Date of Visit: 11th March 2017
Competition: Mid Wales League Division One
Ground Number: 81
- Distance Travelled: 56,0 miles
- Travel Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Club Name: Welshpool Town Football Club
- Ground: Maes-y-Dre Recreation Ground, Welshpool, Powys SY21 7AT
- Club Nicknames: Lilywhites
- Club Colours: White shirts with black shoulders, black shorts & white socks
- League Position: Mid Wales League Division 1 – 14th [10/03/2017]
DIRECTIONS & CAR PARKING
From Welshpool Town Centre / A458:
Continue down the High Street towards the train station, before going straight through the crossroads and onto the B4381 road. Continue on the B4381 road, heading over the canal bridge and passing the fire station (on the right) and the council offices (on the left). When the green road sign is visible, there should be a right-hand junction right next to the road sign. Turn right onto Howell Road, and the football ground will be at the end of the road on the right hand side.
From Welshpool Train Station:
From the train station, walk onto the footbridge and head towards the Old Station by crossing over the A483 road on the footbridge. Once off the footbridge, a roundabout should appear in front of your position. Take the right hand junction of the roundabout, heading down Severn Road, before turning down the first left-hand junction onto Howell Road. A direction sign stating “Maesydre” and pointing in the left direction should appear before the junction. Head down to the very end of Howell Road, passing the Youth Centre on the right-hand side, before the football ground appears just after the Youth Centre on the right side.
Car Parking Information:
There is a medium sized car park, with spaces for about 30-40 cars, located after the youth centre and behind the main stand.
Club Established/Founded: 1878
- 1 x Cymru Alliance Winners
- 7 x Mid Wales League Division 1 Winners
- 4 x Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Winners
- 4 x FAW Trophy Winners
- 5 x Central Wales FA Cup Winners
- 2 x Cymru Alliance League Cup Winners
- 5 x Mid Wales League Cup Winners
- Founding Members of the Cymru Alliance
- 3 x Welsh Cup Semi-Finalists
Highest League Finish: Welsh Premier League – 4th [2006-07]
- Mid Wales League Division 1 – 8th
- Welsh Cup – Qualifying Round 2
- Mid Wales League Cup – Round 2
With Welshpool being in close proximity to the traditional Welsh football heartland of North-East Wales (where the FAW was founded in 1876 in Wrexham), and England’s West Midlands (where a quarter of the Football League’s founding members originated from) it is unsurprising that Welshpool was one of the first towns in Wales where football spread to during the pioneering days of the game.
In 1877 a football match was organised at Welshpool between a Welshpool town select XI and Newtown’s second XI, which ultimately ended in a scoreless draw. It would be this initial game that provided the enthusiasm and foundation for football to be finally established in Welshpool in the following year, with the creation of Welshpool Town Football Club in 1878. The first game of the new club would be a replay of the previous year’s fixture, and it would be a promising start for the upstarts by beating their more established local rivals by two goals to one at Newtown’s ground.
For the first ten years of its existence, the Welshpool club changed its name a couple of times. Firstly it was known as ‘Welshpool Wanderers’ before changing to ‘Welshpool Warriors’, although the latter club may well have been a separate club at the time. However during this period, the town would first appear in the Welsh Cup by competing in the 1884-85 competition. Alas their inaugural appearance in the national cup competition went badly as they were easily dispatched by the defending Welsh Cup champions, Oswestry White Stars, who beat Welshpool 0-8, on their way back to the Welsh Cup final.
Welshpool AFC was re-established in 1889 where they played at the Foundry Field (playing one season as Welshpool United), before moving to their current location of the Recreation Ground in 1895. The club entered the Shropshire League in 1897-98, where they played for a brief period before eventually moving to the Anglo-Welsh Combination League in 1907. Welshpool played in The Combination for two seasons before excessive travel costs forced them to resign from the league in 1909.
After the First World War, Welshpool returned to the Central Wales leagues where they competed for a number of years before winning the Central Section title in 1921. They would eventually gain promotion to the Welsh League Division 1 (North) at the end of the 1924-25 season after they finished as runners-up to league champions Llanidloes Town. They would compete in Division 1 (North) for four seasons, without any substantial success or honours before being relegated back to mid-Welsh football at the end of the 1928-29 season.
Once league football resumed after the Second World War, Welshpool spent the first two seasons competing in the Mid Wales League, before they moved to the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) in the 1949-50 season. The sixteen year period in the Wrexham League pyramid proved to be successful for Welshpool as they were crowned league champions on four separate occasions. They would win the 1954-55, 1956-57, 1961-62 and 1964-65 Welsh National League titles before they returned back to the Mid Wales League structure, a season after their fourth WNL title triumph, in the 1965-66 season.
