Cymru Alliance – 28th December 2015
Cae-y-Castell, Flint, Flintshire
- Attendance: 740
- Entrance: £5.00
- Programme: £1.50
- Bacon Roll: £2.00
- Cup of Tea: £1.00
The Welsh football calendar over the festive period always tries to put together closely located and rival teams which inevitably produces some decent matches for supporters. When the provisional Cymru Alliance calendar came out in August, one match instantly caught my eye and became the match I was most eager to attend. Just three days after the presents were opened, the turkeys were consumed and sprouts ignored, a Christmas bonanza would be on the cards! It would see Flint Town United host local rivals Holywell Town in a festive fiesta of football!
[I’m still trying to think of a good description for this derby – ‘The Old Flintshire Classico’ is a provisional title I used on Twitter but another name could be used….I’ll keep thinking….]
This festive fixture would be the second meeting of the two Flintshire teams in the league this season after Holywell had come from behind to beat their rivals 2-1 in front of just over 500 people in early September (a game which I watched and blogged about). With Flint looking for revenge for that defeat, and with both teams doing well in the Cymru Alliance league this season, the game was being built up as a potentially classic game which was set to produce a bumper crowd. Naturally I was super excited for the game and another chance for Holywell to put one over them “off” Flint!
This would be my first visit to Cae-y-Castell this season, after visiting the stadium plenty of times before. The last time I had been at the ground was last season, when I saw the home side lose to Denbigh Town in an exciting 2-3 game. It was also one of the first blogs I had written during my groundhopping adventures, and so I was keen to write a new blog about Flint Town United adding the usual historical information about the town and club which is a permanent fixture in my blogs. With that aim in mind to improve upon the blog from last time, here goes nothing…
Flint (Welsh: Y Fflint) is a historic market town of just under 13,000 residents, situated on the southern bank of the River Dee Estuary, roughly in the middle of the Flintshire coast. The town is situated about 4 miles north-west of Connah’s Quay, 6,5 miles north of the county town of Mold and 5 miles south-east of the historic town of Holywell. Due to the town having its foundation during the English invasion of Wales, Flint has the oldest town charter in the whole of Wales being granted the charter in 1284.
Flint has great infrastructural links as it is positioned on the main A548 coastal road, which runs through the town, and allows residents easy access to the Deeside Industrial Zone and beyond (via the Flintshire Bridge). Also the main Chester-Holyhead North Wales Coast Railline travels through the town allowing Flint to possess a small but busy train station, in close proximity to the High Street and local attractions. This allows passengers to catch regular trains to the main conurbations of Chester, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and even to London via the Holyhead to Euston through train.
The town’s origins are heavily linked with its main attraction, Flint Castle. The castle was the first to be built by Edward I during this campaign to conquer Wales, and would be the start of a series of fortresses built by the English (described as an “Iron Ring”) to encircle the Principality of Gwynedd and oppress the Welsh population. Its location was critical to the English invasion due to its strategic position in North East Wales by being a day’s march away from Chester, but also positioned by the River Dee (allowing the castle to be supplied by boat) and defending an old ford, which could be used at low tide, that stretched across the estuary to the Wirral. This ford later disappeared when work was done on the river to avoid the port of Chester becoming silted up.
Construction began on the castle in 1277 at the very start of the First Anglo-Welsh War, with master mason James of St. George being involved in the construction for 17 months, before the castle was completed in 1286. With it being the first built by the English, the layout of the castle is unique to the other Welsh castles built at that time and the other castles built in Britain. The layout is based on medieval French/Savoyard models where one of the corner towers is enlarged and isolated to act as a keep as well as a corner tower. The castle had an inner ward and an outer bailey which were separated by a tidal moat (which still floods at exceptionally high tides) and were connected with a gatehouse and drawbridge. The foundations of the town were also laid out beyond the outer bailey, and they were originally protected by a defensive ditch and raised banking.
The castle was used by Henry Bolingbroke to hold King Richard II and as a result, it is the setting for Act III, Scene III of the Shakespere play Richard II [they also provide the names for two of the imposing tower blocks in the town]. During the English Civil War, the castle was held by the Royalists before it was captured by the Parliamentarians in 1647 after a three-month siege. The castle was then slighted by the capturing forces to prevent further usage in the future and the ruins are what remains today. The castle ruins are now maintained by Cadw with access to the castle being free and open to the public.
