all pre-season expectations by finishing in seventh position – equaling the highest league finish in the club’s history.
2003-04 proved that the previous season was no ‘fluke’ when Halkyn further consolidated their position in the top half of the Cymru Alliance table, achieving an impressive eighth-place finish in the table with 50 points accumulated. This finish saw them better the performances of the ‘bigger’ Flintshire teams of Holywell, Flint Town United, and Mold Alexandra. Cup competitions continued to be fruitful for United when they appeared in the final of the North Wales Coast FA Challenge Cup final, but were easily defeated by Welsh Premier League side Rhyl.
The 2004-05 season would be memorable for another glorious Welsh Cup campaign for Halkyn, when they achieved another ‘giant-killing’ in the competition. Another third-round away victory in South Wales, this time against Welsh Premier League side Port Talbot Town, saw Halkyn beat the Victoria Road outfit 1-0. Again they would be knocked out in the fourth round when they lost to Caersws 0-4 at Pant Newydd. In the Cymru Alliance, they would again achieve another mid-table finish of 11th place to maintain their position in the second-tier of Welsh football.
Alas, the glory of 2004-05 would precede the pain of the 2005-06 season, as Halkyn’s season proved to be ‘traumatic’. Several of the more experienced Halkyn players, such as club stalwarts Keith Davies and Julian Jones, retired at the end of the previous season resulting in a depleted squad that lacked experience in the Cymru Alliance. Plus the stability in the club’s management was severely damaged when Gareth Thomas left the club to manage the ambitious Llandudno side. He would return back to Pant Newydd a short time later, but would eventually Halkyn for the second time in the season to take over the local side and fellow Cymru Alliance side, Mynydd Isa (now sadly defunct). Dave Abraham tried to pick up the club during the low ebb, but despite his considerable efforts, too many factors were against him and he couldn’t hold off the inevitable. Halkyn would suffer the heartbreak of finishing bottom of the Cymru Alliance table and being relegated back to the Welsh Alliance League.
Their first season back in the Welsh Alliance would prove to be a difficult one for Dave Abraham, as the club would finish the season in 14th place, but performances would improve in the 2007-08 season when Halkyn would finish in 4th position. Alas, the problems would soon return for the Pant Newydd outfit, and under the tenure of first Eddie Barry, and then replacement manager Paul Caligaris, they would subsequently be relegated to the second division of the Welsh Alliance League structure in the 2009-10 season. Finishing bottom of the league, with just three wins and eight points accumulated throughout the season, they found themselves back in the fourth-tier of Welsh football.
Since that relegation, Halkyn have continued to play in the Welsh Alliance Division 2, continually finishing in mid-table. Their best finish during their tenure in Division 2 has been a 6th place finish in the 2013-14 season, with their nadir being the 2011-12 season when they could only achieve 2 victories from their 22-game league campaign and finishing bottom of the table. They avoided a further relegation to the North East Wales League as a result of Division 2 expanding the number of teams from 12 to 15 teams. Last season, Halkyn struggled in the division and finished in 13th position (out of 15 teams), earning 24 points and achieving seven wins from their 28-game season.
This season has seen them positioned at the bottom half of the league once more, situated in 11th position (out of 14 teams) with 19 points won. However compared with the teams around them, Halkyn have a number of games in hand over their rivals, with between three to six additional games to be played. In their previous game, they had achieved a 2-2 draw with Prestatyn Sports after being 0-1 down before going 2-1 up at half time, whilst their previous home fixture had seen them hammer Meliden 5-2, with Luke Tyson (who I have often seen score goals in the red & white stripes of Holywell) scoring four goals during the game at Pant Newydd.
Their opponents for this upcoming game were CPD Llanllyfni, who were positioned in third place on 35 points, but 14 points behind the two league challengers of Greenfield and Nantlle Vale. They were also going into the match in a similar form to Halkyn by encountering a win, draw, and loss in March’s fixtures. Two losses to Greenfield, at home in the league and away in the Mawddach Challenge Cup, were followed by a 2-2 away draw with Prestatyn Sports (Gavin Davies getting a brace). In their previous game, it saw Llyfni achieve an impressive 2-0 victory over fellow Gwynedd side Nantlle Vale with Rhys Jones and Cynan Davies getting the second-half goals.
