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Deep in The Dragon’s Den


Inhale and flare the nostrils.
Then expand the lungs.
Exhale; smoke and fire.
I am the dragon and I never tire.

I tap my horny toes on the grass,
and weave my dragon neck.
Grooving to spring’s new tune,
I jig and jive till just about noon.

Do not get me wrong,
I could surely dance all day,
But now it’s time,
to light my fire…
I’ve got no reason to stay.






“Qui docet in Doctrina”

Loosely:- “let the teachers teach!”

Friday 22nd August 2014   Lock Stock Welsh Alliance   k.o.:- 6.45pm

Division 2

Halkyn                                                                  0

Greenfield                                                            2

Mark Johnson 44,

Marc Gunther 67,

Referee:-  Phil Hughes                      Attendance:-  219


It was a bit like ‘Groundhog Day’. We drove up to Chester, as usual. The traffic was appalling, as usual, and we stayed at Chester University, as usual! The difference this year, was that they had finished all the building work that was going on last year and a brand spanking new students’ accommodation block was at our disposal. It wasn’t like this in my day at Liverpool University! Monastic cells with little more than a wash basin and a cupboard have been replaced with sumptuous five star accommodation which includes  en-suite, a cooking hob, a microwave and coffee and tea making facilities.

DSCN4182The first match was at Halkyn, just off the A55 near to Flint. The arena was split level, with the football at the top end and a quite decent cricket pitch at the bottom. A bottle of fine ale in the cricket club bar preceded the encounter between the two sides, who opened last years show at Greenfield. This time, Greebfield took their revenge for last year’s defeat!


Above can be seen the transport for the ‘Hop’, the two coaches which ferried us to each match and which managed to extricate themselves each time from a series of destinations not designed with motorised charabancs in mind!


This is the view from above the football pitch, on the road. Beyond the pitch, and down a quite steep slope, lies the cricket pavilion and pitch. One of my umpiring colleagues was telling me, only last week, that he started playing cricket at Halkyn in the 1960s.


Jack, for whom ornithology is an art form, but who seems, mysteriously, to be without his camera, here!


Graeme (left) and Dave, in the stand at Halkyn, following the match with intense concentration!

DSCN4185This picture of Simon, in reflective mode, reminds me of a few lines from Wordsworth …………….”In vacant or in pensive mood, they flash upon the inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude.”

DSCN4181This strange contraption was situated on the edge of the football pitch at the cricket pitch end. Apparently, the club chairman is a tug-of-war enthusiast who thinks nothing of travelling the world over for a contest.  This rather worn and rusty post is actually a tug-of-war training post for training teams prior to contests. You could have fooled me!

DSCN4173 Saturday 23rd August 2014 Lock Stock Welsh Alliance     k.o.:- 11.00am

Division 1

Pwllheli                                                                    5

Carl Jones 7, 82,

Rhodri Scott 45+1, 49. 68,

Llanrug United                                                        4

Carl Griffiths 9,

Dylan Owen 25,

David Noel Williams 56,

Jonathan Sadler 79,

Referee:-   Steve Jones                           Attendance:-  328


Compared to last evening’s comparatively short trip to Halkyn, this morning, the coach was supposed to leave at 7.30am for the long trip out to The Lleyn Peninsula. However, a mix up over the keys for one of the coaches meant that we didn’t leave until nearly 8.30am. We were expected in Pwllheli at 9.30am for breakfast at Wetherspoons. In the event, we were nearly an hour late, the game kicked off at 11.00am, anyway and some of us missed our breakfast – no bad thing in my case, I could do to lose a couple of hundredweight!


After all the earlier turmoil, the game made up for it! It was a cracker! The two teams exchanged goals with breathtaking regularity, there were four yellow cards (two to each side) and all the allowable substitutions were made. With the score at 5-4 to the home team, there were still nearly ten minutes to go plus stoppage time. Memories of Aberdyfi and Presteigne began to surface, before the whistle brought the curtain down on a splendid encounter.


The weather was playing a part in the hop. The rain threatened, but never actually materialised today. Pwllheli have a pretty impressive stadium, but lured unwary hoppers into recording a list of each team posted outside the main entrance …….. until somebody pointed out that all the names were in alphabetical order AND that there were no numbers!


Martin, camera at the ready for any opportunity!

 Saturday 23rd August 2014    Cynghrair Peldroed Gwynedd League      k.o.:- 2.00pm

Nefyn United                                                   0

Llanllyfni                                                          4

Gerwyn Williams 29,

Matthew Davies 67,

Llyr Griffiths 85, 90,

Referee:-   Andrew Edward                             Attendance:- 286


Pwllheli lies on the southern coast of The Lleyn Peninsula. It is only four or so miles across the peninsula to Nefyn on the northern coast.


