Welsh Dragons and British Lions

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Saturday August 4th 2012 at Shannon Close, Newport, KO 14:30pm.

Gwent Senior Cup 1st Round.

Newport Civil Service 0-5 Monmouth Town,  ht 0-1, att 52 (head count).

admission £2 inc prog, cup of tea £1. Game rating 3/5.

And six Welsh Dragons ticked pre-match before Newport CS!

Saturday August 4th 2012, at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff, KO 19:30pm.

London 2012 Mens Olympic Football Quarter Final.

Great Britain 1-1 Republic of Korea, AET (ROK won 5-4 on pens).

Att 70,171, admission £20, Olympic football programme £5.

Game rating 2.5/5

I’d gambled when ordering a ticket for the Olympic Men’s Q/F some months back, thinking there was a very good chance GB would finish top of their group. This indeed came to happen, and so now my £20 ticket sat proudly in my back pocket.

So I was even more delighted to find out some weeks back that Newport Civil Service had organised their attractive Gwent Senior Cup fixture versus Monmouth Town for the same Saturday. Attractive in that Monmouth had stormed to the Welsh D2 title in 11-12 season, not losing a game in the process, thus taking up a place in D1 for season 12-13. Whereas Civil Service are a modest D3 side, so this game would on paper be a major challenge for them in their first competitive game of the season.

Before the football took the centre stage for the day, we had some dragon sculpture ticking to do! Over the last 4/5 years many UK towns and cities (but mostly a city thing) have displayed fibre glass painted animal sculptures. In short, a company or club sponsors an animal, an artist paints it, after the display has finished they are usually auctioned off, with money going to charity. Each animal is unique in its design and artwork, so for that reason, ticking (photographing) all the sculptures has become a popular pastime amongst many, one of whom, my wife Ros, has taken up that mantle.

This was to be the second year of the Newport Dragons, titled ‘Super Dragons 2’. Ros had obtained a map of the locations of the 60 dragons, and before I was to retire to the game at NCS we headed to Caerleon (Roman Army Museum for 2, and the Golf club for 1), Newport Wetlands for 1, and 2 at Tredegar House. So, when I dropped Ros in the centre of Newport, she had already bagged 6 of the 60.  My favourite of the initial 6 being at the lovely location of the bird sanctuary of the wetlands, with this dragon being called ‘Here be lost species -lest we forget’. Set in the grounds near the main building, this white dragon, had etched onto him many lost animal/bird species, and the date they became extinct.

Newport Super Dragons 2!

The plan of action then was to drive to NSC to pick up a programme, then drop Ros back in the centre of Newport to carry on dragon ticking. This plan went slightly awry when it became apparent I had an incorrect post code for them, and sat navvy sent us not to the expected Newport district of Bettws but Malpas! My hearbeat increased as I contemplated missing KO for the 1st competitive game of the season! However some satnavvy tinkering by Ros with the ground address soon had us at the correct location. A quick perusal around the clubhouse did not reveal any programmes, and the football ground was a good 150 yards from here, so I rushed back to town to drop Ros.

Bettws is an electoral ward and coterminous community (parish). It is one of the largest modern housing estates in Europe.

The ward is bounded by Malpas to the east, the city boundary with Torfaen to the north, Rogerstone to the west, and the M4 motorway and Allt-yr-yn to the south.The housing estate was built-in the 1960s, and the large majority of houses are identical in plan and design. 51.8% of housing is privately owned, and 42.6% is rented from either the Newport City Council or local housing associations, such as Charter Housing.The roads in the estate are all named after rivers.

On arrival back at the ground with 5 mins to spare before KO, I was informed they had run out of programmes, but after I told the gateman I’d come from Reading for this one-off visit, he went beyond what I’d expect to obtain a copy for me, and soon had a local regular giving up his copy for me, thanks chap! One of the reason I love footy at this level 🙂

The game pretty much went as expected. Newport CS were able to hold their own for the first forty five minutes, but the second half it became clear that the Kingfishers from Monmouth were clearly at two levels higher, and almost scored at will.

 Young left sided player Elliott Ford hit an excellent hat trick, and Monmouth played some very nice football at times, and left we wondering how well they will do in Welsh D1 this season because on this display they certainly looked a stong side.

