Walking Distance

Gresford Athletic vs Porthmadog, Huws Gray Alliance, 26/9/15, Clapper’s Lane, Match 11

With my beloved Ford Focus off of the road, and currently in a garage, I found myself looking for a game in walking distance of my house. I could have gone to watch Wrexham lose to Eastleigh, but as a Shrewsbury Town fan that idea didn’t appeal to me. So after scouring the internet, I found that Gresford Athletic would be hosting Porthmadog in a Huws Gray Alliance game. I’ve seen Porthmadog once already this season, and was looking forward to seeing how their season had progressed since the last time I saw them.

It would be fair of me to say that since I last saw Porthmadog play, at Cefn Druids, that they haven’t been in the best of form, as they have lost to Prestatyn Town in the Huws Gray Cup, and were demolished 5-1 by Llanfair Utd in the league, last weekend. The Porthmadog twitter was full of the hashtag “Bounce Back”, and the management team must have been eager to turn their season around. Before today’s match Porthmadog found themselves in 8th position.

Sitting two points behind Porthmadog in 10th position were Gresford Athletic. Gresford are currently enjoying their first season back the Huws Gray Alliance, following their win of the Welsh National Premier League, and for a newly promoted side, their form has been pretty good, as they have won two, drawn two and lost two this season. Gresford were founded in 1946, and have spent most of their history bouncing between the Huws Gray Alliance and the Welsh National League.

Gresford call Clapper’s Lane home, with the ground sitting on Gresford Village Recreational Club. Clapper’s Lane has recently undergone work, with new hard standing being installed along one touchline. The ground compromises of a fenced off pitch, a small stand with seats for around 20 people, and what looks to be a newly built building which houses the changing rooms and refreshment hut. Clapper’s Lane sits on the edge of Gresford, and from my house in Rhosddu is a 2.2 mile walk away.

The walk itself took me past Collier’s Park, which as many of you may know is the training ground for Wrexham FC. Rather oddly, right next door to the training ground is a Premier Inn hotel, and a Table Table restaurant. But then it struck me, it isn’t as odd as it seems, and in fact is probably a good thing for the Wrexham management. Imagine that as Wrexham manager, you have just signed a new player from a part of the country hundreds of miles from Wrexham, e.g. London. That player needs a place to stay, so where better but the Premier Inn next to the training ground?

Once I had arrived at the ground, and found the entrance, I paid the £3 to enter and a further £1 for a programme. I emerged by a bowling green, and walked round the edge find myself stood behind one of the goals. I headed around to the small stand, and took a seat for a couple of minutes, as the two sides warmed up. Porthmadog had decided to warm up behind the far pitch, using a second pitch to make sure they didn’t affect the main pitch before the game.

I decided to wander around the pitch, and headed over to the refreshment hut, where I parted with 50p for a KitKat. The refreshment hut did offer hot drinks as well as soup, but before I left my house, I’d had lunch and decided to stick with the KitKat. On my way back round to the shade by the Small Stand, I was persuaded to buy a raffle ticket for a £1 with the promise of a bottle of wine for the winner.

Before the game, the man on the tannoy announced that there would be a minutes silence for the victims of the Gresford Colliery Disaster. On the 22nd of September 1934, 266 men and boys were killed in an explosion in the “Dennis” shaft, the explosion started 1.3 miles away from the bottom of the shaft, and trapped a number of miners underground.Rescue attempts were hampered by the dangerous conditions, and to this day only 11 bodies have been recovered. The Gresford Colliery Disaster is one of the worst to have affected the British mining industry. More can be read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresford_disaster.

The minutes silence was observed impeccably by the players, and crowd. Once the referee signalled the end of the silence the two sides prepared for the kick off, with the officials and players taking their places. I then noticed that two of the three officials were female, which is always good to see, as it’s about time that this game became more progressive. One of the two female assistant referee’s looked to be around 50 years old, and I feel it is good to see people staying involved in this game, no matter their age.

It took until the 14th minute for anything of note to happen, as the Porthmadog number 11 ratted the crossbar with a beautiful volley from the edge of the area. The ball had dropped perfectly, and with the Gresford keeper beaten, it was a shame to see the ball come back off of the crossbar.

The first half was a rather scrappy affair, neither side was able to string more than a couple of passes together, and when they did create anything, the end product was more than often poor. As teams tend to do when they are playing badly, they got stuck into the referee, who to be honest wasn’t having a bad game, he was doing his job quietly, and attempting to play any advantage, but both sides decided to put more effort into whining and moaning then they did into actually playing football.

