Date of Visit: 19th August 2017
Competition: Welsh Cup First Qualifying Round
Ground Number: 99
- Distance Travelled: 25,5 miles
- Travel Time: 40 minutes
- Club Name: Pen-y-Cae Football Club
- Ground: Afoneitha Road, Penycae, Wrexham LL14 2PF
- Club Colours: Light blue shirts, navy blue shorts and light blue socks
- League Position: 13th – Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division [17/08/2017]
DIRECTIONS & CAR PARKING
From Northwards via the A483:
Turn off at Junction 3 of the A483 and take the right turn (third turn-off) at the roundabout following the B5605 Wrexham Road towards Pentre Bychan & Johnstown. Continue along the road towards Johnstown before making a right turn at The New Inn pub junction. Following the B5426 Gutter Hill uphill, turn left at the mini-roundabout to follow the B5097 road. Continue down the road, passing straight over a second mini-roundabout and continuing to stay on the same road for a mile or so. Eventually the entrance to Ysgol Penycae primary school should appear on the right-hand side, with the entrance to the football pitch appearing on the left-hand side 100 yards after the school. The entrance is just after the end of the newly-built housing estate.
From Southwards via the A483:
Turn off at Junction 1 of the A483 and turn left at the roundabout down the short dual carriageway before taking the third exit (right turn-off) at the second roundabout (the pit wheel) to head towards Ruabon. Follow the B5605 through the village ensuring to follow the signs towards Johnstown/Rhosllanerchrugog before making a left turn when you reach The Wynnstay Arms to head down B5097 Church Street, passing St. Mary’s Church on your left. Continue on the road for a mile before making a right turn at the T-junction, and then taking the next right turn down the B5097 road. Continue down the road for about 200 yards before the ground’s entrance appears on the right-hand side.
Car Parking Information:
The ground has an ample sized car park available for a large number of cars.
Club Established/Founded: 1982
- 2 x Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division Winners
- 1 x Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division 3 Winners
- 1 x FAW Trophy Winners
- 1 x North East Wales FA Horace Wynne Cup Winners
- 1 x WNL Premier League Cup Winners
- 1 x WNL Division 3 League Cup Winners
Highest League Finish: Cymru Alliance – 10th [1995-96 & 2013-14]
- Welsh National League Premier Division – 10th
- Welsh Cup – Round 1
- FAW Trophy – Round 4
- WNL Premier Division League Cup – Round 2
Penycae Football Club was established in 1982 to represent the 3,500 inhabitants of Penycae, a village in then county of Clwyd (now in the Wrexham County Borough).
The club would start its history at the bottom of the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) system, playing in its Division 4 for their debut season. Penycae’s beginnings would be promising as they would finish in second position in their debut season by winning 28 of their 34 league campaign and earning 60 points. They would finish seven points behind the undefeated champions Llay Royal British Legion, and gain promotion to WNL Division 3. In addition to a strong league performance, they would also do well in the cup competitions by finishing finalists in the WNL Division 4 Cup but achieving history by claiming their first piece of silverware in their short history by winning the WNL Horace Wynne Cup. Penycae would achieve history in their inaugural season by defeating Overton Athletic in the final of the Horace Wynne Cup.
Their second season of existence would be even more successful than the first as they would achieve their second consecutive promotion up the WNL pyramid by winning the 1983-84 WNL Division 3 title. Penycae would earn their first championship by winning 25 games of their 30 league games, and achieving a five point winning margin from the previous season’s rivals Llay RBL. They would overcome their title rivals once again, this time beating Llay RBL in the final of the Horace Wynne Cup to successfully defend their trophy. Finally they would win the WNL Division 3 Cup to complete an historic treble-winning season!
The third season of Penycae’s existence was a continuation with the previous two seasons in that they achieved a promotion and another cup victory. This time they achieved a promotion from the WNL Division 1 (renamed from ‘Division 2’) to the WNL Premier Division (previously titled ‘Division 1’). They would gain promotion as runners-up to division champions Llay RBL, finishing three points behind their rivals, after earning 49 points from their campaign. They enact some payback on Llay RBL when Penycae claimed their third consecutive Horace Wynne Cup, again beating Llay RBL in the final in a re-run of the previous season’s final.
