Champions Goytre entertain on a symbolic night

Goytre United 1-1 Cambrian & Clydach Vale – Welsh League Division One – 1st February 2011 – by Mark Pitman

Welsh League champions Goytre United welcomed title challengers and last seasons nearest rivals Cambrian & Clydach to Glenhafod Park on this cold Tuesday night while further down the road a League Cup match between league rivals Afan Lido and Bridgend Town showed the shift in power since last season. Goytre United had beaten Cambrian & Clydach to the league title by a single point that was earned from what was literally the last kick of the season in May, but the runners-up had claimed revenge when the two sides met at Cambrian back in October, as the Rhondda side claimed a 7-1 victory.

Things have changed significantly for Goytre United since that dramatic title victory last season. The emergence of Bridgend Town and their financial backing for a title and promotion push resulted in a number of players leaving Goytre for he Brewery Field during pre-season and the remains of their decimated squad approached this match from a mid-table position that signifies that their period of Welsh League dominance is now behind them.

Champions of the Welsh League in 2006, 2008 and 2010, Goytre United have continually turned down the opportunity to accept promotion to the Welsh Premier League. Club Director Lyndon Suhanski is a firm advocate that the sustainability of the club is paramount in whatever they are to achieve and that promotion with its escalating costs would risk everything that has been built up since their formation in 1963. The club have enjoyed success in the Welsh League within their means and their investment has been directed more towards continually improving their Glenhafod Park ground than towards building a squad full of overpaid names. Some may doubt their ambition, but their morals in this time of unsustainable financial farce in football should be admired.

Although Goytre United are the current champions, the chances on them retaining their title already appear slim as they went into this match against Cambrian & Clydach. The recent winter weather had left the playing surface heavy and soft as the two sides went about their respective warm-ups and a mediocre crowd arrived through the turnstile. The majority of Welsh League followers in the town were no doubt drawn to the cup-tie a mile down the road as promotion candidates and title challengers Afan Lido and Bridgend Town met at The Marstons Stadium, despite the match at Glenhafod Park featuring the reigning champions against the side that pushed them all the way to the title last season.

Both sides fielded a handful of notable players. Goytre United started with the defensive pairing of Rob Folland and Josh Collins, Folland made his Football League debut with Oxford United back in 1997 and gained International honours with Wales at Under-21 level before moving into the Welsh Premier League with Port Talbot Town, Aberystwyth and Neath. Collins also has an association with Wales, but it is through his brother James, the current Aston Villa and Wales defender. Former Newport County and Merthyr Tydfil striker Richard French now occupies a right-sided role for the club while upfront the club field the unfathomable Robbie Walters. A prolific Welsh League striker, Walters proved himself in front of goal for Haverfordwest County in the Welsh Premier League, but was released midway through his debut season despite a healthy goal return. Now back in the Welsh League, Walters is now in danger of losing his reputation even at this level as his performances lack whatever spark attracted County to take a chance on him in first place.

Cambrian & Clydach also have their fair share of experience. At the back former Swansea City youngster, Mertyr Tydfil captain and Llanelli professional Jamie Rewbury is too good to play in the Welsh League, but his commitment to his local club is shared by the majority of the team in front of him and it is that spirit that has played a big part in the clubs rise through the divisions. In front of Rewbury is another experienced figure in Lee Matthews, a tough and tenacious tackling midfielder with Welsh Premier League experience with Barry Town, Port Talbot Town and Newtown amongst others. Upfront the sharp Jason Bertorelli leads the line and the potential of the young striker was more than apparent in this entertaining contest. Another key part of Cambrian’s success has been their physical advantage and the height of Michael Jones offers the side a number of set-piece options.

Goytre United created the better chances in the opening twenty minutes with Jarrad Howells the busier of the two goalkeepers. The build-up play of the home side included some flashes of quality but there were far more incidents of mediocrity as the visitors began to settle into the game and made it difficult for Goytre. Cambrian used their physical advantage in their build-up play with a direct ball forward to the front two and came close to opening the scoring just before the break but they were denied by a fine save from a teasing free-kick cross that was eventually volleyed towards goal

Glenhafod Park is without doubt one of the most scenic locations of a football ground in Wales, but this attraction is completely lost in a midweek match in February, as the bleak and pitch black surroundings welcomed the substitutes that braved the freezing temperatures and fog to warm-up. The two sides then eventually returned from the new and impressive changing rooms for what would turn out to be a surprisingly entertaining second half.

The home side took the lead within five minutes of the re-start as the goalscoring enigma Robbie Walters latched onto a through ball before taking a touch and finishing in style to hand his side the lead. Frustrations grew for the visitors and Lee Matthews picked up a booking for his protests during the build-up to the goal and was then shown a second yellow for a late tackle in midfield. The numerical advantage offered Goytre the opportunity to extend their lead and they continued to push forward, hitting the post early in the second half from a near-post cross.

Cambrian & Clydach soon adjusted their game and created an equaliser midway through the second half before Bertorelli hit the inside of the post when he appeared to have handed his side the lead. Either through ambition or through a desire to keep warm, both sides went for the win with the scores level for the remainder of the match and it created an entertaining last twenty minutes for the supporters spaced across the main stand.

For all the attacking play on offer however neither side could claim the victory but should take great credit for their desire to push forward at every opportunity and not settle for a share of the points. Even with ten-men against the reigning champions, Cambrian & Clydach persisted in playing the ball out quickly and attacking in numbers, while Goytre sensed they could also win the match with the advantage of an extra man.

The match ended with both sides sharing the points and the match was symbolically comparable to the title challenge that both teams had enjoyed against each other last season. Elsewhere in the town, the new title challengers of Bridgend Town edged past Afan Lido, assisted by their healthy contingent of title-winning former Goytre players. The village side may only be able to call themselves Welsh League champions for a few more months, but they have shown they still have enough quality to entertain and compete against the league’s best despite the changes that have taken place. Unfortunately it will only be against the best of the Welsh League and not the best of the Welsh Premier.

Mark Pitman

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