Porthmadog were struggling to keep a defensive shape, much to the annoyance of their keeper, who bailed the defenders out time and time again. But in the 44th minute he found himself unable to rescue his defenders, as Andrew Swarbrick picked up the ball on the edge of the area and hit a low shot past the Porthmadog keeper.

Half Time: Gresford 1-0 Porthmadog (Swarbrick 44)

At half time I decided to have a wander around to take the photos at the bottom of this post. As I headed back round to my spot in the shade, I noticed that one of the Porthmadog subs was taking shots at the Porthmadog sub keeper, and I made sure to keep an eye on where the shots were going, to save myself from getting smacked with the ball. Following one shot, the ball spun off of the keeper, and rolled towards me. Showing some kind of footballing ability, I trapped the ball with my right foot, and passed it back with a beautiful pass. My good mood was soon to be ruined though, as I didn’t win the raffle.

The Porthmadog coaches had obviously had a word with their players, and they began to show the kind of attacking play that I had seen them play against Cefn Druids. It didn’t take them long to equalize, as in the 56th minute the ball was worked into space around the area, with a final ball being played into the box for Julian Williams to slot home.

I got another touch of the ball not soon after the equalizer, as there were two balls on the pitch, one of the Porthmadog players kicked it out of play, and it rolled under the advertising hoarding, where I trapped it, turned and passed it to one of the subs stood by the dugouts. Ronaldo, eat your heart out.

Porthmadog had a number of chances, which couldn’t have been more of a presented better even if you had gift wrapped them and put them under a Christmas Tree with a label attached reading “To the Porthmadog strikers, have a certain goal.” But no, to the frustration of the Porthmadog bench, the strikers couldn’t finish these chances.

Both sides decided to start making changes in the last 15 minutes, with Gresford making their first in the 78th minute, with the Gresford number 10 going off to be replaced by their number 16.

Gresford made a second change two minutes later, as their number 14 came on for their number 6. The number 6 had had a good game, and looked exhausted as he walked off of the pitch.

I don’t like to criticize referees as they do a difficult job, and as I have said before, without them we wouldn’t be able to have games of football. But this referee had obviously switched places with his twin at half time, as he was poor throughout the second half, and he seemed frightened to brandish his yellow card, even when it was deserved. The assistant referees, however, were having good games, with them both making the correct decisions when necessary, and if this is the standard of officiating we can expect from female officials, then I say bring them on, I want to see more female officials in this sport!

Porthmadog were still pushing forward to find a winning goal, but were thwarted by the Gresford keeper, who was having a fine game between the sticks. He couldn’t kick a ball straight for toffee, but he had the necessary reflexes to be an effective keeper, and reminded me slightly of Peter Schmiechel with the constant barking of orders.

Gresford made their final change in the 86th minute with their number 11 being replaced by their number 15. Gresford were obviously looking to expose the holes left in the Porthmadog defense, and had moved into an attacking formation.

Porthmadog made their first and only change in the 87th minute, as their number 14 came on to replace their number 12. The Porthmadog number 12 hadn’t been very effective down the wings, and he probably should have gone off earlier.

The winning goal came in the 88th minute, and it was a hammer blow to the Porthmadog players, coaches and fans, as Corey Smart popped up with a low, powerful shot from distance, which beat the Porthmadog keeper’s outstretched fingers. The Gresford celebrations were slightly over the top, as some of the Gresford bench encroached onto the pitch.

There were still to be four minutes of added time, much to the amusement of the Gresford keeper, who couldn’t get his head round the fact. There weren’t many stoppages, but the ball did spend a lot of time off of the pitch, as it escaped the pitch a number of times, and didn’t make it back very quickly. It did appear that Gresford only had one ball to use, which was odd seeing as how there had been two on the pitch earlier.

Full Time: Gresford 2-1 Porthmadog (Swarbrick 44, Smart 88 – Williams 56)

Once the final whistle had blew, I headed out of the ground, and started the walk back home. As I neared my house I began to walk past a number of Wrexham fans, who were leaving the Racecourse. They didn’t look very happy, and when I got home I looked up the score to find that they had lost. To add to my delight, Shrewsbury and Chorley won.

Gresford Athletic are a lovely club, with a good ground at Clappers Lane, I’ve only ever been to two grounds without floodlights, one being Clappers Lane and the other being Lex Glyndwr’s Stansty Park, which is something I’m enjoying about this level of football. The facilities might be basic, but the welcome is warm, and I’ll certainly be back in the future. I seem to be also developing a soft spot for Porthmadog, and I’m more than certain that I’ll see them again this season.

Attendance: 113

Hat-tricks seen so far: 2

Next week’s plan: Ruthin Town vs Holywell, JD Sports Welsh Cup 1st Round.

Thanks for reading.

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