Date of Visit: 23rd April 2022
Competition: North East Wales Football League Championship
Ground Number: 121
- Founded: 2020
- Ground: Dock Road / TMC Hallcrest Ground
- Home Town: Connah’s Quay, Flintshire
- Colours: Orange and black shirt, black shorts with orange trim, black socks
- Highest League Placement: n/a
Social Media Channels
- Website: n/a
- Twitter: @TownfcCq
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/285437415928656
- Instagram: n/a
The fourth Saturday of April 2022 may have been Saint George’s Day, the day when Englishness (as well as being Georgian, Catalan, Genoese, etc. where he is also their patron saint) is celebrated, but it was an important day in Welsh football also. The day saw the conclusion of the league schedules for both the Cymru Premier and Cymru North, although most of the important decisions with regards to the promotion and relegation spots had been decided in the previous weekends. Barry Town United and Cefn Druids were confirmed to be relegated from the top flight whilst the Cymru North champions Airbus UK Broughton and Cymru South runners-up Pontypridd Town would replace them in the top tier for the 2022-23 season. Despite a fairytale rapid rise up the pyramid, the Cymru South champions Llantwit Major were unable to gain promotion to the top flight due to failing in their appeal for earning a Tier 1 licence.
However, my own beloved Holywell Town did have something to play for going into the final game of the season as a win would confirm fourth place in the Cymru North, and give them their highest league placement since they were last in the Welsh Premier League in the 1998-99 season. Unfortunately for me, their final game of the season was a long, long trip down to northern Ceredigion to take on Penrhyncoch, and although I still haven’t been to Cae Baker yet, I didn’t fancy making the trip down there for this weekend. As a result, it meant I had another free Saturday to choose a game that I could go and visit, and there was only really one game that stood out for me in the available fixtures!
Connah’s Quay Town was taking on Ruabon Rovers in the fifth-tier North East Wales Football League Championship in a second-versus-third matchup, which would see a promotion for Town if they managed a home victory over their rivals. Throughout the season I had been eager to venture down to Dock Road (known by the sponsored name of TMC Hallcrest Ground) as it was one of the very few Flintshire grounds that I had not visited in the past, mainly due to the ground not being used by senior clubs for a long period, and I wanted to tick the ground off the list whilst a senior club was playing there. Therefore, this was the perfect opportunity to finally make the short trip along the River Dee and watch the recently founded team of Connah’s Quay Town in what could be a potentially historically promotion party for them!
Connah’s Quay Town
Since the demise of the successful FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay in 2019 when the club withdraw their first team from the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), Connah’s Quay became a one-club town with the more illustrious and then-defending Welsh champions Connah’s Quay Nomads flying the flag for Flintshire’s most populated town. However, in 2020 a new team appeared in Cei Connah under the name of ‘Connah’s Quay Town‘, and would be playing their games at the Dock Road ground. They were scheduled to make their debut in the 2020-21 season, but because of the season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, CQ Town made their debut in the new fifth-tier North East Wales League Championship this season in the 2021-22 season.
It is worth mentioning that a club of the same name had competed in the Welsh leagues in the early 2010s on the same ground, however, they are not the same club. The previous iteration of Connah’s Quay Town played for three seasons in the Welsh Alliance League Division 2, where they finished as high as third position in the 2010-11 season before folding in 2013 after finishing in eleventh position in their third and final season at the fourth-tier level. This current version of CQ Town has its roots in the successful Connah’s Quay Tigers youth team, with whom they have a partnership, and are regarded as one of the best and most successful youth teams in the county. The Tigers have also dabbled in the senior set-up previously when they played in the Clwyd East League/North East Wales League between the 2011-12 and 2015-16 seasons and achieved three successive sixth-placed finishes between 2014 and 2016 before withdrawing from the senior levels in the latter year.
Under the agreement of the partnership, Connah’s Quay Town will provide a senior-level outlet for the youth teams of Connah’s Quay Tigers, allowing locally-based youngsters a defined route of progression into senior Welsh league football. It is because of this partnership that CQ Town adopted the orange and black colours of the Tigers for their home kit.
