Sunday, 15 September 2013

Copa del Cymru

Saturday 14th September 2013
Welsh Cup Qualifying Round 2
Recreation Ground, Treflan, Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, Powys

After recent visits to basic recreation grounds in and around Leicestershire over the past few weeks, I fancy something different today. Where was to be the stumbling block, as if often the case when I have no or limited restrictions I am very indecisive. In the end I looked at possible games in the Welsh Marches, or for anyone unfamiliar with the term, one of the sides close to the English border. I narrowed it down to a shortlist of three and chose the above fixture. Also this was to be only my seventh game in the principality.

About Llansantffraid Village FC 
LLansantffraid (spelt with or without the 't') Village FC were formed in 2007 after the original village club decamped to Park Hall over the border in Shropshire. The club were subsequently accepted into division 2 of the Montgomeryshire Football League (MFL) and won the division at the first attempt. They lost only one league game all season, finishing four points ahead of runners-up Montgomery Town and gained promotion to division 1. The 2008/09 saw them crowned MFL champions, remaining unbeaten throughout their league games. Montgomery Town were again runners-up to Village, though the gap between the two had increased to nine points. A second successive promotion was also achieved, this time to the Mid-Wales League (MW). The MW sits at the third level of the Welsh Football system, and feeds into the Cymru Alliance. This season is Llansantffraid's fifth season in the MW, and in the four previous seasons they have finished in 8th, 5th, 10th and 11th place respectively. 

About the village (taken from the Wikipedia page)
Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain is a village, community and post town in Powys, Mid-Wales, close to the border with Shropshire, about 5 miles (8.0 km) south west of Oswestry and 10 miles (16 km) north of Welshpool.
St. Ffraid's Church
Llansanffraid means "Church of Saint Bride" in the Welsh language and ym-Mechain refers to its location in the medieval cantref of Mechain.
The name is based on the story of St. Bhrid, who is said to have floated across the Irish Sea on a sod of turf, or was carried to Scotland by two oystercatchers. The followers of St. Bhrid possibly set up new settlements known by the Welsh as 'Llan Santes Ffraid', Church of Lady Saint Bhrid.
In recent years the correct spelling of the village name, with or without a "t", has been a contentious issue, recognised by Powys County Council providing a dual spelling of the village name on road signs in the locality.

The earliest written form in Liber Landavensis, The Book of Llandav, a 12th-century document, refers to 'Llann sanfreit' in 1066. With so many places named Llansanffraid in Wales it was necessary to add location details, hence Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain (in Mechain) or Llansanffraid Glyn Ceiriog etc. The earliest written record for Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain is 1254 as Llansanfret.
In 1526 the name of the village appeared as 'Llansayntefrayde' in an English document. "The 'saynte' suggests an English influence on the Welsh name.The English language Tithe Maps of the early 1800s use two anglicised forms, 'Llansaintffraid' and 'Llansaintfraid'.
The first Ordnance Survey Drawing map by Robert Dawson in 1830 records the spelling of the village name as 'Llansanffraid'.
Welsh place names were often anglicised. For example, when the railway arrived in the village in 1862, the station was called 'Llansaintffraid'. The Border Advertiser, was originally a railway company publication to advertise the railway but as it became a local newspaper it continued to use this spelling.
By the beginning of the 20th century the 'i' was lost and the spelling for some appears to change again. In 1922 when the GWR took over the Cambrian Railways, the station name changed to Llansantffraid.
Apparently, in 2008, the letter 't' was officially dropped by Powys County Council, which claimed it was correcting a 'mistake'.However, the council's website still refers to the name of the village as "Llansantffraid". The different spellings in the name of the village are also reflected on local road signs.

A brief history of the Welsh Cup
The Welsh Cup is organised by the Football Association of Wales, and has been run every year since its inception in 1877 apart from during the two world wars. The winners qualify for the following seasons UEFA Champions League, though this has only been since 1999 after the demise of the European Cup-Winners Cup. The first victors of the competition were Wrexham who overcame Druids 1-0. Until 1995, some clubs playing in England were also invited to play in the Welsh Cup, but could not progress to the European Cup Winners' Cup by winning the Welsh cup. Instead, the best placed Welsh club in the Welsh Cup would take the European place. The first English winners of the cup were Shrewsbury Town who defeated Wrexham 5-2 in the 1890-91 season.

