ABERYSTWYTH TOWN

Date of Visit: Saturday 3rd December 2016

Ground Number: 78

  • Distance Travelled: 88,8 miles
  • Travel Time: 2 hours & 25 minutes

 

CLUB DETAILS

aberystwyth-town-badge

 

  • Club Name: Aberystwyth Town Football Club / Clwb Pêl-Droed Aberystwyth
  • Ground: Park Avenue, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 1PG
  • Club Nicknames: The Seasiders, Black & Greens, Aber Town
  • Club Colours: Green and white striped shirts with black trim, black shorts, black socks
  • League Position: Welsh Premier League – 10th position [01/12/2016]

 

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Aberystwyth Town’s home shirt for the 2016-17 season [Image: ATFC website]

DIRECTIONS & CAR PARKING

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Location of Park Avenue in Aberystwyth

From the A487 & A44:

Coming into Aberystwyth on the A487 from the North, stay on the A487 by following the one-way system towards the retail park. Go straight through the first roundabout, and pass the railway station on the left hand side. At the second roundabout, turn left onto Park Avenue, and the entrance to the ground should be on the right hand side about 150 yards down the road.

If arriving into Aberystwyth on the A44 road from Mid Wales, follow the A44 until a T-junction appears, where a left-turn is required onto the A487 road. Then follow the directions as stated above.

Coming on the A487 from the South, cross over the River Rheidol and turn right once on the other riverbank, following the signs pointing to the railway station. Follow the road until a roundabout appears, where a right turn is required onto Park Avenue. The ground entrance shall appear on the right side.

 

From Aberystwyth Train Station:

The train station is located roughly in the centre of Aberystwyth and only a five minute walk from the ground. From the main station entrance, turn left and head towards Matalan and the Ystwyth Retail Park. At the mini roundabout, turn right into the car park, walking through the car parking area and along a path between a local school and the public toilets towards Park Avenue. Head over to the other side of Park Avenue at the nearest crossing, and turn left in the direction towards the Retail Park. The entrance to the ground and car park should be opposite to the Poundland shop, although you should also see signs pointing towards the football ground.

 

Car Parking Information:

There is a decent sized car park next to the ground with approximately 100 car spaces available. Please be aware that this is a public, council-owned car park and you will have to pay to park in this location. For our visit, we paid about £3.70 for the whole day, but there are options for £2 for just two hours stay, or £2.80 for three hours. Aberystwyth has other council-owned pay car parks in the town, should visitors wish to explore the rest of the town. There are also available spaces in the Retail Park opposite the ground if required, although these spaces are promoted for shop customers only.

 

CLUB HISTORY

Club Established/Founded: 1884

Honours:

  • 1 x Welsh Cup Winners
  • 5 x Welsh Amateur / Welsh Intermediate Cup Winners
  • 15 x Mid Wales League Champions
  • 8 x Mid Wales League Cup Winners
  • 4 x Welsh League (South) Runners-Up

 

  • Founding Members of the League of Wales / Welsh Premier League
  • 1 x UEFA Europa League Participants
  • 2 x UEFA Intertoto Cup Participants

 

Highest League Finish:         Welsh Premier League – 3rd [1992-93]

2015-16 Performance:

  • Welsh Premier League – 8th
  • Welsh Cup – Round Three
  • Welsh League Cup – Round Two
wpl-table-2015-16
The 2015-16 Welsh Premier League table

 

There is evidence of football being played in Aberystwyth since the 1870’s, with records of the earliest incarnation of an Aberystwyth Football Club taking part in the inaugural Welsh Cup competition in 1877-78. During these early years of the national cup competition, Aberystwyth F.C. would reach the Third Round on a couple of occasions before being knocked out of the tournament.

The current incarnation of the town’s football club, Aberystwyth Town Football Club, were founded in 1884 when the son of a local solicitor, Arthur Hughes, along with his brothers Jack and Hugh, decided to place an advert in the local press looking for players to play for Aberystwyth Football Club. Arthur Hughes placed the following advert:

Aberystwyth Football Club

Gentlemen wishing to join the above club are requested to attend a meeting to be held at the Belle Vue Hotel on Saturday, the 4th inst., at 4pm. Members’ subscriptions to be paid in advance, 2s. 6d.

The new Aberystwyth club restricted themselves to just friendly matches in the early years of its history and did not join a league until 1896, twelve years after its creation. They were scheduled to make their first appearance in the 1886-87 Welsh Cup but had to withdraw in the First Round of the competition. This was probably a result due to excessive and hazardous weather conditions in the area which forced trains to get cancelled, and leaving the Aberystwyth team to travel to Llanfyllin.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Aberystwyth Town’s performances improved in the Welsh Cup. In the 1895-96 competition, Aber reached the semi-finals of the cup before they lost by the single goal to Wrexham at the neutral venue of Welshpool. However in the first competition of the 20th century, they would advance all the way to the final. In April 1900, at the neutral ground of Newtown, Aber would win their first, and still only, Welsh Cup trophy when they beat Druids F.C. by three goals to zero. Goals from A.W. Green, E. James and Storey ensured the trophy would make its way to the west coast of Wales. Their road to the trophy was the following:

  • Round 3: Rhayader (a) 1 – 0
  • Round 4: Newtown (h) 1 – 0
  • Semi-Finals: Carnarvon Ironopolis (n) 1 – 0
  • Final: Druids (n) 3 – 0

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The Aberystwyth Town Welsh Cup winning team [Image: Welsh Football Data Archive]
A member of that Welsh Cup winning side, was the legendary Welsh goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose who played for Aberystwyth whilst studying at the town’s university. He played 85 times for the club between 1895 and 1900, with the Welsh Cup final being the pinnacle of his Aber career. So much so, that he was carried from the pitch shoulder-high following the team’s victory and was described by the eminent Welsh historian Thomas Richards, as Yr Ercwlff synfawr hwn (“This wondrous Hercules”). Roose would leave Aber for the English leagues where he established himself as Wales’ international goalkeepers and became one of the finest goalkeepers of the age (and probably of all time) and a pioneer in the position.

Wrexham (11)
A plaque at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground showing former Aber player and Welsh legendary goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose

Ironically, the Welsh Cup victory would be the start of the club’s downfall as the club were unable to capitalise on their success and potentially win additional cups during that period. Aber soon suffered a massive financial crisis after the final, which caused a mass exodus of players and a massive reduction in results.

