Cymru Alliance – 7th May 2016
Ground #68: Mount Field, Llanfair Caereinion, Montgomeryshire, Powys
- Attendance: 101
- Entrance: £4.00
- Programme: £1.00
- Pin Badge: £3.00
- Chocolate Bar: £0.50
- Cup of Coffee: £1.00
The first Saturday of May would be one of last remaining football weekends in the Welsh football schedule. With the Welsh Premier League actual league phase completed, and the Welsh Cup Final being played the previous Bank Holiday Monday (The New Saints completing their second consecutive treble by beating Airbus UK Broughton 2-0 at the Racecourse Ground), it was time for the playoff phase to take place. The four teams of fourth-placed Gap Connah’s Quay, fifth-placed Newtown AFC, sixth-place and beaten cup finalists Airbus UK Broughton and seventh-placed Carmarthen Town would compete in a traditional playoff structure to see who would be joining Bala Town and Llandudno in next season’s qualifying rounds of the Europa League.
Even though a huge amount of media attention being placed on the playoff fixtures, it would also be the final weekend of the Cymru Alliance calendar. This weekend would be one of those weekends when matches that were postponed earlier in the season due to horrific weather would finally be played. Rather curiously, the postponements had resulted in the league to experience a thrilling final weekend as certain issues had not been sorted out. The most important of these issues was whether Cefn Druids could get the point they needed to finish second in the table and gain promotion to the Welsh Premier League. The league champions Caernarfon Town had failed in their bid to earn a license to compete in the WPL due to an error in their application, which meant that Druids (who had successfully gained a WPL licence) just needed to earn one additional point to finish in the top two positions of the league and gain promotion back to the WPL. Should they fail against bottom club Rhayader Town, then there would be no team promoted from the Cymru Alliance this season!
However for this final weekend, I would be avoiding the interesting match at Y Weirglodd and instead travel to a new ground to see a match that was originally postponed in November and again postponed in March. This would be a match I had highlighted as “must see” as the fixtures were announced earlier in the year because of its potential to see a new ground. It would be Holywell Town’s final game of an impressive debut season back in the Cymru Alliance, as they took on fellow ‘newbies’ in Llanfair United at the glorious Mount Field in Llanfair Caereinion. With both sides confirmed in their current league positions regardless of the result of the upcoming match, the intrigue would be taking places elsewhere in other leagues, where certain results in the feeder leagues could have an effect on Llanfair’s position next season…
Llanfair Caereinion is a small market town of about 1,900 inhabitants located eight miles west of Welshpool in northern Powys. Straddling the Afon Banwy (also known as the Afon Einion), a tributary of the River Vyrnwy, the town is one of the smallest towns in the area, yet positioned centrally in the historic county of Montgomeryshire. The town can be accessed by travelling down the main A458 road which runs through the town, along the northern bank of the Banwy, and connects up the main north-to-south roads of the western running A470 road to the eastern located A483 road (at Welshpool).
Llanfair Caereinion can also be accessed by rail from Welshpool, although not through the normal Network Rail lines, but through its 2ft 6in narrow gauge heritage railway line. The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway runs for a distance of 8,5 miles between Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion via Castle Caereinion. The narrow rail line was originally opened in 1903 for passenger and freight transport to give an economic boost to a rural and isolated area of Wales. Eventually the line was only used for freight traffic in 1931 before being closed to all traffic in 1956. However in 1963 a group of volunteers and enthusiasts took over the line and reopened it as a tourist railway. Originally it ran from Llanfair to Castle Caereinion, before the line was extended to the outskirts of Welshpool in 1981.
The town’s name loosely translates into English as “The Parish of [Saint] Mary/Mair’s [by the] Fort of the [River] Einion”. The fort in question was an old Roman fort which was established on the southern bank of the Banwy which probably used to defend a possible fording point of the river, and is the foundations that the town has been built upon. There is reliable evidence a settlement being established in the area since the early 13th century as the town appears in a church document from 1239 when Bishop Hywel of St. Asaph granted the tithes of Llanfair to the Cistercian nunnery of Llanllugan. Although the town is first mentioned in further documents as Llanveyr in 1254, and as Llanveyr in Kereynon in 1281/2.
