Saturday 12th October 2013
Welsh Premier League
RHYL 0 THE NEW SAINTS 2
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea bag £1
Parking: Club car park
Weather: Slate grey sky, slightly blustery, remained dry
Made the effort to get to Rhyl before lunchtime so I could have a nice walk down the promenade and look at the sea. This proved rather uplifting despite the backdrop of massed banks of off-shore wind farms. I'm afraid the vista got a lot worse when ones eye followed the horizon inland to the autumnal realisation of a typical British seaside resort and Rhyl's slightly sleazy run down sea front. The tarnished charm of the place wasn't helped by a slate grey sky and a chilled gusty breeze. A bingo caller was addressing two fat ladies in an empty amusement arcade, above it the flats for rent with the stained curtains looked like they'd been caught in the crossfire of some military fallout on the Gaza Strip. Never mind, I'd had a good walk and headed back to the Match Tank, the only people around seemed to be a few pensioners walking dogs, the obligatory jogger with the fancy DJ headphones and the standard sea front alcoholic knocking back a pre dinnertime bottle of cut price plonk. I decided to head for the ground.
Rhyl were back in the Premier League (Welsh style) this season and todays visitors TNS are the current champions. Looked a really decent fixture on paper and I was looking forward to the Rhyl side using home advantage to put the full time TNS fancy dans through their paces despite the visitors already being up the top end of the table again.
The ground is a fairly low level stadium with seating on all four sides, the car park end is open to the elements with the dominant 'Lillywhites Legends Lounge' looming large behind it, all the other sides of the ground have cover. I must say it looks a decent little stadium with a fine playing surface, perhaps the only gripe is that there are a lot of stanchions which can impede a clear view of the action.
I purchased a £2 programme which was well overpriced despite a couple of interesting articles from Rob Marshall, without his witty content it would have been purely daylight robbery. Next up was the Tea Hut or should I say 'canteen' as they are identified in the ground. I was having speciality pie and chips for my supper after the drive home so I was in the market for a decent looking burger. Unfortunately I was not enticed to part with £2.50 for what looked like an economy button burger on a tiny white roll, it just didn't seem value for money. I ended up just getting a tea for £1 a bag, I still had a remnant sandwich in the Match Tank which I'd eat after the game. I sincerely hoped the game would be better than what I'd seen so far with the programme and the catering?
I took a seat near the halfway line in the stand of many stanchions under the Sgorio TV gantry. A couple of TNS pie monsters were grumbling about a lack of ascertainable pasty filling and wiping gravy stained freezer-shop chips off their car coats.
As the game got underway I was amazed how well that TNS were passing the ball about. This kind of structured calm mannered approach is a rarity at the non league levels I'm more familiar with. TNS quickly went 1-0 up and Rhyl had still to touch the ball? After another 10 minutes this slow building TNS passing game was still going on, the ball was going from side to side, back to the keeper, then side to side to side again and eventually they would get near the 18 yard box before they'd lose possession and somebody from Rhyl would blindly hoof it upfield for it to all start all over again. In a non league football world where 3 passes on the trot can bring gasps of incredulous admiration this was like watching a bargain priced PoundLand version of Spain. Then it struck me that I had been utterly stupid to not clearly recognise that the home side where continually sat back mega-deep entirely in their own half with only one bloke up front and even he hardly ever got over the centre circle. Unbelievably Rhyl looked like their entire game plan was to just keep the score down! They had no intention of coming out of the defensive parked-up-coach across the 18 yard area to take part in a football match (period).
What could earlier have been construed to be fine passing football had now become a boring training ground example of simple 'attack and defence'. If the Rhyl public have to watch this gutless drivel every week I'm surprised they get an attendance in the stadium at all, TNS simply coasted it without any sign of fight-back resistance from the home side. Sadly, despite some locals saying 'the lads' would come out fighting for the second half, they failed to change tactics. Why they didn't decide to have a go is beyond me, they were getting beat and showed zero capability of getting back in the match, why not shake things up, get forward and have a go at getting something, anything, even pride from the game?
TNS went 2-0 up in that second period and still Rhyl failed to challenge them. Surely their players cannot be so inferior that they just defend and chase TNS tails all afternoon, why not put more people forward, get the ball wide, apply more pressure down the flanks? The whole game fizzled out as any kind of watchable spectacle well before the end, TNS strolled around with the ball at will (mainly from side to side) as the home supporters started to head home shaking their heads in disappointment, whether this was a recurring theme or I had just caught 'The Rhyl Experience' on a bad day is open to debate.