Penycae would continue to play in the top level of the WNL system for the next eight seasons where they would often finish in the mid-table positions and achieved a highest league placement of fourth in the 1987-88 season. It was during this period that they would reach the third round of the 1989-90 Welsh Cup – the furthest they have ever been in the national cup competition when they beat Bala Town and Cefn Albion before being finally knocked out by Caersws at Afoneitha Road.
Penycae’s 1989-90 Welsh Cup Campaign:
- R1: Bala Town (a) 2 – 1
- R2: Cefn Albion (h) 2 – 0
- R3: Caersws (h) 0 – 2
However their tenure in the WNL all changed in the 1993-94 season when Penycae managed to win their very first WNL Premier Division championship with a total points tally of 62 points, winning the title by seven points from long-term rivals and league runners-up Llay RBL. The team would complete a double-winning season as they also claimed the WNL Premier Cup to cap off another historic campaign for them. Their WNL title would also see the club ascend to the Cymru Alliance for the very first time!
Penycae would spend four seasons in the Cymru Alliance, finishing no higher than tenth position (in 1995-96) in Wales’ second tier. During that period in the Cymru Alliance, they would not win any silverware but would come close on a couple of occasions. Penycae reached the final of the Cymru Alliance League Cup in 1996-97 but would lose in the final to Penrhyncoch. Then in 1997-98, they reached the final of the North East Wales FA Challenge Cup but would lose badly to Wrexham’s reserve team at the final hurdle, getting beat 7-1 by the Racecourse Ground outfit. That particular season would be a painful one for Penycae as they would experience relegation for the first time in their history. Out of nineteen teams, they would finish in sixteenth place on 36 points, ahead of Chirk AAA, Llanidloes Town and Mold Alexandra. However with four northern teams getting relegated from the League of Wales, it meant the bottom four teams would suffer relegation back to the feeder leagues.
In their first season back in the Welsh National League, Penycae would finish in ninth position, in what would be a consolidation season after losing a large amount of players who had played for them in the Cymru Alliance. They would then become one of the strongest teams in the league going into the start of the 21st century, finishing in third position in the 1999-2000 season, before finishing as runners-up in the WNL Premier Division for the next four seasons. Penycae ending up behind Gresford Athletic, Mold Alexandra, Castell Alun Colts and Bala Town respectively. In the final season of this run, Penycae would also reach the final of the national FAW Trophy competition in 2003-04 where they faced Mid Wales League side Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. Unlike previous cup final appearances, Penycae would finally achieve some glory and claim the silverware by beating Llanrhaeadr 3-2 to win their first cup in ten years.
Penycae would have a couple of seasons where they finished in mid-table before returning to the top end of the table through a fourth and fifth league placing in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons respectively. They would achieve another second place finish in the 2008-09 season (their fourth in nine seasons), this time finishing five points behind Llangollen Town. During that season, they would reach another FAW Trophy final where they came up against Swansea-based side Ragged School at the neutral venue of Newtown’s Latham Park. Unlike their first final appearance five years previous, they were unable to bring the trophy back to Afoneitha Road despite a gusty display in the final. A late penalty from Chris Morris saw Ragged School lift the cup – a cruel blow for Penycae as they had saved a first-half penalty also.
Penycae’s 2008-09 FAW Trophy campaign:
- R2: Four Crosses (h) 4 – 1
- R3: Brickfield Rangers (a) 3 – 2
- R4: Hawarden Rangers (h) 2 – 1
- QF: Blaenavon Blues (h) 3 – 1
- SF: Nefyn United (n) 3 – 2
- F: Ragged School (n) 0 – 1
This followed a very topsy-turvy twenty-four months for the side as they would follow-up their second from top finish by finishing second from bottom the following season. Penycae would finish the season on 26 points and only a single point above bottom placed side Borras Park Albion. Despite avoiding relegation by a single point, the following season they would indeed leave the league but in the right direction by winning the 2010-11 WNL Premier Division title. A return to the Cymru Alliance was finally achieved by earning 65 points from their 30 game season, and winning the league by just two points from Wrexham-based side Venture F.C.
