Bryntirion Athletic
Bryntirion Park

Ground No. 193
Visited - Saturday 5th September 2009
Result - Bryntirion Athletic 0-1 Pontardawe Town
Competition - Welsh League Division One
Attendance - 79 (headcount)

When Celtic Crusaders announced that they'd be leaving the Brewery Field at the end of 2009, then it made me kick myself. I'd turned down the opportunity of going there with Wigan earlier in the season to go camping instead, not something I’d been majorly fussed about at the time, thinking I'd just do it next year, but the fickle hand of groundhopping fate was waiting in the wings to turn once more, just as it had done at Scarborough and Hendon, where I'd made the mistake of passing up opportunities to go, thinking the clubs had passed their crisis point and would still be around for a more suitable time.... Fortunately though with this ground, there was still one game left, and luckily it fell on a day that I had no particular plans, so Celtic's final game of the season against Huddersfield was readily pencilled in, but with a 6pm kick-off, then the opportunity for a double presented itself.

A quick look down the fixtures and... Bridgend were away. Bugger! My Welsh geographical knowledge isn't great, but thankfully I didn't have to go too far down the list before discovering that Bryntirion Athletic is nearby, so their match with Pontardawe Town was quickly circled to make the most of the trip down to south Wales.

Setting off just before 8am, the journey went fairly well, a quick change in Shrewsbury before arriving into Bridgend just after midday. Situated halfway between Cardiff and Swansea, the town sits on the edge of the valleys, and came to national attention recently due to a spate of suicides. Locals met media questions as to why there was such a high rate with the response “there’s nothing else to do here…” Walking around the town beforehand, it did perhaps feel less vibrant than others, but there are certainly worse out there, and if nothing else, the Victorian public toilets on Derwen Road are worth a visit in themselves! Conveniences aside, then having had a look round, I started to make my way up to Bryntirion, a sprawling suburb located on the western edge of the town.

The club started life in 1956 and for the first 30 years played in amateur leagues, before taking the decision in 1986 to ground share with Bridgend Town at their former Coychurch Road ground. They played there for 10 years before moving back to Bryntirion in 1997, their own ground having been updated for grading requirements. The club prides itself on its community links, running teams for all ages, and the ground reflects that. After going in through the main entrance and adjacent car park there are two pitches side-by-side, with one for the youth teams. Focussing on the senior pitch though, it has been extensively developed of late, with a luxurious clubhouse, incorporating the dressing rooms built in 2000, and hard standing recently added on all four sides. The near side consists of a steep slope on which a small stand sits atop of, offering a great view, with more hard standing running towards the near corner offering another elevated perspective away from pitch side. The stand itself sits in the centre and contains 85 seats in the clubs colours of blue.

Having taken a few pictures, then the game got underway and immediately it went through my mind of the arguments you could have amongst the groundhopping community. Sitting in the stand you were not only treated to an ample view of the game in front of you, but on the adjacent pitch, a youth team game which was also kicking off at 2:30! There are those who would happily count it as two grounds ticked, albeit not myself, however as the first half turned into a pretty dire match then I was vaguely contemplating going over and watching the U16’s instead! Speaking to a club member during the game, apparently the visitors, Pontardawe were bottom of the table beforehand (something I really ought to have known myself, even if there wasn't a table in the programme). This came as a real surprise, as they dominated the game, looking much stronger than the home side for the first hour or so. There was an incident in the 18th minute when the home ‘keeper, Rory McCreesh, misjudged a big kick, seeing the ball bounce over his head, only for Town’s number 10 to race past him and knock it towards the net from an angle. Fortunately for Bryn’s number 1, there was a defender getting back to clear it, but it didn’t stop the Pontardawe players testing him at every opportunity after that with long range efforts when he was any further than a few yards off his line! As the visitors continued to dominate, then he made up for the mistake with a number of good saves, and it wasn’t until the 57th minute when Pontardawe eventually took a deserved lead thanks to their number 11 Stuart Hoskins who clinically finished from just outside the area, knocking a lay-off beautifully into the bottom corner. This woke-up the home side and they bossed the rest of the match, the ball rarely coming out of the visitors' half after that, but despite bringing on Jonathan Brown, a Welsh U21 international who looked a cut above, they couldn't make the pressure tell, and the game finished with all three points to Pontardawe.

After leaving, then I made my way back towards the centre of town and ready for a change in sport to see Celtic Crusaders in their final game at the Brewery Field, more of which can be read about here, before heading home later in the evening.

Overall, it had been a good day out. I’d been glad to take the opportunity of a double at Bryntirion Park, the ground has been developed to a good standard, at least the equivalent of Step 5 in England and with a decent clubhouse and friendly welcome, then it’s worth a visit, especially if you’re one of those strange people who would choose to count it as two grounds visited!

Croeso I Clwb Peldroed Bryntirion

Entrance to the Ground

The Clubhouse

The Near Side

The Main Stand

Ready for Kick Off

The Near End

The Near Side

The Far End

The Far Side

Bryntirion Park Panoramic

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