However the town grew around the Church of St. Mary’s, which has always been considered the heart of the town. The church occupies a low spur just above the river, and the settlement has grown around this by spreading into the valley of a stream that flows into the Banwy on the southern bank, and in recent times up the steep hillsides that fringe both sides of the Banwy. There are records of their being a church dedicated to Saint Mary/Santes Mair in the town from 1190, during the period when Powys was still an independent Welsh principality and ruled by the Prince of Powys, Gwenwynwyn. Even though the church was rebuilt in 1868, it continues to retain its 15th century roof timbers, a fine south doorway and baptismal font from the early 13th century.
Llanfair Caereinion was also the location of a battle which took place in the late 13th century between Marcher English forces and rebelling Welsh forces led by Madog ap Llewelyn. The Battle of Maes Maidog took place on the 5th March 1295, when Marcher English forces (lead by the Earl of Warwick, William de Beauchamp) undertook a night march from their camp at Welshpool to surround and surprise Madog’s army, who were camping in the Banwy Valley. Even though the Welsh army was surrounded, and took heavy losses from Warwick’s innovative deployment of archers and crossbowmen, Madog’s forces successfully repelled an English cavalry attack and even managed to break the encirclement and retreat across the swollen Banwy (where many more men drowned attempting to cross). A further smaller engagement at an uncertain location described as ‘Thesseweit’ resulted in Madog losing his supply train which forced him to go into hiding before he was captured in late July.
The Battle of Maes Maidog/Moydog is considered a crucial English victory in eventually breaking the Welsh resistance during the revolt against the English. During the two engagements, the Duke of Warwick’s losses totalled around one hundred dead, whilst the Welsh losses were calculated to be seven times heavier.
Llanfair Caereinion began to become a prominent market town within Montgomeryshire in the early 18th century under the reign of Queen Anne, when weekly markets were established within the town. Its geographic position in the centre of the historic county, together with poor transport links beyond the county ensured it prospered as a market town. However this success was fiercely opposed by other towns within Montgomeryshire, especially Llanfyllin and Welshpool. This was because Llanfair had not received a Royal Charter (like the other towns mentioned) and could not be considered a borough town, and thus could not legally hold a market or fair. Despite this situation, the Llanfair markets had strong support from Lord Powys, and continued to prosper and expand as a result.
In addition to the weekly markets and monthly fairs held in the town, the town became an important commercial and social centre in the Victorian period. Numerous businesses were established in the town to serve the local farmers, as well many guest houses which served locally brewed ales in the taverns. Llanfair had a thriving brewing and maltsters industry during this period, using locally grown barley to produce and supply ales and beers to both the town’s alehouses and the upland areas of Montgomeryshire and Merionethshire. Despite its importance within the county, poor communication links and being ‘tucked away from the main transport routes’ ensured Llanfair received little or no attention as a tourist attraction.
However it could have been completely different for Llanfair had Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s plan for the required mail route between London and Ireland been adopted in 1845. Brunel proposed a train line from London, through Worcester and Ludlow, to Porthdinllaen from where a ferry would cross the Irish Sea to Ireland. His plan would have included building a tunnel from Berriew to Llanfair, and then a 28 metre high viaduct which would have spanned the Banwy Valley at Llanfair. Ultimately Brunel’s plan was rejected in favour of Stephenson’s proposed London to Holyhead route instead, which is still in use today.
Today Llanfair’s population has decreased from its peak in the mid-Victorian period (2,747 at the time of the 1841 Census) and has become a commuter town for people working in Welshpool or Newtown. Despite this, the town has tried to promote itself as an idyllic, quaint and traditional mid-Wales rural town to encourage tourists to visit the area and explore the picturesque Banwy Valley. In addition to the tourist railway and ‘picture book feel’ of the place, there is also an arboretum on the banks of the Banwy to encourage tourists to enjoy the different species of British trees which are growing there. This is another idyllic place for tourists to wander amongst the trees whilst enjoying the sound of the nearby river flowing past beside them.
