Welsh League Division Two
Woodland Road, Cwmbrân
Attendance: 50 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
Today would be my second visit to south-east Wales on consecutive Saturdays, and I was hoping for better luck to catch a Welsh League game, having been thwarted late on last week. With that in mind, I considered a visit to the Centre for Excellence 3G pitch in Ystrad Mynach as a safe option, but with positive vibes coming out of all grounds with grass pitches within range of Cardiff, I decided late on my coach journey to catch the train to Cwmbrân.
Woodland Road is about a five minute walk eastwards from Cwmbrân train station and the football ground is located within Woodlan Road Park, alongside a rugby ground (home to Croesyceiliog RFC) with a cricket field overlapping both in the middle. The football ground is fully enclosed but with see through fencing, and so it is no problem to watch the game for free from outside. Spectators enter along one length, paying admission at the side window of the stand. This stand represents the only accommodation for fans in the ground, brick built and consisting of a few steps with a few chairs available inside. A tea bar window is located within the rear wall, with the changing rooms behind that. There is just hard standing along this length and behind both goals, while the remaining length is grass standing, due to the club sharing facilities with the cricket. Floodlights are not currently installed here, but poles are currently laid out on the ground in preparation. Although facilities here are certainly modest, there is plenty of evidence that work is going on to improve the ground, with some attractive signage and a fresh luck of paint throughout, and there was the fairly typical warm and friendly feel that is usually encountered at Welsh League grounds. The backdrop is pleasant enough, with trees behind two sides and large hills behind. The 28 programme had an attractive cover, with today’s fixture displayed prominently and colour printing is used throughout the programme. But whilst it covered the essentials, was light on up to date interesting reading material and over half of the pages are devoted to advertising.
Croesyceiliog came into this game in seventh place in the league, having won seven and drawn two of their 18 league games, and had won their last four league games. Garden Village were in 14th place in the 16 team division, having won four and drawn two of their 15 league games. When the two teams met in Gorseinon in September, Croesyceiliog won 0-3.
On a bright sunny afternoon, the pitch had apparently only marginally passed a morning inspection and it was easy to see why as the pitch was very heavy, soon cut up badly, and was tricky to play football on, with uneven roll of the ball and players struggling to keep their footing. Somewhat surprisingly, the visitors had the better of much of the first half. They were awarded a penalty on 15 minutes for a shove, although initially the referee did not seem to give it, consulting with his assistant to eventually award it. The penalty was well saved low to the keeper’s right. They came close again on 34 minutes when a free kick, awarded on the advice of the assistant referee for a handball by the keeper outside of his area, was awkwardly skewed over his own bar by a defender close to the line. It was very much against the run of play when the home side took the lead. A diagonal ball through the defence sent Will Lugo through on goal, and he did well to keep the ball under control on the difficult surface, running on before firing the ball across the keeper and into the net. Croesyceiliog had a good spell after their goal, but Garden Village could feel hard done by to be behind at the break.
The second half was competitive, feisty at times, but with neither side looking likely to score what would be a crucial goal until the last 20 minutes, when things did get rather more frantic, and both sides had a great chance to score. Firstly the visitors saw a cross shot agonisingly missed by a couple of players at the far post for a tap-in on 84 minutes, and then on 89 minutes a Croesyceiliog forward broke clear of the defence and just had the keeper to beat, but he sent his eventual shot wide of the far post. In the end, Croesyceiliog held on to claim their fifth league win in a row but remain in seventh place in the league. Garden Village would rue their missed penalty, and a draw really would have been a fairer reflection of the game.