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North Wales hop 2015


Lullaby for a Referee’s Baby

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The pitch is cold and dark

The night is dark and deep

The players all have gone to bed

So sleep, baby, sleep

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The whistle’s on the shelf

The boots are in a heap

The kit is in the laundry bag

So sleep, baby, sleep

 .

The house is warm and dark

The stairs are dark and steep

And Daddy’s here beside your cot

to send you off  …….   to sleep

.

by Allan Ahlberg (1938 – )

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.

.

Cyngrair Undebol Y Goggledd

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Thursday 27th August 2015

Hallmark Security Cheshire League Premier Division k.o.:- 6.30pm

Rylands                                         1

OdilonKoubemba 80,

Garswood United                    2

Kane Gerard 10,

Stuart McDonald 12,

Referee:- Phil Broadbent     Attendance:-  52

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Still got the back spasms, so I didn’t attempt the lunchtime fixture at The ‘little’ Etihad. Arrived in Warrington in good time for the pipe-opener at Rylands Recreation Club, joined eventually by thirty or so other ‘hoppers’.

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The gates to the football pitch. Rugby is also played at The Rylands Recreation Club.

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The teams line up before kick-off

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You can clearly see, behind the goal, the splendid (if slightly careworn) Rylands club house. 

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The match pitted unbeaten hosts against also-rans Garswood United and the form book went out of the window! The visitors dominated the opening skirmishes and deservedly garnered a two goal advantage within the first quarter of an hour. Rylands were never at the races and huffed and puffed their way through the match with Congolese international Odilon Koubemba eventually gaining a consolation goal some ten minutes from time!

Friday 28th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 2

Mochdre Sports  1

Niall Owen 66,

Prestatyn Sports  0

Referee:-  Peter Owen     Attendance:- 313

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After a day of sightseeing in the city of Chester – the first floor shops, the ugly cathedral and a couple hostelries were just about the only sites of interest, except, maybe for the lovely example of a veteran ‘bus’ which I captured on film as it passed through Northgate.  The coaches duly arrived to take us off to Conwy for the first match of the ‘hop’.

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Mochdre share their facilities with the cricket team and there wasn’t much to see except a football pitch across the cricket field, surrounded by Welsh hills and the constant roar from the M55 motorway.

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There were AA type signs to guide us into the ground and once there, the welcome was warm and so was the food and the beer!

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John McLure in a pensive frame of mind!

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John Main and Peter Ford discussing the relative merits of the encounter!

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the match! In a tight tactical encounter, the only goal was scored deep into the game when the visiting defensive wall crumbled before an edge of the area free kick which was placed into the net by the home number three with great aplomb!

Saturday 29th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 2  k.o. 10.45am

Amlwch Town                                                1

Jack Griffiths 44,

Nantlle Vale                                                   2

Aaron Hughes 2,

Sam Williams 40,

Referee:- T. Atkinson (Menai Bridge)         Attendance:-  318

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Martin gets ready to face the day!

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It was an early start to the day and we were ensconced on the coaches and on the road shortly after 7.30am! After what felt like a hundred miles (though how would I know, because I was asleep!), we stopped at “The Split Willow” – part restaurant, part bar and maybe even part hotel. Whatever, they provided an excellent breakfast with exceptional efficiency. I doubt that we stayed for more than forty-five minutes, yet we were all satisfactorily fed and watered and waited on by a smiling helpful staff.

Amlwch is on Anglesey and indeed, quite a long way onto the island. Lon Bach, the Amlwch stadium, is a neat ground tucked away at the end of the village with a was a grassy bank which rose to give quite a good view down one side of the ground. The trophy room was preceded by the stall purveying ale from local breweries and it seemed churlish to refuse the offer! Inside the trophy room, besides the pennants from visiting clubs (One from Bury FC, even) and the club history and accounts, there were photographs of Mickey Thomas  (of Wrexham  and Wales) who scored the wonder FA Cup goal against Arsenal in 1991 and who, famously finished his playing career at Amlwch Town – but only after a short spell in prison for money laundering!

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The match itself was unremarkable. The hosts were unable to put their stamp on the game and Nantlle Vale deservedly took the spoils! there were two sendings off both late in the game and one player from each side was dismissed.

