As a top-flight team, Aberystwyth Town are used to welcoming the big guns of Welsh football to their Park Avenue stadium. But it was fourth-tier outfit Aber Valley FC who brought the biggest away following Park Avenue has ever seen when the two sides clashed in the second round of the Welsh Cup on the weekend.
Six coaches packed with Aber Valley fans made the trip to Ceredigion, with around 600 fans cheering on the Abertridwr-based side.
But despite a 9-0 defeat, everyone involved with the club can hold their heads high.
Just a few years ago, the club was struggling for numbers and facing an uphill battle to survive.
But with a strong focus on the community it represents, the club managed to turn its fortunes around.
Being drawn against a team of Aberystwyth’s stature would have been unthinkable just a short time ago, but the fixture was a reward for years of hard work both on and off the field.
In the Aber Valley dugout were coaches Neil Lloyd-Meek and Dean Wood – a former player whose playing days were ended by injury.
Following the game, Wood told Caerphilly Observer: “We have such a good group of players and to take six coaches of supporters with us is crazy.
“It shows that when you engage with the community, you reap the rewards.
“We had people travelling up from across the Aber Valley and the Caerphilly basin. My phone didn’t stop buzzing from about Thursday onwards.
“After the game, we had people telling us to be proud of what we have achieved.”
Aber Valley nearly took a 1-0 lead early on in the game, but were denied by Aberystwyth’s Slovenian goalkeeper Gregor Zabret, formerly of Swansea City.
Wood said: “We should have been 1-0 up. It was a massive chance but the keeper saved.
“In the end, fitness and quality showed. Aberystwyth were so good on the ball, so we can’t be disheartened.”
He added: “It looks like a hammering but you can’t fault the effort and hard work our players put into this.”
The club has also received plaudits off the field in recent weeks, being nominated for the FAW Community Club of the Year Award.
Aber Valley is one of six teams from across Wales nominated for the award, having been crowned Community Club of the Year for South Wales.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the club has been running foodbanks at the Aber Hotel, after being inspired by the work of England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been a vocal campaigner against child hunger.
The foodbank has been running every Saturday since November, while a boot donation scheme has also been set up, where old unused football boots are donated to children in the village.
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