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Diary of a Groundhopper – Ruthin Town 0 Buckley Town 1

Ruthin Town 0 Buckley Town 1 – February 16

After ticking off The New Lawn with my team, Notts County, last weekend, I am back to my beloved Non-League football this Saturday. The slate is clear, so I can go anywhere the whim takes me. It’s The Fox’s turn to drive, so he has the final say.

Sifting through the extensive list of possible fixtures I send to him, The Fox immediately replies that he would like to go to Ruthin Town in North Wales. Not only can we do some birdwatching on the amazing Great Orme beforehand but The Fox claims to have a surprise in store for me. I am suitably intrigued!

After a wonderful, bracing early morning in the sun and wind on The Orme, we head inland along the verdant lanes of Conwy and Denbishshire. We pull up in the centre of Ruthin, bypassing the football ground, and I wonder what The Fox has in store for me. The town is lovely: full of traditional shops down narrow lanes; my wife would have loved an afternoon firtling around here.

But it’s not the shops I am here to see. There, ahead, is a memorial to Tom Pryce, the only Welsh F1 driver to have won a race. He died in a terrible accident at the South African Grand Prix in 1977 and his home town wanted to commemorate his career. Those who think F1 has lost its excitement because it is now ‘too safe’ should familiarise themselves with Tom’s death and celebrate that things like that no longer happen.

This being a Huw Grays Alliance fixture, it’s a 2pm kick-off. The large car park is already full when we pull up at the Memorial Playing Fields, It looks like this local–ish derby has attracted a decent-sized crowd. I pay £5 at the gate and another £1.50 for the programme. With this many people already here I am grateful there are still programmes available.
Next stop is the food hatch. The pies are so-so and The Fox proclaims the coffee as perhaps the worst he’s ever had at a match! Fortunately, I had tea.

The clubhouse, two stands and the turnstiles are all situated along one side of the stadium. There’s another railed-off, full-sized pitch along the opposite side, which must be where the reserves play? The ground is surrounded by distant hills and there’s a nice church tower protruding into the skyline.

Ruthin are 7th, while today’s visitors are just three points behind in 11th. All the indications are that this will be a tight match. I am on a run of particularly poor games, so I am hoping I’m wrong. My Goal Average is plummeting like a stone, too!

Unfortunately, my need for goals is not to be fulfilled this afternoon. Buckley look the stronger side but Ruthin defend stoically. I am destined for my fifth consecutive half time 0-0 on the trot! The visitors seem to think of themselves as Champions League contenders judging by the way they moan at every refereeing decision. This is tedious and downright annoying.

If anything, the second half is even worse than the first! Passes fly astray, players take the wrong options and at one point the guy retrieving wayward footballs is in line for Man of the Match.

Finally, the crowd has a goal to cheer, even though it’s the strong away following doing the celebrating. After fifty minutes, Luke Blizard nods home at the back stick to break the deadlock. It ended as a win for Buckley, which they just about deserve. On the drive home I discover I only ‘need’ Penrhyncch to complete the League. I?better plug that annoying gap!

Pre-match info: 8, welcome: 7, facilities: 6, food: 4, charm: 7.5, match: 4, fans: 5, programme: 4, overall trip: 7, officials: 8.5, att: 208

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