Llanfair Caereinion has also continued its tradition of holding fairs by establishing a Carnival. Locals can promote their local pride by producing a full parade of floats and dancing troupes which proceeds through the town. In addition to the carnival, the Llanfair Show is also a cherished event amongst the local populace, as the one day show promotes both the town and also the local area to visitors and alike.
There are records of football first being played in Llanfair Caereinion way back in 1896, when a Llanfair Caereinion-based football club had initially played nine friendly games, winning five of them and drawing two others. However it wasn’t until the September 23rd 1896 when Llanfair Caereinion Football Club was formally established within the town, with the aim of playing league football. Despite the initial determination to play league football, Llanfair Caereinion FC only played friendly games for the next nine years [which included a 13-0 win against Welshpool Excelsiors in February 1897] and it wasn’t until the 18th November 1905 when they played their first recorded league game – a Welshpool and District league game against Powis Castle which they subsequently won.
Llanfair Caereinion achieved some minor success prior to the Second World War when they strongly challenged for the Montgomeryshire League title. In the 1936-37 season they just missed out on the title after losing in a title-deciding playoff against Caersws, and were again denied by the Bluebirds in the following season when Llanfair finished as league runners-up.
After the Second World War had halted their ambitions, Llanfair Caereinion were resurrected in the post-war period of the late 1940s, were they continued their pre-war form and improved upon it. They wouldn’t wait long for success when in the 1946-47 season, they won their inaugural league title by claiming the Montgomeryshire Amateur League. They successfully defended their league title the season after, and finished runners-up in the 1948-49 season. It was during this period when one of their best players, Trefor Owen, turned out for Llanfair. He would captain the Welsh Youth team whilst at Llanfair Caereinion, eventually earning 18 amateur international caps and going on to play for Leyton Orient in the Football League.
It would seem the successful spell would continue into the 1950s when they won the Montgomeryshire Amateur League Cup in the 1949-50 campaign. However the next two decades would become frustrating for Llanfair as they became the ‘nearly men’ of the league. They would finish in the runners-up position on three occasions, in the 1950-51, 1953-54 and 1962-63 seasons without ever claiming the league title. They would also compete in their first Welsh Cup campaign in the 1952-53 competition, but were quickly dumped out of the cup by local powerhouses Newtown 0-6.
After the malaise of the previous two decades, the fortunes of Llanfair Caereinion FC would finally improve in the 1970s and 1980s to provide the team with arguably their most successful period in their history. By winning the 1971-72 Montgomeryshire Amateur League Cup (their first trophy in 22 years) it proved to be a catalyst for additional improvement. The following season they completed a historic treble by winning the Montgomeryshire Amateur League (their first league title in 25 years), the League Cup again and the Montgomeryshire Village Cup.
They would subsequently win the league on another five times during the 70s and 80s, including two occasions when they successfully defended the league title and winning them back-to-back, thus emulating the great Llanfair team of the 1940s. By the end of the 1980s, Llanfair Caereinion’s league haul had risen to a total of 8 Montgomeryshire League titles, with 4 league titles coming in 5 years in the late 80s. In addition to league success, Llanfair Caereinion would also be successful in cup competitions, achieving three J, Emrys Morgan Cup victories in 1978, 1984 and 1986.
The 1990’s would provide a split in the football loyalties for supporters in Llanfair Caereinion as Llanfair Wanderers were founded in the 1989-90 season. The aim of the new club was to provide another opportunity for the town’s youngsters to play Amateur League football. In only their second season, Wanderers gained promotion to the Montgomeryshire Amateur League Division 1 resulting in them playing in the same league as their more established cross-town rivals. Caereinion FC continued to be a strong force in the league, finishing runners-up in three consecutive seasons between 1991 and 1993, however their real success came in the cup competitions during the early 90’s. They achieved a Montgomeryshire Town Cup win in 1990, and achieved a cup double in 1991 when they claimed the Amateur League Cup and a record fourth J. Emrys Morgan Cup.
