Saturday 20th January 2018 14.00
Welsh National League Premier Division
Saltney Town 2 Llay Welfare 3 HT: 1-2 Att: 26 headcount free entry no prog no refreshments
from Saltney Community Centre
This weekend was a study in precipitation. Snow, sleet, hail and seven kinds of rain fell on top of an already saturated land. Rivers flowed in the gulleys in roads, and windscreen washer did overtime to wipe the salt ridden smears caused by riding through puddles. All my local games were off due to either frozen or waterlogged pitches. I didn’t want to travel far, given the tenuousness of ‘still on’ games, so I plumped for Wales. It’s been a while since a hop in the principality and I’ve noticed a more relaxed approach to boggy pitches there.
It was a choice between Hawarden and Saltney and Saltney won due to having at least a stand. Their pitch was playable, but I’ve seen much drier pitches delcared waterlogged in English non-league, such is the lack of consistency.
Saltney Town, last alphabetically in the Welsh National League, come from the town to the south west of Chester, on the border of England and Wales. Indeed their nickname is the bordermen. They are exactly 2 miles from Airbus UK Broughton. Higher Saltney, known locally as “Top Saltney” is in Chester, Cheshire, and the Welsh sector. The Welsh part of the community is known as Saltney Town. The English-Welsh border runs down the middle of Boundary Lane in Saltney, the only urban street in England and Wales where this happens. Houses on the west side of the street are in the Flintshire County Council area North Wales Police jurusdiction, while those on the east side are in the Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Police jurisdiction.
Even though a Saltney-based football club can be traced back to 1908, Saltney Town are a very recent club, just seven years old. They’re not even at High School and certainly can’t drink yet. In 2011-12 they were promoted to the Premier division (step three) after winning the first division.
Saltney is named after the salt marshes it was built by the river Dee. It has a population of just over 5,000. The ground is fairly central lying on the corner of the main Chester Road and Sandy Lane.
Going into this game they were fifth with nearby visitors Llay Welfare (only 9 miles away) tenth (out of 15).
Despite the near freezing temperature, the constant drizzle and heavy pitch, what struck me about this game was the intensity and determination from both teams to win. This is two teams, a third and two thirds down the division, but they went for it from start to finish, with very little complaining to the ref and no diving. Also, when one team had the ball and it was the other’s throw in or goal kick they actually gave the ball back to them rather than the customary rude throwing it a few yards away. It really was a fantastic advert for football, and how it should be at every level of the game.
As you come into the site there is a Youth and Community Centre on the right. Further on is the portacabin which serves as the changing rooms. A path then wends its way round to the ground yonder, which has a perimeter bar with scruffy boards filling in the gaps.
Recently an stand was dropped in; one of the fast sellers of the Arena catalogue, the 50 seater, four rows of six each side of the stairs with two filling the gap on the top row, making 50. Hard standing was available on just the near side with the stand on. In today’s conditions you really needed wellies to brave a circuit of the ground.
Saltney seemed to make the better start but the game turned on 9 minutes when Llay were awarded a spot kick. It was converted cooly by Matthew Worrall into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later Saltney gave the ball away in midfield and Llay Countered fast crossing the ball in to be smacked in by Rhys Lloyd for 0-2, with just 12 played. It was an open game and you didn’t feel Saltney were out of it yet. They got on back shortly afterwards when a corner on 24 wasn’t cleared and was tapped in to the net from close range by Josh Keir for 1-2.
The second half was not one to be still in the toilet or bar (if there was one). From the kick off Llay chipped it forward to be headed into the box. A Saltney defender fluffed it for John Rhys Edwards to smash in – roughly seven seconds after the restart. From the resultant restart Saltney cross the ball into the box to be headed down for Jack Roberts to tap in. 2-3 on 47 minutes.
More goals could have come at both ends and Saltney threw everything at Llay for the equaliser, and should have scored on a number of occasions. But Llay held on to a narrow victory in the dreadful conditions. It was as entertaining a game as you will see and cost nothing. The players came off caked in mud, having put in extraordinary shifts. Two great teams who I wish well for the future.