Saturday 25 November 2023

AFC LLWYDCOED (The Ron Jones Stadium)


The fourth round of the FAW Trophy took centre stage this weekend and, not for the first time this season, I was drawn to South Wales. The big attraction was a chance to witness a game at the Ron Jones Stadium in Aberdare where AFC Llwydcoed are playing their home games whilst their Welfare Ground is being redeveloped to meet Welsh Tier 2 standards.

An historic location having being used for various sports since the late 19th century, the stadium complex was built on the site of the old Ynys Stadium which was the home of Aberdare Athletic, who were members of the English Football League between 1921 and 1927. There is no overlap of the original pitch with the current grass pitch, an all-weather pitch is located on the site of the original football pitch, just beyond the athletics track.

The stadium was opened and named in honour of Ron Jones, who still remains one of Wales' greatest athletes having won 12 national sprint titles between 1956 and 1970. He competed at three Olympic games and was part of the Great Britain 4x110 yards relay team that set a world record in 1963.

Outside of athletics, he became Chief Executive of Queens Park Rangers in 1976, the first Managing Director at Cardiff City in 1980 and then Managing Director at Portsmouth in 1988. Ron Jones was inducted into the Welsh Sports 'Hall of Fame' in 2013 and passed away in December 2021, aged 87.

This afternoon's trophy tie pitted AFC Llwydcoed, of the Ardal South West League, against Newport Corinthians, of the Gwent League Premier Division. An interesting match up for the neutral as despite the difference in status, Llwydcoed are down near the bottom of the table and in a bad run of form whilst Corinthians sit top of their league, having lost just one game all season.

It suggested an upset but in truth Llwydcoed were always in control of this tie but after creating plenty of chances they were only 1-0 at the interval, thanks to a goal from Ricky Carter after 14 minutes.

It seemed Llwydcoed would pay for their profligacy when Newport equalised within seconds of the restart, Nathan Perkins scoring the goal. The goal, obviously, lifted Corinthians but they couldn't find that second goal and eventually Llwydcoed recovered and once Dewi Abbruzzese restored their lead on the hour, they never looked like losing the tie. Carter scored his second on 75 minutes and that was game over. 

AFC Llwydcoed will now be at home to another Newport team, Newport City, in the next round on 16th December.

Saturday 11 November 2023



The beauty of this groundhopping lark is that it is fluid so, on some occasions, you never know where you may end up. Today was one such occasion.

When I left the house this morning, I was actually heading to Somerset but just before I was about to take the junction onto the M5, my passenger checked the app formerly known as Twitter and saw our intended fixture in the FA Vase had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

As my passenger has done a heck of a lot more grounds than I have, this created a bit of a problem as it would be difficult to find a ground we both could agree on. We pulled into the services and began to scan the fixture lists. In the end we came up with a plan where we could each do a ground we both needed. Instead of heading down the M5 to Nailsea, we were now on the M6 south to Hertfordshire.

After dropping my passenger off at Leverstock Green, which I had visited way back in 2011, I continued with my journey to the town of Berkhamsted, where Berkhamsted FC were hosting Telford United in a Southern League clash. 

Founded by supporters in 2009, as a successor to Berkhamsted Town which was dissolved due to it's outstanding debts, Berkhamsted FC play their home games at Broadwater, which is adjacent to the Great Union Canal.

The Comrades, named as such as the original club was founded in 1919 by servicemen returning from World War I, began life after reformation in the Spartan South Midlands League Division Two before winning back-to-back promotions.

The club earned promotion to the Southern League in 2018 after finishing second in the Premier Division behind Welwyn Garden City. In 2020 they were top of the Southern League Division One when the season was declared null and void due to the Covid pandemic. In 2022 they were runners up before losing out in the play-offs but in 2023 they were finally promoted to Step 3 as Champions, winning all bar one of their 23 home games (the anomaly a 0-0 draw).

The opposition this afternoon, Telford United, were relegated from the National League North. So far this season The Bucks are in the mix for the promotion places whilst The Comrades are struggling to adjust to the higher league and are in the relegation places.

The game went to form but Telford were made to work hard for their 1-0 victory. The winning goal was scored by Jared Hodgkiss after 76 minutes when the full back was on hand to fire home from the edge of the penalty area.

The closest Berko came to a goal was through a lack of communication between Bucks defender Sam Whittall and goalkeeper Brandon Hall when Whitall's headed back-pass ran wide, just, of Hall's open goal.

An unexpected Southern League tick this afternoon and another completed division. Just the three left now to finish off the entire League.

Saturday 28 October 2023

WIMBORNE TOWN (The New Cuthbury)


The best laid plans and all that.