It is the castle which is also the potential origin of the town’s name. It is possible that “Flint/Fflint” came from the Latin castellum super fluentum, meaning “castle on the river”. However an alternative suggestion for the source of the name could be the shape of the county, which resembled an old flint knife. However the Latin source is probably the most credible reason for “Flint”.
Historically the town has been involved with either ship-building or coal mining with a number of collieries and mine shafts being opened up in the locality, but lead smelting had been the mainstay of Flint’s industry with lead smelting occurring in the town for about 600 years. Lead being smelted was then transported throughout the country and even traded to the continent. As the collieries and smelting works increased, the town’s fortunes subsequently improved with the railway, running through the town, helping in the upturn with an increased volume of finance flowing into Flint as well as financial migrants (such as Irish workers) who increased the town’s population.
In recent times, the town has been involved with the chemical industry with an alkali works being established in the town in the early 20th century, before man-made fibres such as artificial silk (possibly the origin of the club’s nickname), rayon etc. were created in the town through the huge Courtaulds factory. After Courtaulds ceased production in the Greenfield-Flint locale in the late 1980s, the factory was knocked down and business and retails parks were established in its place. In combination with the Manor Industrial Park, Flint is today one of the main sites for industry within Flintshire, with many companies like Kimberley-Clark establishing factories in the towns industrial parks, as well many other smaller companies being founded there.
The town has also seen a large influx of Eastern European workers (mainly from Poland) moving and settling into the area, initially looking to find work in the local factories. As a result of this migration, the town has seen a number of shops or “Polski Skleps” open up to accommodate for the demands of the Polish contingent of the Flint populace.
Today Flint is now an attractive commuter town for people either working in the town’s industrial parks, the Deeside Industrial Park, Airbus or beyond. The town has two high schools with a mainstream English media secondary school, Flint High School, and a Catholic comprehensive school St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School, which covers Flintshire in the Catholic diocese of Wrexham. Some of the town’s famous residents are the taekwondo Olympic Gold Medallist Jade Jones (the town has a golden post box in her honour and the leisure centre is named after her), and Liverpool and Wales’ all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, who both still have strong links in the area.
Football started in Flint in 1886 with the establishment of the town’s first club “Fflint F.C.” at Strand Park on the banks of the estuary. The club would become founding members of the North Wales Coast League (along with Bangor, Rhyl and Holywell to name a few), and would win the inaugural championship in 1893-94. By the turn of the century, football would have a strong grip in the town as three clubs were applying their trade (Flint Town, Flint Athletic and Flint United Alkali Company). In 1905, Flint UAC and Flint Town merged to become Flint Town, and they would win the town’s first silverware, winning the North Welsh Amateur Cup in 1909.
In 1924, Flint Town left Strand Park for a new ground at Holywell Road (where they would stay until 1993) which could hold a maximum of 3000 spectators. This ground move lead to an upsurge of results which cumulated to a Welsh Cup final appearance in 1925 as the part-timers lost to the professional Wrexham team 1-3. Flint Town would subsequently play in the Welsh National League and Welsh League (North), winning the Welsh League title in the 1933-34 season. Either side of World War II, Flint Town would play in the West Cheshire League, with Flint Athletic playing in the Dyserth League.
Following WW2, both Flint teams amalgamated to create a single club for the town in the form of the current guise of Flint Town United. The combined might of the teams resulted in some of the greatest results in the town’s history with the zenith being the 1954 Welsh Cup victory. En route to the final, the Silkmen beat Holywell Town, Oswestry Town, Rhyl, Llanelly (the old spelling of Llanelli) and English First Division Cardiff City, before facing Chester in final at The Racecourse Ground. In front of nearly 16,000 spectators, the Silkmen beat the Third Division side 2-0 to lift the club’s only Welsh Cup so far, and becoming the second Flintshire team to lift a Welsh Cup (after Connah’s Quay & Shotton F.C. in 1929).