More accomplishments would appear Welshpool Town into the Mid Wales League structure as the period of sustained success was continued for the Lilywhites. They would win seven MWL championships between 1968 and 1980, as well as claiming the League Cup on five occasions and winning the Central Wales FA Cup five times. Welshpool would also claim their first national trophy when they won the 1971-72 Welsh Amateur Cup (now the FAW Trophy) by beating fellow mid-Welsh side Aberystwyth Town by the sole goal at the neutral venue of Newtown. The win against Aberystwyth would be the first of four occasions Welshpool would win the Welsh Amateur Cup in the 1970’s and early 1980’s:
- 1972: 1-0 against Aberystwyth Town
- 1977: 4-1 against Whitchurch Alport
- 1983: 4-3 against Brymbo Steelworks
- 1984: 1-0 against Caersws in a replay (1 – 1 in the first game)
Having been one of the strongest sides in the mid-Welsh football structure during the 1970’s and 1980’s, it helped in their successful application to join the Cymru Alliance league and become one of its founding members in 1990. In the inaugural season of the northern championship, Welshpool finished in a respectable seventh position with 40 points and a goal difference of +14.
The following season was magnificent for them as they finished top of the 1991-92 Cymru Alliance table, and twelve points clear of their nearest rivals Caersws. Unfortunately for the Lilywhites, the title and a potential promotion to the League of Wales was snatched away by the FAW when they controversially deducted a massive 66 points from Welshpool for fielding an illegible player, who was still under suspension in England. As a result of this huge points deduction, Welshpool subsequently finished bottom of the table and Caersws were crowned Cymru Alliance champions.
Despite this huge setback, Welshpool would show great ‘bouncebackability’ and focus on their goal of playing League of Wales football. They came very close during this period by finishing in second position in the two following seasons since their points deduction by finishing runners-up to Llansantffraid (the precursors to the current WPL champions The New Saints) in the 1992-93 season, and runners-up to Rhyl in the 1993-94 season. Alas they unable to gain promotion to the top flight despite their best efforts. However they would claim the Cymru Alliance League Cup in the 1993-94 season, beating the champions Rhyl 2-1 at the neutral venue of Wrexham.
It would prove to be third time lucky for Welshpool in the 1995-96 season, when they finished in the runners-up spot once again. This time they agonisingly lost the title to the now defunct Oswestry Town by a solitary goal, but their heartbreak would soon be put at ease. The champions were unable to gain promotion as their ground failed to meet the League of Wales criteria, and as per FAW promotion rules, Welshpool Town were promoted to the top flight in Oswestry’s place.
Despite early promise at the start of their debut season in the League of Wales, their stint in the top flight was a brief and difficult one. They slumped to a position just outside the relegation zone by finishing in seventeenth position in their first season in the LoW, before struggling the whole of their second season (barely venturing beyond the bottom three places) and getting relegated back to the Cymru Alliance by finishing second from bottom at the end of the 1997-98 season.
They would play in the northern second-tier until the 2001-02 season, when they would regain promotion back to the League of Wales after they finally clinched the Cymru Alliance league title, winning the title with 80 points and scoring over 100 league goals. Welshpool’s return back to the top flight (now under the name of Technogroup Welshpool after a sponsorship deal with said company) started how it ended in 1998 when they finished second to bottom in the 2002-03 season, and were set to be relegated back to the Cymru Alliance after just a single season. However they decided to appeal against relegation to the FAW because Neath (who should have been promoted from the [South] Welsh League Division 1) was denied promotion as their ground failed to meet League of Wales / Welsh Premier League ground criteria. To the surprise of many, the FAW accepted their appeal and they were reinstated to the WPL for the following season.
Technogroup Welshpool would continue to play in the Welsh Premier League for the next eight seasons, achieving an impressive league placing of sixth place in the 2005-06 season, before improving upon that by finishing in fourth position the following season. During that record season, they would earn 60 points from their 2006-07 campaign and achieve a goal difference of +21, and would be just three points off third placed team Llanelli, and qualifying for the (now defunct) UEFA Intertoto Cup.
Due to the Welsh Premier League restructuring itself by reducing the number of teams in the league from 18 teams to 12 teams, and forcing clubs to fulfil numerous criteria before they were awarded a domestic licence to play in the league, Welshpool Town decided not to apply for a domestic licence. As a result, the club was forcibly relegated back to the Cymru Alliance (although they also finished in 16th position which would have seen them relegated regardless). Unfortunately for the Lilywhites, their return back to the Cymru Alliance was a complete nightmare. A dismal start, combined with numerous points deductions for playing ineligible players or unfulfilling fixtures, and a number of managerial changes throughout the season, resulted in the club finishing the season rock bottom of the table with zero points and suffering their second consecutive relegation in two seasons.
The chaos of the previous season would continue into Welshpool’s first appearance back in the Mid Wales League in 21 years. Firstly their sponsorship agreement with Technogroup ended, meaning the club’s name reverted back to ‘Welshpool Town Football Club’, but ultimately had a huge impact on the club’s finances. As a result, the club opted to become fully amateur which meant then club manager, Chris Herbert, left to become assistant-manager at Rhyl. His replacement, the former Reserve Team manager, Adam Knight, resigned two weeks prior to the season starting and the club had NO registered players at the club, meaning the club were on the brink of going out of resigning from the league. Thankfully local players David Jones and Neil Breeze took control of club management and somehow collated a team together, allowing Welshpool to continue in the Mid Wales League.
