Ground Number: 325
Saturday 11th January 2014
Merthyr Town 3-2 Paulton Rovers
Southern League Division 1 South & West
PRE MATCH RESEARCH
The town of Merthyr Tydfil itself had not enjoyed the best of press in recent years. In the papers for being the sickness and dole capital of Wales. But I take any reports like that with a pinch of salt, especially as they often have a not very well hidden agenda, and I'd much prefer to judge a place on my own experiences. It's most famous residents include fashion designer Laura Ashley and footballer Mark Pembridge. The team has been as high as the Conference, with one of the biggest grounds too at the time Wycombe were in it. In 2010 the old Merthyr Tydfil club went into liquidation and reformed in the summer of that year. They have made great strides in the few years since that, gaining 2 promotions to be in their current league. They have some way to go to recapture former glories, but with excellent support, you'd not bet against them bringing more success to the town. The former clubs most famous moment came when they won the Welsh Cup in 1987. In those days the winner of that got a European place and Merthyr made the most of theirs giving Italians Atalanta a real tough tie before going out 3-2 on aggregate. I always remember them for having some good players back in their Conference days - goalkeeper Gary Wager and midfielder Dave Webley to name just 2. Their more famous stars include John Charles, Bob Latchford and Tommy Hutchison.
So after a good groundhop at Leiston, I saw out the rest of the week at work, eagerly awaiting Saturday for my next game. In that time I discovered that I might be changing my plans for the 25th when Wycombe travel to Mansfield. Originally I was keen but it transpires that they have a ridiculous policy of making ALL games for away fans all ticket. Apparently, it is down to them wanting to get extra capacity at the ground, and having to abide by this rule to get it. I really can't be bothered to jump through hoops if that is how they treat people, especially with our poor form and me having been there many times in the past. It remains to be seen what I will do that day, possibly Worksop if I can get some Wycombe fans to come along - after dropping them at Mansfield it's only 14 miles away. Merthyr is a ground I have been looking forward to visiting for quite a while. The old club, Merthyr Tydfil were in the Conference and played Wycombe a fair few times. We had an excellent record against them, as indicated by a recent feature in our club programme. They were our first league opponents under legendary boss Martin O'Neill as we gained a 1-1 draw in Wales. The 3 times I had seen them against Wycombe we had won - two 4-0 victories in the league and a 3-1 win in the FA Cup in 1992. I also saw them lose to Hungerford in last years Southern League Division 1 South and West playoff final, so I had not bought them the best of luck so far. I'd even picked up a pennant of the old club - a bargain 50p from the Leamington club shop and it came with a free keyring too.
I woke at around 4.30 on the day of the game, around about the time I get up for work. Probably something to do with the fact that I had an early night the previous night, but annoying all the same, I watched TV till 7.15, then had a wash and got dressed, before leaving to meet Anwar at 8, arriving in Aylesbury at 8.20. Soon enough we were off and were in Merthyr by 11.15. As I had time to kill I decided to drive to ASDA, hoping to pick up some of my favourite Welsh cider. As it turned out, they didn't have any, so I went back to the ground and parked up in a side street. It was still only 11.50 at this time, so we made our way into town. After a fairly uninteresting browse around the shops, we made our way to the local Wetherspoons - Y Dic Penderyn - for lunch. I took full advantage of being in Wales, having a couple of bottles of the Gwynt y Ddraig cider that I like. I also had a Welsh special off the menu - Faggots, Mushy Peas and Chips - taking the phrase 'When In Rome' to the maximum extent. All was very nice indeed and so after a very patriotic lunch, we made our way to the ground, arriving just before 2PM. I had heard nothing but good things about the ground itself, it being well known as a real gem for groundhoppers. The praise was well founded, so I took a fair amount of pictures before having a look at what else there was in the ground. I was still peckish so I bought myself Sausage and Chips before finding a place on the big side terrace to watch the game, a report of which is pasted from the non-league paper below.
After the game, I was reasonably happy with Wycombe's 1-1 draw at Morecambe when I checked the final score on my phone. We made pretty good time, but it was disappointing to see that Man U had beaten Swansea to arrest their recent slump. It was amusing to watch, almost as funny as the Home Alone mickey take that I had seen a few weeks ago, based on Man U players. I stopped at Tesco before we got out of Merthyr and I managed to pick up the stuff I had wanted earlier. We were back in Aylesbury by 8.15, with me getting home at 8.40. I was glad to put my feet up and relax after a long day.
PENYDARREN PARK is a proper old school ground with plenty of terracing and a big capacity of 10,000. It also has 1500 seats, the majority of which are situated along the side where you come into the ground. There are a few seats behind the goal to the left, which also has terracing and is fully covered. Opposite is expansive terracing, mainly covered, whilst the remaining end is open terracing. The bar is pretty much your standard clubhouse but has a good view of the pitch from its windows. The club shop is a bit of a disappointment, not having much at all, especially for a fairly big team. One good point though is the tea bar, which has a great range of stuff at good prices and the double sausage and chips were very nice too at £2. It's one of few grounds of its type left, the people are friendly and with all the bad weather that we have been having lately, the 3G pitch ensures that you won't have a wasted journey.