In 1896, Aberystwyth Town joined their first league when they became members of Welsh League. Despite a finish of sixth place (out of eight teams), their stay in the league was a brief one as they returned to their previous schedule of just playing friendly fixtures after just one season in the Welsh League. They would return to league competition in the same season as their Welsh Cup triumph when they joined the Anglo-Welsh “The Combination” league. Again their participation in the league only lasted a season, as travelling costs mounted up and forced the club to quit the competition.

Aberystwyth would finally commit to league football in 1904, when they joined the newly created local Montgomeryshire & District League. They would achieve great success during this period as they managed to win several league championships, including claiming the league trophy in their first season in the league, before they joined the Central Section of the Welsh National League in 1921.

The inter-war period was a successful time for Aber as they achieved six league championships, winning three of their league titles consecutively in the period between the 1925-26 season and 1927-28 season. The early thirties were especially prosperous for Aber as they claimed the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1931 and 1933 (and being finalists in 1935), as well as claiming the Mid-Wales League in the 1932-33 season to create a unique double-winning season.

After the Second World War, Aberystwyth Town would focus their football glare southwards rather than northwards (as is often the case with Mid-Welsh teams – a result of the Mid Wales League being a feeder league to the Cymru Alliance nowadays) by becoming members of the Welsh League (South), joining the Division 2 West league in the 1951-52 season. They would be very successful in their first season playing in the southern footballing pyramid, as they won the Division 2 West title by five points from second placed Morriston Town.

Aber would continue to play in the South Welsh leagues until 1963, when they returned back to focus solely on the Mid-Welsh football pyramid. The team never fully left local football as during their South Welsh tenure, they continued to field a reserve side in the Mid-Welsh league, so it was a fairly straightforward move back to the Mid Wales League…or so they imagined. It would not be until 1984 when they finally they would win the Mid Wales League, after finishing runners-up in six separate seasons. As with London buses, the Aber fans would wait ages to win one Mid Wales League championship, but wouldn’t have to wait long for the second as they would successfully regain their Mid Wales championship the following season. The double-league triumph was orchestrated under the tenure of team boss Meirion Appleton.

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The 1983-84 Mid Wales League table

By the mid-to-late eighties, Aber had firmly re-established themselves as one of the strongest clubs in the Mid-Wales region, but repeated history by returning back to the Welsh League (South) pyramid in 1987. During their second spell in the South Welsh system, they would achieve three consecutive runners-up spots in the late eighties and early nineties. However in 1992, their performances in the Welsh League merited an inclusion to join the newly created national league, the “League of Wales” ensuring Aberystwyth Town would become founding members of the top tier of Welsh football. Their first foray into the national league was a hugely prosperous one as their achieved a third placed finish in the inaugural League of Wales season – still their best league finish to date!

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The inaugural League of Wales table for the 1992-93 season

Despite Aber’s early promise in the League of Wales, the rest of the decade would become difficult for the Green & Blacks as they struggled in the new league. A rather uneventful finish of tenth place was followed by a flirt with potential relegation in the 1994-95 season when they finished in seventeenth position in the twenty team league. During that troublesome season, it would take the club until February before Aber would achieve their first home victory of the season!

However performance would pick up for the Seasiders, and they would finally achieve some glory in the 1998-99 season when Aber qualified for European competition for the first time in their history, when they qualified for the now defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup. They would qualify for the Intertoto Cup after finishing fourth in the league, behind champions Barry Town, Inter Cabel-Tel (now Cardiff Met) and 1992-93 league champions Cwmbrân Town. Their European campaign would only be a brief but memorable one, as they narrowly lost to Maltese side Floriana 3-4 on aggregate over two legs, in the first round of the Intertoto Cup.

floriana-fc-badge

The success of European qualification to Aberystwyth brought changes to the club both on and off the pitch. Off the pitch, the Park Avenue ground was improved and expanded as a new television studio and gantry were constructed, which was followed by the new “Dias” stand being erected at the town end of the ground. The covered stand was named after club legend and record goal scorer David “Dias” Williams, who scored a monumental 476 goals in just 433 games (an average of 1.1 goals per game) between the period of 1966 to 1983 for the Green & Blacks. With the construction of the Dias stand, it brought the seating attendance to nearly 600, and made Park Avenue one of the biggest grounds in the league.

On the pitch, European qualification had raised the expectations of the club, and the club invested heavily to maintain their European qualifying standard. Alas they would fail to requalify for Europe the following season by just three points, leaving the club financially stretched and costing then manager Barry Powell his job.

Aberystwyth would once again qualify for European competition in the 2003-04 season, when they finished fourth in the Welsh Premier League table. Under the management of Gary Finley, Aber would requalify for the UEFA Intertoto Cup ensuring the Green & Blacks would experience European football for the second time in the club’s history. Alas for the Seasiders, their time in the Intertoto Cup would be as brief as their first European sortie when they were knocked out in the First Round by Latvian side Dinaburg F.C. to the disappointing scoreline of 0-4 on aggregate. A disappointing scoreline considering the first leg had finished 0-0 and left Aber with a great chance to progress to the next round, before a heavy defeat in the second leg extinguished all hopes of progression.

After the board decided to pursue a policy of having a core playing squad of local Ceredigion players, Gary Finley left the club and took his Merseyside-based contingent with him. As a result, the club suffered a number of undistinguished years which saw attendances at Park Avenue slump by 40%. However the board were committed to the commendable policy of promoting and playing local players in the squad.

This local policy almost bore fruit in the 2008-09 season when Aber reached the final of the Welsh Cup – their first final since they last won the cup 113 years previously. Their road to the final would be as follows:

  • Round 2: Afan Lido (h) 2 – 2 [3 – 2 pens]
  • Round 3: Caersws (a) 3 – 0
  • Round 4: AFC Llwydcoed (a) 3 – 0
  • Round 5: Prestatyn Town (h) 5 – 1
  • Semi-Finals: Carmarthen Town (n) 3 – 2

Alas for the Seasiders, they would have to wait a little longer to claim their second Welsh Cup when they lost 0-2 to defending Welsh Cup champions Bangor City. Goals from Les Davies and Chris Seargeant, at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli, ensured the trophy would return back to Farrar Road as the Citizens would the second of their three Welsh Cup in a row. The resurgence of Aberystwyth almost provided them with another opportunity for European football when they finished in fourth position in the 2009-10 WPL season. Disappointingly for the Seasiders, they would just miss out on UEFA Europa League qualification as Port Talbot Town would clinch the final European spot by just a single point.

