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Diary of a Groundhopper: Treharris Athletic Western (Saturday, August 27)

SATURDAY AUGUST 27

Treharris Athletic Western 2 Ely Rangers 4

MY last three August Bank Holidays have been spent on Anglesey, scuttling to and from the delights of Lock Stock Welsh Alliance grounds on an organised Groundhop.

With that league now done, the Hop bandwagon moves to South Wales for the next few seasons. After watching a one-sided game at Llantwit Fardre at the morning’s Hop game, The Fox and I decide to take in Treharris Athletic while we are in the vicinity.

Many Hoppers have told me I must go and see the old stand at the Athletic Ground. After a massive portion of chicken, chips and peas in Llantwit, I drive the ten miles to Treharris.

Jane SatNav takes me to the right area in the town but I just cannot find my way in! On one circuit, I can see a corner flag teasing me from behind a fence high on a grass bank opposite a row of terraced houses.

On my third drive round, I spy a player heading for a narrow entrance right where Jane had told me to go. Note to self: always listen to the women in your life.

In the car park, I spot a narrow entrance which leads to steep steps down to the pitch. Once on the turf, I turn to see the stand of my dreams perched high above me. It looks like one exuberant sneeze would bring it crashing to earth but it will no doubt outlive me!

To the left of the gorgeous stand is a balcony. A guy appears out of the room clutching a cuppa, so I climb the steps again to join him. It turns out he also has the programmes to hand, so I give him a quid for that plus another £3 to get in (even though I am already in!).

The areas either side of the stand and tea bar are covered in thick brambles, while spectators can also see the roofs of the terraced houses sticking up above the fence on the far side. It’s the epitome of ‘ramshackle charm’. I absolutely love it.

I later learn that the pitch is the smallest in the division and the ground is the oldest in the league. The teams take to the pitch and we are thankfully spared the kick-off-delaying, hand-shaking, respect nonsense.

The referee is a late replacement for the appointed official. There are no linesmen, apart from two worse-than-useless club officials who do nothing but moan at the referee’s decisions!

In fact, one of them is usually the furthest man forward for his team when he should be patrolling the other half of the pitch.

Treharris are sponsored by their local labour party. Ely are wearing a fluorescent green outfit, which is the colour of the nuclear waste rods in The Simpsons. Both sides are urged on by vocal support.

We are treated to a good, competitive match. Ely win quite easily despite having a man sent off after 70 minutes. My man of the match is Ely’s Dom Pates, though even he is overshadowed by Athletic’s mouth-watering Grandstand.

Pre-Match info: 10, Welcome: 9, Facilities: 5, Food: n/a, Charm: 9, Match: 7.5, Home Team Respect: 7.5, Fans: 7, Programme: 6, Overall Trip: 8.5, Officials: 8, Att: 69

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