Saturday 29th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 2   k.o.:- 1.30pm

Llannerch-y-medd                                      3

Jamie Jones 5,

Matthew Jones 29, 48,

Blaenau Ffestiniog                                     2

Sion Bradley 36, 45+1,

Referee:- Allan Rowlands (Llangefni)        Attendance:-  317

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Llannerch-y-medd, also on Anglesey, is perched on a height almost in the middle of nowhere and is one of those grounds which has received funding from The Community Council, to put down concrete footpaths around the edges of the ground. There were new goals and bright yellow and blue goal nets paid for with money culled from the players fund raising efforts.

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There was a conventional seated stand down the far side of the ground, but also a twee, tiny three seater stand at one corner (see below). The match looked a foregone conclusion when the hosts took a two goal lead within the first half hour, but the visitors clawed their way back into the game with two goals f their own before half-time. The only second half strike came just three minutes after the re-start, but it was enough to give the hosts victory. Nothing could take away from the display by young Sion Bradley, a winger who is surely destined for higher echelons!

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Craig with a bowl of ‘lobscouse’, a local delicacy?                     Dave Johnston and

Dave Wakeford relax in the mini-stand 

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Les Bull (Le Boeuf) takes a well earned nap between fixtures!

Saturday 29th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 1   k.o.:- 4.45pm

Treaddur Bay                                                  4

Jordan Murphy 6,

Asa Thomas  17, 28,

Curt Williams 47,

St Asaph City                                                 3

Jamie Jones 47, 65,

Brett Johns 74,

Referee:- Arwyn Griffiths                    Attendance:-  304

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You didn’t get the feel of being at the seaside on this morning’s visit to Amlwch, but there was no doubting that Trearddur Bay was right on the coast, the ground itself was just across the road from the sandy beach!

There was no cover at all at this ground, but good spectating could be gained from the low wall which divided ground from road on the sea side of the compact little stadium.

Trearddur Bay should have won this contest at a canter after building up a near impregnable four goal half-time cushion, but in the second half they eased their foot off the accelerator, or maybe the St Asaph’s half-time rocket had the desired effect. In either case, the visitors reduced the arrears immediately after the interval and pulled a further two goals back, but were not able to grab the equaliser and, tantalisingly, they missed out on what could have been a very creditable draw.

Saturday 29th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 1  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Llangefni Town                                                                                                    4

Craig Evans  57,

Anthony Hughes  63,

Iwan Jones  74,

Steven Jones 79,

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch     0

Referee:- Hugh Jones                        Attendance:-  409

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One of the fallen giants of Welsh Soccer, Llangefni Town once spent a season in the top tier of Welsh Football, but now, they ply their craft in The Third Division. Their ground was by far and away the most complete ground that we visited this weekend. It was the only stadium with floodlights and there was plenty of cover and a large number of covered seats. I enjoyed the vegetable curry with chips in the second half, but even more so, I enjoyed three pints of ‘Rev’ bottled beer during the first half!

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This evening’s match saw the second highest attendance of the ‘hop’ and that was befitting the largest club on Anglesey, but maybe they should have had more as the total for tonight’s match was easily broken later in the hop by a smaller club, but with more innovative ideas!

The match ended with an emphatic victory for the hosts, though at half time, there were many doubting the appearance of a goal on the scoresheet! Four second half strikes in a fifteen minute spell put paid to the visitors, who, until then, had acquitted themselves with dogged determination.

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Sunday 30th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 1  k.o.:-  11.30am

Llanberis                                                       1

Rhys Parry  68,

Pwllheli                                                         1

Mark Jones 76,

Referee:- Peter Owen                      Attendance:-   333

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Sunday morning and after a few lemonades the night before, I was ready to make use of the journey to catch up on some sleep. Unfortunately, Laurence caught up on me and posted a picture of me looking as if I had just been knocked senseless by a baseball bat! Worse than that, he posted it on Facebook!

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Llanberis is situated at the foot of Mount Snowdon and between The Llanberis Lake Railway and The Snowdon Light Railway. To be honest, there were so many mountains around that I never did definitively manage to pick out which one was Snowdon! The sharp eyed, that morning may have been surprised to have seen two coaches circling the village in opposite directions but unable to access the football ground! Eventually, both parked on the lakeside car park and hoppers made their way to the ground through the narrow kissing gate! On the far side of the ground was a small Meccano type stand with seating for around forty spectators. Trees overhung the ground on the lake side and one unfortunate hopper received the ball at full blast in his face from close range early in the match!

