Date of Visit: 15th July 2017
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Ground Number: 91
- Distance Travelled: 10,5 miles
- Travel Time: 20 minutes
- Club Name: Prestatyn Sports Football Club
- Ground: Gronant Playing Fields, Gronant, Flintshire LL19 9YP
- Club Nicknames: Sports
- Club Colours: Red and white striped shirts, red shorts and socks
- League Position: Welsh Alliance Division 2 [15/07/2017]
DIRECTIONS & CAR PARKING
From A548 (Coast Road):
From the main coast road (A548) take the turning up towards Upper Gronant as you approach the village (left turn if approaching from Mostyn, right turn if approaching from Prestatyn). Head up the Gronant hill and take a left turn into Nant-y-Gro (first turning on the left). Continue along Nant-y-Gro, following the road up the hill until you reach a crossroads where you must give way. Go over the crossroads and continue onwards before taking the first turning on the left. At the end of the road, the entrance to the playing fields should appear on the left.
Car Parking Information:
A small car park for about 20 cars is available just outside the playing fields at the Nant-y-Gro entrance. Some street parking is also available nearby the ground.
Club Established/Founded: 2013
- 1 x Vale of Clwyd & Conwy Premier Division Winners
- 1 x Welsh Alliance League Challenge Cup Winners
- 1 x North Wales Coast FA Intermediate Cup Winners
- 1 x Vale of Clwyd & Conwy Premier Cup Winners
- 1 x Vale of Clwyd & Conwy Presidents Cup Winners
Highest League Finish: Welsh Alliance Division 2 – 3rd [2016-17]
- Welsh Alliance Division 2 – 3rd
- Welsh Cup – Qualifying Round 1
- Welsh Alliance Challenge Cup – Winners
Prestatyn Sports are a relatively new club on the North East Wales football scene, having been formed in 2013. However despite their relatively short existence as a football club, they have achieved a lot of success in just the brief period of time the club have been playing Welsh league football.
Prestatyn Sports’ first league campaign was the 2013-14 season, where they competed in the Vale of Clwyd & Conwy League Division 1 (level six in the Welsh football pyramid). Playing at their traditional home of the Meadows Field area of Prestatyn, they managed to achieve promotion to the Premier Division in their debut season by finishing runners-up, and just three points, behind the league champions Conwy Legion United.
The following season was even better for Prestatyn Sports as they achieved another promotion, this time as the Vale of Clwyd & Conwy League Premier Division champions. A hugely impressive season considering they lost only once (at home) in a near-perfect league campaign, having won 19 out of the 20 league games played. The league title would be one of five trophies arriving at Meadows Field that season, as Sports would also claim the North Wales Coast FA Intermediate Cup, the VoC&C League Cup and the Presidents Cup. The fifth trophy was won by their reserve side, who won the VoC&C Division 1 title that the first team had won in the previous season.
Having won the Premier Division, Prestatyn Sports were entitled to accept promotion to the Welsh Alliance system and join its Division 2 (at tier four on the football pyramid). Unfortunately their Meadows Field ground was not up to the league standard by having no changing facilities nor dugouts available, and thus they had to move to another ground should they wish to progress up the pyramid. After mooting a potential groundshare with their more illustrious neighbour, Prestatyn Town, they ultimately decided upon a short-term move to the nearby village of Gronant, which was located just over three miles away from their home. This would only be a temporary move until their Meadows Field ground could be upgraded to the required league standard. Gronant had a football ground which was to the league standard but no current tenant, as Greenfield Football Club had played their home games there in the past, before they moved to their current home of Alpha Park in Greenfield.
Having moved to Gronant, it did not disrupt Prestatyn Sports’ momentum as they continued to improve as a side. In their first season within the Welsh Alliance league structure, they finished in sixth position out of thirteen teams in Division 2, having earned themselves 37 points from the campaign. Last season, the upward trajectory of Sports continued as finished in their highest league position of third place in Division 2, earning themselves 50 points, and just eight points away from a further promotion to Division 1. However the side was deducted three points by the FAW after a large scale scuffle took place between Llanllyfni and Sports which resulted in the match being abandoned by the referee. Despite this, the club achieved some more cup success to add to their already illustrious history when they won the Welsh Alliance Challenge Cup, beating Anglesey-based Gaerwen 3-0 at Penmaenmawr Phoenix’s ground.