Last season, not only were Nefyn United in The Lock Stock Welsh Alliance, they were in the top division of that league! An internal upheaval over the summer saw many of their players leave and the directors decided that Alliance football was no longer viable and dropped two divisions into The Gwynedd League.


Their’s was a lovely ground, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with a breathtaking array of  mountains as a backdrop, opposite the main stand. Team sheets were available and we all assembled in the stand with our notebooks and pens to annotate the match (see below, from the left:- Graeme, Jack, John and Fred.)


Nefyn had little doubt that their stay in The Gwynedd League would be short-lived and that they could recover their rightful place in The Alliance. After today’s tussle, that confidence may have been dented, somewhat. They were given a footballing lesson this afternoon as their opponents, Llanllyfri helped themselves to four goals without reply, including two in the last five minutes of the match and left their opponents reeling and affronted! A missed penalty fourteen minutes from time must have rubbed salt in the wounds!


Below, you can see the bare mountainside of Garn Bodian. It used to be covered in pine trees, but during the long hot summer of 1976, the whole mountain caught fire and burned for two days and two nights. Most of the trees were lost and never recovered. There are still some straggly tree trunks and branches scattered on the lower slopes!

DSCN4201Saturday 23rd August 2014   Lock Stock Welsh Alliance        k.o.:- 6.30pm

Division 1

Barmouth & Dyffryn United                                6

Paul Lewis 20, 22, 59,

Jon Harrison 26,

Shane Jones 32,

Gryff Ap Gwyndaa (og) 61,

Llanrwst United                                                     2

Leighton Griffiths 43, 45

Referee:-  Robin Williams (Pwllheli)             Attendance:-  294


From Nefyn, we drove down the coast to Barmouth, passing Porthmadog with its fine football stadium, en route. There was a long narrow street down which the coach gingerly poked its way, amongst the parked cars and the drivers who had to reverse to get out of our way. How on earth would we ever get out again? Once inside the ground, however, there was a surprising amount of room for the coaches to turn round in and far away behind the goal, there was a nature reserve with the wooden skeleton of a sailing ship rearing up from the greenery.


Barmouth & Dyffryn United are probably one of the bigger clubs in The Alliance. Their ground was immaculate and on the far side it is overlooked by the sea cliffs, and behind the main stand, local trains chuffed in and out of the station. Much to Jack’s chagrin, there was no vegetarian option in the vast marquee set aside on the far touchline for pies, peas and gravy; and as for beer – there was a good selection, but sadly it had all to be drunk from the bottle; no glasses, plastic or otherwise were available.


It had not been the best of starts for Barmouth, this season. After three games, they had one point and this evening’s visitors were likely to be no push-overs. However, they did have their star striker, Paul Lewis, back from Porthmadog and his hat-trick contribution swung the match towards the home side.


Llanrwst weren’t a bad side, but Barmouth brushed them aside like dust off the coat sleeve. Mind you, it was 4-0 with two minutes to go to half time, but in those two minutes, Llanrwst pulled TWO goals back! In the second half, the visitors did themselves no favours when the exquisitely, and evocatively Welsh named ‘Gryff Ap Gwyndaa’, played the ball into his own net during a melee in the six yard box. It was another rip-roaring encounter with the home side coming out on top and contributing to twenty-one goals in total for the day!


Laurence, Neil and Graeme, mayhem in a nutshell!

Sunday 24th August 2014    Lock Stock Welsh Alliance         11.00am

Division 2

Blaenau Amateurs                                                   4

Garteth Roberets24,

Meilir Williams 51 (pen)

David Copsey 86,

Sion Bradley 90+4 (pen)

Penmaenmawr Phoenix                                         2

Scott Williams 33,

Gavin Simpson 38,

Referee:- Terry Wilkliams                               Attendance:-  320


The goals continued to rain in on Sunday, but at Blaenau, they were accompanied by a more familiar precipitation. We were in Snowdonia for the day and another early start at 7.15am saw us arrive in plenty of time for breakfast at Ty’r Gwesty Gorsaf hotel, adjacent to the railway station in the town centre. There must have been more than eighty of us for breakfast and, while it was a tad cramped, the hotel had pulled out all the stops to accommodate us and we enjoyed a cracking meal.


