Date of Visit: 5th January 2019
Competition: Cymru Alliance
Ground Number: 38 (revisit)
- Founded: 1880
- Ground: Memorial Playing Fields, Park Road, Ruthin, Denbighshire LL15 1PH
- Colours: All dark blue with white trim
- Website: http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/ruthintown
- Twitter: @RuthinTownFC
- Highest League Placement: 3rd – Cymru Alliance [2003-04]
First of all, please allow me to wish you all a very Happy New Year / Blwyddyn Newydd Dda and hope that you have a very successful 2019!
For the initial footballing weekend of the New Year, I decided to venture back to a ground that I had previously visited a few years ago, but had changed considerably since my last visit in 2015. Naturally I would be starting 2019 by watching a Holywell Town (HT) game, where they would be travelling south to play in the picturesque town of Ruthin to square up against Ruthin Town (RT) in the Huws Gray (Cymru) Alliance.
I had previously visited Ruthin Town’s ground on two separate occasions. The first time (which I blogged about HERE) was in late 2014, and at the start of my groundhopping adventures. The game was an absolute treat, seeing a thirteen goal feast between Ruthin and the now defunct Penyffordd side in a Welsh National Premier fixture. The second, and up to that point, last visit to Ruthin was in October 2015 when I went there to watch a Welsh Cup match between Ruthin and Holywell. On that occasion, the visitors won by a single goal to progress to the next round. Unsurprisingly I was hoping for a repeat performance from this upcoming game!
Another reason I wanted goals was that in my previous match, I had experienced a 0-0 game – my third for 2018. For 2018, I had started the year with a goalless draw between Rhostyllen and Saltney Town in the Welsh National League, and subsequently finished the year with another 0-0 blank between Greenfield and Llangefni Town (sadly quite the apt metaphor for my 2018 in fairness). Therefore I was eager to start 2019 with some goals…Holywell goals ideally, but goals all the same. Having watched the Greenfield match previously, I don’t think I could have handled a second consecutive no-score draw!
Within the past 18 months, Ruthin’s ground has been drastically improved with the addition of a new covered stand with seats, and a perimeter fence enclosing the ground, as well as other off-field developments. All of these improvements fulfilling requirements for the new ground criteria that had been since implemented by the league! Therefore I was eager to see how the ground had developed since my last visit.
Leaving 94thMin HQ at about 12:45, it took about 35-40 minutes’ drive over Halkyn Mountain, along the Mold-Denbigh road towards Denbigh, before continuing up the Dyffryn Clwyd (Clwyd Valley) to the historic castle town. RT’s ground is situated in the west of the market town, on the western riverbank of the Afon Clwyd (River Clwyd) which flows through the town. Alas I did not have enough spare time before the match to take a short wander into Ruthin and have a casual stroll around the scenic town; a town which I have got a lot of appreciation for!
RHUTHUN / RUTHIN
- Population: 5500
- County: Denbighshire
- Historical County: Denbighshire
The market town of Ruthin or Rhuthun has about 5500 inhabitants and is situated roughly in the middle of Denbighshire with the Vale of Clwyd / Dyffryn Clwyd, and is also the county town. It is located 8,2 miles south-east of Denbigh, 10,4 miles south-west of Mold and 12,2 miles north of Corwen, on the River Dee. Ruthin is connected to Mold, Bala and the historic A5 road via the A494 trunk road, which just skirts around the northern section of the town, whilst Denbigh is reached via the A525 road. Despite its good road infrastructure, it does not possess a train station with the nearest ones being about 20 miles away. Its original train station was shutdown in 1963 during the infamous Beeching Cuts. However regular daily bus routes run from Ruthin to the train stations in Rhyl, Wrexham or Chester (via Mold) to help in that context.
As with many towns in North Wales, its foundations originate from when a castle was constructed there, on top of a red sandstone ridge overlooking the valley, in 1277 by Dafydd ap Gruffudd. It was originally given the name Castell Coch yn yr Gwernfor (English: Red Castle in the Great Marsh), and it is the red castle which provides the town with its current name. Rhuthun originates from a combination of “Rhudd” and “Dun” which are the Welsh words for “red” and “fort” respectively.
