Date of Visit: 29th September 2018
Competition: Welsh Cup Second Qualifying Round
Ground Number: 108
- Founded: 1983
- Ground: Parc Gwydir, Llanrwst, Conwy County Borough
- Colours: All red with white trim
- Website: http://www.llanrwstutdfc.co.uk/
- Twitter: @LLANRWSTUTD_FC
- Highest Ever League Placing: Welsh Alliance League (Division One) – 3rd [2006-07]
LLANRWST UNITED’S 2017-18 SEASON
- Welsh National League Division One: Sixth
- Welsh Cup: Round One
- FAW Trophy: Round Two
- Cookson Cup: Round Three
- Mawddach Challenge Cup: Semi-Finalists
The last weekend of September in Welsh football was designated as a Welsh Cup weekend, when the Second Qualifying round fixtures would be played – the final qualifying round before the ‘proper rounds’ start. Unlike in the First Qualifying Round when clubs are drawn either in localised draws (such as North-West, North-East, etc.), the Second Qualifying Rounds selected teams from North Wales as a whole. This meant teams from the Welsh Alliance were often drawn to play teams from the Welsh National League, or even below. Naturally with such rare fixtures happening on this weekend, I was determined to select one of them for a groundhop.
In addition, I would have another free Saturday considering nearly all of Holywell Town’s league fixtures have been played on a Friday evening for the majority of the season so far. This weekend was no different as Holywell made the short journey up to a very cold Buckley Town in a Friday Flintshire Derby in the Cymru Alliance. It is at this point that I am not going to mention what happened or even mention the result, but let’s just say the game never panned out in the same way it did when I watched the same game in the Welsh Cup a few years back!
Needing some positivity after the previous evening’s result (which I am not going to mention), I was keen and eager to visit a new ground and increase the groundhop tally count further. Having looking at the Welsh Cup fixtures within North Wales, one fixture immediately stood out for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly it would be an intriguing fixture between two of North Wales’ in-form sides, and secondly, it would be held at a ground I have tried relentless to visit on numerous occasions.
To say that Llanrwst United has become somewhat of a ‘holy grail’ for me would be sort of an accurate description. Ever since I have been groundhopping, I have tried many, many times to visit the ground, but for some reason or another, my efforts have been thwarted. Whether it had been awful A55 traffic jams, or illness, or even the ground being flooded when the River Conwy burst its banks, something has always appeared that had halted my intentions of visiting the ground where Holywell Town clinched the Welsh Alliance title in 2014-15 season.
However this weekend seemed different and positive – the traffic jams on the A55 Expressway had subsided, the weather was superb and I was feeling fairly decent. All the right signs were there to give it another attempt for this season. So with some trepidation and caution, and with an alternative fixture in the back pocket just in case something went awry once again, I set off looking to finally find my ‘holy grail’ of Gwydir Park and Llanrwst…
- Population: 3,300
- County: Conwy County Borough
- Historic County: Caernarfonshire / Sir Gaernarfon
- Nearest Train Stations: North Llanrwst, Llanrwst
Llanrwst is a small market town of just over 3,300 inhabitants situated centrally in North Wales, within the Conwy County Borough. It is located next to the River Conwy (Welsh: Afon Conwy) on its eastern bank, and is less than a mile away from the boundaries of the mystical Snowdonia National Park. With the historic castle town of Conwy positioned 12 miles north, Llansantffraid Glan Conwy (home of local rivals Glan Conwy, who I visited late in the 2014-15 season) 10,5 miles north and the picturesque tourist town of Betws-y-Coed just 4,5 miles south, the town is firmly within the scenic Conwy Valley / Dyffryn Conwy.
Despite being within touching distance of Snowdonia, Llanrwst has excellent infrastructural links with the main north-to-south A470 trunk road running alongside the River Conwy and thus through the settlement. This main road links the town to the A55 Expressway in the north, as does the A548 that runs from the east of the town towards Abergele on the coast. Llanrwst also has its own railway station….in fact it has two stations: Llanrwst and Llanrwst North. The stations are located on the Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog Conwy Valley line, and to reach them by rail, a change is required at Llandudno Junction on the main North Wales Coast rail line, before taking a train up the Conwy Valley line.
Llanrwst’s name originates from the church which was built in dedication to the fifth to sixth century Saint Grwst, with ‘Llanrwst’ meaning ‘Church/Parish of St. Grwst’ in Welsh. The land which the current church of St. Grwst is currently situated on was donated by a member of the royal family of the ancient Kingdom of Gwynedd around 1170, with the sole purpose of dedicating a church to St. Grwst’s name. The current parish church, which was constructed in the 1470’s and upgraded in 1633-34, would subsequently hold the stone coffin of Llywelyn the Great.