1993 would prove to be the then zenith of football in Llanfair Caereinion as both Llanfair sides, Caereinion FC and Wanderers, reached the final of the Montgomeryshire Town Cup final. On that historic day, the senior Caereinion team became victorious winning the trophy with a 3-0 scoreline. Alas the fortunes of both teams would diminish as the decade progressed resulting in a barren period for both Llanfair teams. Wanderers were relegated back to Division 2 in 1996, whilst Caereinion suffered the indignity of finishing bottom of Division 1 in the 1997-98 season with just 9 points, although somehow avoiding relegation to Division 2.
At the start of the new millennium it was decided that it would be beneficial for both Llanfair teams to pool their resources together if they were to regain past fortunes. Therefore in the 2001-02 season, Llanfair Caereinion and Llanfair Wanderers merged to become the current single team of ‘Llanfair United FC’. The decision would initially be an inspired one as the first season playing under the “United” moniker, they finished a respectable 3rd position and won the Town Cup for the 3rd time in the town’s history. In 2004, a reserves side was created to allow the local youngsters to experience senior football before being promoted into the first team, thus eliminating the risk of another Llanfair team being created.
After playing in the Montgomeryshire Leagues for nine seasons, the club decided to join the newly formed Mid Wales League Division 2, thus returning back to the Mid Wales League after a 31 year hiatus. In their first season back in the Mid Wales League system, they finished a respectable 6th place. The following season they would improve on their debut season in Division 2 by establishing a promotion charge towards Division 1. They would consequently miss out on promotion by a single point, but could console themselves with the more than generous consolation prize of the Division 2 League Cup.
However their wait for promotion to Division 1 would not be a long one as they finally achieved their goal in the 2012-13 season by claiming the Division 2 title, as well as retaining the Division 2 League Cup (beating CPD Machynlleth after extra time). During this promotion-claiming season, Llanfair United continued to expand their football footprint in the community when they formed a Ladies team for the first time in their history. They were previously known as Meifod Ladies before switching towns to come under the Llanfair United footballing umbrella. During this season, they also re-established a youth team to bring through the next generation of first team players.
The previous two seasons have been especially successful for Llanfair football as a whole with the 2013-14 season going down as the quintuple winning season for the club. The first team won the Central Wales Cup, defeating Berriew 2-0 at a packed Latham Park (home of Newtown AFC), the reserves claimed the Montgomeryshire Amateur League title (continuing with the Llanfair Caereinion FC legacy), the ladies team claimed a North Powys Ladies League and Cup double and finally the youth team captured the Mid-Wales Youth League trophy.
Last season proved to be the most historic in the history of football in Llanfair Caereinion when Llanfair United were crowned 2014-15 Mid Wales League champions for the first time in their history. United won their first title by a winning margin of nine points from the runners-up Penrhyncoch, losing just three games and scoring over a hundred goals. This meant they gained promotion to the Cymru Alliance and would head into the unchartered territory of second-tier football for the 2015-16 season. They achieved another first during the season when they captured their inaugural Montgomeryshire Cup, beating Carno 2-0 in the final to achieve another double winning season.
Alas this season has been tough for Llanfair United in their debut season in Welsh football’s second tier. They would be heading into this match deep in the relegation places and in horrendous form. As mentioned previously, they would be confirmed in 15th position regardless of any result after being situated six points clear of bottom club Rhayader Town and five points adrift of fellow Powys-based team 14th placed team Caersws (it’s not been a great season for Mid-Wales clubs!). With only one game remaining in the season, Llanfair had achieved just seven wins and curiously no draws, earning 21 points from their inaugural season in the Cymru Alliance. Their position is also confirmed by the number of goals scored and conceded, having the second worst in the league behind Rhayader, scoring just the 35 goals but conceding 69 goals.