The club endured a large period of decline in the club’s fortunes, resulting in the club playing the local leagues (such as the Clwyd League structure in the 1970s) and relying on local players for the next couple of decades, with highlights during this barren period being a Welsh Amateur Cup win in 1965 and a Clwyd League championship in 1979. The club would enjoy a renaissance during the reorganisation of North Welsh football in the early 1990s, when they became founding members of the Cymru Alliance and winning the inaugural league in the 1990-91 season under the leadership of Tony Martin. They would also become the de-facto best Welsh “non-league” team as they beat Abergavenny Town 2-1 to become Welsh Non-League Champions. Flint Town United would eventually become founding members of the national top tier League of Wales in 1992, and a year later they would also see a move to their current ground, Cae-y-Castell, which is located on the banks of the estuary and nearby Flint Castle.
The Silkmen spent six seasons in the top flight, enjoying a successful period of three seasons between the years of 1993 to 1996, where they finished in 4th, 6th and 5th positions respectively. Eventually a lack of major sponsorship and financial income restricted the abilities of the club to maintain their top finishes resulting in a 15th place finish the following season before inevitably getting relegated to the Cymru Alliance in the 1997-98 season.
Since their relegation from the League of Wales, Flint Town United have continually played in the Cymru Alliance and are one of the longest serving teams in the league, with this season will be their 18th continuous season playing in the second tier. During their tenure in the Cymru Alliance, the majority of their finishes have been in the mid-table although they have achieved a 3rd place finish on four occasions (three times in a row between 2005 and 2008). Their best finish was a second place finish in the 2009-10 season, when they led they the table going into the final month of the season but dropped enough points to allow eventual winners Llangefni Town to overtake them and clinch the title by four points. In that season Flint would suffer further heartbreak by also losing out in the Cymru Alliance League Cup, losing to Llandudno in the final.
Since missing out on promotion to the Welsh Premier League, Flint have finished steadily in the middle of the table, with their best placing of 6th position in the 2012-13 season, but unable to get near to challenge for promotion. After initial positive expectations, last season was largely disappointing for the Welsh Bianconeri as they finished in 10th place behind fellow Flintshire rivals Buckley Town and Mold Alexandra in the table, and winning only 13 of the 30 games played.
Results this season have proved to be an improvement on last season’s campaign with the Silkmen going into this derby game in 5th position, just seven points behind early league leaders Caernarfon Town. Since the defeat to Holywell in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Flint had gone on a fantastic run in the league by winning eight of their next eleven league games. Important derby victories over Buckley Town (as described in the excellent LostBoyos blog), Mold Alex and a moral boosting 6-1 thumping of Welsh League Cup finalists Denbigh Town meant Flint were in confident mood heading into the Christmas period.
In their last league game, they had lost to title favourites Cefn Druids 1-2 in their previous league game. However confidence could be boosted as Flint had outplayed their opponents for most of the game on an awful pitch, and were constricted with a two man disadvantage at the end of the game. In their previous match to this fixture, another courageous defeat, this time against WPL side Newtown in the Welsh Cup would bring encouragement to the Castlemen despite being on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline.
Flint would also be going into the derby game with additional rest due to their previous two league fixtures in December being postponed, plus had played 14 games less than their opponents in the whole of 2015. However during that postponement period, the management structure had changed with previous manager Chris Herbert, who had been appointed at the start of the season, leaving the club to join the coaching staff at National League side Chester FC. His replacement was Aden Shannon, who had started the season as manager of Conwy Borough before resigning in the autumn, and had joined Flint in a player-coaching role a few weeks prior to Herbert’s shock departure. As the poor December weather had delayed his start as Flint manager, Shannon’s managerial debut for Flint would be the derby game!
Their opponents need no introduction as I have often spoken about them on this blogsite. 2015 has been a historic year for Holywell Town with Wellmen fans experiencing a treble winning season last season, and seeing the best performances from a Holywell side in about 20 years. The momentum from last season had continued into this season as Johnny Haseldin’s side had exceeded all expectations and had taken the Cymru Alliance by storm. Going into the derby game, the Wellmen were situated in 3rd position, just a single point behind Caernarfon and Cefn Druids and were equal top scorers with 38 goals.
Since the home victory over Flint, Holywell had won nine of their eleven league games played, dropping points to just Prestatyn Town and Porthmadog. They would be going into the game having played a league fixture prior to Christmas, and thus not as fresh as their opponents. In their last match, they survived a spirited performance from Conwy, the miserable Flintshire weather (I attended the game and I was completely drenched!), and a smattering of injuries and missing first-teamers to earn themselves an impressive 5-2 victory over the Tangerines on a soggy and heavy Halkyn Road pitch. They were also buoyed by the fact that they would be above their main rivals in the table regardless of the derby result going into 2016.