The town historically developed around the wool trade, and was such an important centre for wool that the price of the commodity for the whole of Britain was actually set in Llanrwst for a large period of time. The rise in Llanrwst’s importance was considerably aided by an edict issued by English King Edward I (he who ordered the ‘iron ring’ of North Welsh castles, including Conwy Castle, to be constructed in North Wales) in the thirteenth century which prohibited any Welshman from trading within ten miles of the town of Conwy. With Llanrwst located two miles outside of this restricted trading zone, it was ideally placed to benefit from the royal edict by encouraging the local populace to trade within the town.
In 1276, the then Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, seized the town and declared the ‘Free Borough of Llanrwst’ which would be independent from the diocese of Llanelwy/St. Asaph. Although this would be contested by the Bishop of Llanelwy, who futilely sort help from the Pope to regain ecclesiastical authority, the borough retained its independent status throughout the lifetime of Llywelyn and through the efforts of the Cistercian monks of Aberconwy Abbey. The monks insisting on the independence bestowed upon the town by Llywelyn and ripping down any banners relating to the Bishopric or to the English King Edward.
By the end of the fourteenth century, the town had obtained its own coat of arms and flag, and even its own motto “Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst” (Wales, England and Llanrwst), which is a testament to the town’s apparent independence. This independent spirit of Llanrwst was explored in 1947, when Llanrwst Town Council allegedly (but unsurprisingly unsuccessfully) sought a seat in the United Nations as an independent state within Wales. The town’s motto also inspired a brilliant song of the same name for local band Y Cyrff.
As a result of its rich history, Llanrwst possesses a number of historical buildings and constructions within its vicinity. The Llanrwst Almshouses were constructed in 1610 by Sir John Wynn of Gwydir Castle to house the poor people of the parish. These buildings were closed in 1976, but restored in 1996 with help with Heritage Lottery funding. Originally reopened as a museum displaying items relating to the Conwy Valley, they are now used as the council chamber for the town council.
Another famous historical construction with Llanrwst is the bridge which spans across the Afon Conwy and connects the town to the western bank of the river, and with nearby Trefriw. Pont Fawr is a narrow three-arch stone bridge which was constructed in 1636 by Sir Richard Wynn (son of Sir John Wynn) and connected the town with Gwydir, a manor house dating from 1492, and is still used by motor vehicles today although as a one-lane road over the river.
Next to the bridge on the Gwydir bank is the picturesque fifteenth century courthouse known as Tu Hwnt i’r Bont, which today is now a quaint and highly desirable little tea and coffee shop (a must visit in my opinion – the homemade cakes are amazing!). The building has appeared in many travel magazines and articles due to its close proximity to the river and being clad in climbing plants that gloriously change colour throughout the seasons. Alas due to its location, it has also be prone to flooding when the Afon Conwy has burst its banks and caused flooding in the Dyffryn Conwy.
As a result of its vast wool trade, it encouraged the expanding railway network to be extended towards Llanrwst in the mid-nineteenth century where it became the terminus of the Conwy Valley rail-line (before being extended onward towards Betws-y-Coed and later to Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1867 and 1879 respectively). Resultantly, the town’s population increased rapidly throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and became Wales’ eighth largest settlement at one point. The town’s burgeoning harp and clock manufacture, as well as the traditional wool trade, enticing workers to move into the town.
Nowadays Llanrwst’s main source of income is the tourist sector, with the town being a well-placed and easily reachable base for visitors to explore the rest of the Dyffryn Conwy (from Conwy all the way down to Betws-y-Coed), as well as the vast expanses of the scenic and rugged Snowdonia National Park just beyond. The market town is also situated in a strong Welsh-speaking area with up to 61% of the population being able to speak the language. Finally the town has also hosted two National Eisteddfodau during its recent history, firstly in 1951 and most recently in 1989, and is set to host its third Eisteddfod next year in 2019.
LLANRWST UNITED’S HISTORY
- 2 x Barritt / Mawddach Challenge Cup Winners
- 1 x Gwynedd League Winners
- 1 x Vale of Conwy League Winners
- 1 x FAW Trophy Finalists
- Founding Members of the Welsh Alliance League
Although football has been played in Llanrwst for well over a hundred years, Llanrwst United were formed for the start of the 1983-84 season. This was through the amalgamation of the town’s two football teams, Llanrwst Athletic and Llanrwst Town, who were both playing in the Vale of Conwy League at the time. The season prior to the merger, saw Llanrwst Town finish as Vale of Conwy champions whilst Athletic finished just three points behind their rivals in fifth place. Llanrwst Town being the older of the two clubs, having reached the final of the 1899-1900 Welsh Amateur Cup (now the FAW Trophy) but ultimately losing to 0-2 to English side Wellington St.George’s United at the neutral venue of Flint.