THE PANT NEWYDD GROUNDHOP
The journey to Pant Newydd from HQ was a very short one for me, taking only 10 minutes to reach the ground. Pant Newydd is situated on the southern outskirts of Pentre Halkyn and can be accessed by the B5123, via Junction 32A of the A55 Expressway. It can also be accessed via Holywell if you decide to come from the west and take the Caerwys/Lloc A55 turnoff, or through Mold by going over the Halkyn Mountain via Rhosesmor and Halkyn, if coming from the south. For anyone wishing to reach the ground via public transport, the nearest train station is located in Flint. From Flint, get the regular coastal bus service to Holywell bus station where you can hop on the local bus service to Mold, which goes through the rural villages between the two towns and should stop in Pentre Halkyn.
The ground is located within the same grounds as Halkyn Cricket Club, with the cricket pitch below the football pitch but with both clubs using the cricket club’s clubhouse and car park on match days. There you can find the pre-match nibbles as well as the traditional pre or post-match pint if required for very competitive prices. If you wish an additional location for a pre/post-match pint and food, there is also the Britannia Inn which is located about a 5-10 minute walk down the road from the ground towards Halkyn. Situated just off the A55, the Brit is the ideal location to have great panoramic views of the Dee Estuary, the Wirral, and beyond, whilst crucially it prides itself on being a very friendly, family-oriented pub that welcomes all supporters on match days. It’s certainly a ‘must visit’ pub if you are in the area!
Alas, I would not be going to the Britannia on this occasion (mainly because I was driving and not able to try one of the real ales that are sold there), so headed straight to the sporting complex. The entrance to the ground is located at the top end of the car park (it’s easily identifiable) and is situated next to the changing room complex. Entrance to the ground cost me £2, which was paid at the snack bar located just inside the entrance on the right-hand side. Alas, they didn’t have any programmes for sale for this match, and I found out from the volunteer in the snack bar that Halkyn are currently not producing any programmes for this season as they didn’t have anyone to compile them. Therefore if anyone out there can give them a hand with their programmes, let them know!
Despite no programmes being available, they certainly had pin badges for sale and so a Halkyn United pin badge was bought for £3. Whilst at the snack bar-come-entrance, I bought myself a cup of coffee for the excellent value price of just 60p. Considering most clubs charge a pound for the same volume of liquid I was served with, it certainly made up for the slight disappointment of there being no programmes. Plus the coffee was welcome warmth considering conditions for this game were bleak, miserable, wet, and cold. Even though we were supposed to be in Spring, it felt very much like a winter’s day for this match!
Hoping to find some shelter from the sporadic showers currently blighting the Flintshire countryside, I headed for one of the covered shelters on the Halkyn side of the pitch. As mentioned previously, Halkyn improved its ground for Cymru Alliance football by adding covered stands to the ground. There are two stands situated next to each other, with one covered stand which allows about 50-60 people to sit down, with another “bus shelter” style stand where supporters can stand up. It would also be the more ideal stand for disabled supporters to occupy if they wish to shelter from the elements. There are also concrete paths running right around the pitch (as well as to and fro to the entrance) and a permanent barrier separating the supporters from the playing area. The club also has permanent, brick-built dugouts directly opposite the stands, on the A55/cricket pitch side of the ground. Alas, Pant Newydd does not have any floodlights, but this is common for clubs playing from the third tier and below of Welsh league football.
Whilst standing under the “bus shelter” stand and supping down the coffee, the players of both teams were out doing some pre-match warming up exercises on the pitch before heading back into the changing rooms. Unsurprisingly the pitch looked heavy going considering the amount of rain the area had been subjected to in the previous days before the match, and this made the pitch very muddy in areas. Part of me was concerned that the game might get abandoned if the rain persisted, but as the rain was only light at that point, the threat of the game being called off was only a slight risk.