As with their previous stint in the Cymru Allance, back in the 1990’s, Penycae would spend four seasons in the second tier of Welsh football. Two thirteenth place finishes were followed up by another tenth place finish in 2013-14, to equal their best league placement that they achieved eighteen years previously. Although in their fourth and final season in the Cymru Alliance, they would finish fourteenth out of sixteen teams in the league, having just won six games and earn 22 points from their 30 game season (one of those victories was against bottom placed side Rhydymwyn, which I blogged about in 2015).
In their first season back in the WNL Premier Division, they finished in ninth place out of fourteen teams, with that season proving to be a consolidation season. It would appear Penycae are still going through a period of change as last season was a disappointing campaign for them as they finished in tenth place (out of fourteen teams). They would win only six of their twenty-six league games, and earned just 22 points, with only five points separating them from thirteenth-placed side Brymbo.
Penycae’s previous competitive match results:
- Sat 12th August: Llanuwchllyn (a) 1 – 5
After a tough pre-season which saw Penycae take on a number of clubs such as West Cheshire League side Rainhill Town, Mid Wales League side Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and Cymru Alliance team Porthmadog, their first game of the season was played the previous weekend to my groundhop. Penycae’s first game was an away league fixture at Llanuwchllyn and unfortunately it was not the ideal start for Penycae, as they suffered a heavy 1-5 defeat at Village Hall. Joe Evans would get an opening day hat-trick for the hosts, with Sam Evans and Iwan Jones contributing to Llanuwchllyn’s goal tally, whilst Penycae’s consolation goal was scored by Ben Jones.
In contrast to their opponents, they had only played one competitive game this month but had not played during the mid-week. It would seem match fitness might play a huge part in this upcoming game against Castell Alun Colts.
THE OPPOSITION – CASTELL ALUN COLTS
Castell Alun Colts’ previous competitive match results:
- Tue 1st August: Corwen (a) [NEWFA Cup Preliminary Round] 0 – 3
- Sat 12th August: Maesgwyn (a) 1 – 3
- Wed 16th August: Acrefair Youth (h) 4 – 2
Castell Alun Colts’ season began at the start of August with a preliminary round game in the North East Wales FA Challenge Cup. They travelled to Corwen, a difficult place to go at the best of times but are also positioned in a league above Castell Alun. Naturally they were unable to cause a cup upset at the War Memorial Park as the hosts ran out 3-0 winners at the end of the evening, and progressed to the first round of the NEWFA Cup.
The Colts’ first game of the league campaign would take place away at Maesgwyn. On paper this looked like an away win with Castell Alun having finished five places and 34 points better off the previous season. However Maesgwyn have dramatically improved this season and caused an opening day shock when they beat Castell Alun 3-1. Steve Reece getting a brace for the hosts with Richard Jones completing the scoring for Maesgwyn, whilst Tom Adams got the only goal for the Colts.
However, unlike their Welsh Cup opponents, Castell Alun would be going into the Welsh Cup fixture with a victory under their belts, as they managed a mid-week home win over bottom side Acrefair Youth (who I saw at Llangollen the previous week – blog found here). A brace from the in-form Tom Adams (now on three goals in two games), Dave Spencer and Josh Colclough ensured the Hope-based club managed to claim their first win of the season. Acrefair would make the scoreline look more respectable at the Castell Alun Sports and Leisure Centre with goals from Josh Lloyd and Jack Goulbourne.
AFONEITHA ROAD GROUNDHOP
Attendance: 60 approx.
Weather Conditions: Overcast with sporadic heavy showers
- Entrance: £3.00
- Programme: £1.00
- Hot Dog: £1.50
- Cup of Coffee: £1.00
As I have mentioned in previous recent blogs, my current goal is to reach the landmark of 100 visited grounds as soon as possible. In my previous groundhop blog, a week previously to this blog, which was at Llangollen Town (found here), I had reached 94 grounds with Tower Fields being my 95th ground. Since that groundhop at Llangollen, I had managed to visit an additional three grounds with Barmouth & Dyffryn United, Point of Ayr and Tranmere Rovers all being ticked off in a single week. As a result, I was approaching the third Saturday of August with the potential of reaching 99 grounds and becoming tantalisingly close to fulfilling my set goal. This coming weekend was earmarked by myself as it would provide an ideal opportunity for adding another ground to the tally because it would be the very start of the 2017-18 Welsh Cup competition, with the First Qualifying Round fixtures all scheduled to being played.