In the first season of the merger, Llanrwst United took the place of the parent clubs in the Vale of Conwy League and would finish in fourth position, five points behind league champions Mochdre FC. However their tenure in the Vale of Conwy League would be a very brief one as they were one of a number of clubs who were invited to join the newly created Welsh Alliance League in 1984, and thus became a founding member club of the North Welsh league.
The Rwsters (the nickname of the club) initial incumbency in the Welsh Alliance League was not a really successful one. They finished in a respectable eighth position in their first season, but would spend the majority of their eleven season stay finishing in the bottom half of the table. Their best result during this period was finishing in seventh place (out of sixteen teams) in the 1987-88 season. In their final two seasons within the Welsh Alliance League, they finished in sixteenth position (out of eighteen teams) and at the end of the 1994-95 season, they would be relegated from the Welsh Alliance and move down into the Gwynedd League.
Llanrwst United would spend the next nine seasons in the Gwynedd League but would achieve some success, consistently being one of the stronger teams in the league. Their first three seasons saw them finish third, fifth and then runners-up to 1997-98 league champions Amlwch Town. However they encounter a brief lull in their performances around the turn of the millennium when they finished as low as tenth position in 2000. Nevertheless, performances improved once again between 2001 and 2004, culminating in the club finally winning the Gwynedd League at the end of the 2003-04 season. Winning nineteen of their twenty-six game season, and accumulating sixty-one points, it was enough to see them lift the title (ahead of Nefyn United in second place) and regain promotion back to the Welsh Alliance.
Since regaining their place to the Welsh Alliance at the start of the 2004-05 season, Llanrwst United have continued to play in the league with this season being their fifteenth season competing in the Welsh Alliance. During the ‘one league’ period of the Welsh Alliance, Llanrwst did extremely well by finishing no lower than seventh position and achieving their highest league placement of third in the 2006-07 season, placed behind champions Denbigh Town and runners-up, Rhyl Reserves.
Alas since the Welsh Alliance has been divided into a two league system from 2010 onwards, performances have waned for the Gwydir Park outfit. They achieved a seventh place finish in 2012-13 season but the majority of their league placements have been in the lower half of the Division One table. So much so, the club narrowly avoided relegation to the Second Division in the 2016-17 season having finished second from bottom in the table. Only the resignation of a couple of clubs from Division One saved them from facing the drop to the fourth tier of Welsh football.
After that brief yet serious flirtation with relegation, Llanrwst’s performances dramatically improved last season as they finished in sixth position in Division One, and only four points from potentially claiming third place. Last season’s finish was the best result for the Rwsters in the league since the 2008-09 season when they finished in fourth. This season, they would be hoping to continue to upward curve of performances and hoping to achieve the league finishes of ten years ago.
Llanrwst United’s last four competitive games:
- Tue 28th Aug: Greenfield (h) 1 – 1
- Sat 1st Sept: Barmouth & Dyffryn United (a) 4 – 1
- Wed 5th Sept: Llanberis 3 – 2 (a)
- Sat 15th Sept: Nantlle Vale 2 – 4 (a) [AET – FAW Trophy]
Prior to this Welsh Cup game, Llanrwst were having a fairly decent start to the season being positioned fifth place in the Welsh Alliance Division One table. From their eight league games played, they had won four games and drawn one and accumulated thirteen points, although they were nine points behind runaway league leaders, Llangefni Town.
They had started poorly in the league campaign having lost their first three games of the season, but were on a run of five games unbeaten in the league and one of the in-form sides in the league. In their previous match away to Llanberis, they scored early in the match through Aaron Jones before finding themselves 1-2 down with only eight minutes remaining in the match. However two goals in four minutes from Leon Davies and Sam Roberts ensured the Rwsters maintained their undefeated streak in the league.
Alas in their last game, they would suffer a defeat in the second round of the FAW Trophy cup match to the second-placed side Nantlle Vale, who ultimately won the all-Welsh Alliance Division One clash. Nantlle were victorious over Llanrwst by the scoreline of 2-4 after extra time.
Brickfield Rangers’ last four competitive games:
- Fri 24th Aug: Cefn Albion (a) 1 – 1
- Sat 1st Sept: Llanuwchllyn (h) 2 – 0
- Sat 15th Sept: Brymbo (h) 0 – 5 [FAW Trophy]
- Sat 22nd Sept: Rhostyllen (h) 4 – 1
In comparison, Brickfield Rangers were having an amazing start to their Welsh National League Premier Division season. After seven league games played this season, the Clywedog Park outfit were top of the table having won five and drawn two (and staying undefeated in the league), and accumulated seventeen points. Having won all four games at home this season, they were two points ahead of nearest rivals Corwen, Chirk AAA and Brymbo who were all tied on fifteen points.
