Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Mrs Doubtfire, Football Gurus and Bursting Cofi Bubbles….

The Cofis have an impressive record against Flint Town United of late, with a record of nine victories, two draws and a solitary defeat against the Silkmen in the past five seasons. This run includes three League Cup final victories, which probably means we’re not of Flint’s favourite opponents and I’m sure they would have been looking forward to trying to get one over on us during our latest visit to  Cae y Castell.
As covered in the last blog, Caernarfon had drawn the three matches leading up to Flint and this led to plenty of North Wales football gurus predicting the Cofi bubble had burst. I won’t embarrass these local Carraghers by pointing at the social media threads where they confidently proclaimed the wheels had well and truly come off Town’s title aspirations but you’ll probably be aware of what and who I mean. I doubt that Sean and the players felt any added pressure as a result of those draws but would guess that the critics will have galvanised them even more to get back to winning ways at Flint.
Darren Thomas
The hosts had recently appointed former Rhyl manager Niall McGuinness to take over from Andy Holden at the helm and the team had responded with three victories in five outings under his charge, so they were in decent form and it promised to be a tough test for the Cofis.
I had been encouraged before kick off when Darren Thomas told me he was nearing a return to fitness and hoped to train with the squad the following week. This was excellent news as the Cofi Messi is a key member of the squad and I often believe that people from outside the club underestimate how good he is. Most have also decided to ignore the fact that we have remained unbeaten and top of the league despite his absence since the first week of December which, considering his importance to the team, is a pretty impressive feat.
So, what of the match itself? The first thing I noted was the pitch, which looked heavy and wet, although the groundsman must have worked overtime on the surface because most matches in the  area had been called off due to heavy rain in the preceding hours. This resulted in a swollen  attendance at Cae y Castell and I’m sure that the majority of us will have enjoyed what the players served up.
As expected, the hosts began well but, having weathered their initial ten minute storm, Caernarfon settled down and took control of the game. There were a few near misses and half chances in the Flint penalty area as the Cofis pressed forward and it seemed just a matter of time before we broke the deadlock. However a red card for Jay Gibbs after thirty minutes levelled the action temporarily as the Silkmen found renewed hope although Caernarfon continued to edge proceedings up to half time. Jamie Breese and Nathan Craig gave Town a two goal lead within five minutes of the restart and really, Flint did well not to go further behind as they struggled to deal with Caernarfon’s pacey breaks upfield. The extra man advantage finally began to show in the final quarter of the match as the Silkmen pulled a goal back through Jack Lewis and took a more direct approach in search of an equaliser. Alex Ramsay pulled off two fines saves to keep us ahead and some heroic defending by the whole team finally ensured we got back to winning ways, and handing out a king-sized slice of disappointment cake to those who were pronouncing the Cofis’ demise.
Breesey was on target against Flint
It was a gutsy performance from the players, one that showed plenty of character and determination after the early red card and whilst it was squeaky bum time in the final stages, I don’t think there can be any question that the Cofis deserved the points. There was an impressive following from Caernarfon at the match and the Cofi Army certainly encouraged the players on, especially in the final minutes. Their rousing rendition of ‘Ain’t Nobody Like Sean Eardly’ at the final whistle was rewarded with a Klinsmann dive in front of them by the manager and, to be honest, it was a fitting way to end the afternoon.
Away from the action it had been nice to catch up with former Cofi Rob Jones, who now plays for Flint. Rob was an important member of our title winning squad of 2015/16 and was unlucky last year to suffer from injuries and suspensions. I remember talking with him after his final match for Caernarfon last season, where he had been sent off at Llanfair United, and he was extremely disappointed at the dismissal which effectively ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign. Despite his frustrations last season, his quality is in no doubt and it was great to see him on the pitch again, although not in our colours this time1 Unfortunately, Rob suffered an injury in the opening minutes and so had to miss out on most of the action but I hope the ovation he received from the Cofi Army helped him feel better and reminded him of his successes at the Oval. Thankfully, his injury was not as bad as feared and it was good to see he was back for Flint’s match at the weekend.
Once I’d posted the match report, photos and post-match interviews I settled down to Twitter and it definitely seemed a much quieter place that it had been the previous three Saturday evenings. It may well have been that all the footballing gurus of North Wales had gone off to a Sky Football Convention for tactical geniuses or maybe our defender Joe Williams got it right when he tweeted:“I’m sure all the doubters will undoubtedly be doubting Sean Eardley’s ability as a manager! I’m off to watch Mrs Doubtfire!”
Having successfully overcome one stiff test, the Cofis were faced with another six days later when we faced The New Saints in the fourth round of the Welsh Cup. There’s no point in me recounting  what happened the last time the sides met in the same competition and of more relevance is the encounter earlier this season, when TNS beat Caernarfon 2-0 in the Word Cup. The difference between the sides had been minimal then and goals at the beginning and end of the tie had been enough to see the hosts through.
Caernarfon’s Welsh Cup curse struck again in the fortnight before the tie as Chris Williams and Ryan Williams suffered injuries that deemed them unavailable whilst Jay Gibbs was suspended and Kevin Lloyd and Shaun Cavanagh were both cup-tied. This meant that Sean was without five of his first team squad for the match but, on the flip side, the Cofi Messi was back, which must have given his team mates as much of a boost as it did the supporters. We still had a very strong starting eleven to face the Welsh Premier League Champions and, despite going behind in the fourth minute, the Cofis proved a match for the full-timers in every aspect.
Messi was back against TNS.
Correct decisions at key moments can make a huge difference in tight contests and Friday’s match was a good example. Caernarfon had a strong penalty shout just before half-time when a Darren Thomas header hit Connell Rawlinson’s arm at the far post but the referee waved play on, and the ball was cleared. It’s impossible to say how a penalty at that time would have changed the outcome of the match but against excellent sides like TNS these are the moments that you need to go your way.
The Town players deserve huge credit for sticking to their tasks so resolutely after the visitors doubled their lead almost immediately after the restart and, as the match wore on, I felt the Cofis improved and looked quite comfortable against their highly rated opponents. When Darren halved the deficit in the seventy seventh minute I sensed we could get back on level terms and it was great to see Sean pushing his team on in search of an equaliser. The Oval was rocking for those final thirteen minutes as Town put the pressure on, and I think it said a lot that TNS keeper Paul Harrison was looking for every opportunity to waste a few second whenever he could – and not just after Darren scored!
Gareth Evans
Aeron Edwards showed his quality in injury time when he scored a third for the visitors but, despite the result, I think Caernarfon Town were still winners on the night. An impressive crowd of 1489 saw the Cofis go toe to toe against their full-time opponents and, just as impressively is that we played football that was every bit as good as the Welsh champions.
I note that in his post-match interview TNS manager Scott Ruscoe was quite complimentary towards Caernarfon and also alluded to the fact that the Oval pitch was not the type they’re used to, which is definitely worth bearing in mind if we manage to get back into the top tier. o many of the WPL clubs play on 3G pitches these days that keeping a real grass surface may well be an advantage to us in the future. I know the club is looking at putting down an artificial pitch at the Oval to enable it to compete financially with other big clubs in the country and I agree with this, but it would be such a shame to see us lose what’s already there, and something we can use to our advantage in the future.
So, a disappointing result for us but everything else on the night was a success. The players put in one of the best performances from a Caernarfon Town side in recent years and showed again that they’re good enough, individually and collectively, to play in the top tier. The football they played was on a par with a team that play the game professionally and what’s even more important is that nearly fifteen hundred people were there to see the sides put on a great show. I was impressed by TNS, but more so by Caernarfon Town. In the words of a former football commentator who got too big for his boots before getting caught out: Take a bow Alex Ramsay, Joe Williams, Nathan Craig, Gareth Edwards, Rhys Roberts, Clive Williams, Kevin Roberts, Gareth Evans, Jamie Breese, Darren Thomas, Danny Broookwell, Telor Williams and Aaron Davies-Thomas.
I’ll finish this blog off by once again putting my head on the social media block. We had queues stretching out of the car park and half way down Marcus Street on Friday evening as people looked forward to a real football match on a grass surface between two sides who rarely face each other. 1489 people eventually walked through the turnstiles and witnessed a cracker of a match between two very good sides. Yes, I appreciate that the Welsh champions were in town, that it was a cup tie and there were no other matches on in the vicinity but it was still a pretty big crowd, one that other teams in the Pyramid would dearly love to have.
If you were to check the attendances for the next round of Welsh Premier League matches, the chances are that the combined total from all them will not reach Friday’s crowd at the Oval and in my opinion the fault lies with the FAW. They really do need to realise that many people have no interest in watching the same teams face each other between four, five or six times a season. Of course we can all guess at the reasons why the powers that be refuse to change the format (I’ve heard that it may be because they don’t want to dilute the product?) but, common sense and business wise, it must make sense to change things.
I know there are some who are extremely sensitive when it comes to the FAW and WPL but even those who are so precious about the top tier must see it’s time for the governing body to increase the number of teams in its flagship competition to sixteen? Sides facing each other just twice a season may produce better crowds and better matches, as both we and Ruthin proved against higher ranked teams in the cup this weekend.
And talking of Ruthin, the Cofis will be facing them this weekend in what promises to be another very tough fixture. Sean Eardley has already told me the players are really looking forward to it and I can’t wait to see how we go against yet another strong side.
Ain’t Nobody Like Sean Eardley……..