When the Welsh Cup First Qualifying Round fixtures were drawn back in July, I was interested to see whether I could be able to watch a game at a new ground, and thankfully there was a good selection of potential choices from the draw. A few instantly stood out to me although one fixture in particular was catching my eye, and that was Welsh National League Premier Division side Penycae taking on WNL Division 1 side Castell Alun Colts, it what could be a potential cup upset. I had wanted to visit third-tier Penycae for some time having last seen them a few years ago when they were last in the Cymru Alliance and played that season’s bottom club, Rhydymwyn, at Vicarage Road (the blog to that groundhop can be found here).
Although my interest in the game was increased further when the manager of Penycae, Ian Andrews, messaged me on Twitter pointing out his fixture as well as the club’s clubhouse getting some improvements. As he had made the effort to contact me, the least I could do is come down, watch the game and attempt to write a blog about my visit. Therefore my decision was made, I would be finally getting the opportunity to visit Afoneitha Park for some Welsh Cup action on that weekend.
Penycae is a village of 3,400 inhabitants positioned 5,5 miles south-west of the much larger town of Wrexham, and situated within the Wrexham County Borough (although historically within the county of Denbighshire). As with many surrounding villages within the Wrexham area, the village’s foundations were built upon the extensive local coal mining industry that existed in the Wrexham area in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although since the closure of the numerous coal pits, it has today become a commuter village to Wrexham and its industrial parks. It would take me forty minutes from 94th Minute HQ to reach Penycae, with the traffic along my route surprisingly light and without any substantial delays. It is worth noting that a lot of the main roads going through Penycae are restricted to just twenty miles per hour, so be aware of that when driving through the village.
Penycae FC’s ground, Afoneitha Road, is situated in the east of the village and opposite the village’s primary school. The ground is flanked by a housing estate to the north, of which a number of the houses overlook the ground, and the Afon Eitha (hence the ground’s and road’s name) that flows past the ground to the south. The Afon Eitha is a small tributary river that flows past Penycae’s ground and through the village of Ruabon before finally converging on the River Dee near Rhosymadoc. The ground is located down a narrow lane just off the B5097 Afoneitha Road that dissects through the village. The tarmacked lane is a little bumpy with a number of potholes present so take it easy when driving down it to reach Penycae’s home. Eventually you will see the ground appear in front of you with a large car park just outside the entrance to the ground, and if you are lucky, there should be plenty of space to get an available car parking spot.
Even though I arrived at the ground early, there seemed very little space available to park my car in the large car park. It really didn’t help that there were no markings on the floor displaying the allocations for each spot which meant there excessive space between parked cars, although the spaces were too narrow to fit another car in. I found it all very frustrating trying to find an available car space especially as so much space had been wasted between the cars – more cars could have easily fitted into the car park. After driving around the car park and considering my options, I had to park at the end of one of the rows and a little close to a stationary car, to avoid any potential blocking of the passage between the row of cars and the grass verge.
Entrance to the ground was just £3, which is a very good price to watch Welsh Cup football and I was immediately impressed with the set-up that Penycae have at Afoneitha Road. Since they acquired the lease to the ground in 2005, they have been able to continually improve their facilities and the ground is at a fantastic standard for Tier 3 football. The clubhouse is naturally the most dominating part of the ground, and it is situated at the village end of the pitch. Reopened in 2013 after being fully refurbished, as well as having additional improvements added to it this year (as mentioned in Ian’s tweet), The Karl Thomas Memorial Hall is named in honour and remembrance of a former Penycae mascot and supporter of the club who passed away at just fourteen through cardiac problems. The club actively organises a charity benefit day every year at the ground in Karl’s memory, which gains a great deal of generous support and raises a considerable amount of money for charity.
The clubhouse is certainly a cracking example of its type, and it is able to cater for parties and post-game refreshments. It has a large number of tables and chairs, with a wall-attached television showing sports and is completed with its fully working bar (complete with club crest emblazoned on the bar). There is also a number of wooden benches outside on a recently patioed area to watch the game from on idealistically dry days.