Despite their excellent home form at Clywedog Park in the league, they too had suffered disappointment in the FAW Trophy second round, having been surprisingly trounced 0-5 by league rivals, Brymbo, on their own turf. Nonetheless in their last match, they got back to winning ways by beating bottom-placed side Rhostyllen 4-1 at home. A brace from Anthony Dunleavey, and further goals from Alan Bull and Matthew Wareham ensured their regained top spot from Corwen.
PARC GWYDIR GROUNDHOP
- Distance Traveled: 32 miles
- Travel Time: 1 hour
- Entrance: £3.00
- Programme: £1.00
- Chocolate Bar: £1.00
- Pin Badge: £2.50
The thirty-two mile journey from 94th Min HQ to the Dyffryn Conwy town of Llanrwst took nearly an hour, with the drive down through the Denbighshire and Conwy countryside being a pleasant one as always. As the sun was shining and there were blue skies above, it seemed as if I had indeed chosen the perfect day to finally make it down to Llanrwst. On the way down, I noticed the scenic looking village of Llanfair Talhaiarn, which is situated on the River Elwy. I reminded myself to stop there sometime soon for a wander around, as it looks a pleasant place. Plus the pub right beside the riverside looks an inviting place for a quick half of ale whilst watching the Elwy trickle past on its way to eventual journey to Llanelwy (otherwise known as St. Asaph) and its confluence with the River Clwyd just outside of Rhuddlan.
I arrived in Llanrwst around one o’clock and found that the town was very busy with cars, tourists and walkers clad in outdoor wear from all the famous hiking brands. Obviously the weather had encouraged a load of tourists to visit the town but there was another reason for increased ‘footfall’ within Llanrwst – there was ‘The Movable Feast‘ festival taking place within the Gwydir Park area and next to the River Conwy. Whilst this was a surprising addition to the groundhop (I foolishly failed to check if anything was happening in the town over the weekend), it also left me with a large problem. The car park I was on planning within was closed off, literally gated off from anyone entering. Damn!
As a result, it took me about fifteen flustered and progressively frustrated minutes of driving around the town looking for an ideal parking spot where I could leave the car for about four to five hours. In the end, after a load of faffing about, I finally gave up and decided to park the car next to the entrance to Gwydir Castle, which was about a quarter of an hour walk away from the town centre. Not in the most perfect of locations in the slightest, but at least I could park there for free for a number of hours whilst I was watching the cup game. Plus I suppose it gave me some exercise as I ambled towards town. Alas it would be a shame that I would not have enough time to have a look around the Wynn family’s old fortified manor house as the castle was close at 4pm.
Prior to arriving in the town, I had initially planned on visiting the picture-perfect, and popular location of Tu Hwnt i’r Bont. As it is a highly recommended café, I had hoped to calmly sit outside on a bench for about half an hour watching the river drift past whilst enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of tasty homemade cake or scone. Alas that tranquil proposal was soon blown out of the water as the café was heavily crowded with other travel-goers (many clad in hiking gear) all enjoying the idyll I was eager to enjoy also. With no seats remotely available, and even more visitors arriving at the historic house every minute, I sighed a heavy sigh and decided to abandon this cake and caffeine fuelled fantasy for another less busy day. Therefore I ventured into town to see if I could find somewhere to buy at least a cup of coffee to quench an ever increasing thirst.
[I did have to chuckle that whilst most groundhoppers write about visiting a multitude of fancy looking alehouses or pubs, and consuming exceptionally sounding craft ales or flavorsome beers, here I was looking forward to coffee and cake in a quaint cafe….I think I may be doing this groundhopping malarkey wrong…haha!]
The reason for the popularity for the Tu Hwnt is not just because of its amazingly tasty homemade cakes and scones, but because it is one of the most photographed places in Wales. The former courthouse is right next to the town’s landmark sixteenth century built stone bridge, Y Bont Fawr, that spans the calm Afon Conwy and is itself a glorious sight of early stone engineering. Furthermore the house’s façade is covered in a thick blanket of ivy leaves, which are gloriously emerald-green in the summer months. However by this late September weekend, the leaves had now changed to more autumnal shades resulting in the house being ‘lit up’ with leaves of ruby, scarlet all other shades of rouge that can be imagined.