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Bad Grandpa, Social Media and Penalties

According to Sky Sports, Christmas is for football and it must be true because they’ve been telling us this since November. Of course, the game they are selling us is as far removed as possible from the one that is played in the Cymru Alliance League and the two Caernarfon Town matches I saw over the festive period were proof enough of this. Our fixtures against Porthmadog and Holyhead Hotspur were real crackers, reminiscent of the game I grew up watching, and nothing like the majority of matches my television subscription allows me to watch these days.
Local derbies are always enjoyable affairs and as a Cofi supporter I have many fond memories of watching the team play at this time of year against Bangor City, in both the Northern and Welsh Premier Leagues. Attendances of over a thousand guaranteed, full bloodied tackles and unforgettable chants from both sets of supporters were also guaranteed and it all added to memorable occasions that I recall fondly, despite the defeats and near misses in public houses near the grounds! Whilst this is a tradition that has long since disappeared it has, over the past two years at least, been replaced by a friendlier and much more enjoyable experience, the Gwynedd derby, played between Caernarfon and Porthmadog.
Last year’s fixture between the sides at the Oval, held on December 27th had been a decent affair, with a crowd of 1100 seeing us beat our neighbours by two goals to nil. When the fixture list was announced this season I was delighted that we would once again be hosting Craig Papyrnik’s side over the Christmas period and even better was that the match would be played on Boxing Day. A  good old-fashioned local derby to get the juices flowing and entice us all out of our homes after the excesses of the preceding fortnight!
Both sides were in great form approaching the match, Caernarfon on a superb unbeaten run of twelve matches in the league and Port having suffered just one reverse in their last nine outings, a sequence of matches that included a victory over the Cofis in the Huws Gray Cup.
It was a nice, crisp day, and the weather helped to bolster the crowd, with an impressive 1275 people walking through the Oval turnstiles. Of course it also helped that there weren’t many matches held in the vicinity and so a local derby between two good sides would have appealed to other local footballers in addition to the casual football follower. I am pretty sure that those who did attend the match would not have been disappointed with what they saw, as both sides went at it hammer and tongues from the off.
Port are a very good side and always look up for the task of upsetting the Cofis. They proved it again in this encounter and although they played well I always thought Caernarfon had a slight edge. Having forced Port keeper Richard Harvey into a number of early saves, Town had to wait until just before the break to go ahead, courtesy of a Jamie Breese striker, after the frontman had been set up by the impressive Gareth Evans. The latter was at it again just after the restart to help set up a goal for Nathan Craig and, whilst former Caernarfon favourite Cai Jones pulled one back for the visitors, Breesey secured the victory with his second goal late on. Our number nine was deservedly named the supporters man of the match but in all honesty I’m sure that Gareth Evans must have run him close. Gaz has been outstanding in recent weeks following injury and I can see why he has been a Welsh Premier League regular for his former club. Great engine, great technique and an eye for goal – sounds like a proper Caernarfon Town player to me!!
And talking of proper Cofi players, it was with great pleasure that I got an opportunity to carry out a rather unexpected, but very enjoyable, interview for the club’s you tube channel with Kevin Lloyd (above) to announce his return to the Oval after a spell with Conwy. We know that Kev has been with us on three separate occasions in the past and readers of the blog will know how much I like him, both as a person and a player, so it will come as no surprise when I say that I’m delighted he’s back with us. I know he doesn’t really enjoy video interviews with me so I was pleased he agreed to this one, and if anyone doesn’t already know how much the club means to him, then I’d advise you to take a look at the interview we did, which will leave you in no doubt. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4oVzhhvBA8

