The Christmas period was a largely frustrating one. I was really looking forward to the Westcountry Superclassico between Torquay and Exeter, but a soaked Plainmoor pitch put pay to that. Desperately disappointing stuff. I did briefly consider Plymouth V Torquay on Boxing Day but as I had to get back to work in London the following day I decided not to add another 70 miles to my day’s driving. Part of me still wanted to go and the extra driving wasn’t the sole reason, but I’d seen Torquay win there last season and I might just leave it at that before Plymouth eventually sort themselves out and I’ll have another few years to wait before the next win. The other option was to take in the Severn Derby between Worcester City and Gloucester City but the further I drove up the M5 the lower my motivation was for attending. The Ashton United fear (rain) factor played a massive part and I turned east and headed back to West London.
A few days later I was determined to go to a decent game and as it was the first game of the new year I thought I’d better make it a semi-exotic one. I scanned Kicker.de’s excellent match calendar. There wasn’t a great deal on. Newtown V Aberystwyth Town popped out though. Welsh Premier Division, not so far from London (almost a stone’s throw from Shrewsbury) and they have an unusual stadium with a nice backdrop of the rolling Welsh Hills.
So I made my way to Newtown. The usual pretty uneventful trip up the M40 to Birmingham, then the M6 and sweeping onto the M54 past Telford before joining the A5 to take me around the southern outskirts of Shrewsbury, where I’d never seen Torquay lose, before then turning on to the A458 for Halfway House and Middletown before hitting Welshpool then continuing via Abermule to Newtown. The town is known for being the birthplace of Robert Owen (the social reformer and an advocate of Utopian Socialism) and WRC Rally Champion Petter Solberg’s co-driver Phil Mills.
The Tom-Tom threw one of it’s normal wobblies and put me into a Barrett housing estate. I did a quick spin around and used my nous instead. Past the Heddlu Station (the local nick) and I parked in the fair sized car park near to the Aberystwyth team coach. I declined the chance to have a bladder easing piss in a secluded part of the car park and made my way into the ground. 7 quid to get in and a friendly welcome on the turnstile. I had a quick skirt around the odd looking ground before finally giving in to my prostate. I resisted an urge to pay hommage to Twin Town and shout “she fucking loves me boyos” in my best welsh accent whilst relieving myself. I bought a pint, helped myself to a team sheet and settled into a quiet part of the club bar to watch West Brom V Fulham. I had to marvel at their Stowell’s wine box on the wall of the bar mind you. 4 wines in one box. It brought back early teen memories over Christmas when an errand to get more crisps from the garage usually meant an upside head (mine) and a quick swig of wine from the wine box. Mother was convinced that father was an alcoholic and vice versa. If only they knew.
After finishing my pint I had another wander around the ground and bought myself a lovely hamburger, cooked and prepared with love. The onions were perfectly caramelised and the bap was wholemeal. Forest Green Rovers have nothing on Newtown when it comes to heathly food options.
I’ve mentioned that the ground was odd and I’ll now try to explain what I mean. One side has the turnstiles in between a single tiered prefab seated stand and a double decker prefab seated stand. At the far end there’s hard standing with a hint of an old terrace. Down the other end there’s a all seated modern, but uncovered stand with a stunning background of almost 400 meter (I did a hover on Google Earth) hills. The main side consists of a club house, another building with an executive balcony, one old school all seated covered stand and a quite impressive but bizarre looking modern cantilevered all seated covered stand next to it. I hope that the pictures explain it a little more than my bumbling words.
Newtown started the brighter in their Torquay inspired all yellow kit (did someone forget to wash the usual home kit) whereas the Aberystwyth boys looked like they were still on the team bus even though their Cercle Bruges inspired kit of green jerseys, black shorts and socks looked splendid. A massive cut above Plymouth. In the 17th minute the lively Andy Jones went on a run and cut inside to bury a low shot into the corner. 1-0 and fully deserved. It stayed that way until the break. Aberystwyth came back into the game slightly but the home team carved out the better chances.
The second half begun and Newtown needed the second goal quite badly just to finish the green and blacks off. On 57 minutes they got it. Aberystwyth half cleared their lines only for Newtown’s Luke Boundford to volley it past ‘keeper Mike Lewis. Down and out. Well they were until the 81st minute when substitute Mark Jones pulled one back. Then it all got a bit nervy. The referee started to get a stick for all directions. He blew up for a soft foul on a Newtown player and this shrill Jonathan Davies-esque voice rang out from the double tiered stand. “You’re a fucking prick referee”. My shoulders started to shake. We’ve all been there before.
Newtown finally put the game to bed in the 4th minute of Fergie time, with Luke Boundford scoring his second and Newtown’s third in front of 410 spectators including an English interloper with a camera and a dicky back. I have to say that I really enjoyed my visit to Latham Park. It’s a bit odd looking but very unique and it seems to be run and watched by proper football people.