The 2021-22 Season
As mentioned previously, Connah’s Quay Town were enjoying an exceptional debut season in Welsh league football as they found themselves in the second position in the North East Wales Football League Championship table. However, it was certainly a tight contest at the top of the table with themselves, Penyffordd Lions, and Ruabon Rovers all aiming for the title and potential promotion to the NEWFL Premier Division by trying to finish in the top two promotion berths. Connah’s Quay Town occupied one of these spots and would confirm their promotion with a victory this afternoon against one of their promotion rivals. From their twelve league games, they had accumulated 31 points, the same points tally as their opponents and the table-toppers Penyffordd Lions, and were in the second position due to having the second-best goal difference of the three teams (+54 compared to Penyffordd’s +56). Although they had scored the fewer goals of the three teams with 63 goals scored, they clearly had the best defence in the league by conceding just 9 goals during their league schedule and were undefeated at home in the league.
The last five games played by Connah’s Quay Town prior to this game:
- 26th Mar 2022: [NEWFA Horace Wynne] Llangollen Town (a) 2-6
- 2nd Apr 2022: Bellevue (a) 10-0
- 9th Apr 2022: [NEWFL Mike Beech Memorial Trophy] Lex XI (a) 1-1 [5-4 pens]
- 16th Apr 2022: [NEWFL Two Counties Cup] Ruabon Rovers (n) 4-4 [4-3 pens]
- 20th Apr 2022: CPD Sychdyn (a) 3-1
Connah’s Quay Town were going into this game on the back of a four-game unbeaten streak in all competitions in what has been an incredibly busy yet successful April for the Tigers as they strive for a treble-winning season. Sadly, they were unable to make it a quadruple-winning campaign when they were defeated in the quarter-finals of the NEWFA Horace Wynne Cup in late March, losing at Llangollen by a scoreline of 2-6, with John Coady and Jamie Wynne scoring the consolation goals. They returned to winning ways at the start of April with a comprehensive 10-0 victory over bottom-placed side Bellevue, which included seven different goalscorers against the Wrexham-based side, before achieving some further cup success the following weekend.
As mentioned in the previous blog where Halkyn & Flint Mountain were defeated by FC Queens Park in the semi-finals of the NEWFL Mike Beech Memorial Trophy, Town won the second semi-final against Lex XI on penalties to reach their second final of the season. Connah’s Quay Town took the lead through a first-half goal from Ryan Hewitt but an equaliser from Lex sent the game into extra time and eventually penalties. It would be left to Town’s keeper, Dan Cooper, to become the hero of the tie when he saved the final Lex penalty to see Town win the cup tie 5-4 on penalties.
Connah’s Quay Town would be heading into this crucial promotion decider in a more potentially fatigued state than their opponents. After the grueling encounter the previous weekend (which will be mentioned further down), they were unable to have a full week to recuperate as they had to play a mid-week league game away at fifth-placed Sychdyn. After a goalless first half, John Coady gave Town the lead early in the second half, before Sychdyn equalised midway through the half. Just when it seemed Town’s promotion charge may become hindered, two late goals from Lee Reynolds and a 90th-minute penalty from Coady ensured Connah’s Quay Town’s charge for the title and promotion continued unabated.
Out of the three clubs fighting for the title and promotion, Ruabon Rovers were in the weaker position as they were situated in third position in the Championship table and had a slightly worse goal difference (+51). In addition, this upcoming game would be their final league game of the season whilst Penyffordd and Connah’s Quay Town still had an extra game to play, albeit against each other in mid-May. If Ruabon were to put pressure on their rivals, they needed to win at Dock Road this afternoon and then hope for a draw in the Penyffordd-CQT game to gain promotion. Certainly, they could gain some confidence in the fact that Ruabon inflicted CQT’s sole defeat of the season, beating the Tigers 3-2 at home with goals from Andrew Swarbrick, Shaun Valentine, and Lee Price.