I decided to pop into the clubhouse for a couple of minutes where I managed to catch the very end of Sky Sports’ televised early afternoon Premier League game, where Manchester United had earned themselves a 4-0 victory away at Swansea City. After seeing the scoreline, I decided to get some food and drink from the snack bar at the ground. The wooden snack bar juts out from the clubhouse and sells a selection of hot food and drinks, as well as the usual cold snacks. I decided to get myself a hotdog (after my first choice of the bacon bap was unfortunately unavailable) and cup of black coffee from “Bando’s” (I think that’s its name of the snack bar) for a combined price of £2.50. I have to say it was good value for the money with both the hotdog and coffee cup being good sizes for the price, and they tasted good which the main factor.
As the rain was starting to slowly descend from the gloomy clouds above, just as I finished consuming my hotdog, I took my cup of coffee and stood under one of the covered stands that Penycae possesses. The two stands are located to the Afon Eitha side of the pitch and are situated right next to each other, with the right-hand stand being a covered stand allowing supporters to stand on a number of elevated steps, whilst the left hand stand (the Kenny Morris Memorial Stand – named in honour of one of the founding members of the club) has about 85 covered plastic seats. It is also at the Kenny Morris Stand where there is a section for disabled supporters to watch the game whilst being covered from the elements – very much needed for today’s game!
As with many grounds at this level of Welsh football, there is a permanent perimeter barrier which separates the supporters from the playing field, as well as a concreted path which runs around the entire perimeter of the pitch. The ground also possesses permanent, brick-built dugouts which are also on the Afon Eitha side of the pitch but positioned off to the side of the stands as the avoid blocking anybody’s view of the pitch. Even though the ground is at an exceptionally high quality, it does not possess permanent floodlights at the moment, although the installation of floodlights are something which the club has earmarked as a possible ground improvement in the future for the ground.
One thing that I did notice about the Afoneitha Road pitch however was that it had a noticeable slope. The steady slope ran from the corner nearest to the entrance hut towards its opposite corner on the far side of the pitch. Despite this, the ground is situated in a very tranquil and wooded spot within the village, with huge trees enclosing the ground on three sides and blocking the views of nearly all the houses in the adjacent housing estates. As you would imagine in the middle of summer, the trees were displaying all shades of green, and it will be a fantastic sight to experience when the leaves start to turn to darker and more vibrant colours as autumn approaches.
With the rain starting to become slightly heavier, I stood on the top step of the covered stand with the well-needed cup of coffee in hand. It would seem that the match had attracted a fair number of supporters from both sides for this first Welsh Cup action of the season, as both stands were fairly bustling. In conjunction there were a number of supporters dotted around the perimeter of the pitch, with the majority congregating around the clubhouse area. As I was waiting for the teams to come out, I got talking to a couple of supporters who were asking me about the upcoming game as well as the early-afternoon result at the Liberty Stadium.
With the greying clouds looking ominous above, and a stiff breeze whipping up, both teams would arrive onto the pitch from the changing rooms. The changing rooms are connected at the end of the clubhouse complex (as is so often commonplace in Welsh clubs) and both teams just had to walk a short distance past the snack bar before getting onto the pitch. Penycae would be playing this cup match in their home kit of sky blue shirts, with navy blue shorts and socks. Whereas Castell Alun Colts were in their Racing Santander style home strip of green and black striped shirts, complete with black shorts and socks.
With everything seemingly all prepared and ready, this afternoon’s official, Mr Louis Beckley, promptly blew his whistle to start this interesting Welsh Cup contest between third-tier Penycae and fourth-tier side Castell Alun Colts.
MATCH DETAILS – FIRST HALF
It would be the home side who would start the spritelier of the two teams in the showery conditions, and they would attack the Castell Alun goal from the get-go. After seven minutes of the game, Penycae found themselves taking an early lead after taking full advantage of a set piece. After winning a corner from an attack, the corner was whipped into the box from the right and found one of the Penycae defenders leaping above everyone in the box to deftly flick the cross goal bound. The Castell Alun keeper was quick on his toes and reacted effectively to block the effort, but he could only rebound the ball towards the back post. Unfortunately for the visitors, it would be a Penycae player who reacted first to the deflection and managed to tap the ball into the empty net from two yards out.