Llanfair United last five league results prior to this game:
- Sat 16th April: Caernarfon Town (H) 0-3
- Wed 20th April: Holywell Town (A) 1-2
- Sat 23rd April: Caernarfon Town (A) 1-6
- Wed 27th April: Conwy Borough (H) 0-1
- Sat 30th April: Flint Town United (A) 1-2
Their recent form has not been great with the club currently on a seven game losing streak having lost all their fixtures played in April, resulting in the club slumping into the bottom three relegation spots. Their last points came when they beat Prestatyn Town 2-1 in the final weekend of March at Mount Field, when Iain Edmunds and James Davies got the goals to earn them the three points. In their previous home match, they just lost by a single goal when Ross Rule’s second-minute strike was enough for Conwy Borough to grab the victory. In their previous league fixture, two goals from Kyle Smith earned the under-performing Flint Town United a 2-1 victory at Cae-y-Castell, with Andrew Hughes’ headed goal being the highlight for the visiting Llanfair United team.
Relegation from the Cymru Alliance was a possibility for Llanfair United this season but not a certain guarantee despite finishing in the relegation zone. For Llanfair to stay within the Cymru Alliance, a number of situations would need to occur which would see them safe for the 2016-17 season. Firstly Cefn Druids would need to find a point against Rhayader Town to gain promotion to the Welsh Premier League. With no northern team getting relegated from the WPL, it would mean only two teams would be relegated this season with three teams getting promoted from the feeder leagues to balance the league back to 16 teams.
Secondly they would hope that one of the feeder leagues are not able to promote anyone due to clubs not having a license to compete in the Cymru Alliance next season. Their best chance would in the Welsh Alliance League as only one team from the league, Llangefni Town, had received a license to play in the Cymru Alliance. Should Cefni finish in the top two positions of the WA Division 1 table, they would gain promotion. However the Anglesey-based side were situated in third position and in real trouble of missing out on the top spots, with fellow islander side Trearddur Bay United and Llandudno Junction above them in the table.
Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division champions, FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay, had also been initially rejected due to their Wepre Park ground not being to the correct standard. However at the time of this game, FC Nomads had lodged an appeal with the Football Association of Wales and asked for promotion after they had agreed a one year ground-share deal with Airbus UK Broughton to allow them to play CA football for the time being whilst their ground was brought up to standard. Therefore Llanfair would know they would be guaranteed Cymru Alliance football next season if Llangefni finished third in the Welsh Alliance Division 1 table.
It would only be 17 days between this upcoming game and the previous fixture between Llanfair United and Holywell Town in the Cymru Alliance. On a cool Wednesday night, under the floodlights of Halkyn Road, the home side would claim the win in a 2-1 scoreline. Llanfair had taken the lead through James Davies, but second half goals from Phil Lloyd and Connor Littler allowed the Wellmen to earn a welcome home victory.
Holywell Town’s past five league results prior to this fixture:
- Wed 20th April: Llanfair United (H) 2-1
- Sat 23rd April: Caersws (H) 0-2
- Wed 27th April: Porthmadog (H) 1-1
- Sat 30th April: Guilsfield (A) 0-3
- Mon 2nd May: Caernarfon Town (A) 0-3
Even though Llanfair’s form was horrendous, Holywell Town’s form was not much better during in the same time period, having only achieved the win against Llanfair in their past seven league games. Goal scoring was clearly a problem for the Wellmen having only scored one goal (Tom Rowlands’ sole strike against Porthmadog) in the past four fixtures but conceding nine goals in the process. The previous two league games resulted in comprehensive 0-3 defeats for Holywell, losing to both fourth-placed side Guilsfield and champions Caernarfon Town away from home. Very surprising for a club who has had the second best defence in the league for a majority of the season.
Despite this end-of-season plummet in form, Holywell Town would be achieving their highest league position in 18 years by being confirmed in 5th position (their highest league finish since they finished as runners-up in the Cymru Alliance). They would also have the second-highest average attendance in the league, with an average of 211 people from the 15 home matches played (just two less than fellow Flintshire team Gap Connah’s Quay’s WPL league average this season). An excellent position for the newly promoted club and confirmed the Wellmen as the highest placed Flintshire team in the Cymru Alliance league. Plus a league finish above Flint Town United is always a glorious sight for any Wellman supporter!
