The Welsh Cup

Ruthin Town vs Holywell Town, JD Welsh Cup 1st Round, 03/10/15, Memorial Playing Fields, Match 12

With my car back from the garage, with its new spark plugs, and the engine misfire now fixed, I was looking forward to this match, one because it would be a new ground, two because it was the first proper round of the Welsh Cup, but most importantly because I would get to drive to Ruthin. I’ve been to Ruthin once before, for a job interview, and from what I could remember of the drive there, it involved a lot of winding, hilly roads, the kind that you don’t normally get to drive on in urban areas.

When I woke up, there was a fog hanging around Wrexham, and following a walk into town, the fog still hadn’t lifted and I began to wonder whether today’s match would still be on, as Ruthin is up in the hills, and their ground doesn’t have floodlights. I needn’t have worried though, because as soon as I got around 10 miles away from Ruthin, the fog lifted, and the sun began to try and break through the clouds.

I’ve seen Ruthin Town play once already this season, as I saw them in the previous round of the Welsh Cup when they had played Lex XI. Ruthin have been in a good run of form recently as they won their last match, beating Llay Welfare 5-0. At the moment they sit in 3rd position in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division. They do have a game in hand over leaders Chirk, and if they win that game they will find themselves level on points with Chirk, but behind on goal difference.

Holywell Town were formed in 1893 as Holywell FC, and were founder members of both the Cymru Alliance and the League of Wales (now known as the Welsh Premier League). Currently Holywell Town play in the Huws Gray Alliance, and find themselves in 3rd place, behind Cefn Druids and Holyhead Hotspur. Holywell won their last league game beating Caersws 2-0. Last Tuesday night they played TNS and were soundly beaten 7-1, in the Word Cup. Today would give them a chance to right the wrongs of that game, and to get back into winning form.

Ruthin call the Memorial Playing Fields home, and have a decent set-up at their ground. The ground itself is situated outside of the town centre, with a number of houses around the ground. The ground is also surrounded by the picturesque Welsh countryside, with rolling hills providing a stunning back drop for a football match. The Memorial Playing Fields, consists of a main pitch, a secondary pitch, a cricket pitch, and two further football pitches hidden behind a hedge. There is a small stand along part of the touchline, at the end of this touchline is the clubhouse, which houses the changing rooms, and refreshment hut.

Turning by the fire station, I followed the signs which pointed towards Ruthin Town FC and drove onto the car-park next to the main pitch. Switching my engine off, I sat and wondered whether I should just attempt to watch the game from my car. The small stand, and the dugouts ended that idea and instead I left my car and began to explore. There was to be no entry fee for today’s match, and there would also be no programme, but that’s understandable at this level. I did however spend 50p on a can of Pepsi Max from the refreshment hut. Before the game began I stood behind the goal the Ruthin players were warming up at, and fetched the ball on a number of occasions, as I began to hope that the shooting would be better during the match, rather than the way it was during the warm up.

For the first half I decided to stand on the touchline opposite the dugouts, I found a good vantage point on the halfway line, and waited for the game to begin. The Holywell players spent a good couple of minutes on the pitch before the Ruthin players, and the referee emerged.

Six minutes in Holywell found themselves presented with a good chance, as they won a free kick on the edge of the Ruthin area, unfortunately the free kick was struck straight at the wall, and Holywell wasted an excellent chance. Holywell had been putting Ruthin under early pressure, and there play deserved a goal.

After fifteen minutes, it was clear to see that the referee wasn’t having the best start to the game as he made a number of poor decisions, where he attempted to let the play flow, when he should really have called the foul. It was around this time that the Holywell number 9 had a good shout for a penalty turned down by the referee.

The challenges began to fly in, and some of them were verging on reckless, the referee wasn’t making it easy for himself, as he let a number of things go, when he should have cautioned players, but he preferred to talk to them, when he needed to be harsher. I did begin to wonder whether the referee would maintain control of the game, if he wasn’t careful.

In the 40th minute, Holywell won a free kick, and yet again no card was produced to the player who committed the foul, but what really confused me, was the fact that the referee didn’t book one of the Ruthin players for kicking ball away. So at the next opportunity, I shouted to the linesman to ask whether the referee had actually bought his cards with him, which drew a smile from the linesman.