Penycae 1 – 0 Castell Alun Colts
Having taken an early lead in the game, Penycae were in the ascendancy and were pushing forward looking for a second goal. They would get another golden opportunity after eleven minutes when a long ball from launched from left midfield towards the Penycae forwards. It looked as if Castell’s #3 might be able to intercept the pass but he misjudged the flight of the ball and jumped a little too late. This resulted in the ball floating over his head and being picked up by Penycae’s #11 who had ran beyond the visiting defender on the right flank and was baring down on the visitor’s goal. With only the goalkeeper left the beat, it looked as if he would double the host’s lead, but his low, powerful effort was saved by the onrushing keeper’s feet and the chance was spurned.
Despite missing a good chance three minutes previously, Penycae would eventually get their two goal lead on the fourteenth minute of the game. After some decent passing in and around the visitor’s penalty area, the ball found its way to Penycae’s #11 who was positioned outside of the box on the left side of the pitch and unmarked. Spotting the Castell goalkeeper off his goalline, the winger had enough time to hit a high curling shot over the goalkeeper and land the ball in the bottom right corner of the net. A wonderful piece of skill from the forward which brought the applause of everyone in the crowd!
Penycae 2 – 0 Castell Alun Colts
Unfortunately the afternoon would get worse for Castell Alun as their #7 would suffer a rather painful looking injury during a tackle after just fifteen minutes played. The game was stopped whilst the winger received some medical attention on his ankle, and after a couple of minutes he had to be substituted off the pitch. He would continue to receive some medical attention on the sideline but eventually had to be literally carried off the pitch and towards the changing rooms. Hopefully the injury looked worse than what it actually was (his ankle looked pretty swollen) and I wish him a very speedy recovery.
The break in play, as a result of the injury suffered by #7, halted the momentum Penycae was gathering in the game and allowed Castell Alun to reconsolidate themselves and find a way into the game, which was quickly getting away from them. It would be the substitute #12 who would become pivotal in their fightback against Penycae and they started to threaten the home defence and goal more often. On the twenty-fifth minute of the game, Castell Alun would have their first clear attempt on goal. It would come through a counter-attack by the substitute #12 who broke clear down the left side of the pitch but cutting back and squaring the ball to their #9 on the edge of the penalty area. In a similar vein to Penycae’s second goal, the forward attempted to lob the home goalkeeper who had advanced off his goalline, but alas the ball had too much power behind it and it just sailed over the crossbar.
The game was becoming more open with both sides throwing caution to the wind resulting in a thrilling end-to-end contest. Firstly Penycae could have scored their third goal through another corner, but the cross towards the back post was agonisingly headed wide by their #4. A quick counter by Castell Alun then threatened the now scrambling Penycae defence as #12 drifted past a number of challenges and was quickly advancing through the centre. Despite a great attacking run, he was quickly becoming under intense pressure from the covering defenders and attempted a long range effort on goal. Sadly for the replacement, he rushed his effort and scuffed the shot low and wide past the left post.
Even though the game was becoming more of an equal contest, it would be the home side who would extend their advantage on the fortieth minute. A superb counter attack down the left flank by Penycae’s #2, who had achieved the overlap with the left winger, found himself with enough time to direct a low ball between the Castell Alun defensive line and towards #9 who was advancing centrally into the box. It would become a sprint race between the striker and the alert onrushing goalkeeper into who would claim the ball first, with the home player being the victor to successfully latch onto the pass and coolly divert the ball past the keeper and into the bottom corner of the goal.
Penycae 3 – 0 Castell Alun Colts
Penycae’s three goal advantage would only be maintained for three minutes before Castell Alun managed to peg back their hosts in this Welsh Cup fixture. Yet again, it would be another counter attack which would the creative factor in a goal being scored. A Castell Alun player had broken clear of the Penycae defence and was advancing towards goal, but he was stopped just inside the penalty area by the home goalkeeper, who dived at the forward’s feet attempting to gather the ball but brought down the player instead. The referee had no doubts in his decision and instantly awarded a penalty to Castell Alun. It would be the impressive substitute #12 who would successfully convert the spot kick through a well-taken penalty by sending both the goalkeeper in the wrong direction and firing the ball into the left corner of the goal. A superb penalty kick and a goal which Castell Alun’s exertions had deserved!
