Tuesday 26th April 2016 6.30pm
Welsh National League Division One (Welsh step four)
Garden Village Youth 1 Johnstown Youth 2 ht: 1-1 att: 16 hc Ent: FREE prog: NO
It had been a while since a midweek Welsh game, so I really fancied one. When I think of Welsh midweeks, I think back to a pretty much perfect sunny April evening, when I saw Denbigh Town v Caernarfon Town in a Welsh Alliance title decider. I don’t think that evening could ever be beaten in terms of game, ground, backdrop and beer, but I do try to capture the same atmosphere now and again. What I forget is how bad the football is at this level; especially at step four. Bad Welsh football (and County League football) seems to have the same effect on me as the Doctor Who creatures The Silence, who go out of your mind unless you are actually facing them.
The teams in action were second and third bottom respectively, and to be fair had dreadful records; but even so the standard of football was intolerable. Except for one moment of absolute class, Garden Village’s equaliser, which was an exquisite free-kick. Their ground is the home of even lower placed team, Rhostyllen FC, who play in the North East Wales League. Garden Village were founded in 1984, but aside from that I know little of the team. Despite their suffixes, neither side is a youth team; just as well really, as I’d probably have my camera confiscated and be taken in for questioning.
Rhostyllen has a nice stand, which is unusual at step four. The ground is just outside the village of Rhostyllen, south-west of Wrexham, with two sides backing onto Vicarage and the B5098. The best viewing position is sitting on the crush barrier on the B5098, up a bank, looking down on the pitch. The other sides are framed by trees.
The small stand, sat in the middle of the road side, had four steps up and a high pitched roof. Two sturdy brick dug out sit either side of it. Perimeter bars skirt the long sides, with a bank framing one end and shrubs / trees the other.
The game was poor, as I guess could be expected given the teams’ lowly positions. I couldn’t watch football this low quality every week. It also once again brought up the conundrum that haunts me on a regular basis, regarding lower Welsh and county football. When I look at the scorelines each week, there are bucketloads of goals in these leagues. Especially the Welsh National League – it must average about seven a game. However, when I go to a game, the teams are always just too bad to put chances away and it’s difficult to imagine there ever being high scoring games. Strikers literally can’t even tap in open goals from two yards. I must have been marked by the Gods of non-league, for crimes in a previous life, to never experience the goal-fests usually encountered at games of this level.
Johnstown Youth took the lead through a back header that looped over the keeper. Either genius or luck, I’ll give the striker the benefit of the doubt. A sublime free-kick, in contrast to the overall skill level, got the hosts back into it just before half time. In the second half, Johnstown were the better team, but just couldn’t finish, except for one foray into the area, which was smashed into the net off the post from close range.
Rhostyllen is a nice Welsh ground with a unique stand of character. Bring your kit, just in case; you certainly won’t look out of place.