A trip to Holyhead four days after the Boxing Day derby beckoned and, whilst Chicago is known as the Windy City, I believe Anglesey’s largest community has a very strong claim to being known as the Windy Town. I have been to Holyhead on many occasions and have just once known it to be anything other than blustery, especially in the football ground. Whilst our latest visit to the New Ground would not quite rank amongst the many ‘stand like a statue or be blown away’ occasions I have experienced there, I still needed to be on guard against the wuthering conditions. Bob had a better idea on how to keep warm, and grounded, by heading to the canteen for a Cheeseburger, which he highly recommended! And if anyone is thinking of writing a book on the best cheeseburgers, pies and chips in North Wales football, look no further than Bob! He's the one who stands next to me at away matches, with the local cuisine more often than not to hand!
Campbell Harrison’s charges had been the only team to defeat the Cofis up to this point in the campaign and they are undoubtedly a very good side on their day, although this can be said of every team playing in the Cymru Alliance this season. Hotspur are renowned for a certain style of play at home, where they are very adept at using the elements and have proved over many years that they can turn over the best of opponents.
Most teams are already well versed with Holyhead’s usual tactics and I know that Sean and Richard will have ensured the Cofis were ready for the first half onslaught they faced against the wind. To be honest, Caernarfon handled the direct style and early deliveries into the penalty area very well and, having reached half time scoreless I thought we were in with a great chance of winning the match. Thigs didn’t quite pan out like that, however, and the hosts looked a different team after the break when they decided to play the ball on the ground as opposed to off it. Town exerted plenty of pressure on the hosts’ defence early in the second half and Clive Williams and Danny Brookwell both went close to scoring before Paul Pritchard pulled off three super saves to keep Holyhead level.
As always, Mel McGinness was proving a real livewire up front for the hosts and he scored a stunner shortly after the hour mark to put Hotspur ahead, much to the delight of the vociferous old-timers who stood in front of the club house. One seventy plus year old got so excited that, shortly after the goal, he kicked the ball away from a Caernarfon player looking to reclaim it for a throw in before completing his ‘Bad Grandpa’ impersonation by telling a Cofi supporter to ‘F*** Off’. It was both hilarious and sad in equal measures.
Nathan rescued a point with late equalisers
against Holyhead and Denbigh. 
Pritch continued with his antics in goal to keep us from scoring an equaliser right up to the eighty eighth minute, when Nathan Craig salvaged a point by defeating ‘the cat’ directly from a corner. So, for once, the wind actually helped us in Holyhead, although Nathan is so good that he probably tried to curl the ball into the top corner!
I headed for home from the match feeling both disappointment and relief as, whilst I felt we were more than good enough to have won the match, and probably would have done if Pritch had not been in goal for Hotspur, it could also be seen as a good point earned because it’s not an easy ground to visit and, having gone a goal down, the players showed a lot of determination to get back on level terms. A fair result and a decent end to 2017 for the Cofis as we finished top of the Cymru Alliance League at the half way mark.
Our first match of 2018 promised to be a real cracker as we travelled to Denbigh on the opening Saturday of the New Year. Eddie Maurice Jones has put a really strong side together at Central Park and they’re having a very good season, placed second behind us just a week before our visit. I never fail to enjoy this particular away trip as it’s a nice ground and the Board members and staff are always friendly, as was proved again this time around. The sides produced a thriller in last season’s corresponding fixture, which had seen Denbigh score twice in injury time to claim a 4-4 draw and this latest encounter proved just as exciting!
Shaun Cavanagh signs on the dotted line for the Cofis.
On the Friday before the match I had received a call to say that we had signed Shaun Cavanagh from Llandudno and were in a position to announce it immediately if possible. Before carrying on I must confess that this had been news I had been hoping to announce for two years as I know Shaun since the days his father, Dave, was assistant manager to Lee Dixon at the Oval. Shaun would always attend the matches with Dave and, without fail, would help warm up Paul Pritchard, who was our number one at the time. Whenever I’ve seen Shaun since, we’ve always spoken about football and he’s always said he’d like to play for Caernarfon one day. He’s played for both Bangor and Llandudno in the Welsh Premier League and is very highly rated amongst local circles, and I think it’s a real coup by Sean Eardley to finally bring Shaun to his home town club. Here’s the link to a video interview we did after he signed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23v7lPabnfY