With the surrounding trees changing yellow, and the stonework grey, the house was obviously highlighted when compared with its surroundings – a beacon of radiating autumnal colour, which is such an alluring sight. Naturally everyone was taking pictures of this ‘red house’ with their mobile phones or fancy looking cameras, and not wanting to miss a perfect opportunity for a superb photograph, I joined in in the action from atop of the stone bridge and managed to capture some delightful images of the ivy-clad building.
The old humpback bridge is still used by both pedestrians and motor traffic to get across the River Conwy although I did find it was a rather troublesome problem for traffic. The bridge is only wide enough for a single lane of traffic (and some space for pedestrians to walk either side of the bridge) but the warning lights situation which warns cars that traffic is approaching just isn’t effective enough. As neither side can see approaching cars climbing over the bridge from the other riverbank, it often results in cars meeting in the middle and causing a stitch up of the road and tailbacks either side.
Thankfully no road collisions occurred during my time in the town but there could be a huge risk of it in the future. Perhaps the local council should look at putting proper three-light, timed traffic lights at each end of the bridge to avoid such problems, or even look to a more long-term solution of building a wider and more modern road bridge over the river. The old bridge can then be just used as a foot and cycle bridge then, and hopefully maintain its use for centuries to come.
Walking into town, I followed a descending narrow side street coming off the main road and found the entrance to the local church that is dedicated to Saint Grwst (he who gave the town its name). The fifteenth century built church is situated in an idyllic riverside location situated between the river and the town centre. The first thing I noticed was that there were wooden benches all dotted around the edges of the ancient graveyard, and all of them facing out towards the Afon Conwy. The graveyard itself was a little rough around the edges, as if nature was trying desperately to reclaim the greenery to a more wilder setting.
Strangely this was one place where the tourists were not venturing towards, and thus it all seemed very tranquil, calming and an ideal place for some quiet contemplation. Certainly a fine resting spot for the numerous former local inhabitants who have been laid to rest in the graveyard many decades past. Their horizontal gravestones that were all laid about the graveyard, had been weathered enough to look like they had been there for well over a century. In addition, the external architecture of the church was very impressive for a town church, with its various Gothic flourishes and carvings, all done in a multitude of beige to dark grey shades.
As the temperature was getting quite warm and I was getting increasingly thirsty, I decided to get a coffee from La Barrica, which I spotted previous to visiting St. Grwst’s Church. La Barrica is a small, charming coffee shop situated near the Llanrwst’s clock tower in the small town square, and only a short walk from the church. I ordered myself a small, black coffee for £1.75 and sat outside on the provided furniture (along with other visitors), slowly sipping the hot beverage whilst watching the traffic and walkers travel through the town. It was all very refined and extremely chilled out just watching the world go by ha!
After having finished the coffee, and with time ticking closer towards kick-off for this afternoon’s Welsh Cup game, I decided to venture towards the football ground. So I hopped back over the Pont Fawr, which was still swarming with tourists hoping to take the perfect picture of Tu Hwnt i’r Bont, and took a brief waterside walk up the river, along the riverbank path which runs in parallel to the Afon Conwy. I walked past the festival, which seemed very alluring and enticing (especially having spotted a real ale stall selling some fine looking local ales). Alas I didn’t really have enough time to explore it fully and so headed towards the entrance to the football and cricket ground.
When I reached the ground, I was immediately stuck with how incredibly picturesque and scenic the location was, no doubt emphasised by the glorious Saturday sunshine that the town was being treated to. A vast sea of greenery surrounded the pitch with tall trees separated the ground from the riverside walk and open fields surrounding the other sides. Huge flocks of fluffy sheep were happily grazing away on the luscious grass on one of the neighbouring fields, whilst a tall, steep tree-covered hill overlooked both the pitch and the town from a short distance away. Finally the ground is located on the valley floor which provides a perfect observation of the upper Dyffryn Conwy, looking upstream towards Betws-y-Coed. I was figuratively blown away by how beautiful the scenery looked from the ground!
Entrance to the ground cost just £3, with an extra pound shelled out for the accompanying match programme. Having had a quick read of the programme, it looked very impressive with it’s protective card cover and internal pages all printed out in colour – a rare sight in local programmes. The program displayed all the usual information and data such as team details, tables, results and fixtures. Sadly I wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy reading it, but I will mention about that later…
After having a brief chat with the club official working on the entrance about the barmy if unpredictable weather we were experiencing and inquiring about pin badges, I walked towards the cricket club’s pavilion which was next to the entrance. The pavilion is situated a small distance away from the football pitch, but raised slightly to provide a good elevated view of both the football and cricket pitches from its covered, patioed outside area. It is within the pavilion that the changing rooms are located, as well as the snack bar, which would be my first port of call.
