Airbus UK Broughton and TNS comfortably made it through to this season’s Welsh Cup final as they overpowered hapless Port Talbot and Connah’s Quay in the experimental semi-final double-header at Newtown’s Latham Park.
Was the joint semi-final day a rip-roaring success? No. Was it a complete failure? No.
The day didn’t capture the excitement that it could’ve done, though admittedly two completely one-sided contests was a major factor in that.
I’m of the opinion that the semi-final day has the potential to become one of the key dates in the FAW calendar – a real opportunity for Welsh domestic football to reach out into the community and raise public interest in the Welsh Cup and WPL.
I would have liked to have seen the day being made more into an event and if the FAW/WPL wants to keep neutral supporters for the whole day then a lot more needs to be done to engage families -particularly the two hour lull between games. More thought and creativity needs to be applied into creating a timetable of events around the two semi-final matches.
As with all new ideas, Saturday was always going to be a learning experience and it will be interesting to see how the FAW reflect upon the event and if it is repeated again next year. I hope it will be, but next time with just a bit more TLC.
TNS BACK TO THEIR BEST
The current Welsh Cup holders signed off the day in true style. Much of the talk before their semi-final clash with Connah’s Quay was on their successive defeats and I really believed the Nomads had a great chance of pushing TNS hard in this game. Like many others, how wrong was I? TNS answered their critics in the best way possible; producing what was probably their best performance of the entire season to date. Craig Harrison’s decision to omit both Michael Wilde and Greg Draper from his starting line-up and to instead play Scott Quigley through the middle proved to be a trump card as he grabbed a hat-trick, with the Saints romping to a 5-0 win. They will be strong favourites to retain the Welsh Cup against Airbus in the final and a win this coming weekend against Bala Town will see them seal the WPL title. Everything is awesome!
DYER’S DIRE STEELMEN
Saturday was a day that Port Talbot Town will quickly want to erase from memory. The football club had the opportunity to bring some sporting success to the town which itself is on the verge of a very real socio-economic crisis, but the team, like its fans, failed to show up.
The club’s supporters were caught up in severe traffic delays which didn’t see them arrive until well into the second-half (more on that later), at which point, Airbus had already racked up an embarrassing scoreline against the Steelmen.
Airbus have, over the course of the season, proven to be one of the most inconsistent sides in the WPL and while they are definitely the strong team on paper, I had expected Port Talbot to make a real go of it against them and it wouldn’t have been a major surprise to have seen Andy Dyer’s side emerge as victors. But Dyer must have been seething with his side’s showing. The team had responded well over the Easter period and had gone on a six-game unbeaten stretch but when it was needed; the players let the club down with a terrible performance in which Airbus mercifully took full advantage of.
The club are now safe from relegation (providing they achieve a domestic license, that is) and you wonder where do they go from this point onwards? My understanding is that there will be quite a few changes at the GenQuip Stadium between now and the start of next season and with this year’s campaign effectively over, a transitional phase could commence sooner rather than later.
Finally, it was disappointing to hear of the difficulties Port Talbot fans had getting into Latham Park late into their side’s defeat. Sometimes, the FAW are unfairly criticised and are an easy target. On other occasions, they really don’t help themselves and show a complete lack of accountability and common sense – unfortunately this was the case on Saturday.
The Port Talbot supporters coach didn’t arrive until the 75th-minute of their game and despite their bus returning back to South Wales after the match, the disgruntled fans, who’d just spent two hours sat in traffic, were still charged the full £8 entry which was the admission fee for both semi-finals.
It was clear that the supporters would not be staying long after their semi-final match. Newtown AFC staff on the turnstiles said the entry fee were enforced by the FAW – so there is a good chance there was a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line here – something which will no doubt be looked at if they were to repeat this event – but what was most disappointing is that FAW officials sat near to me were fully aware of the circumstances, yet chose to do absolutely nothing and literally looked the other way. Que verbal abuse en masse from the frustrated Port Talbot supporters behind the goal and while I’m not condoning that, the situation would have been swiftly resolved if one of those FAW officials had taken responsibility and the initiative to have walked over to the gate and told the stewards to cut the admission. The supporters would’ve been appeased, the FAW would’ve benefited from some good PR and the situation will have been all forgotten with. Sadly, the officials sat near me showed a complete lack of empathy towards those supporters and looked clueless as to how to deal with such an obviously manageable situation – and yes, it’s these very people charged with the running of our domestic game.
UPDATE: Newtown AFC official Owen Durbridge has kindly posted to clarify the situation regarding the admission of Port Talbot fans, he writes:
There are inaccuracies in this report. I am Owen Durbridge and in charge of things for Newtown on the day. I had a call from our Head Steward at the turnstiles to say there was objections to the entry fee. The immediate decision was made to reduce the fee and it was left to the discretion of the Head Steward. About 8-10 people paid £5 to enter and the remaining 20 were given free passes by a Port Talbot director.
Everyone had a great deal of sympathy with the Port Talbot fans held up in traffic for three hours but you can’t lay the blame for that at the FAW door. Neither can you blame anyone else for the provision of alcohol on a supporters coach to attend a Welsh Cup match which is illegal.
I immediately advised the senior FAW official present but he was not actually consulted by me on the subject.
Normally, the Stewards would have let the supporters in free with just 15 mins play left but the situation of “2 for 1 price” complicated this and nobody gave the advice that the bus was leaving straight after.
Arrangements were made for speedy access to the ground as soon as the delayed supporters arrived. With very few passes having been handed in, we expected most of the bus passengers to have the free passes.
Front page image courtesy of Brian Jones/TNS FC.