The castle would become the base for the de Grey family, who held the marcher lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd, and it was one of the de Greys, Reginald Grey, the 3rd Baron Grey de Ruthyn, who was the spark that caused the Owain Glyndwr-led uprising. Ruthin Castle was slighted after the Civil War but the ruins of castle still exist in the town. The ruins have been incorporated into privately owned hotel-spa since the 1960’s, but the maintenance of the remaining castle walls was recently taken over by Cadw, who are planning restoration and preventative work to avoid any further degradation of the ruins.
Ruthin has a considerable number of historical and listed buildings within such a small area, which is why it has become a popular tourist spot within North East Wales. One popular example is its Grade II* listed Old Court House, which is notable for being the first building to be attacked during Glyndwr’s rising. Then there is the Nantclwyd y Dre, a Grade I listed house, which is Wales’ oldest timbered town house and is open to the public as a historic house museum.
Another popular venue is Ruthin Gaol (Welsh: Carchar Rhuthun), which is an early 19th century-built, Pentonville-style prison that overlooks the River Clwyd. It was used to hold local prisoners throughout the whole of the 19th century before it ceased to be a prison in 1916. It was bought by Denbighshire County Council, which used part of the building for offices, the county archives and the town library. Because of its sturdy construction, it was used as a munitions factory during the Second World War before being handed back to the council, which used it as the headquarters of the county’s library service. In 2004, the jail was extensively renovated with part of it turned into a museum detailing life for the Victorian prisoners. The gaol is open to the public throughout the tourist season, and has won Visit Wales’ Hidden Gem award for the past three years.
For more information on what Ruthin has to offer, please check out the following links:
Football has been played in Ruthin since the pioneering days of Welsh football with records going back as far as 1880 (as represented in today’s club’s badge). In those early days, Ruthin was an important and competitive location for Welsh football initially, with the town’s football team reaching the 1880 Welsh Cup final. Alas they would not bring the historic trophy back to Dyffryn Clwyd as they lost 1-2 to Druids (the historic forbearers of Cefn Druids) in front of 4000 supporters at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. Uriah Goodwin getting the solitary goal for the finalists, who played in yellow and black stripes that day.
Ruthin FC’s road to the 1880 Welsh Cup Final:
- R1: Llangollen (h) 4 – 0
- R2: Corwen (h) 3 – 0
- R3: Newtown Excelsior (n) 4 – 2 [replay after a 1-1 draw]
- SF: Bye
- F: Druids (n) 1 – 2
Nevertheless during the late 19th century, the club would produce many fine players with six of them having the honour of representing the Welsh national team between 1880 and 1895. William Pierce Owen, a forward player, being the most selected Ruthin player during this period, having earned himself twelve caps for his country.
The foundations of the town’s current club, Ruthin Town, originate in the post-Second World War period when Ruthin British Legion joined the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) in 1949. It would be another four years before the ‘British Legion’ element of their name was discarded, and ‘Ruthin Town’ was formally embraced by the club. During that initial period, they managed to finish WNL Division 1 runners-up in their second season of existence, before winning their first WNL league title in the 1963-64 season. Ruthin Town would claim their maiden league title by a winning margin of just a single point from runners-up Welshpool AFC.
Ruthin almost won their second WNL Division 1 league in the 1972-73 season but would agonisingly miss out on the title on goal difference to Vale of Clwyd rivals, Denbigh Town. Denbigh winning the title with a goal difference of +64 in comparison to Ruthin’s goal difference of +38. After a disappointing relegation to Division 2 in the 1977-78 season, the first team returned to the top tier of the WNL pyramid two years later when they won the Division 2 title in the 1979-80 season.
A period of stability occurred for Ruthin Town throughout the 1980’s within the WNL Division 1 (later becoming the Premier Division), although not much silverware was forthcoming during this period. It wouldn’t be until the 1991-92 season when the fortunes of Ruthin would improve when they gained promotion to the Cymru Alliance after finishing runners-up and two points behind league champions, Wrexham Reserves. They also managed to win the WNL Premier Division League Cup that season as they ended their 43 year tenure in the WNL in style!
