Friday 1st January 2010

The New Saints 4 Technogroup Welshpool Town 0
Principality Building Society Welsh Premier League
At: The Venue at Park Hall, Burma Road
Kick-off: 2-30 pm
Admission: £7-50; Programme: £2 (32 pages)
Attendance: 395
Weather: cold, snow during first half
Duration: first-half: 45:52; second-half: 46:30

With leaders Llanelli not in action until tomorrow, The New Saints moved back to the top of the table with a comfortable win over local rivals Technogroup Welshpool. They held a single goal advantage at the interval and made sure of the points with a second-half hat-trick from Alex Darlington.

I’d always got The New Saints’ 3G pitch up my sleeve for a rainy day (or should that be freezing day) and headed to Park Hall after I found out that Cammell Laird’s game was off.

Early this morning, there were positive noises about Laird’s home game with Kidsgrove on their website ( “Barring any sort of biblical downpours or sudden frosts the game today against Kidsgrove should take place with no problems.”

Then came the bad news around 11-15 am: “Our initial enthusiasm about today's game was misplaced as the match against Kidsgrove has been called off.”

So off I headed along the M54 and up the A5 to the Oswestry bypass. I took the A495 towards Whitchurch and signed ‘Park Hall Countryside Experience’. Burma Road was on the left after 400 yards immediately after the BT building. The ground itself and car park were easily spotted up Burma Road on the right.

The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club, the given them their official title, was the result of a merger in 2003 between two clubs based eight miles apart. Oswestry Town FC was originally formed in 1860 and reformed during the mid 1990s after folding the late 1980s. I remember visited their old Victoria Road ground a few times before it was redeveloped for housing. I also visited Llansantffraid FC (founded in 1959) once at the Recreation Ground in the village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain. Llansantffraid FC, of course, came to prominence as Total Network Solutions.

The entrance was round to the left of ‘The Venue’ leisure complex next to the stadium and through the turnstile the pitch ran lengthways. Enclosed by a green wire mesh fence on three sides, it was an artificial 3G surface with two stands down the right hand side in front of ‘The Venue’. The first one contained seven rows of uncovered red individual tip-up seats while the far stand had six rows of the same style of seats with a roof. Also down that side, there was an elevated viewing position reserved for press and sponsors, etc. Dugouts were on the opposite touchline either side of the halfway line.

Snow was piled up around the pitch and a lot of effort had been needed to clear the ‘white stuff’ off the surface so the game could go ahead. It led to the place having a particularly Scandinavian feel about it. The tannoy man thanked all the volunteers for their help and I, for one, was appreciative of their efforts. Teams were also announced as well just before kick-off.

Toilets and another refreshments bar were inside ‘The Venue’ building and I needed my hand stamped to prove I’d paid admission money for the football before getting access to this area, which was frequented by the general non-football public as well.

Before kick-off, I’d spotted ‘Leatherhead Pete’ in the covered stand and spent the game in his company. I also made use of the white refreshments van next to the entrance. 50:50 draw tickets were on sale. Naturally, I had to have a go and my ticket, 385, wasn’t too far away from the winning ticket 411.

The New Saints (38 points from 17 games) went into the game in second position, a point behind leaders Llanelli who had also played 17 games. They had an unbeaten home record and only lost once away in the league at Bangor City towards the end of August.

The 2009/10 season is a peculiar one for Technogroup Welshpool as they will be relegated back to the Cymru Alliance regardless of where they finish in the table come the end of April. They decided not to apply for the new FAW domestic licence which will be required by all Welsh Premier League clubs from the start of next season. Welshpool went into this game at Park Hall in 15th position with 12 points from 16 games.

Technogroup Welshpool got the game underway attacking the turnstile end in the first half, or going from right to left in relation to my position in the stand.

It took The New Saints eight minutes to take the lead in a dominant start. Craig Williams fired into the top-right corner from the edge of the area. Snow began to fall steadily during the first half and actually led to a rise in temperature on a really cold afternoon. Surprisingly they didn’t add to their tally before the interval with such a dominant performance.

At half-time we relocated to the other stand, nearest to the goal that The New Saints were attacking during the second half. The home side continued to dominate and Williams twice hit the post within the space of two minutes early in the second half.

A mistake led to The New Saints doubling their lead in the 69th minute when Alex Darlington fired home at close range.

Darlington scored his second and The New Saints’ third goal eight minutes later. Poor defending allowed substitute Chris Seargeant to set up Darlington who beat Welshpool keeper Danny Jones with another close-range shot.

With the points in the bag and The New Saints heading back to the top of the table, Darlington completed his hat-trick in the 85th minute. A neat passing move sliced open the Welshpool defence and Darlington scored with a low shot from the right.

The New Saints (green and white hoops / white / white): 1. Paul Harrison, 2. Danny Holmes, 3. Chris Marriott, 4. Tommy Holmes, 5. Steve Evans (capt), 6. Barry Hogan, 7. Scott Ruscoe, 8. Aeron Edwards, 9. Alex Darlington, 10. Craig Jones, 11. Craig Williams. Subs: 12. Matthew Berkeley (for Jones, 81), 14. Chris Seargeant (for Edwards, 67), 15. Jamie Wood (for Williams, 67).

Technogroup Welshpool Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Danny Jones, 2.George Hughes (capt), 3. John Boardman, 4. Max Peate, 5. Arran Pritchard, 6. Martyn Beattie, 7. Gareth Williams, 8. Richard Harris, 9. Mike Cronshaw, 10. Peter Doran, 11. Steff Edwards. Subs: 12. Joe Price (for Boardman, ht), 14. Mark Bloom (not used), 15. James Watkin (not used).

Referee: Mike Jones (Gwersyilt).
Assistants: John Swindley and Alan Alexander.
Fourth Official: Ian Evans.

1-0 Craig Williams (8)
2-0 Alex Darlington (69)
3-0 Alex Darlington (77)
4-0 Alex Darlington (85)

The New Saints: Aeron Edwards (YC, 58).
Technogroup Welshpool: Peter Doran (YC, 49), Joe Price (YC, 59).

S4/C Sgorio Highlights