The King George V New Field plays host to the first Rhondda Derby of the season between Cambrian & Clydach Vale and Ton Pentre on Friday Night.
The sides could not be in more contrasting form with Cambrian & Clydach Vale surging up the league table in recent weeks following a good run of results; while their rivals on the other side of Mynydd Bwllfa find themselves rooted to the bottom of the league and still searching for a first league win of the season.
Ahead of the fixture, Cambrian & Clydach Vale manager Craig Hughes spoke about his side’s recent run and what he is expecting when the Cam Army and Rhondda Bulldogs meet under the lights on Friday evening.
Four wins from the last five league games have seen Cambrian climb the table after a difficult start to the season, including an eye-catching 5-2 home win against title contenders Goytre FC and last weekend at Pen-Y-Bont a first league win away from home this season.
With such a young squad at Cambrian, Hughes emphasised earlier in the season the steep learning curve his players faced at this level and pointed to lessons being learned from mistakes in the opening games.
“We are in a good run of form due to the players’ work rate, ability and at last belief. Belief in what this group can achieve when they adapt.”
Last season this fixture finished goalless but Cambrian claimed the overall bragging rights with a 3-2 win at Ynys Park. The current form table would suggest that Hughes’ side are favourites going into this match, but Hughes doesn’t see it that way at all.
“Ton are in a sticky place…we all have dips in football and Ton are simply in a dip of form. League position and form goes out of the window [on] Friday; this is a proud Rhondda derby between the two clubs. We will be approaching the game with the underdog mentality; they are full of experience and know-how in big games, we are young, hungry and ready for a big challenge.”
The poor start to the season has seen Ton Pentre change management with the appointment of Kevin Richards for his second spell in charge at Ynys Park. Hughes believes ‘friend’ Richards will help the Rhondda Bulldogs turn the corner and re-discover that lost competitiveness.
“Kev has a wealth of experience and will add steel to the group; he’s a winner. I was sad to see Lee [Phillips] leave Ton as we are all mates, but in Kev I think the appointment is a good one; Kev is a good guy.”
There are players who have seen both sides of this derby and one who may be of particular focus on Friday is Corey Shephard, who recently re-joined Cambrian from Ton Pentre and, according to reports, put in a strong performance at Pen-Y-Bont last weekend. Hughes is delighted to have brought Shephard back to the club and praised the player’s ‘bravery’ in making the switch.
“We are big fans of Corey; he’s a top talent and is a Rhondda lad. As I have always stated we want the best local players at Cambrian. We are delighted to re-sign Corey, it shows his character to be brave enough to come back after leaving before the season; it’s that mental toughness I love in a player.”
A lot of managers in the modern era like to play down local rivalries, preferring to take the line that ‘it is just another game’, but Hughes is having none of that, not shirking the importance of the local rivalry.
“[It] will be a big test for our group [on] Friday night and I hope a big crowd will be there to watch two teams collide in a Rhondda derby full of pride.”
(Featured Image: Andrew Evans)