The ground is overlooked by a massive brooding range of mountains behind one goal. You can’t see from the picture below, but two thirds of the way up, there is a railway viaduct spanning one of the crevasses on the range. When the rains came (and everyone piled into the covered terrace), the clouds descended on the mountains and almost entirely blotted them out!

This was another great match. At half time, the hosts seemed out of it at 1-2 down. The great hopping community seemed to get behind them and the roar that greeted their fourth goal could probably have been heard in Barmouth. They were good value for their win.


Phil and Les – full marks for acquiring the best view! 

DSCN4216Sunday 24th August 2014       Lock Stock Welsh Alliance     k.o.:- 3.30pm

Division 1

Penrhyndeudraeth                                                 1

Adam Griffiths 11,

Gwalchmai                                                               1

Alun Roberts 48,

Referee:-  Mike Gillham                            Attendance:-  394


Sometimes, it is the deft little touches that make a ground hop. I heard elsewhere that a hop with ten new grounds, coach travel and accommodation all for little more than the price of a match day ticket at Arsenal is extremely good value – and so it is! However, adding this narrow gauge rail journey to the itinerary was the icing on the cake, ‘la crème de la crème’, ‘la pièce de la résistance’. As we arrived at the station in Blaenau after the match, there was the steam train, gently wafting smoke and with a full complement of carriages, of which a fair few had been booked for the hoppers. The journey wound down the mountainside and included a hairpin bend and a couple of stations before we alighted at Minfford for the short coach ride to the ground at Penrhyndeudraeth.


On the station in Blaenau Ffestiniog, I had purchased a dozen postcards with first class stamps. I have a circle of friends and family and we send each other postcards whenever we go away. On the way down on the train, I looked through my cards and discovered that only ONE was a post card of The Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway. The others were all railways elsewhere in Wales! I hope that the recipients don’t look to closely at the pictures!


There was some expensively priced bottles of beer en-route, but it would have been churlish to miss the opportunity and Jack and I enjoyed a couple of bottles each, whilst Dave had a hip flask of Ardbeg Whisky from Islay and we each had a nip of that two.. Dave is a connoisseur of whisky and probably knows as many brands as the number of football grounds he has visited!


There wasn’t much to see at Penrhyndeudraeth. There was just a field with goal posts and a couple of smaller pitches adjacent. The club, however, had gone out of their way to make us feel welcome (except, of course, the vegetarian pies ran out before Jack and Graeme could grab themselves one – they had to make do with chip butties!).

The game itself, however, was pretty ordinary. The home side took the lead early in the first half and the visitors equalised early in the second. Despite the ordinariness of the match, the attendance was the highest of the hop, and, indeed, was a record for The Lock Stock Welsh Alliance. I was glad that it went to Penrhyndeudraeth and not to one of the competing giants from Barmouth or Holywell.


Sunday 24th August 2014     Lock Stock Welsh Alliance      k.o.:- 6.30pm

Division 2

Nantlle Vale                                                            3

Gavin Jennings 12,

James Evans 45,

Simon Kay 59,

Amlwch Town                                                       0

Referee:-   Kelvin Lewis                        Attendance:- 344


By now, my camera had quietly curled up and died – well, the batteries had run down – and I had not the wherewithal to continue taking pictures!

The final match of the day was at Nantlle Vale. The team play in Penygroes which is about ten miles south of Caernarfon. In fact, up until 1920/21 season, they were known as Penygroes United.

There was a useful stand at the ground as rain fell for much of the match. There was a useful crowd too, for this final game of the day. The hosts were too good for their rivals from Amlwch. They took a stranglehold on the game from early on, scored in the 12th minute and never looked like relinquishing their superiority, despite the constant blandishments of the away team coach!

We were a fair way out from Chester, but the coaches were able to decant us back at the university by 10.00pm, enough time for a couple of lemonades in the nearest local hostelry!

Monday 25th August 2014   Lock Stock Welsh Alliance     k.o.:- 11.00am

Division 1

Holywell Town                                                        3

Sam Jones 3, (missed penalty – 40,)

Luke Tyson 40,

Graeme Williams 69,

Llandyrnog United                                                 0

Referee:-  Matrt Bridges (Wrexham)         Attendance:-  377



Halkyn Road, home of Holywell Town, is a stadium fit to grace the very highest echelons of Welsh football. There are floodlights and a fine stand with seats for about five hundred spectators and a bar situated alongside the pitch which I didn’t even notice until I was on my way out and too late to sample its wares.

Holywell remain the only club from the third tier of Welsh football to have reached The FAW Cup Semi-final. It was at that stage in a televised match that they were eventually put out of the competition by Welsh Premier League side Aberystwyth Town.