With both teams in confident mood and playing up their chances going into this festive derby match, it was all geared up to be a cracking match between two of the league’s form sides.
Still feeling the effects of the Christmas food and drink consumption, I decided to avoid the pre-match drinking which my fellow Holywell supporters were enjoying (fantastically taking over the Ship Inn in Flint) and decided to drive to the ground – I had drank enough over the three days of Christmas ha. Accompanying me on this short trip down the A548 would be Damo, and I picked him up on the way down to Flint. He previously joined me on previous Holywell jaunts to Llandudno and Bangor, where the Wellmen had been successful in big cup finals, so hopefully his appearance today would be a good omen for the result of the red & white striped men!
Alas my usual groundhopping accomplice Greg would not be joining us for this match. Despite attending quite a few Holywell games this season and living up in the Cornist part of Flint, thus being the closest grounhop he’ll ever make, he was unavailable for the game. Work commitments meant he had to fly out to Bremen the day before meaning he had to miss the biggest game of the season – devastated! Well I would try and keep him updated through texts as the game progressed.
The journey from The 94th Minute HQ to Flint is only 10 minutes, but despite this short travel time I decided to head off in plenty of time so I could grab a car park space near the ground. Thankfully my decision to travel early proved to be inspired as the free car park located next to Flint’s lifeboat station only had a couple of space available when I arrived! Had I left it even a couple of minutes later, I would have been in trouble looking for a space. Even those there were spaces, they were only the narrow ones available resulting in me scrambling out of the driver’s side of the car and avoiding knocking the adjacent car with the opened door. Rather oddly the car next to mine was occupied by a woman snoozing on the passenger’s seat – clearly the festive period had been too much for some people!
Anyway a quick snap of the nearby Flint Castle was made, and the pair of us made a quick stop-off at Flint’s gatehouse shaped Social Club, which is located next to the car park. The social club building is next to the rugby club’s pitch and separated from the football ground, and is therefore used by supporters of both sporting codes during match days. When we went inside, the place was full of supporters with a large contingents of Holywell fans having made their way from the town’s pubs into the social club for that final pint before game time. We were going to order some drinks but considering the queue for the bar was busy and kick-off time was rapidly approaching, we decided to abandon that idea and just head into the ground.
I always enjoy the walk down from the car park / social club down to Flint’s ground. You get a good view of Flint Rugby Club’s pitch and beyond that, great views of the Dee Estuary and the Wirral Peninsula. Plus it’s that traditional feel of making that journey with your fellow supporters (with both sides’ supporters intermingled walking down the path) with the ground looming on, and the excitement of the upcoming game rising inside of you. You can’t beat that feeling!
Anyway entrance to Cae-y-Castell was the standard Cymru Alliance price of £5, with the accompanying programme costing an additional £1.50. Seriously Flint’s programme is a cracker, and massive credit must go to programme editor Graham George for the information it has in it. Not only does it have the usual information on both team’s players, it had match reports on previous Flint games this season and articles of previous derby matches between the two teams (and a match between the defunct Bagillt Hotspurs) from history. I did particularly enjoy the table shown from 1953-54 season showing Holywell Town on top. However in that season, the match between the two teams, which was played on the 19th December 1953 at Halkyn Road, resulted in a 2-1 win for the Silkmen. I was hoping that result wouldn’t happen again today ha!
I won’t go into describing the Cae-y-Castell ground, as I made some reference to the layout in my previous Flint blog from last season. Anyway going through the turnstiles and the ground was already looking fairly busy, with the main stand looking especially full and many supporters already standing around the pitch. Whilst we waited for the other Holywell fans to appear in the ground, I queued up for some food and drink from the snack bar. On this visit, I decided to purchase a bacon bap and a hot cup of black coffee for a combined price of £3. The coffee was a welcome purchase as I needed warming up from the cold breezes cascading across the ground, especially as I had left my hat and gloves in the car = a schoolboy error!!
As I was busy wolfing down the delicious bacon bap and warming my now frozen hands on the polystyrene cup, the rest of the “Holywell Ultras” had arrived, complete with Holywell-Treffynnon flag (which will probably be seen in France later on in 2016). We followed them and stood behind the Flint-side goal which the visiting side would be attacking towards in the first half.