The snack bar inside the pavillion had all the usual array of cold snacks such as crisps and chocolate bars, and the standard selection of cold and hot drinks to choose from. They were also selling pin badges there, and so I decided to purchase a Llanrwst United pin badge and a Cadbury’s Double Decker chocolate bar for the grand total of £3.50 = bargain! Another pin badge is always a welcome addition to now vast collection!
As I had a bit of time to waste before kick-off, I initially decided to sit inside the pavilion and check on the scoreline for the early afternoon English Premier League game, which was West Ham United versus Manchester United. Having being shocked at the scoreline coming from the London Stadium, with the Hammers having a 2-1 advantage with only a short time remaining, I then admired all the football trophies that were being displayed in the various glass-fronted cabinets attached to a number of walls. There were also plenty of framed photographs, fixed to a number of walls inside the pavilion, proudly showing past successful Llanrwst squads throughout the seasons. In addition, there was a list of former players who had given great service to the club over the years – almost a Llanrwst United ‘Hall of Fame’, which I thought was an excellent gesture!
I then had a walk around the pitch as the two teams continued their pre-match warm-up routines on the field. Gwydir Park has a covered stand (officially named “The Phil Smith Stand”) which runs along the middle third of the pitch, on the edge of the football/cricket pitch area. Underneath the stand are raised steps / terraces that provide supporters with a brilliant view of the entire pitch whilst safely protected from the elements. In addition it ensures the supporters’ view are not blocked by the two permanent dugouts that are positioned in front of the stand. Strangely within the stand, I did notice a large advertising panel for the local Conservative Welsh Assembly Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders. It’s nothing new to have AM or MP advertisements at grounds, but I had never seen such a big advert within a stand before…
As with other Welsh football grounds, the football team share the ground with the cricket team meaning the football pitch is located on the far end of the cricket pitch (just like Mochdre Sports and Gresford Athletic for examples). Because of the multi-use function of the pitch, the surrounding concrete path is only present on three sides of the ground, with no path going across the cricket pitch unsurprisingly. There are also white coloured metal barriers around the whole perimeter of the football field, although the metal barriers running along the cricket side of the pitch looked to be temporary / moved, and could be possibly removed when the cricket season is taking place. Finally, the ground does not have any permanent floodlights present but this situation tends to be a standard affair for grounds within the third tier (and below) of the Welsh football pyramid.
As I was watching the Brickfield Rangers do their rondo pre-match exercises, I detected that there would be an interesting atmosphere for this Welsh Cup match. This was due to the live music (as well as recorded music in between live acts) that was being played from the festival next door could be clearly heard in the football ground. As a result, the game would have a steady stream of background music being played throughout the whole game – certainly a first for me watching a game whilst live Welsh language hip hop was being performed!
After a quick check of the West Ham – Man United game on my phone, which saw the Hammers earn a surprising 3-1 victory, and a brief period of listening to the live music acts performing on the adjacent field, both teams made the long walk from the changing rooms pavilion and onto the pitch. The grass pitch was looking in an excellent condition for this cup game and had certainly been well maintained throughout the early part of this season. Whilst the weather conditions were ideal for watching football with surprisingly warm temperatures for late September, and with the sun shining through the overcast clouds at various periods throughout the game.
For this Welsh Cup game both teams would be playing in their traditional colours, so Llanrwst would be in their home kit of all red with a white trim, whilst Brickfield were in their home strip of green and white hooped shirts, green shorts and green & white hooped socks.
It was a fairly even game for the first half, with the battle for midfield being the most fervently fought clash, as strong challenges and fouls were often occurring within this sector of the pitch. Initially it was all shaping up to be a cracking cup tie with both teams determined and battling hard for every opportunity. One initial observation from the first half was that Brickfield’s #8 looked a decent player, with a lot of Brickfield’s first half creativity coming through the young playmaker.
Within the first quarter of an hour of the tie, both teams had great chances to break the initial deadlock. Firstly Brickfield had a free kick in a dangerous location with the first two minutes of the game, but their attempt was deflected wide of the left post. Ten minutes later and Llanrwst had a fantastic opportunity to score, again coming from a set piece. From a simple throw-in, the ball was fired down the pitch to Llanrwst’s #11 on the right flank of the pitch. The winger whipped a long, curling cross towards #8 who was lurking at the far post unmarked. The midfielder managed to simple nod towards the top left hand corner of the goal but instead of the ball nestling within the back of the net, the effort rebounded off the crossbar. A golden chance spurned for Llanrwst there!
