Friday, 9 August 2019

09/08/19 Review: Chirk AAA vs Penycae

Chirk AAA 0-1 Penycae (Welsh National League Premier)
Holyhead Road

Although many will remember Friday 9th August for being the day that the Premier League restarted in England, for me the main event was taking place 50 miles south of Anfield as I visited the small Wrexham Borough town of Chirk to see a Welsh National League Premier match at Holyhead Road, which for those of you not keeping up is one of the divisions in the third tier of Welsh football. Incidentally, this would be my fourth Welsh ground (if you count Park Hall!), with a trip to see TNS in 2016, a Good Friday jaunt to The Rock in 2017 and most recently Goytre's Plough Road last season offering my only servings of Welsh football until this evening.

We go again
The opponents for this 6:30pm kickoff were from just over the road and scooted down from the village of Pen-y-cae, which is practically a stone throw compared to the 100-mile round journey I made to see the beautiful game. This opening encounter would see two sides who finished in the bottom half last season and the season before do battle, with both looking to see what the 2019/20 campaign could bring. My whole journey had consisted of staring at the back of caravans and the consistent swish of my windscreen wiper, so I decided to be conservative and make a 1-1 pre-match prediction. Although to be honest, I'm just glad it wasn't called off. The last Friday night game I'd been to had been a drab 0-0 in the rain, so I wasn't feeling too hopeful.

Fans out in shorts despite the rain, my kind of people
As I entered Holyhead Road for my 167th stadium and 10th match of the season, I was greeted by a splendidly chirpy chap who took £2 off me for entry, before pointing me over to the game. The clubhouse, which I didn't have time for until the break, was looking pretty lively and it appeared to be holding a private party in the end room. I made my way straight over to pitchside just in time for kick-off and after doing a rough headcount there looked to be about 110 folk here for the game. A really good effort in my books. As you'll be able to see from the photo above the facilities are in good order, with a nice undercover cafĂ© hatch doubling on to the changing rooms. Further across- and strangely placed by the corner flag- is The Kronospan Stand, which is a sub-100 seater stand that was opened in 2011 by Welsh legend and then National Team Manager Gary Speed. As half six approached the lads emerged from inside and as they did the sun peaked its head out between the dark clouds to allow for a nice backdrop for the opening of the game. The Chirk side, in a fetching red outfit, got the game underway and it would be sooner rather than later that we would see the game's only goal.

Chirk sub as the lino- yup, it's Welsh rules here at Holyhead Road
No more than two minutes had passed when Ryan Jones of Penycae was offered the chance to test the home keeper and he took full advantage by smashing home a 30-yard strike that went straight into the top left corner and sparked early applause from all in attendance. Chirk 0-1 Penycae. The early setback from Chirk meant that they would start the match on the back foot and they began to try and rectify that with some attacking play of their own. The host's number 7 set his sights in the 10th minute but curled one wide, whilst later on the red number 12 struck the woodwork from two yards out. It wasn't as bad as you'd think!

Meanwhile the Penycae Manager literally walked around on the pitch- twelfth man?
I had a patrol around the pitch to see if I could catch some good action and to be honest I mainly just spent my time wondering how on earth the Ref was going to cope with 90 minutes having no linesmen. Not to be too rude to the man in the middle, who must've been at least 87-years old, but he mainly just spent his time trotting around in the centre circle trying to keep up with play. Poor old lad, I think he just wanted the game to be over so he could have a few pints a couple of ham butties. Thankfully for him, it was almost half-time and despite the lumps and bumps in the playing surface it had been a decent opening half and in all honesty Chirk probably had been on top, albeit without grabbing the crucial equaliser.

The number 12, an early sub up front, has looked lively so far
During the break, I thought I'd best do my bit and check out the beer on offer. It would be rude not too, right? With a San Miguel in my hand and a seat in the club, I appeared to get too comfy as I missed the kickoff for the second-half. Thankfully, no goals were missed and I headed back out to see how the game would conclude. Most fans didn't rush back outside, but then again there was at least one chap in a Man United cap and a lad wearing a Wrexham top so I don't know how bothered they were about missing out.

A proper Clubhouse for proper fans
Unfortunately for the hosts, the first 45 was as good as it got in terms of chances and if anything they were lucky to keep the score at 0-1. In fact, as the ballboy for the Chirk keeper, I think I had more touches of the ball than the hosts' forwards throughout the latter stages of the game and the only moment of real action on the pitch was when Penycae's number 8 slid in a second goal only for it to be ruled out by the linesman referee. With the game burning out, I had a brief natter with one of the club officials from Chirk and he was explaining to me that their opponents this evening had "put a bit of money" into their squad this season so would be expecting to challenge the top sides in the division. To be fair, I did think I saw Mr. Bale sat on the Penycae bench- although I think he'd more likely be around the corner at the golf club!

Game over- 0-1
With the game over I was on my jolly way back home to Stafford knowing that I'd made the right choice to cross the border once again for a good evening of football. It's not like me to keep an eye on the lower leagues of Welsh football, but after tonight I will no doubt find myself in the area at some point in the future. Good luck to both Chirk AAA and Penycae for the rest of the season and cheers for having me on this fine Friday!

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