The players arrived onto the field with Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds theme blaring over the PA and whipping up the anticipation for the match. Both sets of teams received a loud cheer as they ran onto the pitch, and the ground was filling up quite nicely prior to kick off. The attendance for this game would be an amazing 740 supporters, which is incredible for second-tier Welsh football. However I must say that the vast majority of supporters in the ground were emblazoned with red and white paraphernalia, which indicated to me that the Holywell fans had once again come out in force! There were a good Flint contingent situated in the stands, but I would say Holywell fans outnumbered Flint supporters possibly in a 60%-40% split, if not more.
In addition to the supporters of both teams arriving at the ground, the TNS management team of Craig Harrison and Scott Ruscoe had made the trip to Flintshire to see the big derby game, and perhaps do some cheeky scouting on the side (who knows…). Anyway it was good to see the pair of them at the ground, and gave me some pride that the two clubs had attracted some attention from the football community outside of the two towns.
Conditions for the game wouldn’t be brilliant with gloomy, overcast conditions and cold breezes being the order of the day. The pitch would also be heavy due to the unsurprising amount of rain the area had been subjected to over the festive period. Also it was nice to see both teams play in their traditional strips for the game (a rare sight due to FIFA/UEFA rules about ‘light’ and ‘dark’ kits nowadays). Flint were in their black & white striped shirts, with black shorts and socks, whilst Holywell wore their home kit of red & white striped shirts, with red shorts and socks.
Flint’s line-up had a number of changes with captain Craig Jones and striker Simon Thirwell both being suspended, whilst Barbadian international striker Neil Harvey and the club’s top scorer Kyle Smyth being unavailable. Due to the problems in forward selection, Aden Shannon would be starting the game upfront whilst giving debuts to two new signings. Former Rhyl forward Phil Clarke would be making his first start for the Silkmen, and he would be partnered by former Flint player Shaun Beck, who had returned to his home club from Welsh Alliance team Greenfield on a short-term deal. Defensive midfielder Steve Cunningham, a signing from Shannon’s former club Conwy, would also earning his first Flint start and added steel to the Flint midfield.
Holywell would be without Paul Williams and Ryan Davidson who had suffered injuries, whilst Ross Ankers was unavailable due to work commitments. However it would see the return of “The Beast” Steve Lewis after he was unavailable against Conwy in the previous game. The Wellmen’s top scorer, and league’s joint top scorer with 11 goals, slotted back into the team at the expense of Conor Littler. The young forward can consider himself unlucky after scoring an impressive hat-trick against Conwy prior to the Christmas period. Brady McGilloway would make another start on the wing, with the local youngster continually impressing Wellmen and rival supporters with some fine performances in midfield, since he was promoted into the first team. Fellow player-manager Johnny Haseldin would put himself on the substitutes’ bench.
MATCH ACTION – FIRST HALF
As mentioned previously, the pitch conditions were not ideal but it was the visiting side who acclimatised to the conditions the quicker and started the brighter of the two teams. It would be the Wellmen who would have the first chance of the game after just two minutes of play. Holywell’s exciting young winger Brady McGilloway made a darting run in midfield and fired a lethal shot from 20 yards out, which only just sailed over the Flint crossbar. Seven minutes after their initial chance and the visiting team had another effort on the home goal. Former Silkman Phil Lloyd fired a low, dangerous cross across the face of goal between the defensive line and goalkeeper. Alas for the Wellmen fans behind the goal, no-one in red and white gambled with a forward run and could connect onto the cross to potentially divert the superb pass into the goal, much to Lloyd’s annoyance.
Having survived their opponents’ early period of dominance, Flint finally attuned to the conditions and were starting to settle down resulting in an increase in ball possession and momentum. On 10 minutes, Flint had their first chance of the match when forward Shaun Beck broke clear of the Holywell defensive line to threaten Mike Platt’s goal. However a combination of last ditch defending from centre-back Dafydd Griffith and the onrushing Platt advancing from his goalline, prevented Beck from attempting an effort on goal and the threat was quenched.
However Beck’s increasing influence upfront would prove successful on the 18th minute when he finally broke the derby deadlock through a nifty Silkman counter-attack. After a Holywell attacking long ball was intercepted by centre-back (and ex-Holywell player) John Davies in his own half and headed forward, the clearance was directed towards Beck’s position in the Holywell penalty box. The Flint native managed to outmuscle his marker in the aerial battle and connected with the forward pass to nod the ball into the Holywell net. His looping header catching out the advancing Platt as it sailed over the visiting keeper’s head and into the back of the goal to give the black and white stripes the early advantage.