Penycae 3 – 1 Castell Alun Colts
Because of the injury earlier in the half, there was a lengthy amount of injury time added onto the end of the first half. It would be Penycae who would take advantage of this additional period of time to further increase their goal tally for the afternoon and reinstate their three goal cushion. On the fourth minute of injury time a pass was directed down the right flank towards #9, who managed to evade the sliding tackle from the Castell Alun defender and advance towards goal before squaring the ball across the visitor’s goal. The pass was directed towards #7 who had surged into the penalty area and found himself in a central position at the edge of the six yard box. He managed to connect onto the squared pass and tap the ball past the wrong-footed goalkeeper to score a goal at that crucial period before the interval.
Penycae 4 – 1 Castell Alun Colts
The fourth goal for Penycae in added time would be the final action in the first half and the official soon blew his whistle to conclude the first half’s action. It would be interesting to see how the Colts would react to conceding that fourth goal at such an important period of the first half, and whether they would attack more in the second half.
HALF TIME: PENYCAE 4 – 1 CASTELL ALUN COLTS
During the half time break, I decided to head back into the clubhouse and check on the latest scores in the games being played in the English leagues via Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, which was being shown on the large television there. I was also further impressed with the clubhouse having only had the briefest of looks prior to the match. Certainly the additions have made the clubhouse one of the best in the local area in my humble opinion!
Having had a watch of Jeff Stelling and the pundits for about five minutes, and having a quick mooch around the clubhouse, I went back to the entrance kiosk in the ground and bought myself a match programme for £1. Initially I thought there were no programmes available when I first entered the ground. However having seen a few supporters (who had arrived after me) with programmes in their hands throughout the first half, I did wonder if there were any left. Anyway I made a quick enquiry and thankfully there were still a couple of programmes remaining for purchase.
The match programme was decent, detailing all the other Welsh Cup First Qualifying Round fixtures being played at the same time, as well as the upcoming FAW Trophy matches also. There were a couple of quizzes to keep people occupied during the half time period, and also detailed all the winners of the Welsh Cup, which pleased the “statto” within me. Finally the programme showed the WNL Premier Division league table prior to the Welsh Cup game, as well as Penycae’s upcoming fixtures. Overall, a decent production and it is nice to see the club making the effort to actually produce one.
With programme in hand, and with the weather thankfully improving, if temporarily, I decided to stand on the other side of the pitch for the second half’s action.
MATCH DETAILS – SECOND HALF
The second half started in a similar fashion to how the first half began, with Penycae being the more attacking minded from the kick-off. After two minutes, they would have a great chance to extend their lead further through an indirect free kick situated in a central position about 30 yards from goal. The set piece was chipped by #10 towards the crowd of players who were gathering around the edge of the six yard box, and it would be Penycae’s #5 who would be able to climb above the bustling pack to get an unchallenged header onto the cross. Despite having a clear header on goal, the centre back was only able to divert the cross wide of the right post. Had that header gone in, the game would have most certainly concluded as a contest, but what transpired would be that the game’s momentum would switch in the visitor’s favour.
With just three minutes played in the second half, and a minute after Penycae had spurned a good goal scoring opportunity, Castell Alun had reduced their arrears in the match. In a classic ‘route one’ football attack, the Castell Alun goalkeeper booted a long ball down the pitch towards #11 on the right side of the pitch. He was allowed to advance down the line long enough to send a long, low cross towards #9 who was arriving at the far post. With the home defence scrambling back, the visiting forward was unchallenged at the back post which enabled him to have enough time and space to deftly divert the cross past the diving keeper and into the net.
Penycae 4 – 2 Castell Alun Colts
With Penycae still reeling having conceded a quick goal in the second half, than Castell Alun suddenly made the tie much more exciting as they grabbed their third goal of the game a minute after scoring their second. Again, it would be the right side of the pitch which would prove fortuitous for the Colts, this time from a free kick. The free kick was directed towards the far post but it looked as if Penycae’s #10 would somehow be able to deal with the attack and clear away the danger. Rather unluckily for the forward, his attempted clearing volley went completely wrong as he somehow took his eye off the ball for a millisecond and scuffed his clearance. The ball subsequently span off his foot, went behind him and span past the keeper and into the net. A nightmare scenario for the home side, who were now under pressure in this fixture after having a two goal cushion just three minutes ago.
