Date Visited: 17th February 2018
Competition: Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division One
Ground Number: 103
- Founded: 2016
- Ground: The Muga, Plas Kynaston Lane, Cefn Mawr, Wrexham LL14 3AT
- Highest Ever League Placing: North East Wales League – 3rd [2016-17]
CEFN MAWR RANGERS’ 2016-17 SEASON:
- North East Wales League: Third (PROMOTED)
- Welsh Cup: N/A
- FAW Trophy: Round 4
- North East Wales FA Challenge Cup: Round 2
- Horace Wynne Cup: WINNERS
- North East Wales League Presidential Cup: WINNERS
Watching football games during the winter months has become somewhat of a paradox for me. You will often see me wax lyrical about the benefits of summer football in these blogs and on Twitter, and how I believe the Welsh football system should switch over to a summer season schedule. Its potential for encouraging more supporters through the turnstiles due to better weather conditions, combined with gaining more attention as it is not competing with the English leagues for fan interest, and potentially better performances of our teams in European competitions must seriously be explored by the FAW. Proof to that argument can aimed towards the League of Ireland, and how that league has benefitted since its switch to summer football in 2003. Despite evidence that Welsh football would indeed benefit from the schedule switch, personally I do prefer and enjoy watching games during the winter months.
It’s difficult to explain this belief but I think traditional activities of winter football that make it so appealing to me. The pre-match ritual of layering up with clothes and wrapping up warm in preparation for being exposed to the elements for a couple of hours. The enjoyment of purchasing hot food, such as chips or a tasty pie, from the club’s snack bar as a source of warmth, all washed down with a piping hot cup of black coffee or the nectar of Bovril – that is what lower league football is all about…that and the football of course!
Whilst the benefits of watching football in the sunshine is all too apparent, I am not so keen sitting in a stand whilst sweating buckets or gaining a risk of sunburn whilst standing beside alongside a pitch. I prefer the chill in the air of football matches, the smell of mud, the constant drumming of rain hitting an old corrugated iron roof in a stand which is both soothing and slightly hypnotic. It’s such recollections which bring back so many good memories of past groundhops and journeys, and it is those recalls which I would imagine most people encounter is one of the reasons why summer football has never been embraced in the Welsh pyramid.
Alas to look back in the past is to look back with rose-tinted glasses and not see the obvious flaw of winter football in Wales, in that there is usually a large chunk of the winter period when very few games are played due to continuous waves of postponements and abandoned games. It can become such a problem that it is common for teams not to play any league or cup fixtures for multiple weeks on end as pitches are deemed ‘unplayable’ by officials, especially when teams play on communal pitches. Not only does this produce such a strain on the grounds staff, but clubs lose money from lost gate takings or expenditure on games which are never held. For many Welsh clubs, who have very little money at the best of times, such periods can be catastrophic and leave clubs in the lurch and facing a troublesome future or facing resignation from the league.
I mention this problem because the weekends in late January and early February could have been described, at best, as “ofnadwy” or “bloody awful” and have played havoc with the football calendar, forcing games to be postponed on an alarming rate. Only the blessed few teams with a synthetic pitch are capable of hosting games, and usually they can be postponed due to snow flurries which have plagued North Wales over the past few weeks. Personally, the winter weather creates chaos with my groundhopping plans, especially when every option in an extensive list gets postponed. Only the blessings of the Six Nations and the Winter Olympics being shown on TV has alleviated my weekend boredom. It is such problems like this that makes me always sway with my head, and not my heart, and lean towards a future summer schedule.
Thankfully after a period of heavy rain and snow, the weather forecast for the third weekend in February was looking much more encouraging, with dry and mild conditions predicted for North Wales! Finally I would be able to watch some football this weekend!
My spirits would be initially dashed somewhat when it was announced that Holywell’s game at Porthmadog (my first choice game) had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Surely the pitches must be alright for this weekend and the days before had been relatively dry. However after viewing photos of Y Traeth on their Twitter account, and its large pools of water settling on the playing surface, I couldn’t really argue with that decision. It seemed more suited for water polo than football unfortunately! It was a real shame the trip to Porthmadog was scuppered as it’s a club I have a lot of time for, and a town which I really enjoy visiting regardless of the weather conditions (my groundhopping blog for a previous visit to Porthmadog can be found here)!
As a result, other options would have to be explored for potential groundhops. Certainly a possible location would have been travelling down to Llanrug United’s ground to see the home side take on Greenfield in the quarter finals of the FAW Trophy. Undoubtedly it would be an excellent game to watch, in possibly my favourite Welsh cup competition. It would certainly fulfil the criteria of being a new ground for me to tick off the list, and I would have added interest with Greenfield being involved considering they are a local club for me. Also it would be fascinating to see how they would react after some complete scumbags broke into their changing rooms and trashed the place, as well as stealing their footballs.