Flint Town United 1 – 0 Holywell Town
After taking the lead, Flint were on the ascendancy as their opponents looked uncharacteristically out of sorts. Five minutes after taking the lead, and full of confidence, they almost fashioned a second goal from some fantastic passing and movement between the midfield and forward lines. Player-manager Aden Shannon, who was playing upfront for this crucial game, sent a perfectly weighted pass which cut through the Holywell defence and played in debutant Phil Clarke, who had ghosted in from the right wing. Alas for the Silkman manager, his new signing couldn’t capitalise on the chance as his flicked, lobbed effort sailed just wide of the post.
Holywell just couldn’t find a way into the match as sloppy passing and lost possession was rife in the first half, allowing Flint to continually threaten Platt’s goal. As a result of this, the home side had a superb chance to double their advantage through a free kick on the 32nd minute. A Phil Doran free-kick was fired into the crowded penalty box, and the cross managed to fall to the Flint player-manager at 12 yards out. Alas for Shannon, his effort couldn’t find the target as he blazed his chance over the crossbar, and should have done better. Would he be giving himself the “hairdryer treatment” at half-time for that miss?
Holywell had a rare chance towards the end of the half through Paul Williams, but his attempt went harmlessly wide of Ross Dalton’s post as he failed to trouble the former AFC Fylde keeper. At the other end of the pitch, Mike Platt was certainly called into action three minutes from the break as he kept his side in the match. A Shaun Beck nod-down teed up the dangerous goal-scoring midfielder Stewart Carroll just outside the penalty area, and Carroll hit a rocket from 20 yards out. Unfortunately for Carroll, Platt was equal to the effort and produced an excellent diving save to ensure his side would go into the half time break with just the one goal disadvantage.
HALF TIME: FLINT TOWN UNITED 1 – 0 HOLYWELL TOWN
At half time, we both followed the rest of the Holywell supporters and walked around to the other end of the pitch (the River Dee end) to watch the second half action. Thankfully it wouldn’t as cold as the first half due to the surrounding wall blocking the cooling breeze which was coming across the estuary. Nonetheless with gloomy skies above us, the light would soon be fading as the floodlights increasingly lit up the pitch.
Also I have a question for any Flint fans reading this blog, is it possible to purchase a Flint Town United pin badge? There seems to be a portakabin shop next to the main stand but it’s never open, so where do you get them from (if they’re available of course).
Also the chant of the half came from the Holywell fans who chanted “Where’s your famous Polski Sklep?”
MATCH ACTION – SECOND HALF
The second half started how the first half began with Holywell flying out the blocks and determined to equal the game up. However the turning point of the game occurred seven minutes after the restart through the efforts of Phil Lloyd. The forward hit a curling shot from the edge of the penalty box which was looking as if it was sailing into the top left corner of the net. However Ross Dalton produced a world-class fingertip diving save to divert the ball past the post and eliminate the danger. An unbelievable save which kept the status quo, and ensured the game’s momentum wouldn’t swing in Holywell’s favour.
Dalton’s save soon proved to be the defining point of the game as Flint would crucially double their advantage a couple of minutes later – from a potential 1-1 to 2-0 in the space of a short period of time! Stewart Carroll whipped a low cross from the left flank towards Paul McManus, whose goalward strike was successfully blocked by the Holywell defence. However the rebound fell towards debutant Steve Cunningham, who fired a blockbuster from 25 yards out which swerved in flight and zipped past Platt, taking a touch via the right hand post, and settling into the top corner of the goal.
Flint Town United 2 – 0 Holywell Town
The home supporters were on ‘cloud nine’ with a two goal advantage over their fiercest rivals, but on the 65th minute, they would ecstatic as the Silkmen added a third goal for the afternoon. A free kick from the right hand side of the pitch was played towards Shaun Beck in the box, but his headed effort was initially blocked. Being quicker to capitalise on the loose ball, he managed to square the ball into the path of the onrushing John Hill, who rocketed the ball across the goal and into the bottom corner of the net. It would be the killer goal and ensure the three points would be heading to Cae-y-Castell this afternoon.