Penycae 4 – 3 Castell Alun Colts
The confidence and momentum was certainly with Castell Alun now, and they increasingly looked like they would grab an equaliser in the game as they continued to threaten Penycae’s defence and goal. Their forwards #9 and the impressive #12 were continually causing the home defence problems through their positive runs, and darting attacks. They came very close to equalling the scoreline when they were awarded a corner in the fifty-fourth minute. A deep corner was directed to the back post where #9 was lurking and managed to successfully connect with the cross, although he agonising nodded his effort wide of the left post. After being in such a dominant position, Penycae were on the ropes at this moment in time and it was looking more likely Castell Alun would get the equaliser.
Castell Alun continued to threaten the Penycae back line and were committing more players to their attacking phases. Resultantly it left them vulnerable to counter attacks, and Penycae would exploit the gaps which now appeared in front of them. On the seventy-third minute, and completely against the run of play, Penycae launched a counter attack after breaking down another Colts attack. A superb run through the centre from #11 brought the ball from deep within their own half and was quickly advancing into the visitor’s half. He played a crafty 1-2 pass with #9, who was positioned on the edge of the penalty box, to allow him to get into space to take a shot. When he received the ball back from #9, the winger fired a curling low shot past the helpless keeper and into the bottom left corner of the goal. An absolute delight of a goal from the hosts!
Penycae 5 – 3 Castell Alun Colts
Penycae almost scored a sixth goal five minutes after they had scored their fifth, again coming from a counter attack after another Castell Alun attack had broken down. This time the attack came down the left, with their #7 directing a cross towards #9 in the centre of the penalty box. The forward managed to get ahead of his marker and connect with the cross, although his sidefooted volley failed to trouble the keeper and flew over the crossbar. It was a really good opportunity for the home side to completely kill the game off.
Despite conceding a fifth goal in the afternoon, Castell Alun refused to concede defeat and would continue to attack the Penycae goal knowing that another goal could make their hosts nervous going into the final ten minutes of the game. They had a number of chances to score a fourth, firstly coming from a corner which was agonisingly headed over the bar by #12, before the substitute was involved in another decent goal scoring opportunity. This time a long cross was aimed towards him and he tried to half volley the ball past the goalkeeper, but the number one managed to successfully block the effort. The visitors would continue to threaten the home goal, most of them coming through long balls into the Penycae half, but the home keeper stood firm and was on decent form to successfully block or snuff out any potential danger on his goal.
After a couple of minutes of injury time, the official finally blew his whistle and ended the thrilling contest at Afoneitha Park. Despite a good effort from Castell Alun, it would be Penycae who would be progressing to the next round of the Welsh Cup!
FULL TIME: PENYCAE 5 – 3 CASTELL ALUN COLTS
POST MATCH & CONCLUSION
This was a really exciting match with both teams preferring to attack and creating an end-to-end game which is always desired – it was the quintessential cup match which I thoroughly enjoyed! It looked as if Penycae had inflicted the killer blow just before half-time with their fourth goal of the afternoon, and they had been the better side in the first half. However their lower-tier opposition came right back at them in the second half and it looked at one point that Castell Alun would find an equaliser as they had all the ball possession and numerous chances. However Penycae’s final goal dampened Castell Alun’s momentum and ensured they could finally hold on to book their place in the Second Qualifying Round, but Castell Alun should be proud with their battling performance. Subsequently Penycae was drawn in the next round to take on fellow Welsh National League Premier Division side Llay Welfare.
As for the ground, despite the initial frustration of car parking and people leaving ridiculous amounts of space between cars, I thoroughly enjoyed my groundhop to Afoneitha Road. The ground itself is at a brilliant standard, with both stands providing great views of the pitch, as well as the path around the pitch. Plus the clubhouse and snack bars themselves are fantastic, with the newly renovated clubhouse being one of the best in the Wrexham area, and the food being superb from the snack bar (and at reasonable prices). Finally everyone at Penycae was really friendly and welcoming, which was really appreciated! An excellent club to visit! Just wish I remembered to ask if they had any pin badges now….ha!
So if you get the chance to visit Penycae for the afternoon, don’t hesitate and go down and I am sure you will enjoy yourself! At the very least, you can enjoy a drink and a hotdog whilst watching proper ‘grassroots’ football = perfect!
I would like to wish Penycae all the very best in their Second Qualifying Round tie against Llay Welfare and for the rest of the season, and also wish Castell Alun Colts all the very best for the rest of their season also.