[NOTE: If you have any information on who could have caused this damage, please contact North Wales Police so these morons are caught and brought to justice. Also should you wish to donate to the club to help with the repairs, the link can be found HERE: https://www.gofundme.com/repair-damage-to-changing-room]
Sadly the kick off time for the FAW Trophy quarter final was scheduled at 1:30pm, and considering the journey time would be at least an hour from 94th Minute HQ, and providing there were no delays on the A55 Expressway (there are ALWAYS delays on the A55), it was just not possible to get down there in time for the start of the match. As a result, it was a quick search on ‘Non-League Matters’ to have a look at the fixtures being played this weekend, and one fixture stood out for me from the various leagues – Cefn Mawr Rangers versus the gloriously named Mynydd Isa Spartans in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Division 1.
I suppose you are wondering the rationale for choosing this particular match? Firstly it looked like it would be an intriguing match in the fourth tier of Welsh football. However Cefn Mawr Rangers play on the same pitch (The Muga) as their local rivals Cefn Albion, and thus it would be another ground ticked off from the WNL Premier Division. After having visited Rhostyllen at the start of January (find the Rhostyllen blog here), there was only Cefn Albion’s and Llanuwchllyn’s grounds left to visit! And having said in previous blogs, I am determined to complete all the grounds in the WNL Premier Division before the end of the season.
Nevertheless over the past couple of months, Cefn Albion have played a lot of their home games on the synthetic pitch at The Rock in Rhosymedre, home of Welsh Premier League side Cefn Druids (the blog to a past visit can found here), meaning they have barely played at The Muga at all. Heading to watch Cefn Mawr Rangers would allow me to tick off The Muga ground on the superb Groundhopper application resulting in Llanuwchllyn being the remaining ground for the league, whilst ultimately watching a new side that I have previously never seen before.
Still a quick tweet was sent to the club’s Twitter account (@CefnRangers) asking for confirmation that the game was still on. One has to be cautious during the winter months and not assume games are definitely on – I have learnt that lesson before! Thankfully a reply from the excellent @welshfootie (follow if you’re not already doing so) on Twitter assured me that the game was indeed still taking place, and that The Muga was a fantastic ground to watch football. Thanks very much for the reply and the assurance!
Therefore it was decided, I would travel the 28,1 miles eastwards along the A55 Expressway and down the A483 dual carriageway to head towards the village of Cefn Mawr to watch the local side Cefn Mawr Rangers. The weather was dry and sunny, and the roads on the drive down were fairly quiet – the initial signs were good and it was looking like an ideal day for a groundhop!
- Population: 7,100
- County: Wrexham County Borough
- Historic County: Denbighshire
- Nearest Train Stations: Ruabon (1,9 miles); Chirk (4,0 miles)
Cefn Mawr is a commuter village of just under 7,100 people located south-west of Wrexham, east of Llangollen and just north of the River Dee, in the County Borough of Wrexham itself. As with many other settlements in the area, it has great infrastructural links with the A483 dual carriageway trunk road to the east of the village, linking it with Chester, North Wales and beyond, whilst the historic A5 road is positioned to the south of the village. The village does not have its own railway station anymore after it was closed in 1960 as part of the ridiculous Doctor Beeching cuts. However it is within close proximity to Ruabon and Chirk railway stations, whilst the main hub of Wrexham General is not too far away either. Finally its name translates as “big ridge” in English.
Cefn Mawr was historically within the ancient parish of Ruabon and the area was originally known as Cristionydd Cynrig before it combined with the neighbouring township of Coed Cristionydd was to form part of the new parish of Rhosymedre in 1844. In keeping with many other settlements within the Wrexham area, the village’s foundations were built upon heavy industry being conducted in the locality. Large deposits of iron, coal and sandstone nearby ensured heavy industry dominated the area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Iron was used at several blast furnaces and forges within close proximity, whilst the coal, which fuelled the furnaces, was mined at pits in Cefn, Plas Kynaston and Dolydd. Finally the sandstone was acquired from quarries situated just above Cefn Mawr itself.
Because of the large industrial output going on in the area, it led to a requirement for the ever-increasing network of canals to reach the area and help transport goods throughout the country. It was certainly possible to extend the Shropshire Union Canal into Cefn Mawr, however there was one massive obstacle in that canal’s expansion – the steep-sided Dee Valley just south of the settlement. In keeping with pioneering Victorian engineering, they never let a little thing like “geography” hinder industrial progress and so created the area’s most iconic and famous landmark, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
The world-famous Pontycysyllte Aqueduct was completed in 1805 by Thomas Telford and William Jessop after taking ten years to design and construct. The 307 metre, eighteen span aqueduct lifts the navigable Llangollen Canal 38 metres above the River Dee which flows below it. The initial plan of the aqueduct was to be part of the Ellesmere Canal network which linked the River Severn at Shrewsbury with the River Mersey and the Port of Liverpool. Also it would allow raw materials and good being harvested or produced in the Wrexham area to be transported cheaply and safely to other areas in the country. The proposed connection with the River Mersey never materialised due to a lack of funding however the canal continued to be used. Its function as transportation was also defunct in 1855 when the railway system reached nearby Ruabon.