Llanrwst would look the more dangerous throughout the first half and would have another chance on the twenty-fifth minute mark when the ball was passed towards their #8 just outside the penalty area. He arrived to meet the cross and lashed a long range effort which just drifted wide of the right hand post. Whilst all of this was going on, the lyrics of Canadian reggae artist Snow, and his famous 90’s song “Informer” could be heard loudly in the background! Absolutely loved it! Llanrwst’s tactics of intense pressing on the Brickfield midfield and quick counter-attacks down the flanks were proving fruitful so far!
The complexity of the game would change on the half-hour point of the match when the visitors managed to break the deadlock first. Great build-up play from Brickfield’s #11 threaded through an unmarked #9 Liam Sklenar who had scooted down the left wing. The home keeper came out and forced the striker into a tight angle on goal, but Sklenar somehow managed to hit his curling shot-come-cross over the head of the approaching goalkeeper but crucially under the crossbar and into the top far corner of the goal. A superb finish from the striker!
Llanrwst United 0 – 1 Brickfield Rangers
Having taken the lead in the game, Brickfield were now on the ascendancy and could have doubled their advantage three minutes after taking the lead. A free kick was given to the visitors after an alleged push by the home defender just outside of the area. #9 Sklenar stepped up for the set piece, but he could not increase both his and his team’s tally as his powerful low effort could only curl wide of foot of the left hand post.
With the first half approaching a conclusion, Llanrwst had another great chance to level the scores just before the enforced break. A defensive error among the visiting centre-backs resulted in a Llanrwst getting fouled on the edge of the area as he tried to press for the loose ball. From the resulting free kick, Llanrwst’s #4 struck a fierce low free kick which looked like it was going to sneak on the keeper’s near post. However the visiting #1 was equal to the shot and managed to parry away the initial attempt before reactively palming away a follow-up attempt from the home winger from the rebound.
That would be the final decent effort of the first half and both sides returned to the changing rooms with Brickfield having the sole goal advantage and with the momentum now behind them. Although Llanrwst had certainly given them a good challenge and were continually winning the battle in midfield throughout the first period.
HALF TIME: LLANRWST UNITED 0 – 1 BRICKFIELD RANGERS
In the increasingly breezy second half, it would be the visitors who would start the brighter and more dangerous of the two teams. Undoubtedly looking for a second goal which would give them a more comfortable cushion for this cup game. On the fiftieth minute, they had a great chance to double their goal tally when great vision from their midfield sent a cutting through-ball to their #10 Alan Bull, who had darted into the six yard box. His effort was struck low and hard, but the shot was rapidly deflected away by the feet of the diving home keeper.
Both Bull and Brickfield need not have rued that missed chance for too long a period as five minutes later, they got their desired second goal of the afternoon. A throw-in from the left side of the pitch eventually found #10 Alan Bull unmarked on the edge of the left side of the penalty area. The forward had enough time to strike a venomous low shot which zipped underneath the diving goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net. An excellent goal to score but lax defending from the home side.
Llanrwst United 0 – 2 Brickfield Rangers
The momentum of the cup tie was now clearly in Brickfield’s favour but Llanrwst failed to capitulate and continued to threat the Brickfield goal. On the seventieth minute, they had a couple of consecutive opportunities which could have seen them reduce their arrears. Firstly a long ball downfield found Llanrwst’s #10 in a dangerous attacking position but his weak header was easily saved by the Brickfield keeper. About thirty seconds later from their initial chance and they had crafted a much better possibility to score. A wicked curling cross from the left flank found a Llanrwst forward surging into the box. Alas the cross was slightly too forward, and despite his best efforts to stretch towards the curling ball, his connection was deftly deflected away by the visiting keeper.
Llanrwst would be punished for their lack of cutting edge infront of goal as Brickfield ended the contest two minutes later, and ensured they would progress to the next round, by scoring their third goal of the tie. From another throw-in, Brickfield’s #6 Joe Garner, picked the ball up just outside of the area, and from about twenty to twenty-five yards out, struck a sweet curling shot with the outside of his boot that arced over the keeper’s reach and straight into the top right hand corner of the goal. A truly delightful goal and well worthy of a Welsh Cup fixture!
Llanrwst United 0 – 3 Brickfield Rangers
About five minutes after scoring their third and Brickfield managed to carve open the Llanrwst defence once again through another set piece. A free kick from about twenty-five yards out from #9 Liam Sklenar was launched towards the back post, where right-back #2 Lee McBurney had managed to just dart ahead of his marker and position himself in-front of the goalkeeper, to simply nod the pass downwards into the empty net. Brickfield were now playing with bags of confidence and showing why they were top of the Welsh National Premier Division.