Gareth Evans in action at Denbigh.
It was good to see the manager giving Shaun an immediate debut and he certainly didn’t let his new gaffer down, showing plenty of talent and tenacity in his first match in the yellow shirt. The match began with a bang as we went close to going ahead early on when Chris Williams’ header from a corner thundered against the bar. The woodwork came to Caernarfon’s rescue twice in quick succession after that before Duckett put Denbigh ahead in the ninth minute with a great finish. The Cofis responded well, but found Jonathan Hill-Dunt in good form between the sticks for the hosts, as he again showed why he is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the league. We deservedly got back on level terms just before the break when Nathan Craig netted with his spot-kick, although the referee’s decision to award the penalty amusingly signalled the appearance of another ‘Bad Grandpa’ impersonator, who was every bit as unruly and rude as his Hollywood and Holyhead counterparts!
Kev Lloyd and Jay Gibbs join in against Denbigh.
Caernarfon started the second half well but Denbigh were lethal on the break and were 3-1 ahead just ten minutes after the break. Eards responded immediately by introducing Jay Gibbs and Kevin Lloyd into the action and, in my opinion, they turned the match our way. I was given instant hope when Kev ran on to the pitch and growled at his team-mates to get stuck in! And one thing you know with Jay is that he is good enough to push his team-mates along when things are tough and, just as he had done against Airbus, he increased Town’s tempo and gave us the impetus to go on the front foot, which we did impressively.
Joe Williams scored an absolute screamer to put us within touching distance and, despite having to play with ten men for the final thirteen minutes due to Rhys Roberts’ red card, the Cofis managed to snatch a point with the final kick of the match, Nathan converting his second penalty of the afternoon after Jamie Breese had been upended in the penalty area. I can only imagine what the ‘Bad Grandpa’ of Central Park must have been thinking but it mattered not as the players celebrated their fightback with the Cofi Army after the final whistle.
The match had been an excellent advert for the Cymru Alliance League and although one or two of the players told me afterwards that they were disappointed with the performance I can’t really  agree with them. Denbigh are an excellent side and they had a number of standouts on the day, including Duckett, Pritchard and Nash, so to fight back from two goals down to earn a point was a pretty decent effort from the team, especially after having gone down to ten men in the final stages. I also have to mention the manager too, as Sean is definitely pushing the right buttons where the players are concerned, as they kept responding to him throughout the match, and you could tell at the final whistle that he and his staff and players are definitely together as a unit, which he needs to be applauded for. It’s Sean’s first senior management post in the game, but you certainly wouldn’t think it by the way he and his side are going about things! 
Before moving on, a quick word about the travelling supporters, who were outstanding! Sean alluded to it during his post-match interview and it’s becoming ever more obvious that the Cofi Army is making a difference in these types of matches, where things are tough and the players need their encouragement. I’m not sure how many of us had made the trip to Central Park but I’m sure Caernarfon fans easily outnumbered the home supporters, and I can only imagine how much of a boost it is to the players when they hear the chants and songs! Brilliant stuff! Here’s a video I took at the match which shows the Cofi Army in full flow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv6QSso_jLo
Joe and Gaz.
An added bonus for me during the Denbigh match was that Joe Williams scored his first goal for the club. Joe has steadfastly refused to take part in my post-match interviews with the players but had always promised that he’d go in front of the camera if he ever scored in the yellow shirt. I had already carried out my interviews with Sean and Nathan after the final whistle when I reminded Joe of this and, despite the initial look of dread on his face, he manly agreed to do something at the next match. To be fair to Joe, he was as good as his word and before Saturday’s match with Rhyl, we carried out a question and answer session, although he insisted on having Gareth Evans there as well. Apart from post-match, I don’t usually get an opportunity to interview the players so it was good to have a chat and some banter with Joe and Gaz. It was great fun and you can see results by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2xTpAJSkdU
And so on to our match with Rhyl, which may not have been as thrilling as the Denbigh encounter  but did provide a very special moment right at the death. Both sides are under new management since the controversial 3-3 draw at the Corbett Sports Stadium early this season and from what I had read the Lillywhites have improved in recent weeks, so a hard challenge was expected. The Cofis had three mainstays of the side missing through suspension whilst Darren Thomas was still absent through injury and, with two or three of his players also carrying knocks, Sean’s squad was down to the bare bones on the day.
Alex Ramsay
Once Alun Webb put the visitors ahead in the six minutes I think most of us knew they’d fall back and defend the lead. This is exactly what they did, becoming solid and compact, and they succeeded in defending as well as any side I’ve seen at the Oval this season. I think Caernarfon were just about the better side on the day, although Rhyl looked dangerous on the break and could have got all three points if it had not been for the late intervention of Alex Ramsay. The Town keeper came out on top when faced with a one to one with Webb in the final minutes before rushing up for a ninety second minute corner and scoring the equaliser with a finish Jamie Breese would have been proud of! Rambo’s celebration was a classic as he reeled away towards the Main Stand, arms aloft and chased by his team-mates! He even treated us to a celebratory dive although I’m not sure what our groundsman would have thought at the time!
I think the Cofis deserved a share of the spoils and, taking all things into account, it was another decent point for us. I asked club president, John Watkins, if he could recall the last time a Caernarfon goalkeeper scored and he couldn’t, so it must have been a few years ago!
It was good to see sports reporter Dave Jones at the ground on saturday and I hope he enjoyed one of his rare visits to see us. It wasn’t the best of matches but at least he saw a great finish to the action and, with a bit of luck, I’m hoping to see him again before the end of the season.
Social media has been very interesting for the past three Saturday evenings. The usual suspects, and some new ones, have been busy pointing out that the bubble must have burst at the Oval because the Cofis have had to rely on late equalisers in three successive matches.  I’ve also read comments that we get too many penalties and play a direct style of football. All true of course if you don’t support Caernarfon Town but if you watch the side every week, as I and many others do, these comments will have raised a smile! Predictably, these keyboard warriors fail to mention that we’re still top of the league and on an unbeaten run of sixteen matches. They’ve also forgotten, or tried to forget, how brilliant their own teams are doing, which is a good indicator that their favourites are not quite as interesting as the Canaries!

Just as entertaining are those who believe every tweet by everyone else is about them and/or their club. It got to the point over the Christmas period that I found myself justifying every tweet I sent out, whether it involved Caernarfon, the FAW or the Welsh Premier League. A very odd state of affairs indeed.
Anyway, back to the real business now, and Saturday’s trip to Flint. Former Rhyl manager Niall McGuinness is in charge there now, and I believe he’s signed a few players, including former Town midfielder Rob Jones. It should be another tough test for the Cofis but, if the past few weeks are anything to go by, Sean and his players will be more than up for it!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Seven Stitches and Crazy Days - An Interview with Russ Hughes.

Whenever there are discussions about the best goalkeepers to have played for Caernarfon Town, Russ Hughes is always a prominent future of those debates. John King brought Russ to the Oval in 1986 and he stayed until the 1990/91 season, during which time he firmly established himself as not only one of, if not the, best keeper in our history but also one of the best in non-league football. Russ is still an avid supporter of the club and regularly attends matches at the Oval and I am very pleased to say that I managed to meet him for the first time last January, at our Welsh Cup tie with Rhyl. I am every bit as pleased to say that we have kept in touch since then and have got together with Russ to carry out an exclusive interview for the blog.
So, here we are, an interview with a real legend of the club….
OW: Please tell us about your career in football, from your schooldays onwards.
Russ: “I started out playing football locally in Wallasey for a team called Olympic and played for them up until I was eleven or twelve years of age. Then a spell with Prenton Park Rovers and Tranmere Rovers A and B teams before signing for Tranmere Rovers full time at seventeen. I was there until  until I was twenty one and dropped down to amateur level playing at Vauxhall FC in the West Cheshire League first division. I then signed semi-pro for South Liverpool in the Northern Premier League and returned to Vauxhalls. I joined Caernarfon Town in 1986 and stayed there until 1990-91 before moving on to Stalybridge Celtic in the HFS Loans League/Football Conference for five years, then returned again to Vauxhalls and finished my career with a season at Northwich Victoria.”

OW: Have you always been a goalkeeper Russ or did you play in other positions as well?
Russ: “No, I started playing anywhere down the left being a natural left footer...wing, midfield, fullback, until the age of ten. I reverted to keeper because the goalie we had in the school team was far too small and was causing us to lose games and I just thought I could do better in that position.”

OW: Which team do you support and who is your favourite player?
Russ: “When I was a youth my favourite player was Pele, in fact that whole early seventies team were my heroes. My favourite goalkeeper has always been Gordon Banks. That save, from my other hero's goal-bound header.....incredible! I've supported Everton from an early age but follow Tranmere and Caernarfon closely too.”

OW: Who were the biggest influences on your footballing career?
Russ: “John King certainly influenced my career in many ways and Gordon West, my goalkeeper development coach at Tranmere, influenced the way I played.”

OW: How did your move to Caernarfon Town come about?

Russ: “I was playing at Vauxhalls FC at the time. I got a call from John King to ask if I was available to cover for Neil McAdam who'd suffered a knee injury and that it was for Caernarfon Town. I said I could and JK asked me to meet him for a goalkeeping training session in Birkenhead Park the next afternoon. He was happy with what he saw and told me to be ready to play the following night. I played over two hundred and fifty games during my time at Caernarfon and have been told recently that I may top the list of most games played for the club, but I’m not sure if that is true or not.

OW: Did you know any of the players when you arrived at Caernarfon?
Ray: “Obviously, as I've said earlier, I knew JK well and also Steve Craven who was at Tranmere when I was there. Phil Wilson would pop into Tranmere's physio room for treatment too so I knew of him.”