Today the aqueduct is mainly used for narrow boats and tourists, and still forms an important part of the navigable canal system in the area. It is still the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain, and the highest in the entire world. Its architectural and historical importance in the world was formalised when it was awarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2009, putting it on par with the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China. Finally it is the aqueduct, and the meandering River Dee below it, that it clearly and proudly displayed in Cefn Mawr Rangers’ badge.
As well as traditional heavy industry, a chemical works plant was establish at Plas Kynaston in 1867 by a German industrial chemist, Robert Ferdinand Graesser, who hoped to extract paraffin oil and wax from the local shale. As the nineteenth century progressed, the company increased its range of manufacture, expanding into the production of coal tar and carbolic acid (phenol), and would eventually grow to become the world’s leading producer of phenol. After the First World War, the company would enter a partnership with US chemical company Monsanto to produce a large number of products, before later focusing on rubber processing chemicals.
This rubber processing factory would develop over the years to become “Flexsys” and become an excellent employer for the area. For those of you with knowledge of Welsh football, you will recognise the name as they sponsored the local side during the formative years of the Cymru Alliance and League of Wales. The local side adopting their sponsor’s name and applying it to their own (a common practice in Welsh football) resulting in Flexsys Cefn Druids competing in the League of Wales for many years. Unfortunately in 2010, the chemical site, which had been an employer for over 140 years was finally closed down by Flexsys’ parent company, Solutia, leaving the area with practically no manufacturing left. A sorry tale considering Cefn Mawr’s industrial past.
Today the village has become a commuter village with people often travelling to work in Wrexham, Airbus, Chester or beyond. It possesses a country park, Tŷ Mawr, which features the Cefn Viaduct, a superb 1848 construction which carried the Chester to Shrewsbury railway line over the River Dee. In addition, the village has two primary schools, one in the English medium and one in the Welsh medium, and it has a large Tesco supermarket which was built on the old site of Cefn Druids’ ground.
CEFN MAWR RANGERS’ HISTORY
Cefn Mawr Rangers are a very new club in Welsh football having only being formed prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, and are based in the village of Cefn Mawr. Cefn Mawr is one of the major centres within the traditional heartland of Welsh football as it is the home of current Welsh Premier League side Cefn Druids, one of Wales’ oldest clubs. In addition to Cefn Druids, the village also has Cefn Albion who play in the third tier of the Welsh football pyramid, applying their trade in the Welsh National League Premier Division. The creation of Cefn Mawr Rangers in 2016 ensured that Cefn Mawr, with a population of over 7,000 inhabitants, had three sides within the top five tiers of Welsh football (thanks to @ffwtbol for that stat!).
Honours Since Founding:
- 1 x Horace Wynne Cup Winners
- 1 x North East Wales League Presidential Cup
Rangers started their short history in the North East Wales League where they would have an excellent debut season. Cefn Mawr would finish the 2016-17 season in third position, having earned fifty-six points from their twenty-six game league campaign and scoring one hundred goals in the process. Their league placement would also see them gain promotion to the Welsh National League Division One. Even though they finished six points behind league champions CPD Sychdyn and two points behind runners-up Mynydd Isa Spartans, they would benefit from Sychdyn’s refusal of promotion and gain that spot instead. Rather sadly for Sychdyn, the club would fold shortly before the commencement of the 2017-18 season due to ground issues.
With success in the league, cup success naturally followed for Rangers as they would perform well in the FAW Trophy, the national cup competition for clubs in the third tier and below. The new side would get all the way to the fourth round of the knockout tournament eliminating Llanystumdwy, Llangollen Town and Rhostyllen in the first three rounds respectively. Their campaign would be ended by WNL Premier side, FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay, in a barnstorming cup tie which went into extra time. Despite having home advantage, Rangers would fall to third-tier FC Nomads by a scoreline of 3-6 after 120 minutes of play. A great performance from a side in their first season of competing!
Cefn Mawr Rangers’ 2016-17 FAW Trophy campaign:
- 1RN: Llanystumdwy (a) 3 – 2
- 2RN: Llangollen Town (a) 4 – 0
- 3RN: Rhostyllen (h) 4 – 2 a.e.t.
- R4N: FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay (h) 3 – 6 a.e.t.