The future of Prestatyn Sports was threatened prior to the 2017-18 season commencing as the Welsh Alliance threw the club out of the league because their temporary home of Gronant was outside of the Denbighshire catchment area of the league. Gronant is just located within Flintshire, which is governed by the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), but the village is incredibly near to the Denbighshire border. As money was not available for the club to improve their traditional and leased home of Meadows Field, and a potential groundshare with Prestatyn Town being cancelled (due to the league threatening Prestatyn Town with a fine should they agree to the groundshare), the club appealed against the decision made by the Welsh Alliance League. Thankfully in June 2017, Prestatyn Sports won their appeal against their unfair expulsion, and will be competing in the Welsh Alliance Division 2 once again for the forthcoming season.
THE OPPOSITION – HOLYWELL TOWN
Holywell Town’s previous pre-season results:
- Sat 8th July: South Liverpool (n) 4 – 3
This upcoming game against Prestatyn Sports would be Holywell’s second game of their pre-season schedule, having started their pre-season the previous Saturday against West Cheshire League side, South Liverpool. In a game played at the neutral venue of the Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre in Bidston, the Wellmen managed to win the Merseysiders 4-3, with goals from Shaun Tuck, Graeme Williams and a brace from Phil Lloyd. An excellent first half performance saw the club go 3-0 up at half time, but a large number of personnel changes and a spirited comeback from South Liverpool, ensured that Williams’ goal would be the decider between the two teams.
It would be another chance to see Holywell Town’s new signings for this upcoming season with familiar faces returning such as defender Dafydd Griffith and forward “The Beast” Steve Lewis. Whilst also seeing how the new additions will blend into the squad, like former Airbus UK players Danny Desormeaux, and Shaun Person, as well as goalkeeper Joe Griffith (signed from Blackpool-based side Squires Gate). In addition, there would be a number of young players on the bench, such as Owen Davies and Jake Cooke, who would be hoping to make an impact on their first experiences within the first team.
The fixture with Prestatyn Sports was a hastily arrange game as Holywell were originally supposed to face Hawarden Rangers at the Gladstone Playing Fields. However a late cancellation from Hawarden resulted in Holywell Town appealing on Facebook and Twitter for an opponent, to play away from Halkyn Road, for this available Saturday slot. Thankfully Prestatyn Sports came to the rescue and the fixture was announced earlier in the week.
- Name: Gronant
- Population: 1,500
- County: Flintshire
- Traditional County: Flintshire
- Nearest Major Settlements: Prestatyn [2,0 miles west]; Holywell [9,2 miles south-east]
- Nearest Train Station: Prestatyn [2,0 miles west]
Gronant is a village of just over 1,500 inhabitants, located at the north-western edge of Flintshire, adjacent to the county border with Denbighshire. The village is split into two parts by the A548 Coast Road, with the main section of the village situated on the south side of the A548 on the lower slopes of the Clwydian Range (Upper Gronant). A smaller part of the village is located on the northern side of the A548 on flat land which comprises the coastal strip along the North Wales coast (Lower Gronant). Traditionally Gronant was located within the parish of Llanasa, situated two miles south-east of the village.
The village has its own primary school, Ysgol Gronant, whilst the village is well catered for in terms of facilities due to its close proximity to Prestatyn, just two miles to the west of the village. There are regular bus links between Gronant and Prestatyn, with Prestatyn’s train station being the nearest train station to locals. In addition, the village is linked in with Prestatyn’s tourism with a large caravan park, the Presthaven Beach Resort, situated between Lower Gronant and the coast. From Upper Gronant, the rental caravan site can be clearly viewed between the village and the Irish Sea.