OW: What did you know of Caernarfon Town before you joined?
Russ: “I knew of the club and that JK was there. When I watched a game at South Liverpool, who i'd just signed for that day, it was versus Caernarfon.”

OW: Can you remember your first match for the Cofis?
Russ: “My first match was at short notice against Chorley away, a mid-week fixture under floodlights. If I remember correctly I had a steady game but we lost 1-0. I was beaten by a fierce shot that flew through a crowded box into the top corner off the underside of the bar. Even though we lost that game, I saw straight away that the team had potential. All JK's teams like to play the passing game and that was evident from my first match.”

OW: What do you recall of the qualifying rounds that got the team to the first round proper of the FA Cup in 1986/87?
Russ: “I recall playing lots of games in the run up to the first round proper, many of them replays. One sticks in my mind, I think it was away at Eastwood. There was a big hostile home crowd expecting an easy win and when they found their team on the losing side they were not happy at all!! We played really well. I made a save late on that would have levelled the tie, when we were 2-1 up. I went behind the goal to retrieve the ball and one of the crowd threw a handful of gravel from the terraces into my face. The karma moment was when I kicked the goal kick up field and we proceeded to score again, killing their chances of progressing. Walking off, another member of their fans spat in my face as I went down the tunnel?? Crazy day that was!”

OW: As the side progressed through the rounds, did you feel that something special was happening?
Russ: “JK's philosophy was never to look too far ahead. A won cup game would be "put in the cupboard" so to not distract from the league games and opened up when the time comes. Personally I felt we could do something special after the first round game against Stockport County. That game proved to me that although professional teams are a bit fitter the football played is the same. If we defended well, with the front line we had, we were always going to be in with a chance. The town of Caernarfon was suddenly on the map again and cameras from all channels wanted to record what was happening!”

OW: What do you remember of the three FA Cup matches against football league opposition?
Russ: “The Stockport game was tight with very few chances on either side. The back four was solid, and our midfield busy closing down, in the end I felt they just committed too many players forward in their push to get a goal. We broke out of defence one time in the second half and sent Austin Salmon into the channel to score. I didn't really feel any pressure in that game, even though we defended for most of it.
The York game at home was again very tight and cagey but this time we had a bigger crowd that gave a buzz of excitement around the Oval. Both sides defended well and neither side really got the upper hand, having the odd chance here and there. After the final whistle you could feel the atmosphere around the club had changed, the town itself had an upbeat feel to it. The replay a few days later was an immense occasion for Caernarfon Town. I remember well turning into York's ground and a hundred or so York fans ridiculing the old team coach we arrived in, bellowing smoke from the exhaust as we came to a stop (it was well past it's use-by date). Ken Jones was our coach driver. Little did we know at that point that we'd be having the last laugh later. The game itself was exciting. Again a bigger crowd, including up to three hundred Caernarfon fans who'd made the trip. They were fantastic and made plenty of noise to keep us going. We had to take quite a bit of pressure for the first part of the half. I came out of goal and plucked a cross off their forwards head and we collided in the air gashing my eyelid which needed stitching, but I was quickly patched up by sponge man Ian Humphreys so I could play on. After that I punted the ball towards Ray Woods, it evaded the fullback and put Ray in down the wing free to cross into the box and bundled over the line by Austin Salmon to make it 1-0. York's fans went silent, our fans went absolutely crazy for the rest of the half. Half time team talk by JK tells us to keep our defensive shape and keep playing our football. Second half much the same, back four at full stretch but holding out, and I had to make a few saves. Then once again we break out, Steve Craven is put through and we score again. From then on we take a barrage of attacks from York, who miss chance after chance before finally getting a goal back, then they missed a couple more. When the whistle went for full time York fans applauded us off the pitch along with our ecstatic group of fans. That moment of going to the fans to applaud their support lives with me to this day. I felt proud of what the club had achieved that night.
The Barnsley games were up another level again. Better players of a higher standard and again bigger crowds. I felt the pressure of expectation for the first time and everyone was expecting another win, literally willing us on. Barnsley were a good team with some seasoned players. We did really well as a unit to keep a clean sheet but never really tested their keeper. The replay was harsh, we played really well but couldn't pinch a goal for our efforts. We eventually conceded the goal that put us out of the competition late on in the second half, scored by Roger Wilde with a powerful header from about the penalty spot that gave me little chance of saving. Our dreams were over until  next time.”

OW: What are your thoughts on that FA Cup side Russ?
Russ: “The FA cup team was made up from players JK was familiar with from Tranmere and Northwich. Players like Ken Jones, Steve Craven, Dave Wignall, Ray Woods, Bobby Tynan, Phil Wilson and myself. Most played at a higher standard than the Northen Premier for many years before joining JK at the Oval. We had three regular welsh players, Huw Williams the tower of strength at centre half and two full backs, Glyn Griffiths (who played the whole campaign with his shin bone metal plated...he delayed the operation to have it removed so he could carry on playing out the season!? What a guy!) and Robyn Jones. And there were a few appearances made by a young Stuart Williams also.”

OW: What type of manager was John King and what made him so special?
Russ: “JK was what they refer to as a players manager, he knew how to get the best out of each player. He loved the passing game, was passionate about football and would infect you with his love for the game. He was very well respected by other managers and connected with a lot of players he could call on when needed. He was very philosophical in his thinking and had many football related sayings that would explain his feeling about the game ahead. He was a student of Bill Shankly no doubt as he a large portrait of him in his office at Prenton Park.”

OW: What made that FA Cup side so special in your eyes Russ?
Russ: “All great teams have a good atmosphere around the dressing room and training ground and the '86 team was no different. Everyone got on really well, so we ended up as a solid unit that would work hard for each other. Back four were really solid. Full backs, Glyn Griffiths, Dave Higgin's and Robyn Jones, all of them pacey and hard tacklers. Centre Backs Huw Williams, Ken Jones and Bobby Tynan, I could write a paragraph for each of them. Very strong and skillful with a ton of experience between them. Midfielders, the Dave's, Martindale and Wignall, box to box players with great passing abilities and free kicks. Wingers, Ray Woods and Phil Wilson, constant headaches for any defender, and fed the strike force of Steve Craven and Austin Salmon. The last six players I mentioned all had a goal in them which gave us many options in attack.”

OW: Were you disappointed that we didn’t draw one of the really big First Division sides in the third round?
Russ: “I wasn't disappointed because I personally felt that we had more chance to progress with the lower league teams than a big team. Barnsley to me was a good draw from the hat. Yeah a big club would have been good, but I preferred to keep my feet firmly on the ground at the time.”