The last five games played by Ruabon Rovers prior to this game:
- 12th Mar 2022: Johnstown Youth (h) 6-0
- 19th Mar 2022: Caerwys (a) 4-0
- 26th Mar 2022: Penyffordd Lions (a) 2-4
- 2nd Apr 2022: CPD Sychdyn (h) 6-0
- 16th Apr 2022: [NEWFL Two Counties Cup] Connah’s Quay Town (n) 4-4 [3-4 pens]
Ruabon Rovers’ form in their last five games prior to this game had been mixed. Certainly, they were buoyed with some big league wins against Johnstown Youth and Caerwys to keep the pressure on their promotion rivals. An Andrew Swarbrick hat-trick, Owen Bather brace, and Matt Pritchard goal were enough to put Johnstown to the sword, whilst two additional goals from Swarbrick, as well as another from Bather, and an additional goal from Lee Price gave Ruabon a tidy four-goal victory at Caerwys. Alas, their promotion push suffered a huge dent at the end of March when Ruabon were defeated by Penyffordd for the second time this season in a 2-4 away defeat. Lee Price and Michael Jones got the consolation goals for Ruabon in their defeat. Nonetheless, they started April with another excellent victory, this time a 6-0 home victory against Sychdyn. Another Swarbrick goal opened the scoring for Ruabon before Lee Price completed his hat-trick just after halftime, with further goals coming from Chris Bennion and Richard Griffiths to complete the comprehensive victory for Rovers.
This upcoming game would be the second consecutive weekend these two teams would square off against each other as they played in a monumental tussle the previous weekend in the final of the NEWFL Two Counties Cup. At the neutral venue of the Queensway Stadium in Wrexham, the teams competed in an eight-goal thriller that ultimately had to be decided by a penalty shootout. Ruabon started the stronger and took a two-goal lead at halftime with goals from Andrew Swarbrick and Lee Price, before second-half goals from Josh Williams (own goal) and Lee Reynolds leveled the scoreline and sent the game into extra time, with Town being reduced to ten men after Kyle Amos received a second caution. Swarbrick scored again in the 97th minute to regain the lead for Ruabon before Jamie Wynne fired in an equaliser a few minutes later. Just when it looked as if Reyonds’ second goal of the game would be the final decider with only a few minutes remaining, Matt Pritchard scored the 120th leveler for Ruabon to send the incredible game to spot-kicks. For the second weekend in a row, Dan Cooper would the hero for Connah’s Quay once again when he saved Ruabon’s fifth penalty to give Town a 4-3 victory on penalties and their first piece of silverware as a club!
Ruabon would surely be looking to spoil the party for Connah’s Quay and wreak their revenge after the previous weekend’s cup final defeat. Certainly, they would be the fresher of the two teams having played fewer games in April and having a full week to recover, unlike their hosts. Alas, the visitors would be hindered in their squad selection with a large number of their regular first-team players unable to play in their final league game of the season due to other commitments. It meant they were missing the incredible firepower of star forwards Andrew Swarbrick and Lee Price, who had scored 17 and 16 league goals respectively this season.
- Travel Time: 20 minutes
- Travel Distance: 8,5 miles
- Entrance: FREE
The short southeastward journey across Flintshire from 94thMinHQ towards Dock Road took about twenty minutes. I travelled along the A548 Coast Road through Flint and Connah’s Quay, passing the Deeside Stadium (the home of the more illustrious Nomads) en route, before turning off down Dock Road, which as its name suggests, was the location of the town’s old dock site situated on the River Dee. The location has experienced regeneration in recent years, in part due to the construction of the Wales Coast Path which runs around the coast of the country (unsurprisingly), and it is now a very nice place to park up and take a walk or cycle along the river. In fact, it’s an ideal location to see the canalised section of the River Dee transform into the tidal estuary section of the Dee, as well as get great views of the impressive and iconic Flintshire Bridge that lifts the A548 road over the old river.
I decided to park up in the large car parking zone of the road that runs parallel to the river to have a little walk and take a couple of pictures of the river prior to the football game. I noticed that there were a number of anglers who had taken full advantage of the decent weather to set up some rods on the quayside, whilst a few cyclists also passed by heading towards Chester. There is a clear and tarmacked path that runs upstream from Connah’s Quay all the way to the walled city and connects it with the other national cycle routes. It was whilst I was parking up that I spotted a familiar face walking along the river, that of the former Holywell Town assistant manager Dave Sweet, who was walking his sister’s dog, whom he was looking after for the weekend. I had a quick catch-up with Dave on the quayside before he said he was going to the Connah’s Quay Town game himself in a bit once he had fed the dog some packaged ham he’d bought, and so I would later meet him at the ground.