Gronant provides its name to part of an extensive network of dunes which extend from Prestatyn (just two miles to the west of the village) to Point of Ayr at the entrance to the River Dee Estuary. This area is designated as a local nature reserve whilst the whole dune network is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the large number of migratory birds (such as Little Terns) who feed on the dunes, as well as rare lizards, amphibians and plants being located within the dune area also.
GRONANT PLAYING FIELDS GROUNDHOP
Attendance: 40 approx.
Weather Conditions: Overcast with sporadic light showers, windy but mild
- Entrance: FREE
- Programme: N/A
As mentioned previously, this fixture was a hastily arranged game after Holywell’s original opponents, Hawarden Rangers, had cancelled their fixture earlier in the week. When Holywell were originally asking for an opponent for an away friendly fixture, I suddenly became interested in who they could potentially agree a friendly with. As I am within touching distance of reaching the magical goal of visiting 100 grounds, new locally-based grounds are coming harder to find and I am forced to travel further and further to kick off more grounds. Plus I was keenly aware that I had not written a blog on this site since my visit to Welshpool Town back in March, so I wanted to visit a new ground to write a new groundhopping blog for The 94th Minute.
My initial plan for this coming weekend was going to be an hour and a half drive through the North Wales countryside to watch Blaenau Ffestiniog take on Porthmadog’s under 21 side at Cae Clyd. I was not overly keen in driving over 50 miles through winding roads to get there, but it was the only interesting fixture (at a ground I had yet to visit) that I could find on the list of pre-season fixtures that was posted on the ‘Non League Matters’ website. So imagine my delight when the fixture at Gronant against Prestatyn Sports was announced! A new ground to tick off, a chance to watch Holywell Town again, and only a twenty minute drive down the coast to boot = ideal!
Setting off from 94th Min HQ just before quarter to two, I arrived at Gronant two minutes later after a straight forward drive down the A548 Coast Road. I always enjoy driving down the coast road and it always brings back memories of travelling to my late grandparents’ bungalow as a youngster, when they lived in Ffynnongroyw. The wooded section between Mostyn and Ffynnongroyw was always a particular favourite as the trees on both sides had grown over the road substantially producing a darkened corridor or tunnel, which always seemed eerie as a child. Alas the ‘tree tunnel’ no longer exists as the trees have been pruned back or cut down completely due to the Coastal Path now running adjacent the road. Not the mention the council have changed the layout of the road in a rather illogical manner, reducing the speed of the Ffynnongroyw bypass or even reducing it from a dual carriage way to single lane traffic. They did this further on by Talacre, which again seems odd considering what the road used to be like. Then again, things never stay the same, as the ‘tree tunnel’ would testify!
Anyway having driven down ‘Nostalgia Lane’, I started to search for the entrance to the ground in Gronant. Normally I would use a sat-nav to help me find grounds, but on this occasion I didn’t think I needed it because of its closeness and the size of the village itself – it couldn’t be too hard to find surely? Well after a couple of about-turns due to incorrect directions, I would finally arrive at the playing fields entrance. Next time I will use the sat-nav to avoid the avoidable delays in travel! Even though I was at the ground in good time before kick-off, there seemed like there was no space in the small car park, especially as a van had just pulled out of the car park and headed down the street looking for a place to park. I took my chances and went looking for myself and sometimes fortune favours the brave, as I spotted the last free car spot at the very end of the line. I would have to squeeze the car in-between a large 4×4 and a fence, but it was a spot and I was glad of it!
The football pitch is part of a playing area for the village as a whole, as there is a children’s play area, caged football pitch and small skate park located in the grounds. Because of this multi-usage area, there was no admission charge for the game, something which is commonplace for games played on municipal pitches within the Welsh lower leagues. The changing rooms are located to the left of the entrance gate, by the caged pitch, and naturally they are all fenced-off to stop any potential hoodlums from trying to break into the portakabin complex.