OW: What are your memories from your time at the club?
Russ: “I have lots of memories and constant reminders too. I remember how packed the Oval was for the Barnsley game, inside and out, with some onlookers on roof tops. The rivalry with Bangor City, they were always hard fought matches that sometimes got out of hand. Having the legend Tommy Smith as my manager, he was a really nice guy that was nothing like his media image. Getting to the semi-final of the Welsh Cup against Cardiff City and getting to play against Alan Curtis. Being asked by Dai Davies if I was eligible to be cover goalkeeper for the Welsh national side (Sadly I wasn't). Saving a penalty from Frank Worthington who was player/manager against us at the time when the score was 2-2. We won with a last minute goal too! Hearing Caernarfon Town mentioned on the ‘Saint & Greavsie Show’. I also remember when it took over three hours from my home to get to the Oval, along the old country roads, through, rather than round, Conway. Lastly I have a scar across my eyelid, with seven stitches, from the York City game I mentioned earlier. People often ask how I got it and I wear it with pride.”

OW: What was the Oval like in the days you played on it?
Russ: “When I played the first season at the Oval it wasn't a good playing surface at all.It was what we would call a leveller, Bumpy in places, boggy in one corner. No matter how good a team was the pitch would flatten the skills level and equal the game a bit. JK insisted that the pitch be worked on, to give the lads a chance to play a passing style at home like we did at away matches on better surfaces. We had to change the way we played a bit at the Oval, be a bit more direct. It did improve gradually through the season but still not a patch on the surface that they have now. It's been good to see the improvements to the whole ground over the years.” 

OW: How often do you get down to the ground Russ?
Russ: “I've been down to see a few games over the last ten years and also played two matches with other former Town players on the Oval. “
The Reunion and thoughts on the present Caernarfon Town side. Russ travelled down to see the present side in action twice last season. The first was for the Welsh Cup tie with Rhyl and then, a few weeks later, he was present for the FA Cup side’s thirty year reunion, and saw us defeat Holywell 6-2. Russ completed a hat-trick of victorious visits to the ground just a month later when he once again kept goal for Caernarfon Town in a legends match. It was good to see that Russ had lost none of his nimble footwork and excellent handling as he kept a clean sheet against the opposition. But really, for those of us lucky enough to have seen him play for us all those years ago, a clean sheet was no surprise at all.  

OW: Did you enjoy the present team's match on the day of the reunion and what do you think of the side that has been put together?
Russ: “I always enjoy travelling down to Caernarfon to catch a game at the Oval and have been following closely what the club has been trying to achieve. You’ve built up a good base with the academy set up and this will most certainly benefit the club for the future. The club has also gathered together a good first team squad of players that want to pass the ball and play a game with the passion that the fans expect. I fully expect them to get the desired promotion to the Premier this season.”

OW: Did any of the players impress you when you saw the side last season?
Russ: “The whole team put on a fine display that day, but generally I have been impressed with players such as Nathan Craig, who has that classic left boot, Darren Thomas, who has lovely dribbling skills and can pick out the decisive pass to set up for others. Strong and solid at the back is Gareth Edwards, who marshals the defence well. Jay Gibbs also stands out as one of those that plays with the passion I spoke of earlier, constantly wants to be on the ball and moves it around the pitch quickly. Jamie Breese has pace and has an eye for goal. It’s all exciting to watch.”

OW: How did you enjoy the reunion with our FA Cup side a few months ago, and how nice was it to meet up with your former team-mates, and also Mr King's family?
Russ: “Yes it was a great evening put on by the club. I was amazed how many made the trip down for the night. I had a good catch up with the lads and was nice to have JK's family present to experience the love Caernarfon Town has for him and what he did for the club.”

OW: Did you enjoy watching the FA Cup video on the night, and did it bring back a few memories for you? 
Russ: “It was great to watch the old footage again. The video captured perfectly the atmosphere around the club and town with all the media attention our results had attracted. As for memories of the games I took part in, they are still as fresh as the day they happened.”

OW: You returned to the ground a few weeks after the reunion to take part in a legends match, how did it feel to be back in goal for Caernarfon Town at the Oval? 
Russ: “I really enjoyed the game and playing with some of my old team mates.... Stu Clinch and Stu Williams, Alan Schuey, it was always going to be fun.”

OW: And how did it feel to keep another clean sheet for the Cofis?
Russ: “I did have a good back four to help me out, but yeah, it’s always good not to concede a goal especially when you're playing in a ‘Legends’ side.”

Huge thanks to Russ for answering all these questions, which just goes to prove that not only was he a great goalkeeper for Caernarfon Town but he is also a great guy and a real ambassador for the club. 

*Thanks to Richard Birch for the photographs of Russ in his playing days with Caernarfon Town. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Resignation, Fighting Back and Long Live the King.

November was full of shocks, surprises and challenges on and off the field for Caernarfon Town and I think it’s safe to say that the club dealt with it, got on with it and thrived.
I’ll get straight down to the business end and say that Iwan’s decision to leave the club for Llandudno stung me but was not totally unexpected. When he told me he was going I felt a mixture of disappointment and frustration, mostly because he and the club had come a long way together in two and a half years and, as far as I could see, we were on the cusp of something special. Our former manager has already shared his reasons on why he left and I can certainly understand them, although I would like to think that he could one day have achieved all his managerial goals at the Oval.
Once his decision was announced, immediately after our 4-1 Welsh Cup victory over Berriew, social media was inevitably fairly bouncing along with the news and it was good to see the excellent reaction from Caernarfon supporters who were quick to thank him for everything he had done for the club. The reaction was a no brainer really as Iwan was a very popular figure with all the club’s stakeholders and his track record at the helm speaks for itself. In two seasons he led us to the Cymru Alliance League title (and runners-up), two league cup triumphs and a first Welsh Cup semi-final in twenty nine years. Impressive by any standards but particularly so when taking into account that this was his first management job in the game.  
When I met Iwan for a photoshoot to announce his appointment as Lee Dixon’s successor I remember him telling me how nervous he was at taking on such a big job but he of course he proved more than up to it and not only brought success on the field but transformed the professionalism at the club, which has in turn helped drive us forward. The title and cup successes have of course been wonderful but equally as important is the ‘One Club’ ethos he brought to the Oval. It has become synonymous with Caernarfon Town Football Club because it’s not just a soundbite, it actually means something, to us as a club and also to the community.
Darren Thomas bagged another brace against Berriew.
I read a disappointing comment on social media from a Cymru Alliance manager who suggested Iwan should have shown more loyalty to us and stayed on to see us reach the top tier. The loyalty aspect of the comment was not something I can agree with because, in my opinion he showed his loyalty tenfold during the course of his tenure and especially after we were denied promotion due to matters that were beyond his control. I am certain that other clubs would have been only too willing to snap him up during the summer of 2016 but he decided to stay on and that’s what I would call loyalty.
A more interesting comment I read, and something I am much more inclined to agree with, was that moving from Caernarfon to Llandudno is akin to moving from Aston Villa to Watford. The comparison is clear: Watford are in the EPL but Villa are a bigger club with more potential IF they can get things right on and off the field. Sounds familiar and about right to me and it’s now up to everyone at our club to make sure that we get everything in place to reach the top tier and start making some noise once we’re there. We’ve already shown over the past three years that the team is more than a match for most Welsh Premier League sides and the goal now is to get up there and go for it!
Iwan after last season's league cup final.
Iwan has been brilliant for Caernarfon Town in every way and, as the club’s media officer, it has been an absolute joy getting to know and to work with him. From that first photoshoot to our final post-match interview against Berriew it’s been plain sailing all the way and we’ve had lots of fun as well. I honestly believe he’s going to be a huge success at his new club but I’ve already told him he’d better get all his victories and successes as soon as possible because once we’re in the top tier no one at Caernarfon Town Football Club will be looking to just make up the numbers!
Finally on this matter, I have to say I was less than enamoured with how Llandudno went about releasing the news, or rather their attempt to bully us into an announcement on their terms. In short, they contacted me five minutes before they were planning to publish their announcement which, as far as I am concerned, was unfair on our supporters and us as a club. I had understood that Caernarfon Town Football Club would be making the announcement later in the evening and so to be told by Llandudno’s media officer that they were going to break the news in five minutes time was unacceptable. I obviously made my views clear and thankfully sense and decency prevailed and we managed to co-ordinate the announcement but the matter has certainly put my guard up where Llandudno is concerned. We may not be in the top tier yet but we like to try and act as professional as possible, which is what we’d expect from all clubs, especially those in the WPL.     
Ain't Nobody Like Sean Eardley.....