Their plight would gain national exposure after Sky Sports legend Jeff Stelling made a joke at the club’s expense on Soccer Saturday after Welshpool had been demolished by local rivals Waterloo Rovers 1-10 on Boxing Day 2011. Manager David Jones wrote a letter to the programme explaining the club’s situation and that the large scoreline was a result of him having to play the second half as a stand-in goalkeeper. This letter was then read live on air during a later Soccer Saturday, which encouraged former professional players and Soccer Saturday regulars, Chris Kamara and Paul Merson, to turn out for the club on sporadic occasions until the end of the 2011-12 season, to help the club in their fight against a third relegation.
Welshpool’s return back to the Mid Wales League was a continuation of the nightmare of the previous couple of seasons as they finished bottom of the 2011-12 table with just eight points from 28 games. Fortunately they avoided further relegation that season, and have since stabilised themselves in the central Welsh third tier. Two consecutive thirteenth place finishes, were followed by a tenth place finish in the 2014-15 season, whilst their slow resurrection continued in last season’s league campaign when the Lilywhites finished the season in eighth position (out of 14 teams) and earned 31 points.
Welshpool Town’s last five results:
- Fri 30th December: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (h) 3 – 4
- Sat 28th January: Bow Street (a) 1 – 1
- Sat 11th February: Bow Street (h) 2 – 0
- Sat 18th February: Machynlleth (a) 0 – 2
- Sat 25th February: Hay St Mary’s (a) 2 – 2
Welshpool Town had had a rotten season going into this game with Llandrindod Wells. Prior to the match, they were positioned in a lowly fourteenth position (with just Montgomery Town below them) and had only earned 12 points from 23 matches, winning just three of them and having a goal difference of -37.
Despite their disappointing league position, Welshpool were showing an upturn in their fortunes and their form, having lost just one of the last four games, and earning five points from a possible 12 available (earning 42% of their season’s points total in three games).
After a few postponements (with their upcoming game against Llandrindod originally scheduled for the 14th January but getting postponed), Welshpool started 2017 with a respectable draw away to Bow Street, before following it up with their third win of the season against the same opponents at Maes-y-Dre. A battling away defeat at Machynlleth soon followed for Welshpool, but they regained some confidence when they achieved a decent 2-2 draw away at Hay St Mary’s.
THE OPPOSITION – LLANDRINDOD WELLS
Llandrindod Wells’ last five results:
- Sat 17th December: Machynlleth (a) 1 – 3
- Sat 26th December: Hay St Mary’s (h) 1 – 3
- Sat 31st December: Rhayader Town (a) 3 – 5
- Sat 28th January: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (a) 5 – 0
- Sat 18th February: Rhayader Town (h) 1 – 3
Llandrindod were also having a disappointing season, situated in tenth place in the league with 24 points, but having games in hand over the teams around them. This upcoming game would be just their third league game of 2017 after waves of postponements had limited their playing time in the league. Despite this, Llandrindod were certainly one of the out-of-form teams in the league so far.
The Spamen have only won one of their last five league games, having unsurprisingly lost to league leaders and local rivals Rhayader Town twice, Machynlleth away from home and suffered a 1-3 defeat to mid table Hay St Mary’s at Lant Avenue. However they did manage to inflict an impressive 5-0 demolition away at Llanrhaeadr to give the Spamen some confidence going into their next away fixture.
- Name: Welshpool (English); Y Trallwng (Welsh)
- Population: 6,700
- County: Powys
- Traditional County: Montgomeryshire
- Nearest Major Settlements: Oswestry [15,4 miles north]; Shrewsbury [19,2 miles east]; Montgomery [4,5 miles south]; Newtown [13,9 miles south-west]; Llanfair Caereinion [8,8 miles west]
- Nearest Train Station: Welshpool
Welshpool is a traditional market town of about 6,700 inhabitants, located just four miles from the Welsh-English border, in the historical county of Montgomeryshire. Situated on the western flood plains of the upper River Severn (Welsh: Afon Hafren), where the Nant-y-Caws brook flows into the frontier river, it is the fourth largest town (in terms of population) in the county of Powys. The town was originally known as just ‘Pool’ but formally changed its name in English to ‘Welshpool’ in 1835 in order to distinguish it from the Dorset seaside town of Poole. However in Welsh, the town is known as Y Trallwng, which harks back to its location beside the River Severn, with the literal English translation of Y Trallwng being “the marshy or sinking land”.
It is fairly simple to reach Welshpool as the town has superb infrastructural links within the North Powys area. A number of main roads intersect through the town, with the west-east A458 trunk road going through the centre of the town, connecting Welshpool to the rest of central Wales and Shrewsbury. The other trunk road, the north-south A483, cuts through the east of the town and connects Welshpool up with other border towns such as Newtown, Oswestry and Wrexham.
The town also has its own railway station, location within the industrial estate on the eastern outskirts of Welshpool. Situated on the Cambrian line, it connects Welshpool with Aberystwyth, Newtown and Shrewsbury. In addition to the National Rail station, there is also a narrow-gauge heritage railway station located in the west of the town. The Welshpool Raven Street station is the starting point for the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, which runs from Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion (via Castle Caereinion). Further information on the railway can be read in my groundhopping blog when I visited Llanfair United.
In addition to great road and rail links, Welshpool also has the Montgomery Canal running through the town. As a result of the canal, Welshpool was historically an important location to transport goods produced in the area, either up or down the canal on barges, to export their produce further afield. However nowadays, the canal is mainly used for pleasure-seekers and tourists meaning Welshpool has become a mooring point for leisure barges touring the scenic canal.