It’s just a shame that they suffered that slump towards the back end of the schedule (as well as losing key individuals to either transfer or injury) as fourth place and potentially an even higher position could well have been achieved by the Wellmen! Regardless, the players, management and supporters can be very proud on what has been a brilliant season for the Halkyn Road-based side.
MOUNT FIELD GROUNDHOP
The 62 mile journey down to Llanfair Caereinion from 94th Minute HQ would take about 1 hour and 20 minutes in the car, and thankfully traffic on both the A55 Expressway and A483 were relatively clear. A very welcome sight considering the warm weather often brings out the slow moving caravans or travel-homes of the tourists venturing into North Wales for a weekend. As always, I would be making a slight detour to Flint to pick up my groundhopping sidekick Greg. I would be driving this journey as Greg had driven to Wrexham for the Welsh Cup Final in the previous Monday, plus he had driven down to Rhayader Town earlier in the season [the Rhayader Town groundhopping blog can be found here].
On the route down, we travelled through the important footballing village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain. For those of you aware of Welsh football, you’ll know the significance of this northern Powys village. However if you’re not, the village is origin to the roots of The New Saints, the current dominant force of Welsh football. Originating from this village in the form of their previous guise of Llansantffraid FC, before becoming TNS Llansantffraid and then Total Network Soulutions FC, they won numerous leagues title and cups before merging with Oswestry Town and moving to their current home of Park Hall [more information on TNS can be found here].
This is a village I have wanted to visit for a while and was planning a groundhop trip to see the most recent village team of Llansantffraid Village play prior to this season commencing. Unfortunately Llansantffraid Village would disband before the start of the 2015-16 season meaning this village was again unrepresented in Welsh football. Hopefully another club is resurrected to play at Treflan, allowing me to finally tick off Llansantffraid. Alas my current journey would ensure this current Llansantffraid visit would be brief as I drove through the village before heading south towards the Banwy valley.
Ten minutes further down the road and the town of Llanfair Caereinion appeared into view, with the historic railway station being the first landmark coming into view on the left hand side. In addition we would get glimpses of the River Banwy flowing down the valley, looking very pleasant in the early May sunshine. The drive would take us over the river using the narrow bridge spanning the Banwy and up the small high street of the town. Alas we never got the chance to have a look in the high street but it looked like your typical mid-Welsh town which I am very fond of. Maybe next time I revisit Llanfair Caereinion, I will be able to have a good scout out of the town. If there’s anywhere I should visit in the town, let me know! It was also impressive to see the famous church of St Mary looming over the town, with the ecclesiastical structure being much bigger than I expected.
Mount Field is located on the southern side of the River Banwy, situated back up the valley on a lofty plateau overlooking the town. Therefore we drove through the high street, taking a left turn up the hill and past a number of appetising pubs such as the Red Lion and the Black Lion (ideal watering holes for the groundhopper who decides to make a day of it – a wise decision on a warm spring day!). As you head up the steep hill, the entrance to the ground car park will be on the left hand side of the road if you approach from the high street. Note there are two entrances going into the ground – the first for supporters, with the second turning just for players and club officials.
Greg and I arrived at the ground just before 2pm, with the conditions absolutely glorious for early May in mid Wales. An unseasonal spring heatwave had ensured temperatures were lifted into the mid-20s degrees centigrade, and there were barely any clouds in the sky ensuring an almost Mediterranean feel to today’s game – welcome to the Costa del Banwy!
At the entrance to the car park, a couple of stewards were welcoming all supporters into the ground. Entrance to the ground cost just four pounds, which is a good pound less than a number of teams in the Cymru Alliance. The car park is right next to the pitch and when we arrived there was plenty of space so I decided to park the car right next to the Holywell coach which was also parked up. Parking next to the coach it was hoped, in my logic, that it would avoid any stray balls hitting the car with the coach taking the brunt (if any) rogue passes. Always thinking folks…..
