Tuesday 21st August 2018 18.30
Welsh National Division One
Offa Athletic 1 Llangollen Town 7 HT: 1-3 Att: 45
from Gresford Colliery Club
Ramone Nelson 15 : Day 1, 23, 48, Wilson 76, 78, Weir 88
Offa Athletic are named after Offa’s dyke,a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the border between England and Wales, named after King Offa of Mercia (757-796). The dyke runs west of Wrexham, where Offa Athletic play.
They are new to the Welsh National League this season, having been promoted from the North East Wales League.
They play at Gresford Colliery Club, known affectionately as the ‘Coalpit’. They have only played here two years; before, they played in New Broughton off Bersham Road. Like a lot of Welsh Miners’ Clubs there is a miners’ wheel and accoutrements tribute at the entrance to the ground.
The ground is similar in feel to a lot of grounds in this league. The colliery connection, the other satellite sports facilities such as bowls and cricket and a rather hemmed in (and small) football pitch, railed on two sides. One long side and behind the goal were out of bounds for spectators; being too close to the treeline.
Offa Athletic join Rhosllannerchrugog and Plas Madoc as the new boys to the division. Rhosllannerchrugog play at the Pant Brickworks (Rhos Rugby Club) and Plas Madoc are sharing the much used Muga in Cefn Mawr, with Cefn Mawr Rangers (with Cefn Albion now sharing with Cefn Druids at the Rock). Despite being tier four of Welsh football, most grounds are railed pitches. Visitors Llangollen Town are probably the luxury team of the division, with a stand; although Rhydymwyn’s ground is arguably the best and the only one with floodlights. They have recently played in the Cymru Alliance.
All other clubs have no spectator structures, unless you include Mynydd Isa’s burnt out skeletal bus shelter affairs.
Gresford Colliery has a nice clubhouse but with the usual creamflow, multinational lager selection you’d expect. Coffee and tea is dependent on the machine working, which is wasn’t tonight. A few tables outside the bar and in front of the football pitch gave a very relaxed air to proceedings on this barmy late August evening, where some optimistic individuals had braved shorts and t-shirt.
Offa had started the season with one of each type of result, but their opposition so far had not been the best. Llangollen had started with two thumping wins and a thumping defeat to newcomers Plas Madoc.
Llangollen kicked off, the ball was passed to Day on the right wing. On the small pitch he looked up, saw the portly keeper in a world of his own and chipped it precisely and with perfect elevation in to the top middle of the net. Barely seven seconds had gone, the fastest goal I’d ever seen – my previous best was Begovic for Stoke, his 97.5 yard record distance goal after 12 seconds. Within seven seconds the skill level had surpassed the previous 90 minutes I saw at Mynydd Isa last week.
Offa responded well and had a good 20 minute spell in which the very impressive Ramone Nelson latched on to a woefully underhit back pass. Despite being through on goal 30 yards out, most WNL players would have contrived to mess it up, but he very confidently half volleyed from 20 yards into the goal – great technique.
1-1 was about right, but Day again made another great strike for the visitors. 20 yards out, he had space to shoot and struck it at chest height into the corner. On the stroke of half time a painfully slow but precise free-kick went over the wall and nestled in the corner past the stumbling keeper.
Llangollen totally dominated the second half. Whereas Offa were competitive and even on top in parts of the first half, they were outplayed in the second. Day completed his hat-trick with yet another great strike, another 20 yarder perfectly lobbing the keeper. Wilson, the number 9, who had missed half a dozen sitters up to the 76th minute, scored two in two minutes, both strikes harder to score than his previous six efforts.
Weir made it seven when the keeper could only clear a one-on-one and found himself lobbed for the fourth time in the game.
Great August entertainment on a pleasant late summer evening and no lack of skill from certain players.