As well as impressively gaining promotion in their first season as a club, Cefn Mawr Rangers also managed to win their historic first trophy in their short history. They would claim the Queenferry Sports North East Wales League President’s Cup with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Offa Athletic at the neutral venue of Alyn Park in Mold. A couple of braces from Lewis Jones and Jordan Powell, and a concluding goal from Geraint Lewis ensured the silverware would be making its way to The Muga.
Cefn Mawr Rangers would reach the second round of the regional North East Wales FA Challenge Cup in their first season, beating Halkyn United 7-1 and Brymbo 6-3 before withdrawing from the competition before their game against FC Queens Park. However the Rangers would add to their trophy tally in their first season by also winning the NEWFA Horace Wynne Cup. Victories over Tanyfron United, Offa Athletic and Acton FC in the earlier rounds set up a final showdown against the youth team of Connah’s Quay Nomads (who compete in the North East Wales League), again played at the neutral venue of Alyn Park. Cefn Mawr scored two second half goals through a seventieth minute goal from Kristian Jones and a Lewis Jones goal five minutes later to ensure they claimed their first ever Horace Wynne trophy. It would conclude an incredible inaugural season for the club, being a double cup winning and promotion achieving campaign.
Cefn Mawr Rangers’ 2016-17 Horace Wynne Cup winning campaign:
- R1: Tanyfron United (a) 7 – 1
- R2: Offa Athletic (a) 6 – 5
- SF: Acton FC (h) 3 – 2
- F: Gap Connah’s Quay U19’s (n) 2 – 0
CEFN MAWR RANGERS’ PREVIOUS FORM
Cefn Mawr Rangers’ last five competitive matches:
- Sat 11th November: Rhos Aelwyd (h) 2 – 2
- Sat 25th November: Overton Recreational (a) 3 – 3
- Sat 2nd December: Rhydymwyn (h) 3 – 1
- Sat 6th January: Rhydymwyn (a) 1 – 1
- Sat 3rd February: Mynydd Isa Spartans (h) 4 – 2 [WNL Division 1 League Cup Quarter Finals]
Cefn Mawr’s campaign has been severely hampered by the weather over the past couple of months with scheduled games being continually postponed. This has resulted in the side only playing three competitive games in two and a half months, and not having played a league game for six weeks! It has not helped in their quest for a second consecutive promotion as it has seen the side fall nine points behind current league leaders Rhos Aelwyd. However they did have three games in hand over Rhos Aelwyd, and are still unbeaten at The Muga so far this season.
After a blistering start to their campaign, Cefn Mawr have struggled over their past few league games, stretching back to the middle of November, having won only one of their past four league games. It was a fair result against title rivals Rhos Aelwyd which saw Lewis Jones score twice for the Rangers to share the points at The Muga, although it was two dropped points when they played in difficult conditions at Overton in the final weekend of November. Lewis Jones added to his goal tally with another brace, with Benjamin Duffy adding Cefn’s third during the afternoon.
This followed by a double header with Rhydymwyn which was separated by a swath of postponed games, as well as the Christmas and New Year period. Cefn Mawr would earn a victory against the Flintshire side at The Muga, with another brace coming from Lewis Jones (six goals in three games!) and Ryan Harden getting Cefn’s third goal, with Matt Gilsenan replying for the visitors. The return fixture was played out five weeks after the first game, and ended up finishing as a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road. Matthew Thompson getting the only goal for the Rangers, with former WPL player Gary O’Toole scoring for the hosts.
Another period of postponements followed before the side was able to return back to playing duties when they came up against today’s opponents, Mynydd Isa Spartans, in the quarter finals of the Welsh National League Division One League Cup. The match which was played a fortnight previous to this upcoming rematch was a high scoring affair at The Muga, with Lewis Jones (who else) scoring a hat-trick against the visitors, and Luke Bowen adding a fourth to ensure Cefn Mawr would advance to the semi-finals of the league cup. Cefn Mawr were hoping to repeat the trick of two weeks ago, and claim the important three points as they continued to chase for promotion to the WNL Premier Division.
MYNYDD ISA SPARTANS’ PREVIOUS FORM
Mynydd Isa Spartans last five competitive matches:
- Sat 18th November: Knighton Town (h) 4 – 1 [FAW Trophy Round 4]
- Sat 2nd December: Maesgwyn (h) 2 – 3
- Sat 6th January: Llangollen Town (a) 0 – 6
- Sat 13th January: Grange Albion (h) 1 – 3 [FAW Trophy Round 5]
- Sat 3rd February: Cefn Mawr Rangers (a) 2 – 4 [WNL Division 1 League Cup Quarter Finals]
Mynydd Isa Spartans’ league campaign has not been the best of starts considering they had won two and drawn two of their opening eight league fixtures. It had left them with eight points and situated in ninth position in the eleven team league. However the Spartans had plenty of games in hand over their rivals, with six games in hand over Rhydymwyn situated in eighth position and just three points ahead.