A short walk between the play area and the caged pitch, up the camber of the hill, and the ground appeared into view. The ground is very basic with just red-painted dugouts on the pitch and nothing else – there was certainly no clubhouse, stands or even toilets available to supporters, so don’t be expecting a cup of tea if you should come and visit. Despite its sparseness however, the ground has one hell of a view with Lower Gronant, the caravan park and the dunes displayed in front of you. Because the ground is located in Upper Gronant, you get a good view of the coast with Prestatyn to the west and Talacre to the east, plus it is possible to see the large amount of wind turbines placed just a few miles out in the Irish Sea, as part of the North Hoyle Offshire Wind Farm. A really impressive and surprisingly sight as I did not realise there were so many wind turbines out there!
The pitch is enclosed at both ends with a hedge at the Prestatyn end of the pitch and the metal fence to the adjacent primary school at the opposite end of the pitch. There didn’t seem to be any fencing on the coast side of the pitch and just a hill rolling downwards – no doubt a number of balls will be lost down this slope during the match! There is a handy viewing hill at the school end of the pitch, where myself and a number of supporters would head towards throughout the game, which provides an excellent view of the entire pitch.
As both teams did their pre-match exercise routines, the weather conditions worsened as the wind whipped up some more and a light drizzle started to cascade from the grey skies above. At first I thought it would be a temporary thing but when it continued to downpour unabated, a quick dart back to the car was required to acquire a hat and avoid water droplets congregating on my glasses. Of course, I should have waited, because as soon as I returned back to the pitch with my hat, the shower stopped = typical! It would not rain for the whole game although the winds continued to be brisk throughout the game, and the gloomy skies always looked like they were capable to dropping some more potential showers.
For this match, there would be only the one official – the referee, with the linesman duties taken up by members of the two team’s coaching staffs (a common sight in Welsh lower league games). The official was all set to get the teams together to start the match before he had to dart back to his car – he had forgotten the coin for the important coin toss. Ha it’s not just the players who need the pre-season to get back into the swing of things!
Having successfully retrieved his coin, and hopefully having the other items required for being a referee, the game could finally commence. There would be a good amount of supporters at Gronant, with the vast majority of them Holywell Town fans – this would be their first game of the season considering only a few made the trip to Bidston the previous weekend. Prestatyn Sports would be playing in their home kits of red & white striped shirts with red shorts and socks, whilst Holywell would be in their change kit of white shirts with black trim, black shorts and white socks.
MATCH DETAILS – FIRST HALF
Holywell were the quickest to get to grips with the game, and it showed when just after four minutes the visitors opened the scoring in the game. Holywell passed the ball out to Shaun Tuck who had found space on the right hand side of the pitch, before sending a dangerous low cross into the penalty box. It would be the new boy Danny Desormeaux who would connect onto the superb cross to skilfully sidefoot volley the ball past the scrambling keeper, and score his first goal for Wellmen.
Prestatyn Sports 0 – 1 Holywell Town
Holywell would dominate in ball possession and good goal-scoring opportunities for the first twenty minutes of the game, and had some great chances to double their lead early on. Around the quarter of an hour mark, another superb cross from Tuck, who was exploiting the spaces down the flanks, found Steve Lewis in the penalty box. Lewis casually nodded the ball down towards Phil Lloyd who rushed into the box to meet the headed pass. Unfortunately for today’s Holywell captain, he could only lash the ball over the crossbar, much to his annoyance.
Five minutes later and Holywell had another golden opportunity to make it two-nil, this time through a set piece. From a corner being whipped in from the right hand side, the cross found the head of Desormeaux who was clear of marking defenders at the near post and only five yards out from goal. Frustratingly for all Holywell supporters, he failed to hit the target as his headed down effort bounced wide of the right-hand post.
With Holywell missing chances to extend their lead, Prestatyn Sports were slowly finding their way back into the game by gaining more ball possession and started to create chances for themselves. On the 25th minute, they had their first good chance of the game when some great play down the left flank from the Sports winger squared the ball towards their #7 who was positioned outside of the penalty box. He skilfully fired a low, curling shot towards the right-hand corner of the goal. It would be the outstretched hand of Joe Griffith who would deny the midfielder from finding a home equaliser.