The weather conditions for the game were typical for a nice Spring day. However, despite the sunshine, there was a stiff, chilling breeze coming off the river meaning a warm jacket was badly needed for this afternoon’s game. Connah’s Quay Town’s ground is situated in the middle of the industrial estate next to the river, so whilst the ground was only a short walk from the parked car, it perhaps wasn’t the most glamorous considering the coastal path nearby. The entrance to Dock Road is situated down the right-hand road at the T-junction, and the ground suddenly appears in front of you amongst all the industrial plots of the estate as you walk around the corner. One thing I did notice was that the ground itself has a large car parking area, whilst there were car parking spots along the road, not to mention by the riverside itself (as well as a designated car park that links Dock Road with the coastal path/cycle lane) meaning you should be early sorted for available car parking spots even on the busiest of days. Certainly, it was an issue I was concerned about initially, but I needed have not worried!
Having walked through an industrial estate, I was pleasantly surprised to see such a large, green space for the football ground. The pitch is surrounded by greenery on three of its sides, with bushes and trees separating the ground from the coastal path on two of its sides, and shielding it from the North Wales Coast Rail Line on the other long side. The main North Welsh rail line separates the ground from the rest of the town to the south, and I would regularly see trains pass by the ground on either their westward or eastward journeys along the coast throughout the game.
Near the entrance, and next to the big car park, are the changing room complex which consists of three portacabins connected together – one for each team and the third for the officials. Naturally, the ground does not have a clubhouse, but neither did it seem to have a snatch hatch from which to purchase any chocolate bars or hot drinks, so be aware of that when you visit. In addition, I also did not see any signs for toilets available for the supporters’ use so you may have to relieve yourself in one of the bushes surrounding the pitch which perhaps isn’t ideal. In terms of accessibility, there are a couple of stone-covered paths on either side of the pitch where you can watch the game, but the paths were a bit uneven in some places and don’t go around the entire pitch. The stone paths seemed like a temporary measure and potential foundations for future concrete paths which would make viewing the game more accessible. Finally, as you would expect for a club in the Welsh fifth-tier, the ground does not have any permanent floodlights available but it does possess a pair of permanent brick-built dugouts on the ‘river side’ of the pitch, as well as permanent leaning barriers separating the pitch from the supporters’ standing areas.
I arrived at the ground at about 14:15, and with plenty of time to spare before the 14:30 kick-off. The majority of the supporters who were already at the ground had decided to stand along the ‘river side’ of the pitch, with a number of them congregated on either side of the two dugouts, although there were a few supporters who decided to stand on the opposite side of the pitch prior to kick-off. A few younger fans decided to have a kickabout on the small training pitch located on the town side of the ground. For the first half, I decided to stand on the ‘river side’ of the ground, near one of the corners, but then walked around to the other side for the second half, in a more centrally located spot to take photos from a different viewpoint.
We didn’t have to wait long before the two sides and the sole official (there were no assistant referees for this game) made the short walk from the changing rooms to the pitch, with Dave and his sister’s dog arriving at the ground just before kick-off. Connah’s Quay Town were surprisingly playing in their Joma-made away strip of navy blue shirts with turquoise fronts, navy blue shorts and socks (a strip that reminded me of Holywell Town’s away strip), whilst Ruabon Rovers were playing in their Adidas-made change strip of yellow shirts with black trim, black shorts, and yellow socks.
Although the Ruabon Rovers team had been depleted due to many of its usual first-team players having other commitments, they were probably the side who enjoyed the majority of the ball possession and half-chances throughout the first half. Certainly, within the first five minutes of the game, they almost broke the deadlock when a shot from the edge of the penalty area curled beyond the reach of Town’s keeper, Dan Cooper, but the effort clipped off the crossbar and went over. Despite it being an excellent attempt, it would have been harsh on the home side as the player had handled the ball attempting to bring the long cross down (the official never saw the handball). In a rare attack, Connah’s Quay Town had their own excellent chance to open the scoring when a snapshot from a cross was acrobatically saved by the Ruabon keeper, Mark Thompson, who managed to arch his back to superb divert the shot over the crossbar. However, for all of Ruabon’s possession in the first half, it was the home side who finished the half the stronger, and they subsequently utilised this period effectively as they took the lead just before halftime. A cross towards the back post found Lee Reynolds, who struck a low fierce shot into the corner that Thompson was just unable to keep out of the net despite getting a hand on the effort. It meant the home side had a one-goal advantage going into the interval.