Obviously the winter weather played a part in those games in hand, however Mynydd Isa’s performance in the FAW Trophy also contributed to them missing league games due to scheduled cup matches. In the middle of November, they impressively beat third-tier, Mid Wales League Division One side Knighton Town 4-1 to book their place in the fifth round of the cup competition. Goals from Alex Wilday and Ady Davies, plus a brace from Mike Whales were deciding factors in the cup shock. Sadly for Mynydd Isa, they would get knocked out in the next round to South Welsh side Grange Albion. After the heroics against Knighton, a disappointing 1-3 defeat at home to the Cardiff-based side ended their hopes of FAW Trophy glory for another season.
Since the middle of November, the Spartans have only played two league games and sadly for them, they have lost on both occasions. In the first weekend in December, they lost 2-3 at home to Maesgwyn with Craig Worthington and Mike Whales getting Mynydd Isa’s consolation goals. Adam Roberts, Tyler Harvey and Steven Rees scoring the goals for the visitors. In their next league game and first game of 2018, it was a horrendous start to the New Year as Mynydd Isa lost 0-6 to title challengers Llangollen Town at Tower Field. A hat-trick from Ben Wilson, a brace from Kevin Day and a goal from Ross Briscoe compounding the misery upon the Spartans.
As mentioned previously, their last match was against their upcoming opponents, Cefn Mawr Rangers, in the league cup. Unfortunately for the Flintshire-based club, they would suffer their fourth defeat in a row as they got knocked out of another cup, with their goals coming from Leon Bowen and Cody Silvester. Therefore going into this rematch, they were hoping to gain revenge on the cup defeat as well as ensuring they didn’t suffer a fifth defeat in a row!
THE MUGA GROUNDHOP
- Entrance: FREE
- Programme: N/A
- Pin Badge: N/A
- Chocolate Bar: £0.50
- Cup of Coffee: £0.50
As mentioned previously, the drive down to Cefn Mawr was a pleasant one without any delays or even excessive traffic on the road – a little surprising considering it was a Saturday and the weather was nice. The North Welsh roads are usually swarmed with weekend tourists heading into the seaside towns or into Snowdonia for a short break. Thankfully, none of them seemed to be heading in same direction I was venturing in, and I soon arrived in Cefn Mawr at about 1:45pm.
The football ground is situated on Plas Kynaston Road, the same road as Cefn Druids’ former ground before the Ancients moved to their current home of The Rock in Rhosymedre. In fact the Muga was created because of Cefn Druids’ move to The Rock. The supermarket giant Tesco had bought Cefn Druids’ old ground at Plas Kynaston Lane, which allowed the Ancients to move to a more updated ground, and enabled the supermarket chain to build a new supermarket on the site of the former football pitch. However one of the deals with the land purchase was that Tesco had to agree to contribute to the construction of a replacement football ground in the village. Thus the Muga was created on land just below the newly built supermarket.
The name “Muga” is a unique name for a ground, but it is not a Welsh word but rather an acronym for “Multi Use Games Area” which indicates its intended usage by the local public. The Muga is currently managed and maintained by The War Memorial Trust, and they are responsible for things such as the grass cutting, maintaining the changing rooms, and repairs etc.
The entrance to The Muga appears on the right-hand side shortly after going under the railway bridge, and is opposite the large housing estate in Cefn Mawr. At the ground there is a large free parking car park available for players and supporters, although naturally this can get easily filled up on match days so be aware when driving to The Muga. Thankfully on this occasion I was able to park up there even though spaces were at a premium so near to kick off! Had I been a couple of minutes late, I don’t think there would have been any spaces remaining so I was a touch lucky there!
The first you notice about The Muga is that the car park is on a raised level and overlooks the football pitch. So much so, there is a metal barrier next to the car park which allows supporters to lean again, and provides you with a superb view of the entire pitch (whilst handily stopping you fall down the steep slope to the pitch). It is possible to watch the game at pitch level, with a second barrier around the actual football field and space for supporters to stand, however I found it better to watch the game at the elevated level to get a full scale view of the gameplay.
On the same level as the car park are the changing rooms, which are located in green cabins next to the car park, with steps leading down from them to the pitch below. Next to the changing rooms is a small snack bar where hot food and drink can be bought. Naturally before every match, I have to get something to eat and drink – it’s a pre-match ritual now! At Cefn Mawr’s snack bar they sell the usual chocolate bars and hot drinks although I did notice hotdogs advertised as well. Not noticing or smelling any hotdogs cooking away, I decided to just go for the standard combo of chocolate and coffee (can’t beat a classic!). The woman running the snack bar was lovely and really friendly, and I bought a chocolate bar and cup of black coffee for a pound! Now considering I usually pay £1 for just a cup of coffee, as it tends to be the standard rate for a cuppa, I was very happy that I was getting a cup for half the usual price! The Muga was quickly becoming my favourite ground ha!