On one of the pitches behind the hedge, there was another game taking place, and I did wonder about walking over to see who was playing, but I decided to stick with the game that I had actually come to see.

Half Time: Ruthin Town 0-0 Holywell Town

Holywell were unlucky to go into the break on level terms, and probably should have been a goal up, but they hadn’t taken their chances, and would need to work on their finishing in the second half.

At half time, I decided to walk around the pitch, and took a couple of photos as I went. Once I reached the refreshment hut, I parted with another 50p this time for a packet of crisps. Wandering back to where I watched the first half, I took a quick head count and counted 106 people (including myself), and begun to wonder whether Ruthin could have made a bit of money from this game, if they had printed a programme, or just some team sheets to sell.

Holywell picked up where they had left off, and by the 55th minute they had had a number of good chances, but either hit the post, or were denied by the Ruthin keeper, who was having a good game. Holywell were looking the more likely of the two sides to score, and it was more a matter of when rather than if.

In the 61st minute, Ruthin made the first change of the game with their number 11 being replaced by their number 14.

The opening goal came in the 65th minute, the Holywell number 8 met a cross from the left wing with a looping header which eluded the Ruthin keeper, and nestled in the top right corner of the goal, to give Holywell the lead that they deserved.

The referee must have remembered to bring his cards out for the second half, as in the 67th minute the Ruthin number 5 became the first player to pick up a booking, as he put in a poor challenge on the left wing. I’m still amazed that it took the ref until the 67th minute to book a player, as there had been a number of poor challenges through the game.

Ruthin made their second change in the 75th minute as their number 8 came off to be replaced by their number 12.

In the 79th minute, Holywell made a double substitution with their number 11 and 7 being replaced by their number 12 and 15.

The ref produced the second yellow card of the game in the 83rd minute, as the Holywell number 4 put in a poor challenge. There were some handbags afterwards, which was needless, but as I have said there had been a number of poor challenges throughout the game, which the ref had failed to deal with, and I feel tempers were starting to boil over.

In the 87th minute both sides made their final changes, as Ruthin replaced their number 7 with their number 15, and Holywell replaced their number 10 with their number 16.

There was to be one last chance for Ruthin to get themselves back into the match, and it came in the 91st minute, as one of the Ruthin players was bought down in the box, and the referee pointed straight to the spot. It is worth noting in the build up to this penalty, the Holywell number 2 went down injured, and from where I was stood it looked as if he’d been fouled. There was a lengthy delay as the injured player was carried off of the pitch, and once the player had been carried off, the Ruthin number 10 stepped up to take the penalty. If it went in, the score would be tied, and the game would head to extra time, and then penalties, so with pressure on his shoulders, the number 10 took a few steps back and waited for the ref’s whistle. On the whistle he struck the penalty to the keeper’s right, and could only watch as the keeper saved the ball, much to the delight of the travelling fans, and players.

The ref blew the final whistle as soon as the ball was cleared, and Holywell advanced into the next round of the Welsh Cup.

Final Score: Ruthin 0-1 Holywell (Littler (8) 65)

Once the final whistle blew, I walked around the pitch, and waited for the players to head into the changing rooms before I headed to my car. The Ruthin players had given a good account of themselves, but Holywell deserved the win, and I am looking forward to the draw for the next round of the Welsh Cup as the big boys of the Welsh Premier League are bought into the competition, and I’m looking forward to seeing who Holywell draw.

The referee didn’t have the best of games, I can understand that he wanted to let play flow, but there are times when authority needs to be stamped on the game, and I don’t feel that he truly stamped that authority on the game at any point. The two linesmen were good, as both of them made the right calls, at the right times, even if they were ignored by the ref on occasion.

If you ever find yourself in the Wrexham area on a Saturday, and are looking for a match to go to, check if Ruthin are at home. They are a friendly club, playing in a beautiful location, and the drive between Wrexham and Ruthin is possibly one of the nicest I have ever done. In fact, I would recommend just driving between Wrexham and Ruthin.

Attendance: 106 (Head count)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 2

Next week’s plan: Rhyl vs Carmarthen, Welsh Premier League

Thanks for reading.

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