Ruthin competed in the second tier of Welsh football for twenty-one years, achieving their highest league position of third in the 2003-04 Cymru Alliance season under the management of Tim Dyer. Their impressive tenancy in the Cymru Alliance came to an end in 2013 when they were finally relegated and returned back to the WNL Premier Division. They would have a successful period in their return back to the WNL, winning the Premier Division League Cup on two separate occasions in 2014 and 2016. The year of 2016 would prove especially sweet for the Blues, as they gained promotion back to the Cymru Alliance. With 2015-16 WNL Premier Division champions FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay denied promotion, runners-up Ruthin Town would take their promotion spot instead (I would watch FC Nomads hammer Ruthin Town that season also).
Since their return to the second tier, Ruthin finished in 11th position in the 2016-17 season, and a slight improvement of 10th spot in last season’s campaign. They also managed to win some silverware last season when they beat Holywell Town in the North East Wales FA (NEWFA) Challenge Cup final. A considerably fiery final, held at the neutral venue of Airbus UK’s Airfield ground, resulted in a hard-fought 2-1 victory for Ruthin over the Wellmen.
On a final note, this season Ruthin have equalled the record books by being one of the longest serving members of the Cymru Alliance. Both themselves and Buckley Town have played in the league for twenty-three of the twenty-eight season history of the league. Ironically this will be the final season of the Cymru Alliance before it is controlled directly by the FAW and renamed to the “FAW Northern Championship” next season.
MEMORIAL PLAYING FIELDS GROUNDHOP
- Distance Travelled: 20,5 miles
- Travel Time: 35 minutes
- Entrance: £5.00
- Programme: £1.00
- Pin Badge: £3.00
- Chocolate Bar: £0.70
- Cup of Coffee: £1.00
Ruthin Town’s ground has a large car park, so there were plenty of available spaces when I arrived at about 13:20 – a good 40 minutes prior to the scheduled 14:00 kick-off time. Should the car park be full on match days, there is another car park on the main road, a short distance away from the ground. Whereas it is free parking the club’s car park, a couple of pounds payment would have to made for the other car park as it is council controlled. However it is at a handy location should you wish to explore the gaol and town before or after the game (something I highly recommend)!
From the car park, you could already see some of the new improvements that the clubs have implemented onto their ground. The new stand is on the same side as the original stand, but positioned further towards the clubhouse/changing rooms complex. Whilst the playing area is now fenced off by tall green fencing – something which was not there in my previous visit.
The entrance to the ground was situated in between the two stands, and opens up onto the car park. It was there where a volunteer was positioned to take £5 off me for entry, as well as an additional pound for the corresponding match programme.
The first port of call when entering the ground was to get some refreshments, and so I made the short walk to the snack bar hatch at the near end of the clubhouse complex. Although there were some tempting hot food options on offer, I decided to just have a Lion chocolate bar and a cup of black coffee for £1.70. I also spotted they were selling some RT merchandise, so I also bought myself a RT pin badge for an additional £3. Considering I didn’t purchase one in my previous visits, it was a very welcome addition to the pin badge collection!
Whilst slurping down the coffee, I admired the new stand with its blue, folding, plastic seats. On the right-hand side of the stand, there were bricks which had people’s names on them and some personalised messages. Looking through the programme, it stated that it was possible to buy a personalised brick to be placed on the new stand for £50. A very nice idea from the club – firstly it is a good source of income to help repay the outlay for the stand, but also allows supporters to permanently affirm their support and show their loyalty to the club! Loved it!
It would be after a few minutes of admiring the recent ground improvements when other Holywell supporters finally turned up at the ground, all resplendent with their red and white striped scarves proudly worn and displayed.
Chatting with my fellow Holywell supporters, most of them were confident of getting something from the game despite being in fourteenth position (out of sixteen teams). After the Wellmen had superbly beaten their in-form and fierce rivals, Flint Town United, 2-1 on Boxing Day at Halkyn Road, confidence was high amongst everyone. Everyone was still buzzing from the superb Christmas performance, and there was quiet optimism that HT had now turned the proverbial ‘corner’ and that results would now improve to lift them away from the three relegation places. With such confidence within the HT camp, it contributed to the large number of Holywell supporters who attended this game.