Highlights to the Welsh Cup Final: https://youtu.be/f275atw01T0

Since the Welsh Premier League changed to the ‘Super 12’ format, Aberystwyth have only finished in the Top 6 Championship section once. This has meant Aber have had to gain qualification to Europe through the Europa League playoff route by finishing at the top of the Bottom 6 section rather than achieving it through a high league position. They would reach the semi-finals of the playoff rounds on two occasions, but would be unable to overcome Neath and Llanelli to reach the playoff final.

Despite their disappointment in the playoff phase, Aberystwyth would reach the final another final in the 21st century when they managed to get to the final of the 2013-14 Welsh Cup competition. Along route they managed to beat fellow Mid-Wales sides Llanfair United and Caersws before ending Holywell Town’s fairy-tale story in the semi-finals, beating the Wellmen 3-1 at Latham Park, Newtown. The route to the 2014 final was as follows:

  • Round 3: Llanfair United (a) 2 – 4
  • Round 4: Afan Lido (h) 5 – 1
  • Round 5: Caersws (h) 2 – 1
  • Semi-Finals: Holywell Town (n) 3 – 1

The victory over the then third-tier team would be important for the Seasiders not just because it earned them a finalist birth, but that victory also ensured they would be guaranteed European football for the following season. This was because their opponents, The New Saints, had already qualified for the Champions League as they were confirmed as WPL champions that season. Therefore, the rule at that time was that the cup finalists would take the European spot allocated for the national cup, meaning Aberystwyth would be playing in the 2014-15 Europa League.

Unfortunately for Aberystwyth, they would suffer heartbreak by losing the Welsh Cup final 2-3 to The New Saints at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, as the Oswestry-based side would achieve a domestic double that season. Aber would be two goals up with 17 minutes to go, but two goals in five minutes from Greg Draper and an 87th minute winner from Michael Wilde ensured the trophy would head to the Saints. Things would not be plain sailing for the Seasiders in their maiden Europa League campaign either. Coming up against League of Ireland side, Derry City, in the First Qualifying Round, they would suffer heavy defeats of 0-4 and 0-5 respectively to the Candystripes, to ultimately crash out of the Europa League 0-9 on aggregate after the two legs.

aber-vs-tns-2014-welsh-cup-final
Aberystwyth in action against TNS in the 2014 Welsh Cup final [Image: BBC]
In the 2014-15 season, Aberystwyth would finish in the Top 6 of the WPL for the first time when they achieved another fourth place finish in the table. They would miss out on qualification for the Europa League by six points which resulted in them competing in the end of season playoff phase to decide the final European qualifier. On this occasion, they would overcome their semi-final hoodoo by scoring two late goals against Gap Connah’s Quay to face Newtown in the playoff final. In the mid-Wales derby, the Seasiders were favourites to win but would end up losing 1-2 to the Robins to miss out on the Europa League once again.

In last season’s league campaign they would again finish in the Bottom 6 section of the league and conclude the season in a safe eighth place, ensuring their stay in the WPL for another season having never been relegated from the top flight since its formation. Again they would not qualify for the Europa League as the Green & Blacks would miss out on the Euro playoff phase by a single point from Carmarthen Town. They would also suffer an early exit of the Welsh Cup by losing to The New Saints by three goals to nil in the Third Round.

 

CURRENT FORM

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The WPL table prior to the Welsh Cup game.

Aberystwyth Town’s last five league results prior to this game:

  • Sun 23rd October: Llandudno FC (h) 0 – 0
  • Sat 29th October: Airbus UK Broughton (h) 3 – 1
  • Sat 5th November: Gap Connah’s Quay (h) 1 – 3
  • Fri 11th November: Bala Town (a) 0 – 4
  • Fri 25th November: Bala Town (h) 1 – 3

 

After a substantial investment in the club’s facilities, it would be the first season Aber would be playing on an artificial pitch with Park Avenue having a 3G pitch installed in the summer, joining a number of WPL teams with artificial surfaces at their own grounds this season. As with many teams with newly installed 3G pitches, they have struggled to adapt to the new surface and have had a difficult start this season. The 2016-17 season would also be the first season under the tenure of manager Matthew Bishop, who arrived from Hereford FC and replaced previous manager Ian Hughes in May 2016.

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Aberystwyth Town’s manager for the 2016-17 season, Matthew Bishop. [Image: Official Aberystwyth Town FC website]
This upcoming Welsh Cup match was a welcome relief from their league campaign, in which they were positioned in tenth position prior to this game, having lost ten of their sixteen games already played. In their last five games in the WPL, they had only beaten bottom club Airbus UK Broughton, and were on a run of three straight defeats after losing to Connah’s Quay and Bala Town twice and conceding ten goals from the three games played in the league.

In their previous match against Bala Town, the club had a fantastic attendance of 530 people despite it being a freezing Friday night game. The numbers were boosted by their Annual Students Night, encouraging students from the town’s university to come watch the game. However the supplemented home support would be left disappointed from the result.  Goals from Mike Hayes and Lee Hunt put the Lakesiders 2-0 up, but a maiden goal in the second half from Kurtis March ensured a nervy finish. Frustratingly for the home fans, the desired equaliser was not forth coming, and Bala snatched an injury time goal to ensure the visitors would claim victory.

The game capped off a rather miserable week for the Seasiders who would suffer the effects of Storm Angus, which battered the west coast of Wales the previous weekend. Wind gusts of 95mph caused damage in the town and also felled two of Park Avenue’s eight permanent floodlights, causing the lights to fall onto the 3G pitch and spraying the playing field with glass and metal debris. Naturally that weekend’s game against Cefn Druids was postponed, but superb work from the hard working club officials and volunteers in clearing up the debris, and the hiring of two temporary floodlights, ensured the Bala Town game was able to take place. An excellent job considering the damage inflicted on the ground six days previously.