The pitch was narrow and contributed to  a stop-start encounter in which any type of flowing football was easily muted. Two goals were scored late in the match and the points were shared! Young Carl Jones of Pwllheli, whom, it is rumoured, kept Gareth Bale out of the Welsh Under-16 side many years ago, lost his head after eighty-two minutes and lashed out with a vicious kick at an opposing player and was rightfully dismissed.

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Sunday 30th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 1    k.o.:- 2.30pm

Llanrug United                                            2

Nathan Palmer 63,

David Noel Williams 86,

Llanrwst  United                                          1

Bryn Jenkins 79,

Referee:- Simon Newport (Rhuddlan)          Attendance:-  324

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I will always remember this ground because of the huge Electricity Pylons which dominated the landscape and impaired what could have been a beautiful backdrop to the ground’s setting (see below).

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Don Radsma complete with camera and …. anorak?

Neither of these two teams is setting the Lock Stock Welsh Alliance alight in the early part of the season and both are attempting to stretch away from what could become a relegation dogfight. The speciality in the food hut was fish fingers in a bap. The queue was lengthy and it wasn’t until near the end of the first half that I was able to obtain my ration! Mind you, not a lot happened in the first half. It was 0-0 at half time and the usual pessimists (me included) were quoting ‘it’s got 0-0 written all over it!

Not so! The second half provided three goals, all in the last half an hour, the visitors 79th minute equaliser cancelling out the host’s 63rd minute opener – and so it might have stayed, and perhaps that would have been a fair reflection of the game, but Llanrug stole the points at Eithin Duon with a goal just four minutes from time!

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Sunday 30th August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 2  k.o.:- 6.30pm

Mynydd Llandegai                                     3

Mark Hughes 5, 70 (pen),

Jamie Whitmore 73,

Meliden                                                        2

Georgy Szabo  21,

Oliver Buckley 76,

Referee:-  Nathan Jones (Denbigh)           Attendance:- 305

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Neil samples the jacket potato

 

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Mynydd Llandegai have not enjoyed the most successful of starts to the season. Before this match, they had two games under their belts, two defeats and two goals scored   ……   but fourteen goals conceded!

On a cool evening at Cae Peldroed, the school hall lookalike which masqueraded as the village hall, club house and changing rooms, also provided shelter with stark pictures on the walls of WW1 soldiers who had given their lives for their country.

In such a small village (maybe 180 souls), the roads were crammed with vehicles (not to mention our two coaches) and there was a police presence for the first time on a hop, but more, I suspect, to help the hoppers find their way back to civilisation that for any concerns about public safety!

The match was a cracker! The hosts took an early lead which was cancelled out shortly afterwards and the teams were level at the break. Twenty minutes from the end, Mynydd Llandegai grabbed two goals in quick succession, but then Meliden came roaring back with a goal of their own, but that was the end of the scoring. The home side hung on grimly for their first points of the campaign and just about deserved them!

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Monday 31st August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 2   k.o.:- 11.30am

Pentraeth                                                   10

Corrig McGonigle 1, 18, 54, 55,

Rees Roberts 14,

Shaun Monument 38, 52,

Connor Jones 57, 88,

Darren Owen 72,

Gaerwen                                                     2

Melvyn McGuinness 21,

Darren Leuthwaite  26,

Referee:- Peter Kewley                      Attendance:-  376

It was back to Anglesey for this first match of the final day of the ‘hop’, about half way along the road to Amlwych where we had travelled on Saturday. There was a post office and postbox in the village and there, I posted the last of my postcards before the match whilst many of the more discerning ‘hoppers’ had a pint in the local hostelry, The Panton Arms, which opened its doors early to accommodate the throng.

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Don Radsma (above) and Laurence Reade deservedly penalised with a spell in the stocks!

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The club house and changing rooms were a project funded by The Millennium Fund and The National Lottery. The roast pork baps went down a treat and the sun shone on the righteous – that was us, of course, and maybe Pentraeth, but certainly not on poor Gaerwen. They had been given time by the league to get their team together after a torrid spell which saw the club nearly fold. This was their first match of the season. They actually signed on loan, Melvyn McGuinness from Holyhead Hotspur, and he played today and scored a goal. His wages are reputedly £150 per week!

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On the home side, there was another hot prospect in Corrig McGonigle. Last week, he scored six goals and today he celebrated with four more before being taken off after an hour. The rout began as early as the first minute and the home team were three up inside twenty minutes. Suddenly, the dead and buried visitors responded with two goals and the game briefly came alive. Late in the first half, Pentraeth scored a fourth and the half-time score was 4-2 in their favour.