I had a quick chat with one of the club’s volunteers whilst I was waiting for my coffee to be brewed before heading towards a good position on the “Muga bank” to watch the first half action, whilst slurping down the coffee. Conditions for the game were initially very nice, with the sun shining and a blue sky above, resulting in me not having to wear the usual thick coat for the game and adopt a more lighter jacket. As the game progressed however, the winds would whip up a little bit adding a biting nippiness in the air. A stark reminder that despite the dry conditions and sunshine, it was still winter!
The Muga itself is a fairly standard ground, and what you would expect for a communal field. As mentioned previously, there are changing room cabins and a snack bar. Although in terms of other football facilities, there isn’t too much more. There were a couple of permanent, brick-built dugouts on the railway side of the pitch but that was the only construction at pitch level. The ground did not possess any stands or floodlights, nor did it have a concrete path around the perimeter of the pitch. Then again, they’re not really needed at this level of Welsh football and certainly don’t hinder the viewing experience in my opinion. The pitch is hemmed on all four sides which provides an enclosed feeling to the pitch. Grass banks flank the sides of the pitch with the “Muga Bank” on one side, and the railway line (separated by a fence and a line of trees) on the other. Plas Kynaston road runs past one of the ends of the pitch, whilst another, larger brick-built bank is at the opposite end of the pitch. At the top of this yellow brick bank, and overlooking the entire complex, is the Tesco supermarket that was built on Cefn Druids’ old pitch and helped finance the Muga’s construction.
With the 2pm kick off time approaching, both sides came out of the changing rooms, down the steps and onto the pitch in preparation for the match. The pitch itself was looking in a decent condition considering it was in the middle of the season, however a spell of dry weather and a lack of games played upon it certainly must have aided in its recovery. For today’s game, Cefn Mawr would be in their home kit of red shirts with white sleeves, red shorts and socks with a white trim. Whereas Mynydd Isa were in their home strip of yellow shirt with black trim, black shorts and yellow socks.
After a few weeks of experiencing no live football, it would be fair to say that I was looking forward to this contest between two teams I had never seen play before. Certainly surprising I had not seen Mynydd Isa play considering they are from Flintshire also – I must remember to make a trip to their ground in the near future!
FIRST HALF ACTION
It would be Mynydd Isa who would start the brighter of the two teams and would have a considerable amount of ball possession and potential goal scoring chances within the first ten minutes of the match. After seven minutes, the Spartans thought they had put their opponents to the sword when they put the ball into the back of the net from a corner. However the official correctly disallowed the goal due to the Mynydd Isa player gaining an unfair advantage in the aerial challenge, by leaning on the defender as he rose up to meet the cross.
This decision annoyed the visiting team and tempers flared up further a couple of minutes later when the Cefn Mawr goalkeeper came off his line and tackled the Mynydd Isa attacker, who had broken the offside trap, on the edge of the penalty area and sent him flying into the air! Unexpectedly the two teams reacted to the challenge and came together, with some choice words thrown from both sides, and some resulting shoves between the opposing players. It was all a bit of nothing really and after the ‘fracas’, the referee gave a free kick to the visitors for the challenge. However this challenge would be the beginning of a physical encounter between the teams during the afternoon.
As the first half progressed, the home side started to find their groove into the match and would start to craft openings against their opponents. The best chance of the game, up to that point, fell to Cefn Mawr at about the twenty minute mark. A defensive error from the Mynydd Isa centre back allowed the Cefn Mawr attacker to slip past him and gain possession of the loose ball, creating a great opportunity on goal. The initial shot was palmed away by the Spartans’ keeper but he failed to clear away the danger as he fumbled with the ball which ricocheted off the goalie’s gloves and into the path of an onrushing Cefn Mawr forward. He hit a superb strike which drifted over the hapless goalkeeper but cannoned back off the crossbar.
The first half became a much more equal and exciting game as one team would attack, lose possession and get counter-attacked, all mixed with a healthy amount of heavy tackles being made. Cefn Mawr would blaze the ball over the bar a minute after hitting the woodwork, whilst Mynydd Isa had a couple of chances to equalise. Firstly a chance was scuffed past the right post before an exquisite curled shot from twenty yards out left the goalkeeper rooted to the spot, but curled the wrong side of the top right-hand corner of the goal. Finally Cefn Mawr could have doubled their lead when their #7 broke clear of the defence and rounded the advancing goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the home supporters, he held the ball for too long which allowed the covering defenders to put enough pressure on the forward to rush his attempt and slice his shot wide of the left-hand post.