Finally Welshpool also has its own airport that is situated 2.3 miles to the south of the settlement. Welshpool Airport is open to the public with pleasure flights and flying lessons available to paying customers, and it also the base of operations for the Mid Wales Air Ambulance. An annual air show is held at the airport, with the display being held every June.
The origins of the settlement originate from the foundation of two churches by Saint Cynfelin and his brother Llywelyn in the area during “the age of the saints in Wales” during the 5th and 6th centuries. Alas there is no evidence remaining of these two early churches, and any accompanying settlement from that period remains unknown by archaeologists.
A motte and bailey castle, Domen Gastell, was constructed beside the defensive barrier of swampy marshy land next to the Afon Hafren in the 12th century, and was potentially used until the late 13th century, with the Normans identifying Welshpool’s strategic significance in the area. This castle would be superseded by Powis Castle, located on the outskirts of the town, which would become the major stronghold within the neighbourhood.
Powis Castle (Welsh: Castell Powis) is a medieval castle, fortress and grand country mansion that was historically the home of Princes of Powys. It would later become the home of the Earl of Powis, and it is well known for its extensive beautifully landscaped gardens. Nowadays Powis Castle still exists as a Grade I listed building under the ownership of the National Trust, whilst Domen Gastell’s motte is well preserved but its bailey is being re-used as a bowling green.
The borough of Welshpool may have been established by the Prince of Powys in the 1240’s when the burgesses received a foundation charter. However the foundations of this settlement may have originated from the medieval commote of Ystrad Marchell, which briefly served as a defendable capital of Powys Wenwynwyn after its prince was forced to flee the traditional Welsh royal site at Mathrafal in 1212.
It is roughly in the middle of the 13th century where records of town’s name were first recorded. Initially the settlement was referred as Capella da Trallug, which is said to mean ‘the chapel of pool town’. Later this name appears in a Latinised form of pool being used – ‘Pola’. The pool in question was either a large sheet of water formerly in Powis Park, or a part of the River Severn at nearby Pool Quay, which was the highest navigable point of the river in medieval times. In 1277, the English King Edward I created Gruffyd ap Gwenwynwyn, the then Prince of Upper Powis and the owner of Powis Castle, Baron de la Pole.
Welshpool was devastated by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr in 1400 at the start of his rebellion against the English king Henry IV which stunted its growth. However a general malaise and decline in many Welsh border towns during the 15th and 16th centuries had a restricted effect on Welshpool to expand further as a town. Despite this, its importance as a market town and trading hub (the first record of a market in Welshpool appearing in 1252) meant it replaced Montgomery as the regional centre due to its better location for traders.
The town has always been a major hub in the trading of livestock, naturally due to its position beside the Cambrian Mountain range. Initially the mainstay of the town’s economy since medieval times was the trading of wool, with sheep farming being plentiful in the surrounding hills. However in the 18th century, the town experienced a development boom through the growth of the flannel trade. Although Welshpool would not be as successful as towns higher up the Severn Valley, nor see the same level of industrial growth as nearby Newtown, the town was ultimately revitalised with many fine Georgian houses (which still exist today) being constructed on the town’s main streets.
The opening of the Montgomeryshire Canal in 1796 added to Welshpool’s importance as a trading centre within the county, whilst the arrival of the Cambrian Railway in 1862 consolidated and assured the town’s position as a regional centre. Consequently, Welshpool would become the administrative centre of Montgomeryshire until Powys was created in 1974. Today the local economy is still heavily based upon agriculture and the local industry, with the Smithfield Livestock Market (located on the north-eastern outskirts of the town) being the largest one-day sheep market in the whole of Europe.
Beside Powis Castle, Welshpool has a number of interesting buildings which are worth visiting. Saint Mary’s Church is a Grade I listed building, which originates from about 1250 (probably founded the same time as the borough was granted) with remnants of this early medieval church located in the lower course of the church tower. The nave was rebuilt in the 16th century, whilst the whole building was substantially restored in 1871. Additionally, there is also an octagonal brick building which is the Welshpool Cockpit. The 18th century-built building was used for cockfighting bouts until the practise was outlawed in 1849. Today the unique building is the home of the town’s Women’s Institute.
Attendance: 100 approx.
Weather Conditions: Mild, but overcast with some light drizzle showers
- Entrance: £2.00
- Programme: N/A
- Cup of Coffee: £1.00
- Chocolate Bar: £0.70
Ever since my superb, memorable, action-packed day trip to the Isle of Man at the end of January, where I watched Rushen United absolutely demolish Ayre United in an Isle of Man Premier League match (my blog on the day can be found here), any opportunities to attend further football games since my Manx expedition have been limited at best.
Obviously the North Welsh winter weather has been the biggest hindrance to my plans, by being so predictably awful in February. A combination of winter storms, snow flurries and/or driving rain had forced a number of my planned groundhops during February and early March to be postponed due to unplayable pitches. The continuation of postponements throughout the winter period in Welsh league football certainly provide excellent and compelling evidence for why Welsh football should switch to a summer schedule (like Irish football does) – it certainly gets my backing anyway!