As the teams were still in the changing rooms, a number of Llanllyfni supporters turned up and stood and sat between the two stands (with a few more appearing once the game had started), and had easily outnumbered the number of Halkyn fans in attendance. Of the approximately 25 supporters in attendance (although the official league website said it was about 40….), about 15 of them were Llanllyfni fans and they deserve full credit for traveling the 60-mile journey across the breadth of North Wales, driving in miserable weather, to support their local team! I doth my cap to your devotion to the Llanllyfni cause! It’s just a shame that some of the Halkyn supporters weren’t also out to support my team, and made me wonder where all the supporters that they had during their Cymru Alliance and Welsh Cup glory days were now = heartbreaking!
With the rain slowly cascading from the grey heavens onto the bobbly green turf, the two teams exited the warming cocoon of the changing room environment and into the sharp Spring Welsh air in preparation for the match. Both changing rooms are next to the snack bar, and require the players to walk across a small area of grass (used for training purposes) before they can reach an opening in the perimeter barrier that allowed them access to the slightly sodden-looking pitch. Despite my initial worries earlier in the day about not finding a match to watch, it was finally good to see some football after two weeks away from groundhopping and I was looking forward to the upcoming contest, especially as I have never seen Llanllyfni play before.
Halkyn would be playing in their home strip of a white shirt, black socks, and white socks, whilst Llanllyfni would be playing in a kit consisting of a green shirt with a single white hoop, green shorts, and socks with white trim.
MATCH REPORT – FIRST HALF
Two minutes into the football match and the first chance of the game fell to the visitors as their #10 broke clear and advanced towards goal. However, #10’s attempted dink over the advancing keeper was disappointingly scooped over the home crossbar. Llanllyfni would pay for missing their opening chance as Halkyn capitalised with their opening salvo on Llanllyfni’s goal after just four minutes of play. A poor back pass from the centre back #4 put pressure on his keeper to clear the ball. However the bobbly pitch meant he scuffed his clearance shot, and it dropped a short distance to Halkyn’s #9, Alex Ballard, on the edge of the penalty box. Despite the best efforts of the Llanllyfni keeper, who got his fingertips onto the ball, his diving effort was no match for the fearsome shot unleashed by Ballard as the ball rocketed into the left-hand top corner of the goal.
Halkyn United 1 – 0 CPD Llanllyfni
Despite a Llanllyfni corner three minutes after the opening goal (which was easily dealt with by the Halkyn defence), Halkyn would have a number of chances to double their lead. Firstly #10 had an effort in the ninth minute of the game, but his shot was easily gathered by the visiting keeper. Two minutes later and an attacking throw-in from the left-hand side of the pitch, provided enough space for #7 to unleash a shot from the left-hand side of the penalty area. However again the home side’s shooting was just off target as the trajectory of the ball sent it over the crossbar. Finally, in the 17th minute, Halkyn had a chance from a corner which managed to find one of the Halkyn players situated by the penalty spot, who rose above everyone to connect with the curled cross but saw his glancing header send the ball just past the left post.
Llanllyfni were under pressure from the home attack but, eventually, they started to find a foothold in the game and create chances for themselves. They almost caught out the home side when they counter-attacked from a Halkyn corner, but ultimately the shot from their striker was comfortably grasped by the goalkeeper. Two minutes later and they had a great chance to equalise through their #8 Neil Thomas, who had created enough space just outside the penalty area to curl an attempt on goal. Even though his shot was on target, the ball didn’t have enough power nor curl to find the top right corner of the goal from 20 yards out.
The visitors continued to push for an equaliser, and they were getting great success down their left flank as their winger #11 was finding more room and becoming increasingly influential in their build-up play. Midway through the first half, a great one-two interplay between forward David Parry and #11 down the left flank almost opened up the Halkyn defence. However #11’s return pass back to Parry, who had surged into the box, was too weighty for the captain to reach and the chance frustratingly fizzled out. A couple of minutes later and #11 was involved in another half-chance when he easily zipped past his marker down the left flank before squaring the ball to Parry in the penalty area. However, it took a last-ditch block from one of the Halkyn defenders to ensure the forward would not be able to score from 8 yards out. Despite the missed chances, it looked more likely the visitors would score the second goal of this game.