With chances galore at either end, it felt as if it was only a matter of time before the opening goal appeared. Around the half an hour mark in the match, the deadlock would finally be broken by the home side who would take the lead at The Muga in delightful style. An excellent ball from midfield found Cefn’s #9 in an unmarked position between the penalty spot and the edge of the penalty box. Having enough time and space to turn and pick his spot, the forward sweetly curled the ball into the top right hand corner of the net leaving the keeper helpless to save it. A superb opener from the hosts!
Cefn Mawr Rangers 1 – 0 Mynydd Isa Spartans
It was around this time in the match when something very curious happened during the match, and certainly a first for this groundhopper! Whilst watching the first half action, I was leaning against the metal barrier at the top of the Muga Bank when it started to jolt and shake at a considerable frequency. Initially I thought it might have been kids playing about on the barrier and causing it to shake considerably, although it was juddering with such a rate that I thought to myself “blimey, they’re shaking the barrier that much, it feels like an earthquake leaning against this barrier”! Little did I realise but was ACTUALLY an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.4, with its epicentre twenty kilometres north-east of Swansea, below the village of Cwmllynfell, with the shockwaves being felt throughout the whole of Wales. So much so, a match involving Port Talbot Town and Taff’s Well in the Welsh League Division One was temporally halted due to the shockwaves. It is completely fair to say that the earth literally shook for me at Cefn Mawr this afternoon!
It could have been very likely the local shockwaves could have originated from the hefty challenges being conducted out on the pitch as the game was becoming a very physical encounter. A considerable number of heavy and clumsy-looking tackles took place during the back end of the first half, with resulted in a few heated exchanges, comings together and the odd shove between the teams. As to be expected with their name, the Spartans would not back down from the Rangers’ challenges – King Leonidas would have been proud!
However alike the Battle of Thermopylae, the 11 Spartans were indeed conducting a battling defensive battle of their own against an attacking Cefn Mawr side, who were now buoyed with momentum after taking the lead. Exploiting lapses of concentration from the visiting defence, Cefn Mawr created some decent chances against the Mynydd Isa goal although a combination of missed shots and good saves ensured the lead stayed marginal. Nevertheless, defensive errors from the home side themselves allowed the Spartans to thrust forward and conduct counter-attacks which caused problems for the scrambling home defence. Unfortunately for the visitors were unable to take full advantage and earn an equaliser, although they did force the Cefn keeper into making some saves.
Towards the final minutes of the first half, both teams had chances to change the close scoreline when respective defensive errors and lapses contributed to forwards advancing clear of the opposing teams’ defensive lines and creating themselves a one-on-one scenario with the goalkeeper. On both occasions however the goalkeepers prevailed in the duals with Cefn Mawr’s #11 blasting his rushed shot directly at the Spartan keeper, whilst Mynydd Isa’s #10 scuffed low shot was diverted away from danger by an outstretched foot from the Rangers’ number one. Resultantly both teams went into the changing rooms during the half time interval knowing that the next goal in this game would be the most decisive moment in this game.
HALF TIME: CEFN MAWR RANGERS 1 – 0 MYNYDD ISA SPARTANS
Half time saw me head back to the car for a short period to shelter from the increasingly chilly breezes that were becoming increasingly noticeable as the first half developed. In addition, I had a quick check of the scores from around the various Welsh leagues and competitions, and noticed that Greenfield were leading in their quarter final against Llanrug United. After the week they had experienced, not many people could begrudge them getting some success on this afternoon (with the obvious exception of Llanrug supporters obviously).
SECOND HALF ACTION
As with the first half, it would be Mynydd Isa who would start the brighter of the two teams, and the visitors almost levelled the scores up not long after starting the second half action. It came from a corner when the ball found a Spartan player who had rose highest of the group crowding around the penalty spot to get his head onto the cross. However he could only get a glancing header onto the pass which diverted the ball towards the back post. Resultantly another Mynydd Isa player gambled on the deflection and attempted to ricochet the ball into the empty net by stretching a leg out. Unfortunately for the visitors, his stretching attempted could only toe-poke the ball wide of the far post.
At the other end of the pitch, another corner almost produced success for Cefn Mawr. Their #7 attempted to score directly from the corner, something I recently discovered is called an “Olympic” in Italian football. Despite the Winter Olympics being on at the same time as this gae, there would be no ‘Olympic’ success for the Rangers on this occasion as the ball drifted over everyone (including the goalkeeper) but could only rebound back off the crossbar and out for a goal-kick. A worthy effort nonetheless!