Prestatyn would continue to force Holywell into making misplaced passes in the midfield and capitalising on their mistakes. They would severely test the Holywell defence just after half an hour of the game when they had another chance to open their scoring. Prestatyn Sports would hold up the ball outside of the box before carefully laying off the ball to #7, who would whip the ball into the area. Cue a mad scramble around the penalty spot as the Holywell defence failed to clear their lines effectively, leading to Sports’ #17 to latch onto the ball. Alas for the home side, he could only blast the ball over the crossbar from inside the penalty area.
Sports would be punished for missing such a good prospect when Holywell finally got their second goal of the afternoon a few minutes after Prestatyn failed to equalise. Graeme Williams gained possession through a well-timed standing tackle and spotted Tuck positioned just outside the Prestatyn penalty area. Whilst under pressure from the recovering defenders, and running onto goal, Tuck managed to shoot a low drive past the oncoming goalkeeper and into the bottom left corner of the net.
Prestatyn Sports 0 – 2 Holywell Town
Having opened up a two goal cushion, they almost immediately extended their lead a minute after scoring their second goal of the afternoon. A Holywell counter-attack found Lewis rushing down the right flank of the pitch and into clear space behind the Sports defence. With only the keeper to beat, he tried to drill the ball under the onrushing goalie, but found Sports’ number one equal to the challenge, as he managed to get a strong hand behind the shot to divert the ball away from danger. Despite some great chances from either side, it would be Holywell going into the half time break with a two goal cushion.
HALF TIME: PRESTATYN SPORTS 0 – 2 HOLYWELL TOWN
With both teams staying out on the field to conduct their half-time team talks, I sat on the hill beside the pitch and admired the view in front of me. Even though the weather might not have been the best in terms of sunshine and winds, and I wasn’t able to purchase a needed black coffee, I was enjoying this groundhop and glad to see two decent teams compete against each other.
MATCH DETAILS – SECOND HALF
With barely a few minutes on the clock after the restart, Holywell once again caught their opponents having a sluggish start and punished them by scoring their third goal of the game. A quick break from Paul Williams down the left flank enabled him to cross the ball towards Steve Lewis, who was positioned in an unmarked location on the right hand edge of the penalty area. Having enough time and space around him, Lewis was able to control the cross with his chest before half volleying the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. A great start for the Wellmen!
Prestatyn Sports 0 – 3 Holywell Town
Holywell were on the ascendancy and were pushing hard to further increase their lead. Three minutes after scoring their third goal, and they had a superb chance score their fourth through goalscorer Lewis. A Prestatyn throw-in was intercepted by Desormeaux just by the halfway line, and he managed to launch an attack by a low through ball towards Lewis, who had broken clear of the Sports’ defensive line. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Lewis once again attempts to blast the ball beneath the reach of the Sports keeper, but again the home keeper was more than equal to the challenge and managed to divert the attempt away from goal.
A minute later and Lewis would have another chance to make amends for his miss in the one-on-one scenario, this time coming from a ‘route one’ piece of play. A goal kick from Griffith was booted up towards Paul Williams, who quickly send the ball forward for Lewis to run onto and chase. Again the striker had broken the offside trap and was clear through on goal with just the keeper to beat once more. This time, instead of trying a low powerful shot, Lewis attempted to round the keeper and walk it into an empty net. He almost managed to shimmy past the home goalie, but the number one just about got his fingertips to the ball whilst diving at the feet of Lewis, to again deny Lewis from scoring his second goal of the game.
Thankfully the missed chances would not have a diverse effect on Holywell’s chances, as a minute after Lewis’ second failed attack, then the visitors had scored their fourth goal of the game. A great sprint down the left hand flank from Holywell opened up the Prestatyn defence, and when the cross found the onrushing Greame Williams, who was quickly advancing towards goal from midfield, all the Mostyn player had to do was blast the ball between the stretched defence and past the misfooted goalkeeper to open up a four goal advantage.