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The damage caused by Storm Angus on Park Avenue’s floodlights 😦 [Image: Cambrian News]

THE OPPOSITION – HOLYWELL TOWN

Holywell Town Badge
Holywell Town badge

Holywell Town’s last five results prior to this game:

  • Sat 15th October: Buckley Town (a) 5 – 1
  • Sat 22nd October: Mold Alexandra (h) 2 – 0
  • Sat 29th October: Guilsfield (a) 0 – 0
  • Sat 5th November: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (h) [Welsh Cup Round 2] 6 – 0
  • Sat 19th November: Caernarfon Town (h) 2 – 3

 

Holywell Town’s form going into the game against Aberystwyth Town was decent, having had a good October and achieving an impressive performance in the previous round of the Welsh Cup. Important derby wins against fellow Flintshire teams Buckley Town [blog on that game can be found here] and Mold Alex provided some momentum for the Wellmen, whilst the no-score draw away at high-flying Guilsfield can be considered a solid result at a difficult venue for visitors to earn points.

However their confidence was rattled somewhat after losing at home to last season’s champions Caernarfon Town. Despite arguably being the superior team for a majority of the match and taking the lead in the game, the Cofis’ clinical and lethal finishing, particularly on the counter-attack in the second half, ensured they grabbed all three points and left the home support feeling a tad deflated.

  • Round 1: Coedpoeth United (a) 8 – 0
  • Round 2: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (h) 6 – 0

Despite the previous league result, Holywell had been very impressive in the national cup competition – a competition the Wellmen has had great pedigree in recent times. It started this season’s Welsh Cup campaign away at Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division side Coedpoeth United. A brace from captain Steve Thomas ensured the Wellmen led 2-0 at half time against a resolute Coedpoeth defence. However in the second half, the Wellmen turned on the style against their tiring hosts to score a further six additional goals to eventually claim a Second Round birth with a comfortable 8-0 victory.

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Lee Healey scoring from the penalty spot for Holywell against Coedpoeth United in the Welsh Cup First Round match

The Second Round drew Holywell against Mid Wales League Division 1 side Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, in what could have been a tricky tie for the Wellmen. However in front of the home support at Halkyn Road, Holywell made comfortable work against their lower league opposition by winning the game 6-0. Goals from Shaun Tuck and Sam Jones in the first half, were followed up in the second half with goals from Matty Harvey, Graeme Williams and a brace from Shaun Tuck to complete his hat-trick.

The draw for the Third Round would naturally produce a fixture which has become a regular occurrence over the past few years in the Welsh Cup. For the third time in the past four seasons, Holywell were drawn against Aberystwyth once again. On both previous meetings, the Park Avenue have been victorious over the Wellmen. In the 2013-14 campaign, Aberystwyth would beat Holywell 3-1 in the semi-finals, a historic tie for Holywell as they became the first third-tier side to reach the last 4 of the competition. Then in the following season, they would face each other in the Third Round with Aber making the long trip to Halkyn Road. For that game, Holywell had the better chances during the game but would ultimately suffer the heartbreak of losing on penalties to the WPL side.

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Shaun Tuck would be missing from the game [Image: Holywell Town website]
Holywell would advance into the third encounter with the Green & Blacks with roughly a week’s freshness over their opponents. This was a result of their league fixture against Llanfair United, scheduled the weekend prior to the Welsh Cup game, being postponed by the referee due to sections of the pitch being frozen. Even though the postponement would provide extra time to prepare for the big cup game, it did mean that top goal scorer Shaun Tuck would not be available for this game as his one-game suspension (having been sent off against Caernarfon Town) was carried over. Also this would be the first game without club stalwart and industrious midfielder Tony Roebuck, who had left the club to go travelling around the world. Two massive losses for the Wellmen for this big cup fixture!

 

ABERYSTWYTH

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Position of Aberystwyth in Mid Wales
  • Name: Aberystwyth [English: Mouth of the (River) Ystwyth]
  • Population: 13,000
  • County: Ceredigion
  • Nearest Major Settlements: Machynlleth [17,7 miles north-west], Llanidloes [30 miles east], Cardigan [38,7 miles south-west], Lampeter [24,8 miles south]
  • Nearest Train Station: Aberystwyth

 

Aberystwyth is a historic market and seaside town situated on the west coast of Wales. Located in the northern section of Ceredigion (formally Cardiganshire), the town is an administrative centre for the area, being considered as the unofficial capital of Mid-Wales. Aberystwyth is an intellectual centre as a result of its historic and highly-regarded university which is based in the outskirts of the town, as well as the National Library of Wales also situated in the town. Finally Aber is considered a Welsh language cultural centre with Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) having its headquarters in the seaside settlement.

The settlement is situated near the confluences of the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol before they flow out into Cardigan Bay and Irish Sea. Despite its name, it is the Afon Rheidol which flows through the town, with the Afon Ystwyth flowing around the southern outskirts of the town before converging with the former in the town’s harbour, positioned on the southern tip of the town’s seafront promenade. Aberystwyth’s promenade stretches from the imposing Constitution Hill in the north to the harbour in the south, with a ruined castle in the middle, and complete with Victorian-era built pier.

aberystwyth-promenade-copy
The promenade at Aberystwyth

The position of Aberystwyth within Wales is quite an important location, if an isolated one in both Wales and Britain as a whole. It is considered the cultural point where North Wales and South Wales converge, but a great distance from any substantial settlements. Swansea and Cardiff are roughly 70 and 100 miles away respectively, whilst Wrexham is approximately 80 miles to the north-east of Aber. The nearest town to Aberystwyth is Machynlleth, situated just under 18 miles away heading northwards up the A487 road.

Despite its isolated position in Wales, it is fairly straightforward to reach Aberystwyth as there are good infrastructural links into the town. It can be reached by road via the main north-south A487 trunk road, which runs parallel along the western coast of Wales and goes through the town. In addition, the east-west A44 road that goes through across mid-Wales, converges with the A487 just outside the town centre.

Also the town can be reached by train as Aberystwyth has its own train station, which is the western terminus of the Cambrian Line railway. It is possible to travel to Shrewsbury and Birmingham via the twice-hourly train which goes through Machynlleth and Mid-Wales along the Cambrian Line to the big English conurbations on the other side of the Cambrian Mountain range. There is also a heritage railway line running from the town, the Vale of Rheidol line. The steam-engine powered, narrow gauge line has its terminus at Aberystwyth and stretches for 12 miles to Devil’s Bridge at other end of the heritage line.