Any game that I did manage to attend during this tempestuous period was usually a Holywell Town home game. However considering I have written enough blogs from Halkyn Road over the past couple of years, I couldn’t exactly write another one (you readers would get fed up of them eventually…), meaning any potential groundhop blog options were restricted.
Conversely my main focus of attention this past month has been organising and formulating plans for my forthcoming sabbatical (a formal description for a ‘career break’) that shall commence at the end of March. During my six months away from work (that sounds delightful, it really does…), I shall be aiming to exploring many locations and areas around Britain and Ireland that I have always wanted to visit, but never really had the time to (any suggestions for interesting places would be greatly received also). Of course I shall also be aiming to organise a number of groundhops and attend football games during this period. Whilst having a large period of time will crucially enable me to recover from a recent spell of mental illness that afflicted me in November.
Thankfully Mother Nature was being kind for the second weekend of March, with weather forecasts being reasonable enough for a full football schedule to be played. As well as the weather conditions being favourable, a lot of my friends had gone off skiing for the week (not a big fan of skiing to be honest, hence why I didn’t go also) meaning I had a quiet weekend to myself. Naturally with this combination, I was super determined to go on a groundhop to a new location despite the obvious allure of potentially seeing the Wellmen take on Guilsfield in a mouth-watering encounter at Halkyn Road.
Naturally as more new grounds are visited in the Welsh leagues, resultantly this creates an increasingly smaller choice of new grounds to pick from for the next groundhop. Thankfully for this footballing weekend, there were still a good amount of options for myself to pick from. After some serious consideration and analysis on the fixtures being played in all the northern and central Welsh leagues, the shortlist of potential groundhops was whittled down to three interesting fixtures:
- Llanrwst United vs Llanberis (Welsh Alliance Division 1)
- Llangollen Town vs Lex Glyndwr (Welsh National League Division 1)
- Welshpool Town vs Llandrindod Wells (Mid Wales League Division 1)
By not having a clue which game I should go to, I did what most television shows do nowadays – I put it to the public vote! Alas I was neither organised nor proficient enough to establish unique phone lines for people to phone in and declare their preference, like many of these reality TV shows nowadays, and claim an absolute fortune from the premium line numbers (I’m looking at you Simon Cowell). Then again, I did have Twitter and a large group of followers (thank you all for following by the way, you fantastic people!!). Thus the first ever #The94thMinPoll was created on Twitter, which allowed my Twitter followers (@The94thMin if you’re not already following) to pick from the three choices, and settle conclusively which specific location/game I ought to transport myself towards.
Well after a day of uncertainty and some mild excitement, and with the votes trickling in throughout the day, it was confirmed on the Friday evening that Welshpool Town had won the popular vote (cue the Swing-o-meter and Peter Snow!!). From the 31 votes that were cast, Welshpool achieved a close victory with 42% of the vote, whilst Llangollen Town earned 32%, and Llanrwst United earning a respectable 26% of the tally. Overall, all three locations seemed to be popular with the people of Twitter, which was heart-warming to see!
So it was decided…the public had indeed spoken! They had mandated me to head down the A483 towards Welshpool for the Saturday afternoon, whilst the other two clubs will be visited at a later date. Hopefully this democratic decision would conclude in a successful outcome for this groundhopper, and wouldn’t go all ‘Trumpish’.
I did deliberate whether to travel down to Welshpool on the train, but considering the resulting return journey time was not exactly ideal for me, I decided to drive the 56 miles down into Montgomeryshire instead. Leaving 94th Min HQ around 12:50, I arrived into Welshpool at about 2pm and with plenty of time before the scheduled 2:30pm kick-off time. On the journey down, I listened to Radio 2 (Radio 1 just annoys me nowadays…) and Paul Gambaccini was playing some of the records that were in the UK Singles Chart at roughly the exact same time of the year (the second week of March) but from 1973. Needless to say, there were some absolute corkers in the list, which I gleefully sung along to as I tootled down the A483, and made the excursion seem much quicker. Here are some of the hits that were in the charts in early March 1973, for your audible pleasure:
I would be carefully turning into Howell Road, to head towards the football ground, just as Slade was cranking up to their crescendo at the chorus, but not before having to slam onto the brakes when a complete tool decided to jaywalk across the Howell Road junction. Let’s just say I did a Noddy Holder style shout of my own, but I certainly wasn’t shouting “IIIIITTTT’SS CHRRRRIIIIISSSTTTMMAAAAAAAAAAASS!” at them!!
Having successfully avoided colliding into the bumbling village idiot, I finally managed to reach the car park at Welshpool’s ground. The car park is right at the end of Howell Road, just after the youth centre, located on the right-hand side. It should be identifiable as the car parking is located just behind the main stand at the ground. Because I was so early for the game, there were plenty of spaces available in the modest-sized car park, and so parked up having nearly the pick of the park.
Strangely there was no-one at the car park entrance collecting any entry money, probably because I had arrived so early, so I just parked up and walked towards the main stand. Later on during the second half of the match, one of the stewards came around the main stand asking for £2 entry, which is still a bargain considering the Mid Wales League is at a decent standard. Since I was so early, nothing was open so I was left wandering around and waiting for the snack bar hatch to be opened. I even had to get the toilet block behind the main stand opened – well you have to answer nature’s call, and it had been calling me since I had reached Llanymynech!!
