“..Welsh Cup’s Coming Home!!!!!!!!”

4 05 2008
Bangor City 4 Llanelli 2
After Extra Time
Welsh Cup Final

An early start is not favoured by many as a hangover cure but I thought I’d give it a go today. I had to meet Nige in Junction. The car journey to Bangor became uncomfortable due to hot flushes but luckily we were in Wetherspoons by 9:15. After some refreshments and some sales we went to the buses at 10:30. By this point clamminess had replaced the flushes. As we waited attention was drawn to my attire; I’d chosen to wear a red polo shirt. Apparently this meant I was a Llanelli fan.

Long legs, a hangover and coach travel are not easy bedfellows. Their co-existence was even less smooth when the hot flushes began again. The coach’s passage was made easier because I was sitting next to City legend Paul Whelan. Paul was the first person to score for a Welsh club at Wembley since the bloke who managed to do it for Cardiff in 1927. I found out that we shared the same birthday. Paul mocked my red shirt. More comments came my way as I walked the length of the coach , maybe I should become a Llanelli fan.

Thankfully the journey ended eventually and we de-coached into pleasant Newtown sunshine. Someone told us to follow the noise so we followed the noise. We were in the right place. The pub was packed so I sold a few flags instantly, after a few more refreshments I found that I’d sold some more flags and all of the wigs. It appears that increased sales are directly proportional to the level of alcohol consumed by the clientele, I don’t think I’ll go impulse shopping after cold drinks again.

At 3:30 we assembled for the march on Latham Park. The very jolly and noisy snake slithered towards the turnstiles. My selling skills remained high throughout the march. As we queued I sensed that some people weren’t regulars at Farrar Rd; they complained that it was more than a fiver to get in. I let the fact that it had been more than a couple of years since prices were at that level pass since one bloke looked a bit handy.

The ground was almost a sea of blue and white, a few more waves were added after I was relieved of the last of the flags. It’s sweaty work hawking wares around, but now I could relax with the football.

The pressure on my bladder caused me to miss the anthem. I didn’t miss much as this was a typical football occassion; virtually no-one sang. Everyone was at the wrong end when the game started so we had a small walk to the other, standless, end.

I managed to find a space on the slope that the Johnny come latelys had deigned to leave free. The view was good but there was something nagging me; I was moving forward involuntarily. At first I thought this may have been the late onset of cup final fever but then I realised it was simply due to some clumsy bugger swaying into me. Just as I started to become accustomed to his rhythmical movements Peter Hoy Football Genius was leaving the field of play. I didn’t see what happened so I had to rely on the impression of others, they assured me it was beyond harsh.

While this is normally a hinderance the Bangor players of the 2007/’08 vintage took the incident in their well-honed stride; Bangor attacked as much as they defended. The passing was good and chances were created; Stotty just failed to beat their keeper in a battle of wits. Their keeper also made two other good saves shortly afterwards. Llanelli also had chances.

Then, as if from nowhere, the goal arrived. Webber took a shot but it was heading well wide. Stotty’s head met the ball and then it was travelling in the opposite direction, the keeper sprawled helplessly. The crowd surged into the barrier in elation.

City held their lead until half time and it looked like our name was on the cup. We’d been down to nine men against Caersws and won, we’d been held by Aber but won on penalties and now this; we were 1-0 up against the League Champions, 1-0 up thanks to a deflected goal, 1-0 up and reduced to ten men, 1-0 up, down to ten men and playing against professionals. In fact, not only were we 1-0 up but it looked fairly comfortable.

As is often the case when people begin to show the slightest confidence in an outcome it all changes. After a few minutes of the second half Llanelli had scored. About 10 minutes later they scored again. Maybe this wasn’t our year after all, but was I too quick to judge again?

I began to reassess my view after Llanelli had a man sent off. The people around me, DO, Tam and Gareth, seemed bemused by the decision although it was welcome. Noony and KK entered the fray midway through the second half. For most of the time after Llanelli had scored I thought we could still win but this faith ebbed as chances were either missed or cleared. In the last couple of minutes we won a free kick, I thought this was our last chance, the one that could save our bacon. The taker, Sarge, is a master with a still ball in front of him. The ball was stationary, the run up was purposeful, the ball was struck, the goal was missed, the stand was cleared, the fans were downhearted.

Then two minutes into injury time the ball was in the area, the keeper came out and failed to clear it effectively. The ball dropped to Sarge. He met it on the volley. It looked good as the ball arced through the air. I looked at the path of the ball. I looked at the goal. I looked at the path of the ball, it was dropping!!!! I looked it the goal, the ball was going in!!! I was jumping around before the ball actually hit the net, the other fans were following my course, I hugged Gareth, his face was pure joy.

This one shot managed to encapsulate all that was thrilling about football; Before the shot all hope was gone and then the ball was kicked. It flew slowly but inexorably towards the net. You can see it’s going in and the anticipation is blissful. When the ball past over the goal line it seemed as though something magical had happened, black had become white and the hopelessness had become ecstasy. It’s hard to capture the emotions using the medium of words, the most adequate description of such a moment is that you’ll be able to close your eyes, picture the scene and feel a warm glow.

Some people seemed to celebrate the goal very exuberantly, maybe too exuberantly. Some people seemed to feel too confined by the terraces. The next thing we knew Llanelli’s keeper was on the floor and and the restart of the match was held up. During this uncertain time several people feared the worst; the match’ll be called off, we’ll be asked to leave, we’ll be fined thousands, we’ll be banned from Europe. Thankfully the match started again.

The first half of extra time passed me by. I was aware that we won a penalty and Limbo scored it. By the second half of extra time I began to reflect in the glow. The match was definitely going our way, Griffiths was sent off for an elbow and they hardly looked like getting a shot on target. The final whistle meant the Cup was ours!!!!

After the game the cup did a tour of the ground and I got my hands on it, it was good!!! In the club house my attire drew a quizzical glance from the barman and a young lady at the bar, they enquired whether I was a Llanelli fan. I’ll have to dye my skin blue next time as the hat and scarf are obviously not clear enough hints. A few minutes after this someone told me that it was all down to my “lucky” red shirt, oh, how quickly the tone changes in the glory of victory. Now that I was serene again I reflected on a game that had everything; it was a game that was the glaze on top of the cherry on top of the icing on this cake of a fantastic season.




One response

19 05 2008

Great post, couldn’t have summed it up better myself!

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