This weekend 32 clubs across Wales continue the quest for glory in the third round of the Welsh Cup. The draw meant many of the clubs from South Wales will be on the road this weekend for long journeys to north Wales.
Among the travellers are the three remaining representatives of historical Gwent as Goytre, Cwmbran Celtic and Panteg have been drawn away to Airbus UK, Connah’s Quay Nomads and Porthmadog respectively.
The managers of all three clubs spoke this week about the challenges they may face on their cup day out, when they will clock in an approximate combined total of 800 miles of travel on Saturday.
For Welsh League Division Three outfit Panteg, joint first team manager Mark Taylor said their trip to Gwynedd to face Cymru Alliance side Porthmadog presents unfamiliar organisational challenges:
“The main challenge the fixture posed for us initially was a logistical one. The travel and the organising food was definitely something new. It’s important we treat the game as professionally as possible ensuring every chance of victory so making sure the lads get their breakfast and a nutritious meal late morning was vital.”
Cwmbran Celtic and Goytre were both able to approach their ties with some level of experience to call upon. In recent seasons both clubs have embarked on Welsh Cup runs that took them beyond the usual haunts of the Welsh Football League. Cwmbran Celtic manager Lee Challenger paid tribute to the club’s chairman who had sorted out the arrangements within two hours of the draw; the Celtic Park boss is satisfied his club are well prepared for the logistical side of things.
Equally, Goytre boss Sean Wharton was unruffled by the prospect of a long away trip. Last season Goytre won away at Llandudno and Wharton is confident his squad will take the fixture in their stride:
“I have some extremely experienced players that are used to travelling these distances. There is no difference in our preparation except that we have to get up a bit earlier and travel a bit further. We are prepared and ready to go and the more success you have the more travel you have to do.”
All three clubs will arguably go into the round as underdogs, especially Cwmbran Celtic and Panteg who play teams from higher tiers.
Cwmbran Celtic face the biggest task on paper against Connah’s Quay Nomads, a side that finished 2nd in last season’s Welsh Premier League and pulled off one of the biggest results in Welsh domestic history by beating HJK Helsinki 1-0 at. Lee Challenger is under no illusions about the scale of the task his side face and has discussed the tie this week.
Panteg will try to bridge a two-tier gap, but they will do so away to one of the biggest clubs in Welsh football backed by one of the best supports in the land. Panteg has previous though: in this season’s Welsh Cup they have developed a habit of knocking how teams from a higher level, including Abergavenny Town, AFC Llwydcoed, and most notably Welsh League Division One side Ton Pentre in the last round. Rather than seeing it as a daunting prospect, Taylor believes his side are relishing the occasion:
“The challenge in facing Porthmadog is definitely a big one. Recently we have played ex-Welsh Premier sides in Llanelli and Ton Pentre away from home and we have risen to the occasion. We have a young ambitious side who see this as an opportunity to promote our club as we have huge ambitions as a club. It will be great to play a club like Porthmadog who are steeped in history and tradition.”
There is an added element for Panteg because their match will be in front of the Sgorio cameras and highlights of the game will be shown on S4C on Monday
evening. This may bring increased pressure, but Taylor isn’t concerned about how his players will cope.
“The S4C cameras being present will only be a positive for us. We have had many of our games videoed in the past and once the whistle goes and adrenalin kicks in no one will be thinking about the cameras. Obviously being chosen to be part of the highlights was a huge honour for us and a huge thumbs up to S4C for choosing our game rather than concentrating on the [Welsh] Premier [League] clubs.”
The same excitement is being felt at Plough Road. Goytre faces a difficult task at Airbus UK, who, like the Monmouthshire side, is going well in tier 2 and have recent experience playing in the Welsh Premier League. Wharton said it will be a good learning experience for the club, has no doubt his group are relishing the novelty of the tie and up for the test.
“We give them the respect they deserve. In their time in the Welsh Leagues, they have played at the highest level and have good foundations in place so we give them the respect they deserve. But we also need to focus on what we need to do, what we are good at.”
“When you play in the Welsh Leagues you play similar players a lot of the time…you play people you know. It is exciting to play new players, it’s a new adventure for the younger players. We have trained well, we are confident and have good team spirit, we will go there and give it our best shot.”
Taylor echoed similar thoughts, that while he wants his players to embrace the experience and enjoy the exposure when it comes down to the 90 minutes on the football pitch, his side is going to try and win the game.
“…we are only travelling up for one thing and that is to progress into the next round. Enjoying the day is also going to be a big thing for us. Having the opportunity for teammates to spend the day together, no doubt the banter will be strong and it will only strengthen team morale this weekend and be moving forward.”
It’s no different for Cwmbran Celtic. Challenger is realistic but combative about his team’s prospects.
“We are not going there just to enjoy the occasion, we are going there to try and win a football match, that’s what it’s all about at this level. We know that we head into this game as massive underdogs…But for us, it’s about going up there and testing ourselves against one of the best sides in Welsh football; an experience and opportunity that I’m sure we will benefit from.”
(Featured Image: Will Cheshire)