Thankfully after my quick comfort break, the snack bar was finally opened and I could purchase some well-needed sustenance prior to the game. The snatch hatch is located in the left hand side of a black portakabin, which is located beside the main stand but positioned further back from the pitch. As with many other snack bars at this level, there were no hot food available, such as hotdogs or hamburgers, but they sold the standard hot drinks and cold snacks e.g. crisps, chocolate bars. Therefore I bought myself a hot black coffee (contained within a mug saying ‘coffee’ on it, just to eliminate any potential confusion of what could be in the mug) and a Cadbury’s Twirl for a total of £1.70 = standard price.
Unfortunately I could not see anyone selling any match programmes, nor did I see anyone else with them in their hands, so I presume they didn’t produce any for this game which was a bit of a shame but understandable. Anyway with coffee and chocolate in hand, I decided to take a seat in the main stand. On the way to my seat, the unique fragrance of growing grass and mud that usually appears at this time of year filled my nostrils. It is always that distinctive combination of the two compounds that makes you realise that spring has finally arrived, and that the season was approaching its exciting conclusion. It is always that smell that conjures up old memories of great games I had seen played at spring, often involving Holywell Town.
Welshpool Town only has one large stand at the ground, situated in the middle of the north side of the pitch. The main stand, or “The Tegwyn M. Evans MBE Stand” to give it its proper name, is a decent stand that has about 150-200 covered seats with room at the top of the stand for people to stand up. There is also a large section at the bottom right-hand side of the Evans Stand for disabled supporters to accommodate. It has been recently been refurbished (after receiving grants from the FAW Ground Improvements Trust and Welshpool Town Council) in honour of Tegwyn Evans, who was a driving force in Welshpool and Mid Welsh football. So much so, the stand was reopened in April 2016 by Welsh international manager, Chris Coleman, showing how well regarded Evans was within Welsh football. A very nice touch from Welshpool!
As with many other clubs in the Welsh leagues (examples being Gresford Athletic and Llay Welfare), they share the pitch with the town’s cricket team. Therefore there is permanent barriers dividing the playing pitch from the supporters’ area, as well as a concrete path, on three sides of the pitch, but the side opposite the main stand is tethered off with rope with supporters having to stand on the massive recreation pitch. The crease that supposedly will be used for the forthcoming cricket season had been sectioned off with rope to ensure no-one wrecks the crease prior to the season. However unlike the two grounds previously mentioned, Welshpool do have permanent floodlights positioned in the corners of the football pitch area.
It would seem the town’s rugby union team also play in the same location as a massive brown wooden clubhouse for the rugby club can be seen from the main stand, situated down in the far corner of the pitch. At first I thought I had to walk down there to get a cup of tea before I noticed the snack bar hatch beside the main stand. It looks an impressive clubhouse from the main stand and I hope the rugby club allows the use of the clubhouse to the football club on special occasions.
At first I decided to sit down in the main stand to drink my coffee, eat my chocolate and watch the first half. On the other hand, considering I had just driven down for an hour, the last thing I wanted to do was to be seated for another 45 minutes. Accordingly I decided to head to the back of the stand, and watch the game stood up in the terraced area – plus it was a better view of the pitch from the higher viewing platform. I wouldn’t be the only person stood at the back of the stand as a group of younger Welshpool supporters had congregated at the other end of the standing area, with one of them wielding a huge bass drum. He would be banging this drum at sporadic moments throughout the entire game, trying to get Welshpool chants going amongst his mates. I’ll be honest, I would like to see more instruments in Welsh league games as it can add to the atmosphere at game, although I was slightly glad I didn’t have the drum right next to me and booming into my ears throughout the game ha!
Having initially watched the teams do their pre-match warm-up routines whilst waiting for the snack hatch to open, the teams would eventually re-emerge from the changing room complex and onto the pitch ready for the match. The changing rooms building is directly next to the black portakabin housing the snack hatch, and looks recently built. An unique building housing a clock on its roof, as well as a plaque detailing Chris Coleman’s visit to open the Tegwyn Evans stand in April 2016.
Conditions for the game were fairly decent with it being a pleasantly mild day but with gloomy looking clouds overhead which would deposit some drizzle later on in the game. The pitch condition looked good and not too heavy considering the weather Wales has been subjected to over the past couple of months; so much respect goes to the ground staff for their hard work in getting the pitch into a good standard!
With both teams on the pitch and ready, it would be the away team would be kicking off the match. Llandrindod would be playing in their home strip of royal blue shirts with white shoulders, white shorts and royal blue socks. Welshpool would also be playing in their home kit of white shirts with black shoulders, black shorts and white socks. It is always good to see both teams in their traditional colours and not have to change kits because of the pathetic “light-dark” kit ruling that has been introduced recently by FIFA.
MATCH DETAILS – FIRST HALF
At the start of the first half, it would be Llandrindod who would start more brightly hoping to get an early goal, but Welshpool would find their way into the game as the half progressed. This resulted in the first half being a fairly equal forty-five minutes with both teams having a couple of chances and half-chances.