No tea bar facility, but I asked for a cuppa from behind the bar at HT, and the bar lady was happy to oblige.

All in all a decent game for my first competitive fixture of the 2012-13 season, and a friendly little club, well worth a visit.

And so onward to Cardiff, arriving at 5pm for the 7.30pm KO, I was lucky to get a free parking spot right at the very end of North Road’s pay and display, a good 15 minute walk from the stadium, but having used this car park before I knew it was good for a quick getaway. A colleague had tipped me off about the Olympic rings situated outside the City Hall, so this is where I headed initially, passing by the impressive new building of the Welsh music and drama centre on the way.

I hadn’t realised how large the rings might be, and they were certainly impressive against the skyline.

From there I took an amble around the City, past the castle, seeing a parade on the way, end of Ramadan? Poked my head into the Castle Gate Wetherspoons which was rammed, before trying Zero Degrees, which was less so, a cooling pint of their own wheat beer went down very well, whilst the drinkers inside enjoyed seeing our ladies storm to victory in the cycling team pursuit on the TV.

Once inside the stadium, it was clear that the crowd and atmosphere was nothing like I was used to, at say and England game. It felt like a cross between a schoolboy international and last night of the proms. The 70,171 crowd were encouraged to “do the famous Millennium mexican wave”, I audibly groaned! Fans behind me were trying to start a chant of “Lets go GB, let’s go” and this time I felt perhaps I was at a big ‘soccer’ game in the US? The atmosphere was very relaxed but there wasn’t the passion, many were here for the occasion, and because it was the Olympics.

Roof closed

 An hour before KO whilst still in the city centre the heavens had opened for 20 mins, so it was not surprising to find the roof closed. What was a little more surprising, was the lack of Korean fans at the game. In thinking that there is quite a large population of Koreans living in the UK I expected more, perhaps the problem of actually obtaining tickets was the issue, unlike the Euros or World Cup, the countries FA I assume do not get an allocation.

I really liked the Korean changed strip, perhaps being biased, it being very similar to the Palace sash strip of years ago.

Straight from KO it was clear that the Koreans were up for this, closing down the GB players very quickly, and also counter attacking at speed, and having an eye for a an incisive through ball, if their finishing had been better, it could have been all over by half time. As it was they took the lead after a good strong snap shot up our end by Ji from which Jack Butland let slip through his fingers. The Koreans were strong, and big, I was under the impression they might be smaller in stature, I was wrong, they looked fitter and more mobile than the British players.

I didn’t like the tactics of Stuart Pearce, playing seemingly only one up front in Sturridge, with his other striker Bellamy playing out wide. The tactic seemed to be to lump it long from the back, rather than build through the middle.

Thankfully the ref intervened and awarded GB a penalty for handball, that Ramsey did his best to try to miss, as it fortuitously sneaked under keeper Jung Sungryong’s body. 1-1, game on. More drama four minutes later as GB were awarded another penalty by the Colombian ref, this time for a challenge on Sturridge, another poor penalty by Ramsey, this time saved by the keeper.

GB increasingly played the long ball, and seemed rather clueless, the Koreans now and then carved out neat openings, which they didn’t take because of some poor finishing. A collision resulted in the substitution of the Korean keeper and later Micah Richards and from half time on the game deteriorated.

Rather than revert to a 4-4-2, Giggs replaced like for like Bellamy, and the same lack of penetration continued. It was no surprise when neither side could break the stalemate by extra time and penalties ensued. It occurred to me then that the last time I’d been in Cardiff was for the league cup S/F v Palace in late Jan, a game Palace lost on penalties, after a brave defensive display.

Unlike recent England penalty shootouts, the penalties here were top class, even Ramsey who took the 1st for GB. Both keepers were doing their best to put off the takers (Olympic spirit?), with Butland in particular clearly on the big screen gurning as if his life depended on it! Whilst the Korean keeper turned himself into a human windmill.  It was inevitable when GB missed their 5th, as Sturridge did the dreaded double take, stopping on approach to the ball, the keeper read it and saved, leaving just the Koreans to make the SF by scoring from their 5th, which they duly did. I was not disappointed, the Koreans were the better team on the day, and Pearce to my mind got his tactics very wrong, either that or the players, many of them so young, froze on the big occasion. 

All in all a top day out, and home by 12:20am. The season is up and running! 🙂

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