With Llanllyfni threatening their goal on an increasingly regular occurrence, it was clear that Halkyn would require a second goal if they were to have a chance of claiming victory this afternoon. In the 34th minute, they almost doubled their advantage when Halkyn’s #9 Alex Ballard bullied the Llanllyfni centre-back #4 into making a mistake under pressure and conceding possession to the forward. With the defence scrambling back to eliminate the threat on goal, Ballard hurried into the box but snatched his shot in the box allowing his low shot to be comfortably saved.
However in the 38th minute, Halkyn would indeed clinch that crucial second goal, and it would come from another failed clearance from the Llanllyfni defence. An attempted headed clearance from centre-back #5 did not find the intended target and instead dropped into the path of the onrushing #16 John Edmunds. Finding space on the right-hand side of the pitch, he cut inside and drove into the box before blasting the ball into the top left corner of the net, past the outstretching but helpless goalkeeper. Llanllyfni were becoming the architects of their own downfall!
Halkyn United 2 – 0 CPD Llanllyfni
Three minutes after going 0-2 down and Llanllyfni had their best chance of the half and cut their arrears in half. A cutting ball allowed David Parry to use his pace advantage to break the offside trap and advance towards goal by cutting in from the left flank. Seeing the keeper advance towards him and narrow the angle, the attacker quickly hit a low, zipping ball along the ground, but the keeper managed to get enough of his body in front of the shot to cushion some of the velocity out of the effort. However, the ball still squirmed from his grasp and it slowly rolled towards the now empty net. Thankfully for the home side, #4 had managed to cover the space created behind his advanced keeper and successfully cleared the spinning ball off the goal line.
It would be the final clear chance of the first half, and the home side would go into the break two goals to the good. If Llanllyfni were to wrestle a way back into the match, they would need to exploit the spaces provided to them down the flanks.
HALF TIME: HALKYN UNITED 2 – 0 CPD LLANLLYFNI
At half time I decided to get some chocolate from the snack bar, where I purchased a Snickers bar for just 50p before taking a walk around the pitch and taking pictures. Rather unfortunately as I was walking around that I noticed the chocolate was two weeks beyond the Best Before date. Granted it was the ‘best before’ and not ‘use by’ date, but I can imagine it can put people off and it’s not ideal. Rather curiously there was a sign on the far side detailing the UK Tug of War Championships, which were once held at the Halkyn sports complex. Tug of war used to be an Olympic event and part of me would like to have it back on the Olympic programme ha!
Anyway with the rain subsiding somewhat, I decided to walk right around the pitch and eventually sit in the other stand for the second half action.
MATCH REPORT – SECOND HALF
The opening effort of the second half came just a minute after the restart, and it would fall to the home side. A superb run down the right-hand side by their winger John Edmunds allowed him to square the ball across the box to #8 who was unmarked and rapidly advancing into the box. The ball was slotted perfectly into his path and he unleashed a goal-bound low shot from 12 yards out, but somehow a Llanllyfni defender managed to throw himself at the shot thus successfully blocking the effort. It would seem that block had boosted Llanllyfni’s resolve as they started gaining control of the game whilst committing more players to the waves of attack.
In the 56th minute, the visiting side had their first real chance when an unchallenged run from Neil Thomas allowed him to dart towards the goal byline and square a canny pass to their captain David Parry, who was lurking in the box about 5 yards out. Unfortunately, the forward could only blaze his shot over the bar after distraction from the challenging Halkyn defender. Two minutes later and Llanllyfni had a claim for a penalty when they appealed an attack was hindered by a handball in the box. However, the referee waved away the proposed infringement as it seemed to be ball-to-hand and not deliberate. From my position, it would have been harsh on Halkyn had the penalty been given, so I think it was the right decision from the official.