Once again the game was becoming more expansive and attack-minded, as both teams pushed forward looking to score the next crucial goal but inevitably leaving acres of space in their defence, making them vulnerable to the counter-attack. Cefn Mawr cut open the Spartan shield wall on a few occasions with some rapier-like through balls, although nothing came from them. Whilst at the other end of the pitch, Mynydd Isa caught their opponents napping several times, allowing forwards to break clear of the defensive line. Sadly for Mynydd Isa, the official declared they were offside on nearly every darting run even when they looked onside (the referee was on his own for this game, with no assistants running the lines, making an offside call much more difficult). This naturally frustrated the visiting players and management who were becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of the official’s decisions.
At around the seventieth minute, Cefn Mawr spurned a great goalscoring opportunity after a fortunate circumstance. Yet another error, a poor free kick by the Mynydd Isa goalkeeper this time around, fell to Cefn’s #11 rather than any Spartan player the goalie was aiming for. The home forward advanced rapidly with the ball, jinking past an attempted tackle by a lunging defender, before bearing down on goal. With only the goalkeeper to beat but with the goal at an increasingly tight angle, he failed to slot the ball into the far corner as it rolled the wrong side of the back post. However a couple of minutes later and the home side would increase their advantage. A long curling shot from outside of the box was superbly palmed away by the stretching Spartan keeper, as it looked as if the shot was just dipping underneath the crossbar. However the keeper’s deflection only fell to a Cefn forward positioned at the far post, who made no mistakes by lashing the ball past the diving, covering defender on the post and into the back of the net.
Cefn Mawr Rangers 2 – 0 Mynydd Isa Spartans
Even with a two goal lead, Cefn Mawr continued to extend their lead through a few half-chances although they were unable to extend their advantage further. As for Mynydd Isa, they continued to launch waves of attack upon the Rangers’ defence, hoping to swing momentum back into their favour. Yet they were unable to breach the home defence, with the home keeper pulling off a number of impressive saves to keep his clean sheet intact. The best chance for a Mynydd Isa goal came from a free kick within the last ten minutes of the game and despite the curling effort being on target, the keeper made a fairly standard save to ensure his side would claim all three points from this afternoon’s entertaining and physical match.
FULL TIME: CEFN MAWR RANGERS 2 – 0 MYNYDD ISA SPARTANS
POST-MATCH & CONCLUSION
Despite Cefn Mawr’s victory, they did not manage to move up the Welsh National League Division 1 table as Llangollen Town maintained third position by beating New Brighton Villa 4-0. However they did manage to move two points nearer to the top of the table, reducing their arrears to seven points from the new league leaders Brymbo. At the bottom half of the table, Mynydd Isa’s fifth defeat in a row meant they dropped a position into tenth spot. Overton Recreation leapfrogging them into ninth place following a 3-1 victory over bottom club Johnstown Youth.
It would ultimately prove to be a perfect weekend for all of the Cefn Mawr football clubs within the Welsh football pyramid. Cefn Druids earned themselves an impressive 3-1 away victory against Cardiff Metropolitan University in the Welsh Premier League Championship Conference, and Cefn Albion heavily beat Penycae 5-1 at Afoneitha Road in the Welsh National League Premier Division. Celebrations were aplenty in the Cefn Mawr’s pubs that evening no doubt! I wonder what the odds would have been for that treble Cefn win??
As the sun was slowly setting and the shadows were growing longer, the winds had picked up a bit further and I was glad to head back into the warmth of the car. I had found the final ten minutes of the game a tad chilly and so was relieved when the final whistle blew as I could shelter from the winter winds again ha! It may have been mild but there was still that winter ‘kick’ in the air. Despite the chilly atmosphere towards the end, there was no cold welcome or shoulder from Cefn Mawr. Everyone at the ground was very welcoming and friendly, and I really enjoyed my groundhop to the Muga. The raised platform is certainly a unique feature in North East Welsh football, and I have to say I thoroughly relished seeing the pitch from a higher viewing position and seeing tactics develop throughout the match. I can certainly understand why the Muga is so beloved by many groundhoppers, and you can add me to that list now also!
I found the game really interesting with two sides who liked to attack and create plenty of chances, whilst not being afraid to “stick the boot in” when required. In fairness the game was evenly battled with both sides giving as good as they got, however Cefn Mawr’s more clinical finishing was probably the deciding factor in the end. Had Mynydd Isa converted a few of their chances in the first half, it could well have been a different game and result. Still I am convinced that should Mynydd Isa continue to attack with such élan in their next few games, they should start marching back up the table again!
So if you are in the locality, please go and check out the Muga and watch Cefn Mawr Rangers there. They are a decent team who provide entertaining football, and offer a very welcoming atmosphere to all supporters and groundhoppers. The form they are playing currently in, it is looking a good bet that we may see Rangers in the WNL Premier Division next season and a potential mouth-watering Cefn Derby on the cards!! Now that would be a “must see” event!!
I would like to wish Cefn Mawr Rangers and Mynydd Isa Spartans all the very best of fortunes for the rest of the season…if the bad weather ever relents and lets games get played that is…