So, our 4-1 victory over Berriew, where Darren Thomas continued his fine recent form with a brace, in Iwan’s last match meant we were through to the third round of the Welsh Cup, were top of the league and now looking for a new manager! Two words immediately came to mine, and from what I know, all the other Board members’ thoughts as well: Sean Eardley. Eards joined us as assistant manager during the summer and, although he’s only been at the Oval for a few months, he’s made a big impact at the club. Highly-respected in the North Wales football scene after a successful time with Alan Morgan at Llandudno, Eards has an infectious personality and a real spark about him. 
As a Liverpool supporter of a certain age I have always believed that promoting from within is the best way to go but of course it does not always guarantee success. For every Bob Paisley there is a Ray Harford, John Carver and Craig Shakespeare but I believe the key to ensuring it works is to do it when the team is in a strong position. When Liverpool experienced such huge success in the seventies and eighties and promoted from within, they were on top and doing well. And this is why I firmly believe Sean will be a huge success as manager of Caernarfon Town. We’ve got a very good squad that to me is a match for everyone in the Welsh pyramid and when you have someone of Sean’s experience and enthusiasm taking over of the reigns, I believe there’s an excellent chance he will continue the success we’ve enjoyed in recent seasons.
Richard Davies

Whilst we all wanted Sean to take on the job we still needed to ask if he wanted it so we met with him and Richard Davies and were delighted that he was indeed up for the challenge and would love a crack at taking us up to the Welsh Premier League. Richard was to step up as his assistant with Mike Innes coming in as coach and from what I have heard from the players and supporters, everyone felt as excited as we were with the news.
It seems to me that Richard often gets overlooked by people outside the club but he has been a highly successful manager himself with Penrhyn and is another well-respected figure in the area who brings a lot to the set up. Mike of course has been with us for a few years and it’s great to see him join the management team after a spell out following an operation. So, just two days after Iwan’s resignation we were in a position to announce his successor and, as expected, the news was very well received by the club’s stakeholders.
Sean, Richard and Mike’s first challenge as our new management team was a trip to second-placed Airbus UK for a meeting of the league’s top two sides up to that point. We all know that the Wingmakers have had a decent run in the Welsh Premier League, and were in fact runners up for two successive seasons recently, with many people seeing them as favourites for promotion this year. They were just two points behind us before the match and after twenty minutes it seemed inevitable that they’d overtake us as they raced into an early three-goal lead.
So impressive had the hosts been that when Fosu-Mensah put them three goals ahead I feared an embarrassing scoreline was on the cards. They were excellent during the first quarter of the match but Town dug deep and found a way to stem the tide. Then, slowly but surely, we started getting a foothold in the match and had gained parity, possession-wise at least, when he half time whistle sounded. I’m sure that Sean would have wished for better circumstances for his first half-time talk but whatever he said worked because the team was transformed after the break.
Gaz Edwards
The introduction of Gareth Edwards and Jay Gibbs for the restart had a massive impact on proceedings as Gaz stopped the supply to dangerman Fosu-Mensah whilst Jay produced an amazing forty five minutes in the number ten role to drag the team back into contention. Having already gone close to pulling a goal back on a number of occasions, once Gaz scored in the sixty third minute there was a real feeling that we could go on and salvage a point.
Darren Thomas set Danny Brookwell up to further reduce the deficit and the highlight of the afternoon arrived in the closing minutes when Jay Gibbs produced a stunning free-kick from all of thirty yards that flew through a crowded penalty area and past Airbus stopper Coughlin, much to the delight of the travelling Cofi  Army. It was a top drawer goal from Jay to cap off one of the best halves of football I’ve seen from a Caernarfon side and the midfielder can quite rightly claim to have been the catalyst for it. We very nearly found time for a winner too when Darren Thomas danced through the Airbus defence but stubbed his foot as he was about to strike with just Coughlin to beat. For once Messi could not quite manage to find the net, but at least it showed that he’s human!
Jay Gibbs.
So, a thrilling fightback by the Cofis that showed the determination that runs through the side and I cannot think of many, if any, other teams in the league who could have secured a point after such a tough opening twenty five minutes or so. It goes without saying that we were all thrilled to get a point but it was interesting to see that the players seemed disappointed to not have won all three.
In fact, I also found out that there were one or two members of the Airbus fraternity who were just as disappointed as our players. Whilst waiting for Sean for our first post-match interview I was approached by one of the host directors who offered me some advice on how to behave at football matches. I won’t bore you with the finer details of our conversation but I gathered that he had not been too pleased with me celebrating Jay’s equaliser in front of the Airbus supporters, who I was walking past at the time. I don’t really expect, or require, life-lessons at football matches and we agreed to disagree, although I’m still not sure what the finer points of his advice were. Nothing could dampen my excitement at the side’s thrilling fightback however and, just as I was carrying out an interview with Jay for the club’s youtube channel, we were plunged into darkness as the stadium lights were switched off. Of course it was pure bad timing as we had to stop the interview in in mid flow but It’s much more fun to imagine that it was one final show of mock defiance from a disappointed member of the Airbus board!
Things would not get any easier for our new management team as our next opponents were our old friends from Halkyn Road. Holywell may not have been in the top tier for a few years but they’re certainly one of the most respected sides in North Wales. There are never any easy matches against them, especially under the guidance of John Haseldin and regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have taken part in some banter with the Wellmen’s manager in the past. Whilst it’s also true that Caernarfon Town supporters enjoy a ‘special’ relationship with him, there can be no doubt that he has done a great job with the club. We may have a great record over Holywell in recent seasons but not many clubs can say that and their visit to the Oval promised to be another thriller for the spectators.