Llanrwst United 0 – 4 Brickfield Rangers
Despite the flattering scoreline for their opponents, and with time against them, the hosts refused to capitulate and continued to fight in the match. With ten minutes remaining, they almost carved open the Brickfield defence through some superb wing play. A ball was played down the right wing and advanced forward before being squared across goal towards the Llanrwst substitute #14, who had found some space directly in-front of the goal after the Rangers defense had been stretched. Sadly the Rwsters would not manage to earn themselves a consolation goal as the youngster, who was under pressure from the recovering centre-backs, could only blaze his effort high over the crossbar.
With full time almost upon the teams, Brickfield would put the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’ when they scored a superb (if slightly flattering) fifth goal of the afternoon. Alan Bull gained possession of the ball outside of the penalty area after a rash defensive clearance from the home side. Bull managed to slalom past two tiring, defensive challenges before rounding the helpless, grounded keeper, and slotting the ball into an empty net. A spectacular finish from Alan Bull!
Llanrwst United 0 – 5 Brickfield Rangers
Deep into injury time and Brickfield almost got the ‘cherry on top’ when a tricky driving run through the centre by their creative playmaker #8 found himself in the penalty area. The midfield selflessly squared the ball towards Alan Bull in an excellent position near the far post and desperate to complete his hat-trick. Unfortunately for the forward, the hat-trick would not be forth-coming as he managed to slip at the most crucial of times, when all he needed to do was to simply connect with the cross and slot it into the net.
Very soon after that final chance for Brickfield and the official blew for full time. It had been a superb second half performance from Brickfield, and it would be the Wrexham-based who would advance to the First Round proper of the Welsh Cup.
FULL TIME: LLANRWST UNITED 0 – 5 BRICKFIELD RANGERS
POST MATCH & CONCLUSION
In the resultant draw for the First Round of the Welsh Cup, Brickfield’s reward for beating Llanrwst would be a tough away fixture at local rivals and Cymru Alliance side, Gresford Athletic. A difficult fixture for Bricky, especially being drawn away from home, but certainly a potentially winnable game for them considering it was practically a local derby and that the cliche of “anything can happen in the cup” still applied.
The result itself was a bit of a flattering scoreline for Brickfield as it was Llanrwst who were (in my opinion) probably the better side during the first half and caused their opponents real problems through their intense pressing in midfield and rapid counter-attacks. However with the hosts needing to chase the game in the second half, Brickfield used their slick build-up play in midfield to exploit the gaps that were now opening up before them and punish their opponents through superb finishing from their strikers. It was especially prevalent when the Rwsters were visibly tiring towards the end of the match. Had Llanrwst had a little more luck on the day, and potentially converted some of their excellent chances, the result could have been a lot tighter.
I really enjoyed my visit to Gwydir Park and Llanrwst as a whole, and the long, long wait to finally come to the allusive ground was very much worth it. The ground itself is an absolute cracker with a superb covered stand, as well as spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Whilst I also found the people running the club were very friendly and welcoming to me. It was certainly an unique experience watching a game with live music playing the background but I think it added to the occasion and the groundhop in my opinion. Finally the town itself surprised me at how lovely and tourist-friendly it was, and I would love to return to the town in the future for a evening visiting the pubs around the town. Plus a trip to the Tu Hwnt i’r Bont for some cake and tea/coffee is always a “must visit” on anyone visitor’s list, even if it’s just to take a picture or two!
Sadly there was a low point to the groundhop (not everything is perfect) as I somehow managed to lose the match programme, that I had bought earlier in the afternoon, on the walk back to the car parked up outside of Gwydir Castle. I was a bit gutted when I discovered that it had managed to fall out of my pocket during the stroll as I wanted to have a memento of the day, most especially considering all the previous failed attempts at visiting Gwydir Park in the past. Ah well, I suppose I have to stay positive about everything and say that it gives me another reason to visit again I guess…
Anyway, I would like to wish both Llanrwst United and Brickfield Rangers all the very best of fortune for the rest of the season, and finally say a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone at Llanrwst for being so welcoming! It was hugely appreciated!
A few weeks after my visit to Gwydir Park, I managed to receive a replacement copy of the match programme that I had lost during my groundhop. Holywell Town’s manager, Johnny Haseldin read about my unfortunate plight and contacted his equivalent at Llanrwst, Leighton Griffiths, to see if he could send another copy to 94th Minute HQ for me, which he did. I am most grateful to Leighton and Llanrwst United for sending me a replacement programme, as well as a Llanrwst pin badge and letter, through the post. I am also grateful to Johnny for organising it for me. It is very, very appreciated by myself and would like to thank both men for their kindness and thoughtful gesture, it certainly meant a heck of a lot to me! It’s gestures like this that make Welsh football the absolute best!
Diolch yn fawr iawn! 🙂