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The entrance to Aberystwyth’s train station

There is evidence of people living in the Aberystwyth area since Mesolithic times, with remains of flint knapping having been discovered at the foot of Pen Dinas in Penparcau. In the same area south of the town, there is also evidence of Celtic occupation from around 700 BC onwards, with a Celtic fortress being situated at the top of Pen Dinas.

However the recorded history of Aberystwyth began when a fortress was built in 1109 by Anglo-Norman lord Gilbert FitzRichard. The original castle was situated about a mile and a half south of the modern town, on a hill overlooking the River Ystwyth. After the castle was destroyed by the Welsh, a replacement castle was constructed by the invading English King Edward Longshanks at the current Castle Hill, which is the highest point in the town. Between 1404 and 1408, the castle was occupied by Owain Glyndŵr’s forces during the Welsh War of Independence, but would later be surrendered to the future Henry V. The castle would unfortunately be razed to the ground in 1649 by Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil War, however portions of three towers still exist.

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The entrance to the ruins of Aberystwyth Castle. [Image: Wikipedia]
The Victorian Era would be a boom time for Aberystwyth, with the arrival of the railway into the town being the catalyst for the growth. The northern Cambrian Line from Machynlleth reached the town in 1864, closely followed by rail links from Carmarthen. With the town now easily accessed by rail, the town would experience a Victorian tourist boom and be packaged to contemporaries as the “Biarritz of Wales”. To accommodate the rapid increase of tourists to the seaside town, a large number of hotels and alehouses were constructed to fulfil the need of the travellers into the town. Aber would host its first Eisteddfod during this ascendancy of the town – the first of four eisteddfodau to be held in the town.

It would be during the phase of hotel building which would ultimately introduce higher education to Aberystwyth. The largest of these newly built hotels, “The Castle Hotel”, was never completely due to the company going bankrupt. However the site was sold cheaply to the Welsh National University Committee, a collective with the sole aim of creating a Welsh University. As a result, the University College of Wales (later to become Aberystwyth University) would be founded in 1872 in the old hotel building. From such humble beginnings, the university would prosper to become one of the top ranked universities for students in Britain, and would have 8000 students studying courses there over six academic institutes.

aberystwyth-university
The original location of Aberystwyth University, formally “The Castle Hotel”. [Image: BBC]
Aberystwyth would also construct and open Wales’ first pier, the Royal Pier at an initial length of 298 metres, to further encourage interest in the town to tourists. A glass gothic-style pavilion was added to the pier at the start of the 20th century, with the pavilion having the capacity to accommodate 3000 people. However in 1938, a storm with winds of up to 90mph destroyed a majority of the town’s promenade along with 60 metres of the Royal Pier, resulting in the length of the pier being reduced. After being in a state of disrepair after the Second World War, it was repaired in the 1970’s before being improved upon in 1986 when £250,000 was refurbishing and improving the pier to its current standard.

As a result of its exposed position on the west coast of Wales, the town is often vulnerable to storm systems drifting in from the Irish Sea. As mentioned previously, the 1938 storm created huge damage in the town. Regrettably in recent times, the town has again suffered intense damage from storms once again. A storm as recent as 2014 caused enormous sea swells that uprooted boulders from the sea walls, leaving roads and pavements along the promenade buried under a mass of paving stones, bricks, shale and twisted metal. Just very recently, high winds from Storm Angus caused some damage in the town and on the recently repaired sea front.

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The Royal Pier in 1899. [Image: Wales Online]
Despite recent weather conditions, Aberystwyth is considered one of the most picturesque towns in Wales with many visitors still coming to the town on a regular basis, especially during the summer months. Because of the university, Aberystwyth is also considered an excellent student town with a large number of students living in local accommodation during their studies. It is part of the attraction of the town that Aberystwyth University was rated in the top ten of UK higher education institutions for overall student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS), with overall satisfaction amongst students at Aberystwyth standing at 92%.

 

PARK AVENUE GROUNDHOP

Attendance: 250 approx.

Weather Conditions: Sunny, clear skies but cold

  • Entrance: £6.00
  • Programme: £2.00
  • Golden Goal Competition: £1.00
  • Sausage & Chips: £2.90
  • Bottle of Beer: £2.70
  • Pin Badge: £3.00
  • ATFC Mug: £4.00

 

When Holywell had reached the Third Round of the Welsh Cup, I was hopeful that the Welsh Cup draw would be kind to this groundhopper and potentially send the Wellmen to a far-flung ground I had not been to before. Thankfully the draw would indeed be good and create a fixture which has become commonplace in this competition in recent years. After two previous games at the neutral venue of Newtown, and at Halkyn Road, Holywell would inevitably be drawn against Welsh Premier League side Aberystwyth Town, and luckily (or unluckily depending on your point of view) they would be playing at Park Avenue. An exciting groundhop would await us!

Joining me on the groundhop down to Aberystwyth would be fellow groundhop accomplices Greg (who would be driving down) and Anna (complete with blanket sized shawl ha). The journey down to Park Avenue would take about two and a half hours for The 94th Minute crew, so it would be an early start to get down there in time for the rescheduled kick off time of 1:30pm. Setting off from 94th Minute HQ at about 10am, the journey would take us through Mold, Ruthin, Bala, Dolgellau and Machynlleth before arriving at Aber just before half 12.

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Advertising today’s Welsh Cup game

We parked up in the public car park situated right next to the ground entrance and beside the River Rheidol, which flows past the ground parallel to the main stand. The cost to park up for the day was £3.70 which seems a little steep in my opinion, but considering there was no other option, the payment has to be made. Once all parked up, we made the short walk to the entrance of the ground and paid £6 to get into the ground. Considering I was expecting to pay the usual £7 that is charged at WPL grounds, I was very happy with having an extra pound in my pocket.

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The entrance to Park Avenue

Once inside the ground, I bought myself a match programme for £2 and a golden goal ticket for a further £1. The programme was good value for money with plenty of information on all the Aberystywth Town team’s previous results, including match reports on the last couple of matches. They also produced a good section on Holywell Town, providing the history of the club, information on the players and a message from club secretary Steve Roberts. A fantastically produced programme and well worth the money paid for it (and all printed in colour, on decent paper, which is rare for Welsh clubs).