Prestatyn Sports 0 – 4 Holywell Town
As with the first half, it took the home side some time to get back into the match but they started to threaten the Holywell goal and played some decent football. Firstly a long ball was launched forward towards Sports’ #15 who was advancing down the left side of the pitch. He continued with his attacking run, and despite under pressure from the challenging Holywell defence, he managed to get an attempt on goal. His effort was a powerful high shot towards the top corner of the goal, but Griffith pulled off a great diving save to keep the effort out.
About ten minutes later and Sports’ #15 would have another effort on the Holywell goal, when he found himself with enough space outside of the Holywell penalty area, about 20-25 yards from goal. He cannoned a long range effort which looked like it might sneak inside the left post but again Griffith was at hand to deny the Prestatyn player from scoring as he made a diving save to divert the ball past the post.
Although Prestatyn were playing well, Holywell continued to threaten their goal with chances, and around the 75th minute mark, the Wellmen extended their lead. A cross came in from Paul Williams towards Tuck in the 6 yard box, and despite a scramble with the defender and keeper, Tuck managed to successfully divert the goal into net. Initially I thought this goal had been declared offside as the keeper just booted the ball out and play continued, although apparently this goal was indeed scored and claimed by Holywell, so who am I to argue? Ha!
Prestatyn Sports 0 – 5 Holywell Town
After extending their lead, Holywell would continue to pressurise their Welsh Alliance Division 2 opponents, and five minutes after scoring their fifth goal of the game, that they managed to grab a sixth and final goal on the afternoon. Holywell attempted a long range effort from outside of the box but the shot was deflected by a Prestatyn Sports defender who had stuck out a leg to block the shot. However the shot looped over the Prestatyn defence into the path of Lewis, who was waiting on the edge of the six yard box. Showing great skill, he managed to back flick the ball past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Although Prestatyn were arguing to the referee that Lewis was offside, the deflection off the defender had ensured he was in an onside position.
Prestatyn Sports 0 – 6 Holywell Town
There were a couple of half chances from both sides in the last few minutes of the game, but right on the 90th minute, the referee blew for full time. It had been a good match and a decent pre-season test for both teams.
FULL TIME: PRESTATYN SPORTS 0 – 6 HOLYWELL TOWN
POST MATCH & CONCLUSION
This was a decent match with both teams showing great attacking play throughout the game. Holywell’s forward line-up are looking very exciting and will certainly trouble the Cymru Alliance defences this season, whilst the new players like Danny Desormeaux and Joe Griffith are slotting into the team and improving the squad as a whole. Although a couple of pre-season games are not a perfect indicator of how a season will progress, these early pre-season performances have certainly been encouraging for Wellmen supporters and they are getting excited for the upcoming season ahead.
As for Prestatyn Sports, I was impressed with their squad as they have a good amount of decent players within their team. I can certainly see how they have achieved so much success over the past four seasons and I would predict they will achieve some more this season – they will be a tough side to overcome in the Welsh Alliance Division 2! Hopefully all the issues with their temporary ground can be overcome in the near future and they are able to compete in the Welsh Alliance without any further problems, or they are able to return back to their spiritual home of Meadows Field in the near future!
As for the Gronant ground, it certainly is a basic football ground, but for a temporary home in the fourth tier of the Welsh football pyramid, what would you expect? Despite the lack of facilities in comparison with other North Welsh grounds, it has a certain charm to the place which I really liked. The views of the North Welsh coast and Gronant Dunes below the ground are exceptional and definitely the best part of the ground, although I can imagine the weather must be pretty fierce in the winter with its exposed location on the coast ha! However overall, I enjoyed the groundhop to Gronant, and it was good to finally tick it off the list.
I would like to wish Prestatyn Sports all the very best of luck this season and hope they are able to sort out the ground issues with the league in the near future.