With the car parked up and hopefully guarded by the coach, we walked around the pitch and headed towards the snack bar and main stand on the opposite side of the pitch. The guys in the car park had said that pin badges were available from the food kiosk, so that would be our first port of call. From the snack bar, I bought a cup of black coffee for the standard price of one pound and a Crunchie bar for just 50p (with Greg annoying taking the only Mint Aero available beforehand ha), whilst adding to the pin badge collection by buying a Llanfair United badge for three pounds. A welcome addition to the rapidly increasing trove of metal football crests. It is worth noting there was no hot food available for the game, so just be aware if you’re looking forward to the traditional pre-match burger/hotdog/pie.
Alas the complimentary programme was not available at the snack bar but could have been bought from the guys back at the car park entrance, something which I had completely forgot about asking them about. In all fairness, the guy running the snack bar (and would be the PA announcer for the match) said he would get a programme for me at half time if I wasn’t able to acquire one from either gate entrance. With the aim of getting a programme at half time and with food, drink and pin badge safely in hand, we decided to sit up in the elevated main stand for the first half action. The majority of Holywell supporters, who had come down on the coach, decided to stand by the snack bar at ground level but we thought the stand would provide a better view of the game – a very wise decision it was too!
As mentioned previously, the field itself is on a plateau on a steep hill in the Banwy valley and overlooks the town and river below. Extensive work has been done on the ground over the recent years to ensure it fulfills league criteria as they have ascended up the leagues. Considerable work has been done in cutting into the hillside to provide enough space to lay down a concrete path along the edge of the pitch, as well as position the snack bar beside the pitch allowing easy access for all supporters. The changing room complex, along with the public toilets is located at the top of the slope and can be accessed by a number of ramps or paths from pitch level. Even though the ground doesn’t have any floodlights (like many grounds of new teams in the Cymru Alliance), it does have permanent dugouts as well as permanent barriers separating the standing zone from the playing area. However the real gem of the ground is the sole main stand itself, which is built onto the slope of the hill.
The main stand, or ‘The Ivor Owen Stand’ to address the stand by its proper name, is a covered stand which has about 50 seats in total, spread over two levels, with space for another 50 people standing behind the seats on a higher terrace. It can be accessed from pitch side or the top of the slope and provides an elevated view of the pitch and an absolutely glorious view of the town and valley below should the weather conditions be ideal. Seriously the landscape which can be viewed from the stand is amazing, and with near perfect conditions we were experiencing for the match, the landscape beyond was simply breath-taking!
As we sat down in preparation for the match, both teams descended from the top of the slope and walked through the middle of the stand before making their way out onto the pitch. Quite a unique entrance for the league with teams having to make their way through the crowd of supporters before the game commences. I can imagine it would be a tad awkward if the supporters were a little upset towards your team, or your performance during the game was not to their liking, or simply if you were the referee! Yet another feature of why I was really starting to enjoy Mount Field as a football amphitheatre!
Llanfair United would be playing in their home kit of navy blue shirt with wide white hoop across the top of the shirt, with navy blue shorts and socks. The ever present Hugheses, Alun and Andrew would be making their appearance in the team selection, with Alun making his 41st appearance of the season whilst Andrew was making his 37th appearance in Llanfair colours. In contrast, Holywell Town were playing in their traditional kit of the red & white striped shirt, with red shorts and red socks. There would be two changes for Holywell’s team selection from the away defeat to Caernarfon on the Bank Holiday fixture. Josh Maldon swapped with Brady McGilloway in midfield as the youngster drops to the bench, whilst player-manager Johnny Haseldin starts his first match in three years by taking the place of the missing Dafydd Griffith in the centre of defence.
At this point I would have liked to have written a longer match report but unfortunately all the notes on the match I typed on my phone, as well as a large number of pictures taken during the game, got corrupted somehow when my phone crashed = complete nightmare!
Llanfair would start the brighter of the two teams when they had a couple of half chances which would test the Holywell defence. Despite this it would be Holywell who would take the lead in the middle of the first half, when a great ball over the home defence allowed Phil Lloyd to break clear. Finding space on the right of the box after a flick on by Connor Littler, he put the ball beyond the home keeper on his inside post to allow the Wellmen to take the lead on the 28th minute of the game. They almost doubled their lead a few minutes after taking the lead, but a Matt Spencer goal line clearance ensured a second goal was not conceded for the home side.