The jeopardy of the Golden Goal ticket draw had left me picking out the 36th minute for the first goal scored – not a bad pick considering I could have been lumbered with the 1st minute. However Greg had picked out the 34th minute, meaning that any goal scored beyond the half hour mark could make this afternoon very interesting for one of us ha.

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The match programme and Golden Goal ticket bought

As we had plenty of time to kill before kick-off, and that the temperature was distinctly more chilly than it was when we left Holywell earlier in the day, we decided to head into the clubhouse for a couple of drinks. Not surprisingly because we had arrived a good hour prior to kick off, there were not many supporters at the ground. A lot of the Holywell supporters, who had arrived down on the supporters’ coach, had headed into town looking for a couple of pre-match drinks in the Aber pubs before the game. After such a long journey on the coach, a few ales is much deserved for the Holywell Ultras!

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On our way to the clubhouse to warm up!

Aberystwyth Town’s clubhouse was rebuilt in 2006 and is named after Wales’ finest ever football player John Charles, and I must say it is certainly worthy of being named after such a footballing great. It is probably one of the best clubhouses I have visited in my groundhopping travels. A huge clubhouse complete with a well-stocked bar, plenty of tables with a monumental amount of football memorabilia displayed on the walls. It is really impressive! Plus the people working in the clubhouse were really friendly and welcoming which was a bonus also!

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The brilliant clubhouse

After the long journey, I decided to buy myself a bottle of Corona beer for about £3 as well as getting Greg a non-alcoholic beverage of cola, whilst Anna went for a bottle of Koppenberg cider. Whilst simultaneously quenching our thirst and warming up from the biting Ceredigion cold, we were watching some Bundesliga 2 action on one of the big television screens installed around the clubhouse. Rather brilliantly, they were showing 1860 München take on Dynamo Dresden, and as a fan of German football, thought that this was the ideal starter before the main Welsh Cup main course later on. By the way, I was very impressed with the amount of fans Dresden brought to Munich for an away fixture – incredible support!!

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Enjoying a pre-match drink ha!

With the beer consumed, it would be a quick trip to the club shop to buy some Aberystwyth memorabilia to add to the collection. The club shop is situated in a green container next to the entrance, on the right hand side as you enter the ground. Upon entering the green container, I was amazed how much Aber merchandise there was for sale – it was like a bazaar of all things Aberystwyth Town. Already within the shop, there were a couple of parents with children who were looking to buy home shirts, probably for an early Christmas present or stored away until the big day.

Anyway despite the amount of items for sale, I decided to purchase an ATFC pin badge, as well as a mug to add to the collection. The combined total for the pair of items came to £7, which isn’t too bad considering other clubs’ prices. Whilst in the shop, I had a quick chat with the guy running the shop about the upcoming game, as well as the recent previous encounters between the two teams. Naturally I was hopefully and slightly confident Holywell could triumph on this occasion, however they need to score early in the game if they were going to have a chance (although I wouldn’t have complained if they scored in the 36th minute).

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The mug & pin badge bought from the clubshop

With the items now in my possession, it was a quick dart back to Greg’s car to drop them off there (to avoid carrying them around all afternoon) before queuing up for some food from the club’s snack bar. The snack bar, known as Ruth’s Kitchen, is located at the nearest end of the clubhouse complex. As you can imagine all the usual hot foods were available but I decided to go for a tray of chips with sausage for a very reasonable price of £2.90. For the price, they certainly didn’t scrimp on the amount of chips on the tray and it also came with two small sausages. The food is extremely good value for money, and it was very nice also which was a longed-for bonus. A welcome relief to sooth the hunger pangs in the stomach as well as warming myself up on this biting day by the seaside.

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Park Avenue

Because the Holywell fans had now arrived in the ground after being refuelled in the pubs of Aber, they had all congregated in the green Dias stand at the town end of the ground. Therefore that would be our position for watching the first half of the game. A large part of me thought it was cool to sit in the unique stand which I have often seen in Aber matches that have been broadcasted on Sgorio on previous occasions. Although there was a slight twinge of regret that Sgorio didn’t choose this match to be broadcasted live, as they went with the Ton Pentre-Bangor City match instead – think they chose the wrong match, but then again my view is biased ha!

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The famous Dias Stand, where we would watch the first half

It wouldn’t be too long before both teams left the warmth of their dressing rooms and ascended onto the artificial surface of Park Avenue for this Third Round encounter. Aber were in their home strip of green & white striped shirts complete with black trim, black shorts and black socks. Holywell would be playing in their home kit of red shirt with white half middle stripe (I still really dislike the home shirt), red shorts and red socks. Prior to the game, there was a minute’s silence in memory of those players who had died in the heart-breaking Chapecoense plane crash.

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The memory of those Chapecoense players who perished in the tragic plane crash.

 

MATCH DETAILS – FIRST HALF

From the first minute of the half, Aberystwyth signalled their attacking intent with Luke Borrelli being the lynchpin to their opening salvos on the Holywell goal. Within the first three minutes Borrelli broke though the Holywell offside trap and advanced through on goal, only to have his rasping shot saved by visiting keeper Paul Turner. On the tenth minute, Aber would put the ball into the Holywell net through the mercurial Borrelli. A superb curling cross from Chris Jones on the left wing was connected by the stretching Borrelli to divert the ball into the net. However the scores would stay equal as the forward was adjudged to being offside.

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Aberystwyth would have a couple more good chances through a 30-yard thunderbolt from Chris Jones, and an arcing shot from Kostya Georgievsky, but neither opportunity would find their target. Holywell would eventually work their way into the game as the first half progressed and started to have chances on the home goal. Paul Williams and Lee Healey had half chances saved by on-loan keeper Chris Mullock, before the TNS loanee pulled off a couple of stunning saves from Graeme Williams and Paul Williams again to maintain the status quo in the scoreline.

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Holywell fans watching the action
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The main stand & clubhouse
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Another Holywell attack gathered by the impressive Mullock
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Lee Healey the lone striker for the visitors

Despite Holywell having a phase of chances, Aber looked the better side having the lion’s share of ball possession and continually crafting goal scoring opportunities. Borrelli would again have an opportunity to break the deadlock but could only divert his header wide after an excellent Cledwyn Davies cross into the box. However on the 32nd minute, the turning point of the game occurred when the Seasiders’ pressure finally proved fruitful. Georgievsky was fouled on the edge of the Holywell penalty area, allowing Chris Jones a sight on goal through a direct free kick. His effort was cleanly struck forcing Paul Turner into a diving save, but the power behind the set piece meant the visiting keeper could only rebound the ball back into the penalty area. It would Kurtis March who would react quickest to nod the rebound into an empty net to give the hosts a deserved lead (and ensure neither myself nor Greg would win the Golden Goal competition….so so close, very still so far!).