From 1996 to 2011, only clubs playing in the Welsh football league system were allowed to enter the Welsh Cup. This rule excluded the six Welsh clubs who played in the English football league system: Swansea City, Cardiff City, Newport County, Wrexham, Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Tydfil/Town. On 20 April 2011, the Football Association of Wales invited these six clubs to rejoin the Welsh Cup for the 2011–12 season but only Newport County, Wrexham and Merthyr Town accepted. In March 2012 UEFA stated that Welsh clubs playing in the English football league system could not qualify for European competitions via the Welsh cup but they could qualify via the English league and cup competitions, hence they were subsequently again excluded from the Welsh Cup. Prestatyn Town are the current holders as they overcame Bangor City 3-1 after extra time in the final, which was played at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. The 2013/14 season will be the competitions 127th edition and competed for by 191 teams. It kicked off on the weekend of 17th/18th August with 51 ties in Qualifying Round 1

A full list of Welsh Cup finals can be viewed here, while the Welsh Football Data Archive is an superb resource for anyone with an interest in the history of football in Wales.

Match preview
Both teams play in the top division of the MW and on paper this should be an away win. The home side currently sit in the lower reaches of the division, winning only one of their six opening league games. This came on the 24th August against Builth Wells with a 4-0 scoreline. Last Saturday they were thrashed 6-1 at home to Llandrindod Wells. Berriew meanwhile sit top of the table with a 100% record from their opening five games, four of which have been away from home. Their last two games have seen them record comprehensive victories at Dolgellau (9-0) and Montgomery Town (7-0).
The main stand

The day, ground and game
I left home around 11.30am with the intention of getting there early to have a drink in one of the two pubs and take a few photos of the village. In reality I arrived at the ground with just fifteen minutes before kick-off, this was because the M6 around Birmingham was a nightmare and it did its best to scupper my plans!!!

The ground is set back off the main A495 that runs through the village, and if coming from either the east or west, follow the signs for the community centre. This leads to a car park with the ground entrance ahead of you. There is a turnstile block, but it wasn't in use today as instead admission money was paid to an "old boy" with a Guinness bucket on the right just before the tea hut. For anyone wanting any alcoholic liquid refreshment there is a decent social club on site. There are two areas of cover at the ground, both of which are all seated. The larger of the two sits behind the near goal, while a small one straddles the half way line on the far side in between the dugouts. 

The home side kicked off, but found themselves a goal down inside the opening twenty seconds. A ball down the right was crossed in and finished first time. This set back stunned the home side and they took time to get into the game. Berriew meanwhile tried to play balls over the top of the Village defence, but were denied by their inability to stay onside, or some decent defending and goalkeeping. It was far from one way traffic as the home side belied their lowly league position and deservedly equalised just before half time. The ball found its way to two unmarked players around the penalty spot, and the number four made it 1-1.

At half time the programmes arrived which was a folded sheet of A4 paper. It didn't look like one that the club would normally issue, but regardless someone has made the effort and despite being told I could have it for nothing I gave them a £1. 

The view from the main stand
For the second half I sat in the stand behind the goal having put my camera in the car, and watched an entertaining forty five minutes of football. Both teams were intent on attacking, though it was the visitors who had the more numerous and better chances. It took them until sixty nine minutes to re-take the lead, when a long ball over the top of the Llansantfffraid defence was finished with a low shot across the keeper. The tie was effectively over on seventy eight minutes when Berriew scored a third goal. This time it was a simple tap in after an original shot was well saved by the keeper. Two goals in the final few minutes put a gloss on the score, and one in which was harsh on the home side. Berriew's fourth of the afternoon was from another long ball which saw the ball lobbed over the oncoming keeper and it went in via the post. The fifth was unlucky as a shot was covered by the keeper, but a deflection from a defender saw the ball in the back of the net.

Overall a enjoyable visit into Wales at a ground that did not disappoint. A warm welcome was also had by the chairman. After the game the run home was generally pain free, though I did get held up on the M6 again but thankfully not by as much as on the outbound journey.
Match stats
Admission charge: £2
Programme issued: a 4 pager came at half time
Badges: £2.50 - available from the social club
Attendance: no more than 50
Match rating: 7 out of 10
Coffee: £1

Driving time: 2 hours 4 minutes (Google maps)
Driving distance: 107 miles

some more photos of the ground can be viewed in the slideshow below:
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