This Saturday was supposed to be a treble header of matches in West Sussex but the heavy rain that had battered the south coast overnight lead to a plethora of postponements. 

Unfortunately, for me, two were the first two games of my planned treble, which were called off due to waterlogged pitches. The third game of my intended treble did go ahead but by then I had already decided I would rather go and watch something a little higher up the football food chain, and take another step closer to completing another league.

After perusing the app formerly known as Twitter, Wimborne Town tweeted around 10.30am that, after a pitch inspection, their game with Yate Town was definitely going ahead so, from my overnight base just off the A34, I now headed in the direction of Dorset.

 Wimborne Minster takes its name from the town's parish church, which is the burial place of King Æthelred, who reigned from 865–871.

Wimborne Town were founded in 1878 (a great year for new football clubs) and were founder members of the Dorset Football Association. After spending their entire history in county leagues, the club joined the Western League in 1981, after floodlights were installed at their ground. The club entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1982 and went all the way to the first round proper, losing to Aldershot, which still remains their best ever FA Cup run.

The Magpies won a national trophy in 1992 when the won the FA Vase, defeating Garforth Town 5-3 in the final at Wembley. At this point Wimborne were members of the Wessex League where they remained until promotion to the Southern League in 2010.

Wimborne Town played at The Cuthbury, which was a hefty stones throw away from Wimborne Minster, until 2020 before moving a couple of miles away across town to the "New" Cuthbury. The club took possession of the stadium just before Christmas 2020 but, because of the global covid pandemic, they never played their first competitive game at the new ground until August 2021, a 4-1 loss to Taunton Town.

This afternoon Yate Town were the visitors on this wet and windy afternoon and on a heavy, saturated pitch it was The Magpies who won the game with a solitary goal just before half-time.

On 41 minutes, after an initial headed effort crashed against the crossbar, Harry Baker was on hand to head the ball into an unguarded net. It was no more than the homesters deserved, despite some late pressure from Yate as they searched for an equaliser. The victory was enough to put Wimborne top of league this evening.

On a day like today I was incredibly thankful to watch any game and thanks to all for ensuring the match went ahead.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

FC BARCELONA (Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys)


Tonight I took the opportunity to head to Catalonia to pay a visit to a ground that, until this season, has been very rarely used for football since 2009.

Camp Nou, the iconic home of FC Barcelona, is being renovated so, for season 2023/24, Barca are playing their home games at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys. From 1997 to 2009 the stadium was home to city rivals Espanyol, before they moved to a purpose built stadium of their own. 

Ironically it was because of the previous tennants of this ground that tickets were easy to come by as many Barcelona supporters are supposedly boycotting games because they refuse to set foot in a ground that was once home to their bitter rivals. Indeed tonight was not a sell out and tickets were readily available to purchase at the ticket offices.

The stadium, originally known as Estadi de Montjuic, was built in 1929 for the World Exhibition and was also to be used as the main stadium for Spain's (unsuccessful) bid for the 1936 Olympic games. The stadium fell into a state of disrepair however when, in 1987, Barcelona were finally awarded the summer games for 1992, it was completely gutted, renovated and expanded, with just the original facade remaining.

The centrepiece of the 1992 Olympic games it was where Linford Christie (100 metres) and Sally Gunnell (400 metres) triumphed to win gold for Great Britain and also, famously, where Derek Redmond was helped around the track by his father after pulling up with a torn hamstring in the 400 metres semi-final.

Post Olympic games the stadium the stadium was used for both soccer and American football but has been has used sporadically since Espanyol left in 2009. 
In 2002 the stadium was renamed Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys after the president of the Catalan government during the Spanish Civil War, who was executed at the nearby Montjuïc Castle in 1940.

This evening Barcelona were hosting Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stages of the Champions League.

After finally finding my seat in the ground, as none of them appear to be numbered, I sat down to watch Barça consolidated their position at the top of Group H with a third win in three, almost ensuring qualification to the knockout stages, thanks to a 2-1 victory over their Ukrainian opponents.

Barca were in complete control of the game and had more than enough chances to win comfortably but almost threw it away towards the end, when the visitors nearly snatched an unlikely draw.

Barcelona's Goals came from Ferran Torres (28) and Fermin Lopez (36) with Georgly Sudakov (62) replying for Shakhtar.


Prior to the big game in the evening, the equivalent youth game took place in the afternoon. The game was played at the Estadi Johan Cruyff, named in honour of the legendary player and coach, where around 600 spectators gathered to watch goals from Noah Darvich (15) and Juan Hernandez (85) ensure victory for the Barça youngsters.