Another factor for the quiet confidence from the away fans was that the team had been more rested than their opponents for this game. Their proposed gruelling away match at Penrhyncoch, originally scheduled on the 29th December, had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Cae Baker. In comparison, seventh placed RT had a tough Boxing Day fixture against local rivals Denbigh Town, where they disappointingly lost 3-0 at Central Park. This was followed up with another difficult defeat away at Rhyl, this time losing 2-0 to the Lilywhites. With RT in seemingly poor form over Christmas, and having played a game more during the festive period, HT supporters were further buoyed of getting something from the upcoming game.
However on paper, RT were probably the favourites for the game. Not only were they positioned higher in the league, but they also had a good record against HT in recent meetings between the sides. In the opposite league fixture, which was the opening game of the season for both sides, they easily demolished HT 3-0 at Halkyn Road. Ryan Jones (twice) and Gwion Owen scoring the goals on that summer Friday evening. Also the Blues had beaten their opponents in a cup final at the conclusion of last season. With the final being played at Airbus UK Broughton’s Airfield ground, the Vale of Clwyd side beat Holywell 2-1 in a highly competitive yet tempestuous and controversial North East Wales FA Challenge Cup final.
With the majority of Wellmen supporters now in the ground, we all went into the clubhouse for a quick drink before the game commenced. Ruthin’s clubhouse has certainly been improved since my previous visit, and I was very impressed with its light wood and chrome design – all very modern looking! The clubhouse is a great size with plenty of tables, chairs and sofas dotted around for punters to sit down and relax. Whilst there is a good sized bar down on side of the clubhouse, selling all kinds of alcoholic drinks, as well as even more RT merchandise.
Sadly on this occasion I didn’t both with a pint of ale as I was driving, but many other (non-driving) supporters bought themselves a pre-match pint whilst watching the early afternoon English FA Cup game between Manchester United and Reading. The cup game was being shown live on BT Sports, which was being projected onto the back wall of the clubhouse. United were already 2-0 up at this point…it seems all very easy for Ole Gunnar at the moment!
It was not too long before both sides had left the changing rooms next to the bar and descended onto the pitch in preparation for the game. Any remaining lager was quickly supped or glugged down and the HT supporters quickly abandoned the clubhouse to take up our positions either congregated behind the goal Holywell were going to attack towards in the first half, or grouped together within the new stand. I decided to stand behind the goal for the first half, and then the opposite goal for the second half.
It was standing at the clubhouse / western end of the pitch, waiting for the game to kick-off, that I re-appreciated just how scenic RT’s ground really is. The surrounding green and brown hills of the upper Vale of Clwyd / Dyffryn Clwyd are really picturesque, and provide a delightful backdrop to the football ground. Combine that panorama with St. James’ sandstone church spire jutting out into the sky from nearby, and it produces such a unique view which is a delight to gaze upon during breaks in gameplay.
The conditions for the match were not too bad for an early January afternoon. It was an overcast day with a slight cooling wind, which increased velocity throughout the game. The temperature was surprisingly mild for the middle of Winter at around 10 degrees Centigrade, although as the light faded throughout the afternoon and the wind increased, the temperature naturally became chilly. Finally the grass pitch was not in a too bad of condition. Predictably for this time of the year, parts of the pitch were scuffed up, muddy and bobbly, but the overall condition was pretty good considering. Having two away games over the festive period was certainly a benefit to the Ruthin pitch, allowing it to recuperate somewhat.
Both sides were playing in their traditional home stripes for their opening game of 2019. RT were in their all dark blue kit with white trim, whilst HT were in their home strip of red and white striped shirts, red shorts with red socks.