Flint Town United 3 – 0 Holywell Town
As the third goal went in, many of the Holywell supporters who were standing behind the goal decided enough was enough and left the game early. Not that I blamed them considering Holywell didn’t look like they would find a way back into this match!
However with Flint sitting on a three goal cushion, Holywell started to chase the game even though the match was seemingly lost to their rivals. Substitute Graeme Williams had the best Holywell chance of the afternoon when great play down the left flank allowed Paul Williams to lay the ball to the former Greenfield player who had found space in the box, but his effort hit Ross Dalton’s right hand post and deflected out. Holywell had further chances through a pair of headers from corners through Dafydd Griffith and Steve Lewis. Griffith’s solid downward header was cleared off the line whilst Lewis’ header sailed over the Flint crossbar.
Holywell’s miserable afternoon was summed up through a period of play late on in the match. A sloppy under-hit backpass from John Davies was picked up Steve Lewis, which allowed him to run towards goal in a one-on-one scenario. Ross Dalton quickly accelerated off his line to narrow the angle available to “The Beast” and force him wide. Spotting an opportunity, the keeper dived at the striker’s feet attempting to gather the ball but Lewis tumbled over the goalie and appealed for a penalty. Now where I was standing, it looked as if Dalton might have caught Lewis as he caught him on his trailing hand as the forward was leaping over the keeper.
Myself and the other Holywell supporters who were still in attendance behind the goal thought it would be a penalty for the visitors and perhaps a chance of a consolation goal – something to cheer about anyway. Alas summing up Holywell’s afternoon, the official Mr Andy Harms blew his whistle but did not award a penalty but a free kick to Flint and booking Lewis for simulation. Today was just not going to be Holywell’s day it seemed….
In the last few minutes of the game, Flint pressed the Holywell goal hoping to inflict further misery on their guests and score a fourth goal (something I was praying wouldn’t happen to be honest), but unfortunately for the home side they failed to conjure up another opening. After a few minutes of injury time, Mr Harms blew his whistle for full time to seal a famous victory for Flint and end a miserable afternoon for everyone concerned with Holywell.
FULL TIME: FLINT TOWN UNITED 3 – 0 HOLYWELL TOWN
Considering Flint had not played a game for three weeks, with the player-manager making his managerial debut and with a patched up forward line, it was a fantastic performance against one of the form sides in the league, and against a major rival. The defence was solid all afternoon with Steve Cunningham looking like he could be a shrewd signing for the Silkmen providing that important shield in front of the back four. The midfield worked tirelessly to create chances and frustrate the Holywell midfield all game, whilst the experienced duo of Beck and Shannon upfront rolled back the years and constantly troubled the Wellmen’s defence all afternoon.
All in all, Flint fully deserved their victory as they seemed more fired-up for the game and were clearly the better team for the majority of the match. A perfect start to Aden Shannon’s managerial reign at Cae-y-Castell!
For everything Flint were, Holywell were not. They seemed sluggish, tired and disappointingly not hungry enough for this derby match. Sloppy passing and a lack of urgency in regaining lost possession were the order of the day leaving Steve Lewis isolated upfront and cutting a lone furrow all afternoon. Perhaps the tiredness is no surprise considering the majority of this team has played between 35 to 40 games in 2015, but the performance against their main rivals was not acceptable considering the high standards they have continually set themselves throughout this season. I am sure Johnny Haseldin let them know that after the game!
There were some bright spots for the visitors as they looked sharp in the first 10 minutes of both halves. Brady McGilloway impressed the Holywell faithful once again in the first half with neat runs, and continually shows he has a huge future in Welsh football, whilst last season’s Player of the Year Phil Lloyd once against worked tirelessly upfront trying to create chances against his former team. All in all, it was a bad day at the office for the Wellmen and was not the finish to the year everyone was expecting. However considering the historic year Holywell have experienced and to be positioned in 3rd place in the Cymru Alliance going into 2016, perhaps they can be forgiven off having an “off day” on this occasion…..even if a fair few drinks were required in the evening to forget about this loss….
Not the result I was desperate for but a fair result all the same, so congratulations to Flint for winning the derby game and I wish them all the best for the rest of the season. As always they gave a warm welcome to visiting fans, and the club always seems to be well organised. Hopefully both teams will have great 2016’s respectively and finish in the top half of the table, with Holywell Town finishing higher of course… 😉