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Druids 3-2 Llandudno!

This article is courtesy of Daz Knapton (Pint of Football Blog) >>

14/04/17 Review: Cefn Druids vs Llandudno

Cefn Druids 3-2 Llandudno (Welsh Premier League)

The Rock

Good Friday, named in the Great British calendar for its meaning to Christians amongst the Easter holidays- but in my calendar, it is named as good just for being a day off from work. Having already made my way out to a couple of fairly local grounds earlier in the week in, the ML Safety Stadium and the McDonald's Community Stadium in Walsall and Lichfield respectively, I fancied something a bit different for this afternoon's jaunt. Having looked at League options in the English divisions and even briefly considering a trip down to Woking to watch the mighty Silkmen, but in the end I hopped into my car at half 12 and headed for Cefn Mawr in Wales, all-ready to take in some Welsh Premier League action between the Druids and their north coast rivals Llandudno.

My second visit to a Welsh ground

My lone-standing trip to a Welsh Premier League game so far was during my "four games in four days in four countries" groundhopping adventure with Tom (Partizan Bristle) and it had been to see champions TNS defeat 2nd place gap Connah's Quay in an eventually comfortable 3-0 home win at Park Hall. With a fairly peculiar ground in Oswestry, I spent half of that trip on TNS Radio with "The Rev", making for an all-in-all strange afternoon- so I was hoping today to get more of a "real feel" for what the Welsh League had to offer. I arrived in the village outside of Wrexham with ten minutes to spare before kick-off and was instantly amazed by the scenery I found overlooking the ground. Named "The Rock", I could see why Cefn Druids ground was titled with that handle as I stared at the vast ridge which ran across the length of the pitch. A truly magnificent sight for a first-time visitor.

I couldn't wait to get inside for this one

As with most of my trips to unknown grounds, I tend to have a bit of a read of the clubs I'm watching before deciding who I'd be cheering-on for the day. With the Druids returning to the Premier League after relegation back in 2014/15, they started the day in 9th out of the 12 teams and just one point and place below their opponents for the day. With relegation still a possibility for both sides, the pressure was on and I'd decided that based on the Druids recent good form with just one loss in eight since the League split in half for the second phase, I'd have to back them today so 2-1 was my guess. In a game that would feature three Jones's, a triplet of Williams's for Llandudno and a couple of Roberts's, there was also plenty of spectators about- and for anybody who was there will certainly have noticed the lairy lads who gave it their all from start to finish. I'm not sure if these seemingly massive fans have their own name, but I decided I'd call them "The Druids Dozen".

Give me a "D", give me an "R", give me a "U", give me an "I", give me a "D", give me an "S"

The chants went on, and on, and on, for the full 90 minutes and with their tones bouncing off the opposing crag it gave an echoing sound which for a second made me forget that I wasn't at a packed out 30,000 seater ground. On the 3G pitch in-front of us, there was a game going on too and it got off to a cracking start. With just over 10 minutes played the ground erupted as the first goal found its way into the net. Former Warrington Town and Rhyl striker Ash Ruane looked good from the off for the hosts and it was his run and shot that left Mike Pritchard with an easy finish and the first of many goals to come in this tie. Druids 1-0 Llandudno. From the opening exchanges I had a good feeling about this match, and both sides seemed to be playing better football than I remember from the TNS vs gCQ game I'd been to back in October, although I may be mistaken. Cefn Druids may not have the greatest nor most successful history over the years, but one proud moment for this village side of course came in 2012 when they played a two-legged tie in the Europa League Qualifying Rounds against Finland's MyPa-47. True, they may well have lost 0-5 over the two encounters, but for teams in Wales it is all about getting into Europe and so for the Druids to do this is a great bit of history for them to recall upon. For now though they would have to make do with staying in their nation's top division, and Llandudno weren't going to roll over. When Lee Thomas had a point-blank volley saved by possibly the greatest stop I've ever seen, the ball was hit again against the bar and then eventually a defender too- but despite all this, the ball did cross the line and Llandudno were level. Druids 1-1 Llandudno. With the game pretty even in terms of possession and equal on the scoreline, the opening 25 minutes had been very entertaining so far. This pattern was to continue in this way and just before the half-hour mark we found ourselves up cheering another goal. As with the opener, it would be Ruane who would prove to be the play-maker and after dispossessing a Llandudno defender he tore down the right-hand side before picking out his mate Pritchard again to apply an expert finish and restore the home side's lead. Druids 2-1 Llandudno. The ball was now back in the Druids court again and they looked to seize the initiative before half-time, which was fast-approaching by now. The Druids Dozen continued to shout out support for the lads, and in a hilarious turn of events for two old chaps who started to head to the bar just before the whistle, they found themselves being subject to a "we can see you, we can see you, we can see you sneaking out!" chant. Meanwhile on the pitch, the Druids had five consecutive corners and with Stuart Cook playing some great football in the heart of the home side's midfield, Llandudno would have been happy enough making it to the break at 1-2.

A third would've been nice before the break, but it was not to be... yet

During the break, I left pitch-side to grab myself a very reasonably-priced pint. Needless to say that the Druids Dozen were in there enjoying a couple of brews whilst playing some classic drinking games- standard! Things could have turned sour for the lads though as a game of grenade ended with pints spilled and glasses accidentally smashed all over the clubhouse floor. Oops.

It was peaceful just moments earlier

With kick-off coming back around, I headed back out and took my seat again ready for hopefully more of the same. I overheard people talking about already-relegated Airbus UK Broughton being 0-6 down at HT to Newtown in the "top vs bottom" game in the League's lower section. The game continued to be decent, but there was a bit more tension than seemed to be before the break- and as a result of this most of the chances came from range. As Ellis Healing and Stuart Cook went close, I started to feel as though my pre-match prediction may well be a good call. My stand-out player of the match, Ash Ruane, had other ideas though and he would set-up an interesting final few minutes in this game. As Llandudno looked to push for an equaliser, the ball was eventually hoofed up-field to the ever-chasing Druids #26. He had no support and many a defender approaching him as he came to a stop about 25-yards away from the goal. With nowhere to go, Ruane put his head down, took a potluck strike on goal and hit it perfectly out of reach of the keeper and superbly into the net. Druids 3-1 Llandudno. With only a few minutes left now, it seemed likely that the hosts had done enough now to clinch the points. Regardless of this, Llandudno gave it a go and with the 90th minute approaching an inch-perfect run from Danny Hughes led him to receive a pass in on goal. After lining-up his shot from the keeper's right, Hughes curled his effort past Jones but also just past the post- had that gone in, the final moments would have been very close. Alas, there was still time yet and Llandudno pushed on again, and when Hughes had another shot which this time struck the bar, luck this time favoured the away side and the ball came into the eye-line of Marc Williams and he dived in to head the ball into the net. Druids 3-2 Llandudno.

Squeaky bum time now!

Thankfully for Cefn Druids the last-ditched corner for Llandudno came to nothing and Huw Jones called for the final-whistle in a real humdinger of a game. With the combination of the goal-friendly game, a lovely view surrounding a decent ground and of course the Druids Dozen giving a bit of atmosphere to the afternoon, I think that The Rock will definitely go down as one of the more memorable grounds I've been to this season. Good luck to both sides in the last couple of games- this is likely to be my last WPL outing for the season, but it certainly won't be my final trek over the border.

Cheers again- "you are staying up, I said you are staying up!"

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