Harrison looking for derby win in 200th competitive game as manager
A derby match is of significant magnitude at any point in history, but the Amman Valley derby between Ammanford and Cwmamman United this weekend holds even more importance.
It is the first Amman Valley derby in history to take place in Welsh League Division One.
It has been a remarkable few years for both clubs, who have both experienced two promotions since 2014-15. The two Carmarthenshire clubs made up the 2nd and 3rd positions in that very season, before Cwmamman were promoted to Welsh League Division One in 2016/17, with Ammanford following suit the very next season.
But, this time out, with both sides in the second tier of Welsh football, wins come at a premium and Ammanford manager Gruff Harrison knows the significance of the game and the need to get points in what is a difficult division.
“Evidently, by the way of results, it’s been tough. The standard is clearly higher but we are enjoying the challenge. It is early days and we are showing good signs,” said the Ammanford manager.
“Come 4:30pm on a Saturday, if you have three points in the bag it’s perfect whoever you play against. Again, we are looking forward to the challenge.”
But, Ammanford have found that hard to achieve so far this season, but there have been evident signs of adapting to the new division.
Despite the results, there were clear signs of being able to more than adequately hold their own in their league opener away to Afan Lido, where they arguably could have secured all three points, and some believe they should have secured at least a draw away to Goytre United.
And even though they shipped five goals away to Cwmbran Celtic, being able to respond with three goals is a move in the right direction on the offensive end.
But, Harrison knows that his team must keep the goals out at the other end if they are to secure a positive result against their local rivals on Saturday.
“Quite simply, if we want a result we will have to keep whoever we play out. We know about their qualities and it will be a tough game. They also know ours so makes for a good contest for the neutral.”
“As I have learnt in my previous 199 games as manager of Ammanford, the common feature of any positive result is a strong team performance. And more so in a derby away from home. The team, our preparation and mentality on the day will decide whether we get three, or one or none points. Again, it is going to be tough but we have prepared well and looking forward.”
However, a derby match is unlike the majority of those 199 games. A local Amman Valley derby often sees game plans go out the window, form become irrelevant and put to one side for 90 minutes.
In the other dugout will be one of Gruff Harrison’s former Assistant Manager, Ryan Stephens. But, for Harrison the match itself is evidence of the strength of the football in the valley.
“It’s a big game in the calendar but for me it marks an occasion for our valley to celebrate the strength of football. Two Welsh Football League Division One teams within three miles is a success for the valley and football. It is always an intense affair and I’m sure this won’t be any different as we meet for the first time in history, in a Division One fixture.
“I obviously want to win but just as much as I do in any other game. Everyone, black and white or blue or neither, I’m sure will be looking forward.”
Harrison will be hoping his side, with no new injury concerns, can secure not only bragging rights for the town, but also their first three points of the season.
FEATURED IMAGE: Nick Davies