In a month where Taffs Well FC have been undergoing a digital revolution, with representation on all major social media sites and the creation of this website, it's also been no secret that there have been a few changes in personnel at the club over the past couple of months. It's not often your captain, top goal scorer and manager leave the club with a couple of weeks. With this being the case, fans of the club were feeling sceptical going into the match against an Ammanford, a club sitting comfortably in the top half of the table. The pre-match chatter revolved around how we are going to replace the experience lost, how we are going to ensure we keep tight at the back and where the goals were going to come from.
To help put this into context. following the high of a 5-2 win against local rivals Pontypridd Town towards the end of September, Taffs Well went on to lose their five subsequent matches, including a last minute loss in a cup game against a Chepstow Town team in Division Two.
Things were looking as bleak as the November weather, which had been so wet and miserable that it resulted in the cancellation of two home games. A lack of games, consistency and experience all pointed to signs that picking up points on the road was going to be a very difficult challenge.
Thankfully it was a challenge the young team successfully manoeuvred. Scott Hayward took the captain's armband in Richard French's absence and caretaker manager Adrian Needs handed a debut start to Harry Gidman, with usual centre back Liam Martin moving to left back. Aaron "Haz" Thomas completed the back four in his usual position on the right-hand side. Youth product Ethan Cann and the scarily talented Jack Fox held the centre of midfield with attacking options across the park from , Dylan Jones, Kieron Proctor and top goalscorer Jordan Carey feeding Sam O'Sullivan upfront in his natural position.
The first half was a hugely enjoyable for the Taffs supporters. Or it would have been but for the bitterness of the cold weather. It was evil. It was, however, made measurably better by the atmosphere of the Ammanford crowd, led by their head cheerleader, the drum thumping, one man crowd that is the irreplaceable Richie Phillips. Ammanford has been my favourite away trip with Taffs Well and I look forward to coming back each season.
It was a strong display from the Wellmen in the first half, with Fox making early approaches towards the opposition goal. A shot from outside the box skimmed past the wrong side of the post to send a warning. It was Fox again who reacted to a cleared Proctor cross and hit the ball sweetly, thumping the post. Another shot rang off the cross bar before the goals began to come in the last ten minutes.
It was Fox who provided the assist through ball for the first goal, latched onto by Jordan Carey who slotted the ball beautifully past the feet of the keeper into the bottom right. The keeper fell victim to the same exact same ball in the same place for the second goal as Sam O'Sullivan calmly directly his shot to the bottom right again. At this point the Well fans thought Christmas had come early, whilst the Ammanford faithfully became uncharicteristically quiet. The third and final goal, all but finishing the game as a competition, came in extra time of the first half and was the result of a superb run from Dylan Jones, beginning near the half way line. Jones drove into the box forcing a save from the outstretched foot of the goalie, which then deflected it into the path of a well-placed Carey, who easily tapped the ball into the open net.
The second half was a muted affair. A number of the brave souls who had come to see their club had retreated to the clubhouse or back to the warmth of their homes. The Ammanford side came out early with some dangerous attacks and Taffs Well looked in two minds as to whether they should sit back and soak up the pressure or to push forward and look for more goals. After a period of instability the game evened out and fell into a stalemate. Ammanford soon felt the game slip away and both teams looked eager for the final whistle. When it came, the relief on the faces of this young galvanised team was palpable, as the crowds sought refuge from the cold.
This may not be the turning point for the Wellmen, but it's a definite step in the right direction. Despite recent issues this team has shown it's capable of mixing it with the other teams in the league and hopefully can build upon this momentum. This will not be an easy task given the next team we play, the high-flying Swansea University away. However, with a win in the locker this gives us the best chance to get the points and move up the table.
As a fan I want to put on record my thanks to those who have recently left the club. I wish them all the best in their careers and thank them for each time they represented the club.
Check out the highlights from the game below.