It would be the visitors who would have the first clear chance on goal after ten minutes when their #10 attempted a long range effort from outside of the penalty area. However it proved to be easily matched by the home goalkeeper as the shot was fairly central and fired straight towards the keeper, who pulled off a comfortable save. At the other end, Welshpool’s #3 threated the Llandrindod defence with a marauding run down the left wing which would have impressed Roberto Carlos. The skilful full back weaved past a couple of challenges before surging into the box and unleashing a fierce low effort. Unfortunately for his superb determination and craft, it was not rewarded as the visiting keeper instinctively got low to block the shot.
Strangely in the middle of the first half, the game had to be stopped as the assistant referee, nearest the main stand, had to leave early and was replaced by Welshpool’s manager who would be temporary linesman for this game. I have no idea why the official left when he did as he didn’t look injured to me (i.e. wasn’t hobbling when he walked off). Whatever the reason he had to go so soon, that is certainly a first for me in the groundhopping adventures.
There was a spell around the 20-25 minute mark when both teams had great chances to break the deadlock. Firstly Welshpool had their chance through their #9 when he found enough space outside of the penalty box, on the right hand side, to unleash an effort on goal. However the home forward couldn’t get a clean connection on the ball and the ball rolled into the keeper’s hands.
Llandrindod then threatened the Lilywhites’ goal through a set piece. A curling cross from the left flank was missed by the visiting players but managed to flick off a Welshpool defender. Thankfully the goalkeeper was positioned correctly to easily claim the ball from the unintentional flick. They would get another chance from a free kick a couple of minutes later when another free kick from the left side of the pitch was arched towards goal. This time it looked as it was going to beat everyone and settle in the back of the net but somehow just fizzed past the right-hand post.
It was at this point that I noticed that Welshpool had a number ten playing in the centre back roll. Now I know shirt numbers have become an arbitrary thing in modern football with strikers such Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Ayew wearing the #3 shirt, whilst Everton’s new signing, Morgan Schneidelin, displaying the #2 shirt despite it being synonymous with the right back roll (club legend’s Tony Hibbert’s former number) yet the Frenchman being a defensive midfielder (usually the #4 role). It would seem the Welshpool defender was employing the William Gallas school of thought when it comes to shirt numbers, with the Lilywhite defender matching the shirt number that the French centre back had worn in his less-than-successful stint at Arsenal.
Around the half hour mark and Llandrindod had another opportunity to open the scoring through yet another set piece, this time from a corner drifted in from the left side. The ball evaded everyone allowing a Llandrindod player to rise above everyone and get a connection with the cross. However his connection was not a perfect one as he failed to divert the ball efficiently and could only glance the ball past the right-hand post. A golden opportunity spurned there by the Spamen!
Both teams would have half-chances throughout the final ten minutes of the game, but a combination of both teams being sloppy in possession in the midfield but solid in their defensive duties meant they cancelled each other out resulting in no further ‘clear cut’ chances for either side. After a sterling contest in the middle of the park from both teams in tackling and intercepting passes when the other were in possession, the referee blew his whistle to call a halt in the proceedings.
HALF TIME: WELSHPOOL TOWN 0 – 0 LLANDRINDOD WELLS
During the half time period, I decided to venture to the other side of the pitch to take pictures of the main stand and potentially watch the second half from a more “grounded” viewing position. However on the opposite side of the pitch, and as mentioned previously, there are no covers or stands, so typically as I walked to the other side of the pitch the weather decided to drizzle. No matter, I had a new waterproof jacket on and was prepared to resist the droplets to watch the second half. Alas I soon beat a quick retreat back to the sanctuary of the covered main stand as the drizzle evolved to rain and descended from the every gloomier clouds above. Why get yourself purposefully soaked when cover was available? Ha!
Despite being on the wrong side of the weather, it was delightful to see the surrounding countryside and hills from the opposite side of the pitch, something you don’t really see from the main stand. Central Welsh football grounds are always my favourites because they provide such amazing vistas and panoramic views of the Powys countryside, which are very rarely matched in North East Wales. Although the view from Welshpool didn’t quite match those gloriously displayed in Caersws, Llanfair United or nearby Guilsfield, it was still a great view looking down the Upper Severn Valley and fulfilled the ‘great landscape view’ criteria that all Mid Welsh grounds seem to have!
MATCH DETAILS – SECOND HALF
The second half commenced in the same style as the end of the first half with neither side being superior over their opponents, with no decent goal-scoring opportunities being created for either team, but the game having a lot of action and battling in the middle third of the pitch. It was an even contest but both teams were giving as good as they were receiving from their opponents.
It wouldn’t be until the hour mark that the deadlock would be shattered, when the visitors would make the crucial breakthrough in the game. A surging run through the centre from Llandrindod’s #8 created gaps in the Welshpool defence before he was bundled down by the home defence, eager to eliminate the imposing threat. A certain foul and potential free-kick would have been forthcoming for the visitors; nevertheless, the official played the advantage seeing that Llandrindod still had possession and were streaming forward. It proved to be the correct decision made by the referee as the ball was eventually crossed from the right to Llandrindod’s #10 who had positioned himself on the left side of the penalty box, and was completely unmarked. Having enough time and plenty of space to pick his spot, the forward placed his effort low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to open the scoring for the afternoon.
