The Welsh Premier League, GAP Connah’s Quay (White/Black) 2-6 Bangor City (Royal Blue/Royal Blue).
Attendance 486, £6, programme £2 yorkie bar and coffee circa £2.50. Badge, £3.50.
The afternoon had been spent wandering around Chester Zoo, the Man United of British zoos based on numbers of visitors and size of the park. It had been chilly, very chilly. In the evening, with Ros happily left in the warm at our Chester city centre hotel, I drove the ten or so miles to Connah’s Quay.
Before you even arrive into the town, you face the imposing bridge over the River Dee, similar, but much smaller to the Severn bridge across the Bristol channel. As soon as you arrive at the beginning of the bridge, you can see the floodlights of the Deeside stadium at Deeside college, down, off to the left below the bridge. It is the largest town in Flintshire, and home to a nearby steelworks.
When leaving the car, I went to take off my lighter jacket, and put on my heavier winter jacket, no, what the hell, let’s put the warmer jacket over the top. As I trundled along toward the turnstile, I probably looked like a Michelin man, with my five layers, but I was at least happy in the knowledge that I’d probably not freeze. The weather had taken a real turn, with the earlier in the week mild late autumn feel now having been replaced by an extreme winter nip. My in-car temp gauge was telling me 6 Celsius, later to drop to 2.5 when driving back to Chester.
I’d no great pre-match expectation of the Deeside Stadium, having seen it on TV on numerous occasions on the excellent Welsh football programme (SC4- Mondays) ‘Sgorio’, it had looked your typical athletics stadium with a footy pitch plonked in the middle, and so it was. But, the large main stand is well elevated above the pitch, giving good views, and the floodlights are extremely bright, so no gloomy areas here. Now I’ve seen Bangor City on quite a few occasions over the last six years or so (including ticking Farrar Road before they left this venue at the end of 2011), and I’d always been impressed by their style of football and willingness to try to entertain.
Of course it does help to have a budget larger than most of your rivals. I suspect with average gates of 5/600, as against most other clubs in this league who get nearer the 150-300 mark, that it’s easier to attract and keep players. One thing which is very noticeable about the Welsh Premier, is generally the lack of change of players and management, in some ways I guess this is quite insular, but in other ways, it’s actually quite nice to be able to recognise players from previous occasions one has seen these teams. As it was i’d only previously seen Connah’s Quay once before at Welshpool, this about four years ago and I was not familiar with their lineup, although its well-known that they haved recruited and probably still do so, from the nearby Liverpool area. Bangor I’ve seen four or five times, and their squad was much more recognisable to me.
Bangor with TNS (The New Saints) are as usual the favourites to take league and cup honours in 2013, with this season Prestatyn and nearby to Connahs Quay, Airbus, making a challenge also. The crowd figure tonight really did exceed my pre-match expectations, and most sitting around me were not happy that Bangor, ‘the Citizens’, made such a sluggish start, and indeed went one behind in the twentieth minute from Michael Robinson after a long throw into the area had not been cleared, and was scrambled home. They were soon much happier, as Peter Hoy 29, Chris Simm 33 (“Chester reject” according to the vocal young Quay fans) and Chris Jones 41, put them in cruise control, and at 1-3 at half time, it seemed unlikely that a comeback would be forthcoming.
Already I’d noted the excellent front four for Bangor, on the left, Sion Edwards, the right, Chris Jones, and down the middle, Chris Simm and the effervescent and bulky Les Davies, 58 goals for the club prior to this season in two spells, capped at Wales U18/21 and 23 level, supporters POY for the last two years. The six three Bangor born Les, has a ungainly lazy looking style that belies a player who is capable of extreme quality and ineptitude all within the space of the same game. I have to say, normally he is a top quality performer, and I’m a big fan. He hit two goals today on 52 mins, and 73, the first almost breaking the net. Bangor added another from Chris Jones 62, and then a sending off for kicking out (and missing) on 68 minutes for Connah’s Rob Jones, and so it was only left for the locals to cheer an 87th minute consolation from Michael Thompson. The Citizens had given Connah’s quay a right battering. In a way, for me, unexpected, as they had applied themselves quite nicely after promotion in the summer, with 5 win and 5 defeats from their ten league games. But tonight they came up against a team bang on form, and looking to take the league crown from Oswestry based TNS next May.
I was well chuffed to add another eight goals to my seasons tally, and had enjoyed the banter between the opposing fans in the stand, and actually was much more impressed with the Deeside stadium than I had expected to be.