Looking to the future, listening to the past

On a week’s holiday in South Wales checking out a place to move to next summer, I couldn’t help but take in the Wales U-17 friendly international with Poland at Merthyr Town FC.

An old girlfriend had once remarked to me that ‘on holiday you should do something different to normal’, well maybe so but on that occasion I went ahead and went to see the first Truro City Ladies side (latterly Penzance) and on this one, I again opted to see different teams, players and a ground I’d never seen before!

Our trip from our base in Taffs Well was followed by a break of journey at Trefforest before walking into Pontypridd, whose train station entrance was less then welcoming, dark and dingey, reminding me of stepping into Bethnal Green station one late evening in the 1980s. More discomfort was to come with the repeated screeching of the train wheels on the tracks that had regularly required giving in to sticking your fingers in your ears. I couldn’t help but imagine Spock alerting Kirk: “I think we’re under attack Captain.”

On arriving at the end of the line at Merthyr Tydfil, it was soon apparent that regeneration was at least in the pipeline there and with one impressive buildling now lacking a roof, that is very welcome.

Pennydarren Park is a proper old football ground, with areas of covered seating, covered standing and the traditional open terracing often reserved for away fans. The music coming over the PA was of some decades past also, stuck in the early 1970s and even featuring four tracks in a row by glam rock ‘queens’, The Sweet. A couple were interrupted by announcements, so most of them were played over again! Certainly not objectionable to my ageing ears, although the feedback from the mic was. 

Around 150 attended the Saturday afternoon fixture, the Polish national anthem was quietly respected, the Welsh one sung heartily.

Georgia Williams forced a couple of chances for the hosts but the nearest they came to scoring was a mix up between defender and keeper, Kinga Szemik having to use every inch of her height to turn the defensive header against the bar and over.

Poles were soon in front when Angharad Jenkins came for a free kick but it sailed over her for Katarzyna Gozdek to slot in at the back post.

Ewelina Kamczyk beat the keeper to double the lead and Ewa Pajor scored twice in the second half, sandwiching a strike from Sylwia Matysik.

Both teams used all their seven subs and Wales kept going until the end but were unable to find any consolation for their efforts against stronger opposition.

There were some committed challenges but no injuries, with the medics only busy when attending to an elderly lady in the crowd who had to be taken to hospital after becoming temporarily unresponsive and being sick – hopefully now on the mend.

I also hope we make our move to Wales in time for the UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship next August. Another chance to showcase women’s football in the UK!

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