Aberystwyth Town 1 – 0 Holywell Town

Having conceded, Holywell would attempt to get back into the game through a couple of half chances. However they were up against an imperious defence and a keeper in tremendous form with Mullock, with the Green & Black’s number 1 on constant alert to quench any potential threats from Holywell advances. Ryan Wollacott would perform a critical defensive block to maintain the host’s advantage after Holywell had a clear chance through Lee Healey to equalise, much to the frustration of the Holywell fans behind the goal.

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Holywell on the attack in the sunshine
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Agony as a shot goes high
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Aberystwyth takes the lead…

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Lee Healey looking for the equaliser

Aber would have another decent chance when Sherbon hooked his shot wide from close range as the home side asserted their authority on the game. Despite this effort, Aber would indeed double their lead by scoring their second just before the half-time break. In the first minute of injury time, the Holywell defence failed to contain Luke Borrelli once more and on this occasion he would make the Wellmen pay dearly. Beating the offside trap, and riding a desperate covering challenge from the scrambling defence, the forward would make no mistake by rifling his shot past the diving Paul Turner to give the Seasiders’ a two goal advantage.

Aberystwyth Town 2 – 0 Holywell Town

Only an additional minute was played after the second goal before the official concluded the first half proceedings. The Welsh Premier side would go into the break with a fully deserved two goal lead, and would leave Johnny Haseldin with food for thought before he delivered his half-time team talk.

HALF TIME: ABERYSTWYTH TOWN 2 – 0 HOLYWELL TOWN

 

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Half time and the home side are in a comfortable lead

With the Holywell fans feeling pretty despondent after seeing Aber’s dominant performance in the first half, we all went back into the warmth of the impressive clubhouse for a well-needed beer. During the break, I was admiring the football memorabilia on the wall. One of the interesting pieces hanging on the wall was a shirt signed by the legendary Pelé – it’s not often you see that signature on the walls of a Welsh league clubhouse!

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Not everyday you see this signature in a Welsh clubhouse…

With the second half about to start, we ventured out into the chilliness of the Ceredigion air hoping for another famous Holywell cup comeback to appear. Our viewing position for the second half would be standing in the area between the main stand and the terracing in the far corner. The position would provide a great view of the National Library of Wales which overlooks the town on a hill to the east of Aberystwyth.

 

MATCH DETAILS – SECOND HALF

Any hope that Aberystwyth would ease off the pressure on the Holywell defence after having a two goal lead were dashed as they continued the second half as they ended the first. Just a few minutes into the second half and they would have their first chance on the Holywell goal. Another fine cross from Chris Jones finding the head of Will Bell in the centre, although yet another opportunity was spurned as Bell headed over the crossbar.

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My viewing position for the second half, with the National Library of Wales in the background.

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Cledan Davies with the clearance

As the second half progressed, Holywell attempted to push forward to find a way back into the contest, and looked more threatening than they had done in the first half. However it allowed Geoff Kellaway to exploit the space that had appeared in the Holywell half and he became more of an influence in the contest. On the hour mark, he almost ended the tie as a contest when the influential Chris Jones played in Kellaway with a cutting pass for a one-on-one opportunity. Kellaway rounded the stranded Paul Turner with just an open goal in front of him, but the winger could only hit the post from a wide angle much to the amazement of the fans behind the goal.

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The winger would have another chance to get Aber’s third goal a couple of minutes later, but again another chance went begging as his shot went wide. Kellaway caused problems for the Holywell defence in the Welsh Cup semi-final a few years ago, and it was looking like déja-vu as he caused panic in the Wellmen backline once again. Aber would have a few more chances through Georgievsky, a curling Jones effort and a Borrelli header, but on every opportunity the chances were either saved by Turner or put wide of the woodwork. It would seem the third goal was not forthcoming this afternoon for the Seasiders.

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Holywell would continue to threaten the Aberystwyth defence on occasions although they failed to conjure up any clear cut chances. There were half chances for Lee Healey and sub Brady McGilloway but the Aber defence stood firm to ensure they never had any direct opportunities on goal. Healey did well upfront on his own and worked hard to either hold onto the ball or run at the Aber defence, but he was too isolated on many occasions which ensured the Aber defence could productively cope with any Holywell advances.

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It would one Holywell attack which would create some heated exchanges amongst a couple of supporters where we were standing. One of the Holywell players went down under a challenge from an Aber tackle which caused one of the Aber fans declaring he “went down easily”. Cue some choice words between one of the Holywell fans who took a bit of an offense to the accusation and the accuser from the home supporters. In fairness there was no malice or hatred in the “argument” and it was just ‘handbags at dawn’.

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The last ten minutes of the game were frustrating and agonising for the Holywell support as Aber kept surging forward looking for that ‘killer’ third goal. The danger-man Kellaway would advance 70 yards evading challenges from the now tiring Holywell defence before picking up sub Blake Davies on the wing. The replacement would whip a cutting cross for Borrelli who deftly diverted the cross into the net. However the forward would again be on the wrong side of the official’s decision as he was adjudged to be offside, and the goal was chalked off.

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Davies with another clearance
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Aber on the attack

There would be more Aber chances in the final few minutes of the game as missed chances from Kellaway, Davies and Borrelli again meant that Aberystwyth would only score the two goals from this afternoon’s fixture. Had the home side’s finishing been more clinical, this match could and should have been a higher scoreline than the eventual 2-0 result.

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Holywell on a rare attack in the second half

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The frustration on Holywell’s behalf was perfectly summed up when Healey had hold of the ball and shouted at his team-mate to “run then”. With the Holywell player not advancing, Healey would despondently pass the ball into the empty space where his team mate should have been to prove a point. That encapsulated a very difficult afternoon for the Wellmen as the official would blow his whistle to end the contest. It would be Aberystwyth who would advance to the Fourth Round of the Welsh Cup.

