Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Welsh Spring Hop - Saturday

After considering going on the Welsh Hop in August, and turning it down for Stevenage v Wycombe Wanderers, I was determined to go on at least some of the next one. As luck would have it, Wycombe were away at Southend, a venue I have visited many times. It was also at the end of my week off work, and so with that in mind I booked the whole weekend, 6 matches in all, programmes included for £23. Though I had some reservations about watching matches in 'fields' as it's not my usual type of haunt, there was some lovely scenery. Also some of the clubs before had made great efforts to get Welsh stuff in, including my favourite cider, so I was looking forward to trying new things, plus some old favourites.

On the Saturday I woke at 7.30, having had a good 8 hours sleep. I was out by 8 and went to Morrisons near Swansea City's Liberty Stadium for a very good breakfast. They are by far the best supermarket for a breakfast, as they cook everything fresh and they also do my favourite, Black Pudding. After that it was time to go to the game. The roads were ok at first with decent dual carriageways but the further I got into the trip, they became single lane slow moving roads. I had to stop for diesel at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere, and was pleased to only have to pay 115.9, which is the same as my local one charges. Most places like this are about 5p more expensive, so well done Murco!

10:15 - DEWI STARS 6-1 SDUC

I got to the ground at 10.05, just 10 minutes before kick off. I was pleased to collect my programme pack off of Chris and Laurence and also met fellow ground hoppers Cherry Hopper, Jack and a Welsh Hopper who was at last weeks Ton Pentre game that I attended. The ground was in a really nice setting and had a small stand to protect supporters from the elements. The food was burgers and sausages but there was no bar open. Not that that was a problem this early in the morning. The programme lacked a league table and fixtures and results. but it did have a number of old press cuttings, and was printed well on nice paper.
As for the game, the home side Dewi Stars easily beat the students of SDUC who looked like they had been out on the lash all night. They did have a very distinctive yellow and orange kit though, which I quite liked. The home side opened the scoring on 15 minutes when a deft touch from a corner saw the ball go in the net. 8 minutes later it was 2-0 with number 8 bundling in from close range. The game was as good as over on the half hour mark, and what a decent finish it was with a curling shot into the top corner of the goal. It was another close range effort on 36 minutes that made it 4, but the students did at least get on the scoresheet on 44 minutes with a decent drilled finish from just inside the area.

The students had had the advantage of playing downhill in the first half, so I thought it might get a bit embarrassing with them playing uphill in the second half. But Dewi Stars must have taken their foot off the gas as it took them until 71 minutes to get another, this time when a cross was headed in. It was 6-1 on 82 minutes with a low drilled shot and that was how it stayed.

It had been a good game in very nice surroundings, at a nice club. The village of Llandewi where the game was played is most famous for the character of Dafyd in comedy show Little Britain who is 'the only gay in the village'. The only downside to the first game of the hop was that there was no mobile signal, rendering my sat nav app on my phone useless. Due to me not being 100% sure where I was going, I had to follow Chris and Laurence to the next game, which really shows how reliant on technology that I am!


Having got to the second game with the aid of following the groundhop organisers, I was pleased to be have my mobile signal back. I parked as arranged at the local school and walked up to the ground While the ground was basic with no stands or structures of any kind, it did, as with all the other grounds have some nice scenery. It was a nice enough place to watch a game on a warm afternoon, even as with most of the day it was a bit windy.

I was disappointed to see there was no bar, not that I was gagging for a drink, but I do like to help them out by getting something, while staying safely within the limits prescribed by law of course. One thing they did do well was he food. As well as the usual BBQ there was some nice Welsh broth called Cawl. It had all manner of stuff in it, including lamb and tasted very nice, though I left the potato at the bottom as I don't like them unless they are chips! It also came with cheese and a roll and was good value and something local for £2.

Another thing they did well was a stall selling club merchandise. They had a great range of stuff including old programmes, old shirts, badges and the like at decent prices. I kind of regret not picking up a hoody now, but I was in 2 minds as they only had them in small size, which is just a little too tight on me.

There was a bit of a worry pre match, as the original referee thought the game kicked off at 2.15 and would therefore be an hour late. League official Aled Davies stepped into the breach as he is also a referee. He did a pretty good job of refereeing a first half that saw the visitors take a 15th minute lead with a close range finish.