There was an interesting little quiz in the programme to while away time before kick off. One of the questions completely bamboozled all of us: “At What Sport did Scotland become World Champions in 2005?”. The answer, amazingly, was ‘Elephant Polo’!!!!

Holywell were unbeaten at this early stage of the season, but so too, were their opponents Llandyrnog United. Sadly, the match was pretty one sided. The home team opened the scoring in the third minute through Sam Jones and the same player contrived to miss a penalty five minutes before the break! There were eventually to score a paltry three goals in total without reply, but they should and could have had several more!

Monday 25th August 2014  Lock Stock Welsh Alliance  k.o.:- 2.15pm

Division 2

St Asaph’s City                                                       3

Duncan Midgeley 20, 62,

Dave Evans 63,       

Mochdre Sports                                                     1

Jordan Phillips 75,

Referee:-  Nick Pratt                    Attendance:-  254



Heavy rain had been forecast for Bank Holiday Monday, but so far there had been little more than light drizzle and the occasional shower. St Asaph’s is home to the smallest cathedral, but it is still worth a visit. Several ‘hoppers’ did take the opportunity before the match to climb the steep incline into the town and wander round the stocky, squat edifice which, nonetheless seemed to exude a powerful charisma.

The club play on a council park and have not always enjoyed the best of luck. They had to fold completely in the mid 1990s when an arson attack destroyed their changing rooms and only returned to senior football in 2007.

The cakes were delicious and I found a log behind the goal on which to rest my weary withers and was joined by the proprietor of “The Welsh Maid” a small cafe at the foot of the hill up into the town. Several hoppers, it seems had already patronised his establishment. He was an Everton fan and he suggested that, in the town, Everton were the most widely supported Premier League club, but then, he would, wouldn’t he?

This was another pretty decisive victory. After a fairly even opening spell when either team could have  scored, the hosts took the lead in the twentieth minute and just after the hour, added two more goals in quick succession. Mochdre’s consolation came fifteen minutes from time.

Monday 25th August 2014 Lock Stock Welsh Alliance     k.o.:- 5.15pm

Division 1

Kinmel Bay                                                       2

Kyle Luffman 32,

Ryan Woods 48,

Glan Conwy                                                      2

Richie Orme 8,

Luke Fountain 19,

Referee:-   Simon Newport                        Attendance:-  221



A monsoon of Biblical proportions accompanied this match and even the vast array of umbrellas couldn’t keep out the rain.  It was a downpour that put even that famous match at Rhosgoch to shame (29/8/10 Spar Mid-Wales League Division II: Rhosgoch 10 Talgarth Town 0 attendance:- 229). Just like Rhosgoch, there was no cover at all. The match nearly wasn’t played and, eventually, had to be played on an alternative pitch because of wrangling between the club, the leisure centre and the local council.

The club had tried hard, within the confines of space dictated by the leisure centre. A variety of pies and peas/gravy were available and the teams were posted in the corridor. However, the raffle was never drawn despite many tickets being sold and there were disgruntled ‘hoppers’ at the end as we boarded the coach.

Despite the conditions and the host of hoppers praying for the final whistle, the two teams played out a pretty entertaining match. The visitors carved out a two goal lead early on, but the home side wore them down in determined fashion and had restored parity shortly after the break. There was no further scoring and both teams were probably satisfied with a point.

Sadly, we wait to see whether there will be any more football played at The Morfa View Leisure Centre.

Kinmel Bay is just along the coast from Rhyl and the coaches returned to Chester for around 8.30pm, first of all dropping off at the railway station and then back to the university. Graeme and I made good time back to Leicester (10.15pm) and, in my case to Northamptonshire for  11.00pm. Once again, it had been an exhilarating weekend which had flashed past in a blur. Perhaps it is only by writing about it that I can keep the precious memories alive!

It is usually the disasters that we reflect upon. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”, wrote Robbie Burns as long ago as 1785, and on the Saturday morning, a cruel combination of missing coach keys and frankly, poor service in Pwllheli, meant that some went without the promised breakfast. That was balanced out by the Sunday morning breakfast in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which was brilliant and where we arrived on time at both the hotel and the match! Then there was the final glittering crown on the weekend, the narrow gauge steam train ride from Blaenau Ffestiniog. Not even the tumultuous downpour at Kinmel Bay could erase that memory!

Too many memories to recount them all and a special mention for Chris (and Laurence), who choreographed the weekend with masterful efficiency. Here’s to the next one – it can’t come soon enough!

Games this season:- 41     New grounds:-   29

Games this year:- 161       New grounds:-  109




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