Llanfair would almost score an equaliser late in the first half through Joe Vaughan. The midfielder came extremely close to finding the net from a superb cross, which brought out a world-class stretching diving save from Mike Platt who kept the ball from hitting the corner of the net. Holywell would continue to threaten the home defence with a few half chances from their forwards Connor Littler and Phil Lloyd, but would go into the break with just a single goal advantage.
During the half time interval, I was able to purchase a match programme from the helpers manning the top gate entrance, who thankfully still had some spare programmes remaining in their possession. The match programme cost just £1 and is decent value being a well-produced programme that provides plenty of information and statistics of both teams, including a brief history of their visitors this afternoon.
The second half would prove to be a lot different as the visiting side were certainly the team in the ascendancy as they had a majority of the ball possession. Nullifying the long passing tactic used by Holywell in the first half and isolating their two strikers, especially target man Connor Littler, they continually won the second ball and threatened the Wellmen’s defence on a number of occasions. The midfield duo of Andrew Hughes and Iain Edmunds constantly offering the hosts’ most significant threats on goal. However it would be through a headed chance that would give Llanfair the best opportunity to break the Holywell defensive line. Daniel Jones’s firm connection beat Platt in the Holywell goal but could not evade the woodwork as Jones’ effort rebounded back off the crossbar.
Holywell pressed the tiring Llanfair team towards the final five to ten minutes of the match as they looked to find a second goal which would end the contest. Alas they failed to convert any of their good chances and the game naturally petered out in the glorious Powys sunshine to ensure Holywell would end their debut season back in the Cymru Alliance with a 1-0 away victory over an impressively resolute and hard pressing Llanfair side.
FULL TIME: LLANFAIR UNITED 0 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN
With the league campaign finally completed for both teams, it was good to see that both sets of players were warmly applauded by all supporters as they climbed up the steps of the stand and returned back to the changing rooms at the top of the slope. After a long season, it would heart-warming to see their efforts applauded by all sets of fans. It would be great news for everyone involved with Llanfair United also as we would also subsequently find out that Llandudno Junction had claimed second position in the Welsh Alliance Division 1 table. This ensured that Llangefni Town would be unable to achieve promotion from the Welsh Alliance feeder league this season and thus confirmed Llanfair’s safety in the Cymru Alliance! Now there’s a happy ending if there ever was one! It would ensure that the Llanfair United end of season awards ceremony, which would be taking part that evening, would be a decent one with plenty of drinks consumed no doubt!
With spirits high in both camps, Llanfair having confirmed their survival for another season and Holywell achieving their highest league position in nearly 20 years, it was a great end to an incredible groundhopping season. Although overall the game wasn’t the best I have seen this season and your typical end-of-season game with nothing riding on it, the ground itself was an absolute cracker and a well-worthy venue to end my 2015-16 season of groundhops. The view in the stands provides a superb view of the whole pitch but the panoramic view of the Banwy Valley was the huge plus point – exceptional! Plus the welcome we received from everyone at Llanfair was very warm and welcoming, so a huge thank you to everyone at Llanfair for that.
With three final points added to this season’s total, we left Mount Field very pleased as Holywell finished off the season in 5th position with a grand total of 52 points. A season that has far outperformed all pre-season predictions and continues the relentless rise of the club up the league system. The 90 minute drive back to 94th Minute HQ was a very happy and glorious one, with many drinks consumed the following evening to end yet another superb groundhopping season.
I am glad that Llanfair United managed to maintain their position in the Cymru Alliance as they come across as a decent and well-ran club who are steadily improving on and off the pitch, and doing things the right way. I would highly recommend a visit to Mount Field for the warm welcome and the stunning views from the main stand. If you like your picturesque landscapes, you’ll love this ground! Plus next time, I will endeavour to explore the town a lot more also especially the town’s pubs!
A huge thank you to Llanfair United for all their help with this blog and wish them all the very best next season in the Cymru Alliance!