The pitch had a really odd slope, being humped in the middle which meant if you stood on one side, you could only see the head and shoulders of the player on the other side of the pitch in some cases. Felinfach got their equaliser just after the hour mark to give them a deserved draw. The game was not the best to be honest, and neither was the referee. After turning up an hour late, he denied the home side a blatant penalty in the last minute for an obvious trip. 

Felinfach were a really friendly club and thanked us for coming to the game as we were leaving and wished us well for the rest of the trip. Their programme was also of excellent quality and was the best of the weekend in my opinion, full of colour and facts, as well as stuff to read.



After a 20 minute drive from the previous game, I was in the car park near the ground at around 3.15. After initially thinking I'd have to pay parking, I was pleased to see the charges only applied after Easter, as it was a couple of quid saved and in any case, I didn't have any change. I took a walk down to the pretty town centre and decided against going in the pub or chippy as I wasn't in the mood.

Though the ground was in nice scenery, it was a pretty bland affair, with a small area of cover. It was a new build, with them having played on another ground in a hop a couple of years back. It was under that cover that all the business went on, with the team listings and club merchandise being sold. I later discovered that the big club umbrellas were only a fiver, and wish I'd bought one, as that's a right bargain. The food was some standard catering van selling burgers and the like.

The game was not the greatest. perhaps not helped by the strong wind, or the fact that I was starting to feel a bit jaded. In any case, the goalscoring was opened on 10 minutes when the tall number 6 headed in at the back post to give the visitors the lead. 9 minutes later the lead was doubled with a smart angled shot. Though Aberaeron pulled a goal back just before half time, it didn't look like they were going to get back into it.

There were some entertaining aspects to the game, other than goalmouth action though. The referee falling arse over tit and briefly hurting himself was amusing, as was a running  battle between the Penrhyncoch number 6 and the Aberaeron number 10. They were taking digs at each other for much of the first half.

Laurence was much amused by my attempts to get out of the ground by taking a shortcut over the fence and got some great pictures as I clambered over it and up the slope. I should have gone up there as the view was a lot better than inside the ground. From then on it was a 30 minute drive to the final game of the day.


I got to the ground at 6.30 and was quite pleased to have some time to chill before the game. I'd spotted a shop down the road and decided to get some cans of Stella Cidre to have back at my hotel with Match of the Day. I even put one in my bag to have at the ground, if they, like the others, didn't have a bar. A chip shop, called Central Cafe was my final port of call before the ground, as the clubs had been pretty inconsistent food wise so far. But after 2 minutes of standing at the counter and being ignored, I gave up and went to the ground.

I was given a great welcome by the club, and one of their people showed me to the bar. I grabbed myself a pint of 'Ye Olde Dragon' which is called 'Olde English' in England. I also got some nice Welsh Crisps, sweet chilli flavour. I watched some of the Aston Villa v West Brom game where a win for the home side sparked a couple of joyful pitch invasions.

By now I was ready for food and the club had really pushed the boat out compared to the others. I had myself chicken curry and rice for £3, Minestrone Soup and a Roll for £2 and a burger for £2.50 as I sought to make up for not eating much all day. I also bought a bunch of old programmes from them, just to read and throw away, donating all the spare change that I had in my pocket.

I was feeling invigorated after all that food and drink and it helped that I was watching floodlit football in the type of ground that I was more used to. The game was pretty dull to be honest, lit up by a rocket of a shot on 34 minutes to open the scoring for Newcastle Emlyn. From then on the result was never in doubt and it was confirmed on the hour mark when they got their second when a cross was headed in. Though it had not been the best game, I had enjoyed it, spending most of the time talking to other hoppers while watching the game.

After the match had finished, I beat a hasty retreat to my car. It was a half hour trip back to my hotel. On the way back, my brakes started making a scraping noise when I pushed hard on them. Something to sort out when I get home. For the evening though I chilled before Match Of The Day, then watched a very short version. There were 2 ludicrous sending offs in the Villa v West Brom game neither of which should have happened. I enjoyed the cans that I had bought earlier, having to pop out later to get some cash out to pay the hotel in the morning.

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