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Six second half goals polished off hapless Gaerwen and they were a well beaten team by the end, but they never stopped trying. The view from the side of the hill looking down onto the ground was quite spectacular (see photos above) and the warm weather and a large friendly crowd contrived to ensure a successful occasion – not least for Margaret from Germany, a regular ‘hopper’ who won first prize in the raffle, a small matter of £100, which, she said, would go a long way towards financing her ‘hop’!

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Monday 31st August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance League Cup 1st Round k.o.:- 2.45pm

Llanllyfni                                                        4

Alan Mark Owen 3,90+1,

Chris Parry 49,

Rob Daniels 57,

Trearddur Bay                                              1

Craig Moore 41,

Referee:-  G. T. Evans                      Attendance:-  307

This was the problem fixture. Originally, Llanllyfni Town were scheduled to play Bethesda Athletic in a league match. Bethesda were given the same stay of execution as Gaerwen, but no team appeared to fulfil the fixture list. The board of Halkyn United then initially agreed to take on the fixture, only for their manager to refuse to take his players to play the match. That meant that yesterday morning at Llanberis, the plug had just been pulled on the fixture, Halkyn United having informed the league of their inability to play the game. The League approached Trearddur Bay – who played on Saturday – to see if they would bring forward a Welsh League Cup match and to many a hopper’s sigh of relief, they agreed. So grateful were the hoppers that over £175 pounds was collected to provide some lemonade for the visiting team after the match!

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Llanllyfni Town had everything prepared for their fixture and I enjoyed two helpings of the vegetable curry and rice! By the time the match commenced, however, Trearddur were still four players short, so all the substitutes played and it seems that both teams agreed to a system of rolling substitutions. It did seem, at certain times in the second half, that substitutes were coming on and off the pitch like yo-yos.

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Trearddur, the 1st Division side could manage only one goal and were well beaten by their lower division opponents.

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The summit of Snowdon

Monday 31st August 2015

Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 2  k.o.:-6.00pm

Penmaenmawr Phoenix                           3

Scott Williams 21,

Zyron Davies 44,

Tom Paddock 90+1

Greenfield                                                    4

Shaun Pritchard 39,

Shaun Beck 56,

Gareth Henley 59, 80,

Referee:- Tony Moore                  Attendance:-  431

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The final match of the ‘hop’ drew the largest crowd and that, I think, was in no small measure due to the foresight and organisation of the planning committee who tried to involve the local community as much as they could in their event. They had dancers and a golf ‘range’ and other attractions for children and, of course, the children brought their parents and a very jolly time was had by all. Well, perhaps not all, one young lady gashed her foot on a nail in the first half, whilst sitting on the roof of the dug-out and needed treatment!

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It was a great pity that, after all their exertions, Penmaenmawr couldn’t crown the occasion with a victory. They did hold a 2-1 half-time advantage, but were swept away in the first fifteen minutes of the second half when Greenfield grabbed the lead with two goals and with ten minutes to go, they added a fourth to seal the match, despite an added time reply from the hosts.

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The speciality was cauliflower cheese and it was so lovely that I had TWO helpings. It was not so popular as the corned beef hash …. but that was for the less discerning!

As the night came down, the stream of cars and the two coaches drifted away from the ground, the coaches making their way back to Chester, nearly fifty miles away to decant hoppers at Chester Railway Station, or, in my case, to the university to collect my car. It had been an exhilarating weekend, quite the best Welsh ‘Hop’ that I had been on (and I’ve been on a few!). The journey back to Northamptonshire sped past in a blur in the light evening traffic and I was home before midnight.

 

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The organisation and the choreography of such a giant event must take enormous amounts of time and planning. There are innumerable variations as each ‘hopper’ seeks to get the very best for their personal circumstances. However, the entire weekend moved swiftly and smoothly and there was hardly a blip as the potential banana skin at Llangyfni was overcome with steady equilibrium. I know that Chris is vastly experienced in these tours, but I still think he deserves enormous respect for the efficient, yet low key way in which he delivers such a vast undertaking.

Many Thanks, Chris   …………….   and

 

Here’s to the next one!

 

Matches this season:-   46       New grounds:-  32

Total Matches:- 3,253         Total new grounds:- 1,130

 

 

 

 

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