With Halkyn determined to hold onto their lead, they were content to try and soak up the Llanllyfni attacks whilst catching their opponents on the counter. One such counter was almost fruitful for the home side when a darting attack from their right winger #7 created problems for the Llanllyfni backline. A superb jinking run from #7, complemented with a cheeky nutmeg of the right back to ghost past the challenge, opened up enough space for the midfielder to square the ball to #8 who was waiting in a central position on the edge of the penalty area. The attacking midfielder managed to flick up the pass to tee up a volley attempted, and although the setup for the shot was perfect, the resulting shot alas was not so clean-cut with the effort sailing over the crossbar.
The visitors would continue to pressurise the Halkyn defence as the momentum of the game was strongly in their favour at this point in the half. A couple of quick-fire goal-scoring opportunities for Llanllyfni went begging when firstly their #8 Neil Thomas produced some tidy movement in the box to break clear of his marker for just enough time to launch a shot on goal. It would take an instinctive block by the goalkeeper’s legs to keep the low effort out of the net. A minute later and a long, route one ball from the centre back #5 went right over the Halkyn defence and managed to spot David Parry who brought the ball down before firing on goal. Again the home keeper was equal to the Llanllyfni captain’s attempt by comfortably palming away the effort. It was starting to look as if the visitors might be having “one of those days” by not converting their many chances, and that perhaps Halkyn’s luck was in!
When hope was starting to fade for the Llanllyfni fans in attendance, their spirits were picked up in the 72nd minute when the breakthrough they craved for finally appeared. A through ball from #8 resulted in the Halkyn goalkeeper flying off his goal line to clear away the loose ball, but in similar circumstances to the first half, his clearing kick was scuffed. The scuffed clearance fell into the path of #9 David Parry, who was positioned just outside of the penalty box on the right-hand side. Showing great vision and spotting the keeper off his line, the Llanllyfni captain lobbed both the stranded keeper and covering defenders from 20 yards out leading to the ball eventually rolling into the bottom left-hand corner of the empty net.
Halkyn United 2 – 1 CPD Llanllyfni
Llanllyfni’s tails were now up and they wouldn’t have to wait long to change the game once again when on the 80th minute, the equaliser arrived! A long cross was directed to #8 Neil Thomas on the right edge of the penalty box, who managed to both gather the pass and barge the challenging Halkyn defender off the ball. Using the space created by the stumbling defender, and spotting the keeper venturing towards him, Thomas superbly lobbed the keeper from an incredibly tight angle. Now I’m not sure whether he managed to get the ball over the line during the lob just inside the right post, or the covering full-back #3 scored an own goal when attempting to intercept the lob and head it clear. Either way, the ball ended up in the back of the net and the visitors had pulled level!!
Halkyn United 2 – 2 CPD Llanllyfni
With Halkyn still reeling after letting a two-goal advantage slip away so quickly, things would get a lot worse for the Pant Newydd men when they conceded a third goal just two minutes after conceding their second. Once again Llanllyfni employed the long ball from the back towards Neil Thomas positioned in the middle of the Halkyn half. Spotting the run of #10 Gavin Davies, he perfectly timed a cutting pass towards the runner, who had beaten the offside trap set by the Halkyn defence. In the one-on-one scenario, Davies sent the onrushing goalkeeper the wrong way through a cheeky dummy and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net. An incredible comeback from the men from Gwynedd!
Halkyn United 2 – 3 CPD Llanllyfni
Frustrated at seeing his side throw away the lead and finding themselves behind in the game, frustrations got the better of the Halkyn manager Graeme Duffield, as he remonstrated a little too fiercely for the official’s liking. A strong challenge on Halkyn’s goalscorer John Edmunds (which went unpunished) was too much for Duffield’s patience and he stormed onto the pitch to complain to the referee. To complete a miserable second half for Halkyn, the official sent the home manager away from the dugout and he had to stand behind the barrier for the remainder of the game.