The second half continued how the first half had ended with Connah’s Quay Town being the dominant team, and they certainly emphasised that throughout the whole of the second half by having the vast majority of ball possession and numerous chances on Ruabon’s goal. In addition, they restricted Ruabon to very few chances with the home defence acting very quickly the quench and halt any counter-attack from Rovers.
It wouldn’t be long into the second half when Connah’s Quay Town’s dominance paid off when they doubled their lead. Again a cross towards the far post proved fortuitous as Ryan Hewitt managed to latch onto the cross from Will Leonard from the left-hand side and again fire low into the corner. A few minutes later and they thought they had scored a third through the exact same play, this time the initial shot was blocked by Thomas before rebounding back to the forward who made no mistake with his second attempt. Alas, as the Connah’s Quay Town players were celebrating, it was unbeknownst to them that the official had chalked off the goal for a presumable offside decision. Therefore, when Ruabon attempted an ultimately failed rapid counter-attack whilst the Tigers were still celebrating, it caused some verbal frustration towards the official for making his decision unclear to them.
Nonetheless, the home side would soon be celebrating the third goal in a very similar fashion to their first two goals. A free-kick from Kyle Amos fired towards the back post once again where substitute John Coady had got beyond the visiting defence and fired low into the corner, and beyond the reach of Thompson in the visitors’ goal, to score his ninth league goal of the season.
Connah’s Quay continued to create chances and soon found the ball in the back of the net again. This time an excellent cross was superbly headed from the edge of the penalty area and into the top corner of the net, but once again, the official failed to acknowledge the goal as he felt there had been an infringement in the build-up to the goal. A 50-50 shoulder challenge between the attacker and defender gave the attacker the space to head the ball into the net, but the official felt the challenge was too aggressive. A harsh decision in my opinion. Regardless, Connah’s Quay continued to threaten the Ruabon end and they soon got their fourth goal of the afternoon, this time from an Amos low corner which filtered through the congregation of players around the penalty spot and rolled into the path of the onrushing captain Ben Howarth to drill the ball past the collection of players and into the back of the net. There would be further chances towards the end of the game but Connah’s Quay could not add to their tally and ultimately clinched the top of the table fixture by a scoreline of 4-0.
FULL TIME: Connah’s Quay Town 4-0 Ruabon Rovers
Post Match & Conclusion
The 4-0 victory confirmed Connah’s Quay Town’s provisional promotion to the fourth-tier NEWFL Premier Division for next season, dependant on the ground fulfilling all the necessary criteria to play in the Premier Division. With Ruabon Rovers having no further league games for the season, and Penyffordd Lions also winning their game against Caerwys 4-0, it meant that both Connah’s Quay Town and the league leaders Penyffordd could not be caught by Ruabon. Both sides occupied the two promotion spots tied on 34 points, with the Lions maintaining their +2 goal difference advantage. The final match of the Championship season couldn’t have been better scheduled as it will be between the two clubs to determine who will lift the NEWFL Championship trophy. However, the biggest game of the league campaign will have to wait for a couple of weeks, with Town heading to Penyffordd’s ground in mid-May to determine the league champion.
Following this match, there was a change in management for Ruabon Rovers as Cliff Bennion decided to step down as manager following the completion of the club’s first season, and was replaced by the former Penycae and Denbigh Town coach Gareth Edwards. In regards to Connah’s Quay Town, they did achieve further success the following weekend when they beat FC Queens Park in the final of the Mike Beech Memorial Trophy held at Buckley Town’s ground. Lee Reynolds scored the only goal of the game to give the Town a cup double for the season, and a great momentum boost as they chased the Championship title for a potential treble-winning season.
In conclusion, I was treated to a very entertaining game even though it was a little one-sided in the second half. Although with huge consideration to Ruabon’s struggles with player availability and a lack of substitutes on the bench, it perhaps wasn’t surprising that Connah’s Quay could influence the game more through substitutions as the game progressed despite having played a game mid-week. After such a long time of wanting to visit, I found the ground to be a really nice venue to watch football, and with the riverside coastal walk just a short distance away, it is certainly worth visiting if you’re in the area. Hopefully, the club will be able to gain promotion to the fourth-tier for next season and that the ground will receive further improvements which could make a nice ground even better. Certainly, the addition of a potential snack bar would be a good move in the near future, and provide a little additional revenue into the club’s coffers.