Welshpool Town 0 – 1 Llandrindod Wells
Having gained the lead, Llandrindod had the momentum in the game behind them, and looked to double their lead in quick time. The Spamen, sensing Welshpool defence were perhaps starting to creak having conceded, now advanced forward regularly and managed to create a number of half-chances, as well as having a good effort superbly saved by the Welshpool goalkeeper.
Alas for the visiting supporters, Llandrindod’s lead would only last ten minutes when Welshpool caught them with a superb counter-attack (combined with a bit of luck). Welshpool’s #10 had advanced from his centre back role and found himself on the right side of the pitch. He curled a curving low cross into the penalty area which seemed to have confused the Llandrindod keeper into spilling what seemed like a catchable ball. The ricochet from the keeper’s gloves headed towards the left post when an oncoming Welshpool player was on hand to easily tap the ball into an empty net. The home side had equalised, and the supporters’ drum was thumping out a beat in double time in celebration!
Welshpool Town 1 – 1 Llandrindod Wells
The match now became more action-packed and frenzied as both teams sensed the next goal could swing the game’s momentum in their favour and potentially claim the three points. As a result, sterner tackles started flying in, and tempers between the players started to rise and almost boil over. It was becoming a fiery game as both teams were becoming increasingly desperate for the win!
Again Welshpool would catch out their opponents on the counter-attack on a number of occasions but couldn’t quite craft anything worthwhile to turn the game in their favour. For Llandrindod, their best chances in the remainder of the second half came through set pieces, just as it had been for them in the first half. A free kick launched into the penalty area from the left wing almost produced some glory for the visitors, but a flicked-on header agonisingly drifted wide of the left post.
It would prove to be a thrilling conclusion to the game as neither side wished to settle with the status quo and share the points. Both sides could smell blood and were pushing men forward gambling on nicking that killer goal that could decide the contest, whilst just about dealing with the numerous attacks and counter-attacks that were launched at their stretched defences. There was a feeling in the air that another goal was certainly forthcoming in this game…
With about five minutes remaining, the anticipated goal arrived, but unfortunately for the Lilywhite supporters in the far corner of the stand, it would be Llandrindod who would clinch it through a set piece unsurprisingly. Having continually threatened the Welshpool defence through set pieces all game, it would be a corner that would eventually provide success and at the perfect point of the game for the Spamen. A corner from Llandrindod’s #10 was superbly whipped towards the far post, where the substitute #15 managed to get himself in between the marking defender and the post to bundle the ball into the back of the net!
Welshpool Town 1 – 2 Llandrindod Wells
Despite Llandrindod snatching a late deciding goal, it would not be the end of the drama and excitement in the game as Welshpool could and should have equalised almost immediately after the guests had taken the lead. A cross from the right was aimed towards the far post, and in a very similar circumstance to the goal just one minute previously, a Welshpool forward found himself in between the marking defender and the post, and with a glorious chance to level things up once more. Frustratingly for the home support, the forward somehow nodded the ball past the wrong (or right depending on your opinion) of the post, leaving everyone bemused how he had not levelled the scores up.
Even the unmarked header was not the final chance of the game as Welshpool had yet another opportunity to grab a late equaliser. With Llandrindod desperately clinging onto their lead, and defending deep to maintain the score line, it encouraged the Lilywhites to advance upon them. They almost made their visitors pay for their cautiousness when Welshpool’s substitute #15 found just enough space just outside of the penalty box to launch a curving effort on goal. The ball looked like it was going to curl into the bottom right hand corner of the net but could only fizz past the right post, much to the scrambling keeper’s relief.
That curling effort would be the final chance of the match as Llandrindod managed to hold resolute just long enough for the referee to finally end the contest. It had been a superb second half, with both sides having chances to get something from the game, but it would be Llandrindod Wells who would be returning to Lant Avenue with all three points.
FULL TIME: WELSHPOOL TOWN 1 – 2 LLANDRINDOD WELLS
POST MATCH & CONCLUSION
The result did nothing to change the fortunes of both clubs in the league as Welshpool stayed in fourteenth position and still two points behind Tywyn/Bryncrug in thirteenth place. Whilst Llandrindod maintained tenth spot but closed up to Knighton Town in the place above, with the gap being just five points. However Llandrindod can take a lot of confidence in the result as it was their second away victory in a row, which they can build upon to take advantage with their game in hand and potentially chase down the teams above them in the table.
The game itself was a close affair, with the second half naturally being more entertaining than the first half. Of the two teams, Llandrindod probably looked the more threatening, and certainly exploited Welshpool’s inability to defend set pieces to the maximum. However it is fair to say that Welshpool had the better cleat cut chances, especially towards the end of the game. Had the hosts converted any of their opportunities, then they could have potentially gotten at least a point from the fixture.
Overall I really enjoyed my Welshpool groundhop and found the ground to be a really decent one. Alas I was not able to explore the town either pre or post-game due to time constraints, but I will certainly venture back to the town (probably by train next time) to explore it more thoroughly and will revisit the ground again. Everyone I encountered who were involved with the club were really friendly and welcoming, and I shall certainly return back to Maes-y-Dre in the near future!
I would like to wish both Welshpool Town and Llandrindod Wells all the very best of luck for the rest of the season!