Even though Halkyn were trying to regroup themselves to find a very late equaliser, it looked more likely that Llanllyfni would score a fourth goal of the half. The visitors’ #17 would be crucially involved in a number of late chances as he exploited the space provided to him down the right flank of the pitch. One such run by #17 saw him head into the box before being brought down in the box. In my opinion, it looked like a penalty as the defender caught the man before the ball, however, the referee waved the appeal away and play continued. From the challenge, the ball ricocheted to the onrushing Neil Thomas, who lashed a shot from 20 yards out and forced the Halkyn keeper into a fantastic save. The home number 1 pulled off a superb diving save to divert the ball past the right post and keep his side in the game.
Alas for the home keeper, his heroics in the final minutes of the game were in vain as his team couldn’t find the equaliser they desperately wanted. Therefore after two minutes of injury time, the official blew the whistle to end the contest – it would be a fantastic comeback win for Llanllyfni! The visiting team would be deservedly applauded off the pitch by their loyal supporters!
FULL TIME: HALKYN UNITED 2 – 3 CPD LLANLLYFNI
After the final whistle, I noticed two gents sitting in front of me in the stand were making notes into a notebook. Thinking they were fellow groundhoppers, I asked if they were doing a groundhop this afternoon but would find out that they were referee adjudicators, and were making notes on the performance of the officials. Being referees themselves, we had a good chat about football in North Wales and how the Halkyn game had progressed. I didn’t like to ask how they thought the officials had performed but I thought they had done a fairly decent job on the whole. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to catch their names but thanks very much for the quick chat and I hope the games you officiated the following day went well! With that, I decided to head back to the car before making the very short journey back to 94th Minute HQ.
The first half of the game was probably not the best half of football I have seen this season with both teams often losing possession, but that was a combination of the weather conditions and a bobbly pitch that caused certain passes to go awry. Even though the visitors had looked more assured, Halkyn adapted to conditions more quickly and successfully took full advantage of any defensive error when they appeared and took their opportunities well.
Naturally, the second half was certainly the more exciting of the two as Llanllyfni turned the tie around and claimed the victory. That early Halkyn miss in the second half proved pivotal as a three-goal cushion might have been too much for Llanllyfni to overcome. However they were inspired, and sensing Halkyn were settling on their lead, went on the attack to grab control of the game’s momentum. Even though at times it wasn’t looking like it was forthcoming, as soon as they scored their first goal I sensed they would go on to win the game because momentum was so strong with them and Halkyn couldn’t contain their wingers successfully.
For the fourth tier of Welsh league football, Halkyn United’s ground is probably one of the better grounds that you will find, especially in the Welsh Alliance. If the conditions are right, you can get fantastic views from across the River Dee due to its lofty position in the Welsh hills, which adds to the ambiance of the ground. Plus I cannot fault the volunteers who were helping out as they were very friendly, passionate about their team, and welcoming to all supporters. However, I felt pangs of sadness during my groundhop as it was heartbreaking to see how few Halkyn supporters had turned up on the day.
Growing up I remember seeing Halkyn during their halcyon days when they were performing admirably in the Cymru Alliance and achieving heroics in the Welsh Cup whilst getting some big attendances during that time. Therefore to go back to Pant Newydd and see the visiting fans outnumber home fans was somewhat disheartening. Granted the weather probably didn’t encourage people to come out to watch the game, or perhaps they assumed the game had been postponed, but still it was a touch disappointing to see a lack of Halkyn supporters. It’s probably the best indicator that shows the struggle Halkyn (and other such village teams for that matter) are currently going through by trying to encourage supporters to watch the team and get involved in the club, whilst also trying to live within its means.
I am hopeful that I caught Halkyn on a bad day and that the supporters will come back to cheer on their local team when conditions are more favourable to watching football. The ground is a decent ground and if you get the chance or visit the local area, please go and visit the place as it’s a decent football arena for the level of football being played!
May I wish Llanllyfni all the very best for the rest of the season, and also wish good luck to Halkyn United as they attempted to cram a load of fixtures in towards the end of the season. I really hope the good times of old reappear back at Pant Newydd in the near future!