Preparing for the Holywell match.
A good start to proceedings was required and the Cofis got one, racing to a two goal lead, courtesy of goals from Rhys Roberts and Clive Williams. We eventually ran out 4-2 winners with Rhys grabbing a second and Jay Gibbs wrapping up the points from the penalty spot but the Wellmen made the Cofis work hard for the points, with former Town striker Steve Lewis a handful all afternoon. It made me smile to hear him complaining with the referee after the match, and later on social media, that he should have had more decisions go his way because that’s exactly the kind of thing he’d say after a defeat when he played for us.
Rhys Roberts netted twice against Holywell. 
An interesting point about our goals on the day is that three of them came through headers directly from set-pieces, which is quite rare for us. I believe the players have been working on this aspect of play since the summer and it paid off against Holywell, who struggled with deliveries to their far post. Rhys Roberts was man of the match and quite right too. His two goals were invaluable on the day, but also his contribution at the back, where he partnered Gareth Edwards, was very impressive. Rhys was in and out of the side earlier in the campaign but has now cemented his place in the starting line-up and although he seems a quiet individual, he is quite obviously a leader and, as far as I’m concerned, no team can ever have enough of those.
As an added bonus to the afternoon, we heard that Airbus had lost at Denbigh and so our lead at the top of the league had extended to five points, although it’s worth noting that Denbigh have suddenly, and very quietly, climbed the table in recent weeks and are presently in second position.
The players enjoyed two weeks off after the victory over Holywell and I’m sure would have been counting the hours, or minutes, to our next match, a Welsh  Cup encounter with Welsh Premier League side Barry Town United, in front of the Sgorio cameras. This competition was very good to the club last season as we reached the semi-finals stage and enjoyed impressive victories over top tier outfits Carmarthen and Rhyl before eventually bowing out to Bala in a thriller at the Corbett Sports Stadium.
The Sgorio cameras at the Barry Town Cup tie.  
The Rhyl and Bala matches had been broadcasted live by Sgorio and had given the club plenty of exposure, and given the players a platform to show that they belong amongst the elite in Wales. Our tie with Barry was the standout fixture of the round and we were delighted that Sgorio had picked it as the live match of the weekend.
I was disappointed to learn that Jay Gibbs and Darren Thomas would be unavailable for the tie but still felt the squad had enough to win. It was never going to be easy but with the players of the calibre of Nathan Craig and Gareth Evans returning to the side it proved that Sean had quality options for the big match and that, despite the absence of two influential players, the starting eleven looked more than capable of getting the result we wanted.
There can be no doubt that the television cameras adds something to match day at the Oval, probably because we rarely have them at our ground, and the feeling I had as kick off approached was one of expectancy and not a little apprehension. It was good to see Iwan Williams at the match in his role as a guest analyst for Sgorio, and whilst I found it odd that he wasn’t wearing his Caernarfon Town tracksuit, I was not surprised to hear his positive comments about the team and club when I watched the coverage later that night.
Celebrating Breesey's opener.
The action got off to a frantic start and the visitors felt hard done by when Kayne Mclaggon stumbled in the penalty area in the second minute but the referee waved away his penalty shout. Jamie Breese showed Mclaggon how it should be done ninety seconds later when he took possession of a Brookwell pass on the edge of the penalty area and skipped past a defender before firing past Mike Lewis in front of the Rondo Stand. The Cofi Army loves Breesey, as do I, and in addition to putting us ahead, I thought he had one of his best matches in a Caernarfon shirt on the day. His first touch was excellent and, as always, he put in a hefty shift, constantly occupying the thoughts of the vistors’ backline with his intelligent running and impressive workrate. The goal gave the Cofis the belief to go toe to toe with Barry and we went on to dominate the first half, forcing visiting stopper Lewis into numerous saves, most notably to deny Nathan Craig and Gareth Edwards. When Nathan Craig secured a deserved second goal, it was one of the best I’ve ever seen anywhere, never mind at the Oval. I know everyone who is reading this will have already seen the goal and so won’t need reminding how special it was but, just to remind you, here’s the link to Sgorio’s video of the magical moment:  https://twitter.com/sgorio/status/937344995266195456 
Sean and Nathan taking a breather against Barry Town Utd.
It was a stunning strike by Nathan and something he is always capable of. I believe Nathan is one of the best players in Wales and we are lucky enough to see him score this type of goal for us on a regular basis so it was great that the cameras were there to share this one around the country. Our captain will always attract attention from those with an interest in the Welsh pyramid system because he is a special talent and has a real pedigree in the game and goals like this will just add to his already massive reputation.
Barry seemed to improve in the second half but Caernarfon were still on top and, although we didn’t manage to find the target after the break, I don’t think anyone could argue with the 2-0 scoreline. I was quite near the dugout at the end of the match and Sean and Richard were kicking every ball with the players as they saw the match out, and how good must it have been for our new manager to hear the Cofi Army giving their new chant of ‘Ain’t Nobody Like Sean Eardley’ an airing?
Sean enjoys the final moments of his side's impressive victory
in the televised Welsh Cup tie.
Nathan Craig was named man of the match by television commentator Malcolm Allen whilst Kevin Roberts was the supporters pick but, in all honesty, everyone wearing a Caernarfon shirt on the day could have had a legitimate claim for the accolade. Barry are a good side and are a perfect example of a Welsh Premier League outfit; Big and Strong but maybe a little uncomfortable on a real football pitch. That’s not being disrespectful to them, just an opinion that the FAW’s preference for teams to play on synthetic surfaces is having an adverse effect on them when they revert back to grass pitches. Something that stood out on the day for me was how well Barry manager Gavin Chesterfield spoke on camera after the match and, unlike Rhyl’s manager last season after we beat them, he refused to blame the referee or anyone else for their defeat, making it clear that the Cofis deserved victory. A class act.
As I carried out my post-match interview with our new manager I was reminded of a famous old saying: ‘The King is Dead, long live the King’.
The new King at the Oval is Sean Eardley, and he’s already proving that he knows how to rule.