FULL TIME: ABERYSTWYTH TOWN 2 – 0 HOLYWELL TOWN

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Full time and it’s the Green & Blacks going through to the Fourth Round

POST GAME

To cheer ourselves up after that result, we decided to venture into town to get some food before making our way back home. A five minute walk away from the ground, and right next to the train station, is the town’s Weatherspoons pub appropriately named Yr Hen Orsaf (English: ‘The Old Station’). Unfortunately when we arrived, we would not be blessed of having a choice from the full Spoons’ menu. Apparently there was a problem with some of the kitchen equipment resulting in many choices not being available and the menu being restricted. Chips with your meal was going to be a “no-go” on this visit it would seem!

After some deliberation and discussion with the staff of what was and wasn’t available, I plumbed for the Pulled Pork sandwich complete with salad, whilst the others had burgers without the usual complimentary fries. Despite the menu restrictions enforced upon us, the food was top notch as per usual. Plus it was nice to have a chat about the match whilst sitting in such a unique location for a Spoons – it must be a trainspotter’s idea of utopia being able to see the trainline from the comfort of the pub amidst a plethora of real ales on tap.

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Aberystwyth’s Weatherspoons “Yr Hen Orsaf”. [Image: TripAdvisor]
Being suitably fuelled up for the long return journey back north, we ventured back to the car and attempted to leave the car park. Note the word “attempted” as the day’s misfortune was to rear its ugly head once more. As Greg tried to reverse backwards, there was an almighty crunching sound coming from the car. Immediately stopping and checking around the car provided no clues to what could potentially be the root cause of the noise, therefore we attempted to restart reversing out of the car park space.

However when he tried to turn the car, the crunching sound became louder and the front of the car suddenly dropped down. Upon a second glance of the car, the driver’s side front tyre was completely flat. When the car was jacked up to attempt to change the tyre, it became apparent what the crunching sound had been. The suspension spring had completely sheared off and embedded itself in the tyre, causing the dramatic loss of tyre pressure, but also wedging the wheel not allowing it to turn. Obviously we would not be going home by our own steam tonight!

Thankfully Greg had breakdown cover through his insurance, but frustratingly there was nobody in Aberystwyth willing to rescue us and take us back to Holywell – I suppose it’s not an enticing option on a Saturday night! The nearest breakdown company willing to pick us up and take us home was in Barmouth!! This meant we were left with at least an hour and twenty minute wait whilst he made his way down the coast to meet up with us in the club’s car park. We were going to be in Aberystwyth for a long time it seems!!!

Whilst Greg was on the phone to the insurance company, I decided to have a little stroll along the path running along the Rheidol, whilst walking over the aesthetically pleasing suspension footbridge that spans the town’s river. The views from the footbridge are actually quite pleasant with views of the surrounding countryside on show, whilst it looking up and down the river was nice and calming (ideal considering our circumstances).

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The footbridge over the River Rheidol
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Looking down the River Rheidol towards the sea.

With the sun slowly setting and the night drawing in, the temperatures were dropping rapidly. Therefore instead of waiting by the car, we waited in the clubhouse which was thankfully still open. It is at this point I must thank everyone in the clubhouse for being absolutely brilliant with us! Even though they were organising the clubhouse for a party later on in the evening, they let us stay in the warmth of the clubhouse and continuously asked us if we needed any help, assistance or even anything to eat. An incredible gesture from them all towards us three stranded football fans. This is the beauty of lower league football – everybody helps out everybody, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone at the clubhouse for helping us at that difficult moment.

Around about 6ish the recovery vehicle finally arrived at the location and attempted to first fix the problem, and then try and put the car on the trailer. Because the front wheel would not turn as a result of the spring skewered into the front tyre, it would take about an hour before the car was winched and then securely fixed onto the trailer. It would be about 7pm before we were able to bid farewell to Aberystwyth and head on our journey back home.

We were all eventually dropped off at a closed garage in Mold, leaving the car outside the garage ready for it to be fixed the following day. Thankfully Greg’s wife, Becky, popped up to the garage to give us all a lift back to our respective homes, and I finally managed to get back to 94th Minute HQ at 10:45pm – nearly thirteen hours after I had departed. This groundhop had certainly been a long, if memorable one!

 

CONCLUSION

As Holywell fan, it was a difficult afternoon in Aberystwyth (and that’s without mentioning the shenanigans after the game) with Holywell being outclassed by their Welsh Premier League opposition. It was clear they missed the presence of both Shaun Tuck and Tony Roebuck in the side, with the midfield clearly missing Roebuck’s industrious energy, whilst forward Lee Healey was an isolated figure without his strike partner being an outlay for his efforts. One highlight was Paul Turner’s performance, as he had a great game in goal and produced some brilliant saves that kept the scoreline respectable.

Aberystwyth were fantastic for this fixture and once again had the hoodoo over the Wellmen in the Welsh Cup. They attacked from the first minute with Chris Jones and Geoff Kellaway being the main creators for the home side, whilst Luke Borrelli caused problems for his opponents all afternoon. Had he been luckier, he could have easily grabbed himself a hat-trick in this fixture. They had a domination of the ball possession and successfully halted any attack that was thrown against them from Holywell. If there was one sour point from their performance, it could be that their finishing was off despite the large amount of chances created. However overall, the Seasiders were superb all afternoon and thoroughly deserved their place in the next round.

Overall Aberystwyth’s ground is an absolute cracker and certainly one of the most impressive grounds I have visited on my travels. There are great viewing positions all around the ground, and the clubhouse is second to none in Wales in my opinion. Plus the food from Ruth’s Kitchen was absolutely brilliant and excellent value for money – everyone was very complimentary about the food that I talked to! Finally, and most importantly, the people who help run the club and clubhouse were absolutely brilliant during and after the match. They were all incredibly helpful and friendly and made us all feel very welcome, which was very appreciated from the travelling support.

May I wish everyone at Aberystwyth Town all the very best for the rest of the season, and wish them the best of luck in the next round of the Welsh Cup, where they play current Cymru Alliance leaders Prestatyn Town. After the help and assistance they gave us on the Saturday evening whilst we were stranded, I really hope they go all the way to the final and manage to win that allusive second Welsh Cup victory. Everyone at that club absolutely deserves such success and I will be backing them in the cup!

Diolch!

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