Ton Pentre 3 Undy Athletic 3 (23rd March 2019)
As I sat in the fine Ton Pentre clubhouse, drinking a pint of Guinness and eating a chicken & chips from South Wales’ finest named chippy – A Fish Called Rhondda – I had to reflect that exactly a week earlier I’d been in a bar in Bangkok, and I pondered the relative merits of the two. One big advantage for Ton Pentre, talking about that exact time period, was that exactly a week earlier, Thailand had been three hours into a 24 hour complete alcohol ban, due to elections, and nearly every bar was shut.
Another was the scenery of Ton Pentre. Sitting at the front of a Soi Nana bar can be quite a visual spectacle, but Ton Pentre’s ground must be one of the best located grounds in the country for scenery, with hills rising up high on all sides of the ground. From every angle, you had a stunning backdrop.
It was a friendly place too (as Soi Nana can be, but that’s a different story), although when times are hard, and Ton Pentre have had two very hard seasons in a row, anyone putting money into the club’s coffers will be welcome. Saying that, you felt you’d be made as equally welcome in better times too. Any club where cups of tea and coffee are served in proper china mugs has a soul that you’ll never get at a ground where you are just a customer.
The ground itself had character too. The covered terrace at one end was the main feature, but even the extended stand at one side, needed to meet typically over-zealous ground regulations, avoided the soul-sapping Atcost seating unit look. The clubhouse and changing rooms, in a block down a third of one side, could have been ugly, but even the brickwork seemed sympathetic, and fitted in. Perhaps uniquely, the changing rooms were on the upper floor, with players having to come down a set of steps to reach the field.
The other side was just a narrow strip, but once housed a stand, before it had to removed for safety reasons. The other end looks to be a (very) overgrown terrace, now just a grass bank, but offering a good view from top, between the foliage.
Ton Pentre are not having a good season, taking the field in last place, having lost every game but one since Christmas. That one game though was against today’s opponents Undy Athletic, who have had a rapid rise up the Welsh pyramid, and furthermore, it was a 3-2 victory.
Undy, four places above Ton Pentre in the table, started as clear favourites against a home side with only four wins and a -36 goal difference, but they hardly impressed. They had a fair bit of the ball in the opening stages, but didn’t really have a clue what to do in the final third. If anything, this seemed to be giving Ton Pentre a bit of a boost, and they started to look a little more up for it than the visitors.
After 10 minutes they duly took the lead too. A corner wasn’t cleared, and the ball was poked in, to give the home side that all too rare feeling of being in front. It got better too, as another spell of pressure resulted in a shot that was cleared off the line. Handball was called, and the penalty was tucked away to give Ton Pentre a 2-0 lead that they deserved for their efforts.
It was all going so well until right before the end of the half, when Undy, who’d done almost nothing in the final third, got a penalty of their own. This was also calmly tucked away, changing the mood of the game. From looking good at 2-0, confidence flipped from one team to the other.
Undy came out for the second half with a renewed vigour, and it was disappointing, but not unexpected, that it didn’t take too long for them to draw level. A corner was cleared to the edge of the box, but it was thumped back in on the half volley, a home defender on the line unable to get up to head away the perfectly placed shot.
Surprising, this seemed to spur on the home side more than the visitors, and Ton Pentre again battled to gain the upper hand. They got their reward in the 69th minute, when a quick free kick put Ton Pentre through, and a fine shot was fired across the keeper into the far corner. It was a goal that deserved to win the game, but sadly didn’t.
With just six minutes left, and Ton Pentre allowing themselves to be pushed back deeper and deeper, a cross to the back post wasn’t dealt with. It was nodded back, past the keeper, and past the outstretched leg of a defender on the line, to drop into the net with a morale-sapping thud. After leading twice, it felt harsh on the home team.
Tempers frayed towards the end, with a Ton Pentre player sent off for pushing an Undy player to the ground. Unusually he appeared to receive two yellows – in a row – before the red appeared, as if he was booked twice for one incident. Several others were booked in a melee which came close to boiling over.
A few “unhelpful” comments from some members of the Undy staff on the touchline didn’t help things in the closing stages, but come the final whistle it was over, and it was handshakes all round.
Given how the game went, Undy would settle for the point. Pre match, Ton Pentre would probably have been happy with a 3-3 too. As a neutral, who tends to want to see as many goals as possible, I’d certainly have been delighted with a 3-3 as well. On this occasion though, I’d have preferred one less. The Ton Pentre team deserved to have won on the day, and this friendly club, having a hard time on and off the pitch, certainly would have deserved it too.