It was a close game during the first half with nothing much between both sides. HT hit the crossbar through Steve Lewis and then the post straight after through Aaron Pomeyie early into the game. Whilst Mike Platt at the other end kept the scores level through some great saves to ensure the game stayed goalless at half time. Former Rhyl player, Pomeyie was looking the star man for the visitors, causing RT’s right-back all sorts of problems with his pace and trickery, whilst Lewis was troubling the home centre-halves throughout the first half. At other end, Llyr Morris had a couple of chances to score for the home side, but only just missed the target at each situation.
The game changed five minutes after the restart when RT took the lead through a deflected shot by the lethal Llyr Morris which zipped between Platt and the inside post. Platt will be disappointed to be beaten at his near post. This brought HT’s attack to life and they threatened the home side’s goal throughout the start of the second half. HT were denied a penalty when Lewis was brought down in the box, but appeals were rejected by the referee. Subsequently HT would find an equaliser on the 67th minute through a looping header from Matty Harvey whose shot drifted into the far corner of the net, much to the delight of the traveling support!
HT would only level the score for a few minutes as RT caught them on the counter-attack and managed to regain their advantage. A long ball over the advanced HT defensive line found Tomas Roberts in space on the right of the penalty box, who advanced towards the HT goal and fired past Platt to make the score 2-1 to the home side.
Both sides had chances to amend the scoreline although both keepers were having great games. HT had some fantastic goal-bound opportunities and another rejected penalty appeal within the last ten minutes of the match, but RT’s goalkeeper, Ryan Goldston (who was the Man of the Match in my opinion and got applauded by the HT supporters at the end of the game) pulled off some fantastic saves towards the end of the match to maintain his side’s lead. It included a spectacular one when he dived low to keep out a Lewis’ flicked header, which looked as if it was nestling into the far corner of the net. It was that good, it got a round of applause from the HT fans behind the goal!
In the end, the visitors managed to just about hold-off the HT onslaught to grab themselves a very welcome three points. Holywell trudged off the pitch disappointed not to get anything from the game despite having played very well for large parts of it – a draw would have been a fair result. However the frustrations of the supporters and management were directed towards the officials at the end of the game, whose (incorrect) decisions potentially cost HT from getting at least a needed point from this encounter!
FULL TIME: RUTHIN TOWN 2 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN
Despite their win, Ruthin Town stayed in seventh position in the Cymru Alliance table, although they stayed in touch with Gresford Athletic just above them by one point. With Ruthin having a game in hand over the Clappers Lane outfit, they’ll be hoping to overtake them later on in the season. As for Holywell, despite another decent performance, their tenth loss of the season kept them in fourteenth position in the table and five points behind Denbigh Town in 13th place. One positive from the weekend was that both teams below them in the table, Penrhyncoch and Holyhead Hotspur, also lost their respective games meaning nothing changed in terms of position or points gaps.
Towards the end of the game, I did spot a couple of people taking pictures of the Rhuthun flag, that was attached to the fence at the town end of the ground and near to where we were all standing in the second half. Initially I did wonder if they were fellow groundhoppers, but said nothing in case I was wrong. After the match, my suspicions were confirmed and I discovered that it was the groundhopper who runs the Football Days Out account on Twitter (@FGroundhopper). He had posted pictures that he taken of the game, and a picture of the flag on his account! I apologised to him for not saying hello and introducing myself, and asked if he enjoyed the groundhop, which he certainly did. Please give him a follow if you have Twitter!
After the game, myself and a number of disappointed HT supporters returned back to the immense clubhouse for a commiseration drink whilst watching the English FA Cup goal alerts come through on the vidiprinter of BT Sports’ version of Soccer Saturday. I stayed in the clubhouse for a time watching the scores being reported from around England before finally making the journey back the HQ in the descending darkness of the North Welsh winter late afternoon.
As in my previous two visits to the Memorial Playing Fields, I really enjoyed my visit to Ruthin (despite the result) and was really impressed with the improvements that have been made to the ground since my last visit in 2015. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, the clubhouse is superb, and the views from the pitch are absolutely stunning = the perfect combination!! Ruthin Town look like a team on an upward curve on and off the pitch, and it was good to see many of locals turning out in force to support the team!
Thank you very much to everyone at Ruthin Town for their welcome and kind hospitality, and wish everyone at the club a very successful 2019!