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The hotly contested match dubbed the ‘Centre for Sporting Excellence derby’ between Trethomas Bluebirds and Risca United ended in a 1-1 draw with both sides feeling they could have left with three points.
Although Risca started the game top of the Ardal South East League, 11 points clear of Trethomas in sixth, the Bluebirds had five games in hand – meaning a loss would’ve certainly been worse for the ‘visiting’ Risca, who share the home ground with Trethomas.
An early goal for Bluebirds midfielder Charlie Loss threatened to take the game away from Risca before the tie had even started, but the Cuckoos refused to roll over.
Leon Thomas scored a screamer of a free kick into the top corner at the half hour mark to level the affair and that’s how it stayed.
There were some ugly scenes at the final whistle with goal scorer Loss seeing red and Risca manager Simon Berry getting into a shouting match with the opposition.
Wet and windy weather played a key role as the game got underway, with the wind in the face of Trethomas, who opened up as the slower of the two sides.
That didn’t last long however, as after just four minutes Gareth Tedstone slipped in Charlie Loss who tucked it into the bottom corner from an acute angle to send the ‘home’ fans into a frenzy.
The goal seemed to dent Risca’s confidence on the ball for the next ten minutes or so. The ball was rarely on the ground and the strong winds meant neither side could really get a hold of the game.
By the 15-minute-mark, the game was heating up even if the weather wasn’t. Referee Kevin Russell was handing out some stern warnings as both sides were showing their frustration.
Owen Cuddihy looked the liveliest for Risca, who were targeting Bluebirds right back Gareth Emmanuel with long balls over the top. Emmanuel coped well but Risca were beginning to see a bit more ball.
After 28 minutes, danger man Levi Rees found himself with a bit of space in the box and attempted a curling finish into the top corner. The Trethomas striker was disappointed to see his effort fizz narrowly wide however.
Just two-minutes later, Risca were awarded a controversial free kick on the edge of the area, bringing some jeers from the crowd of 100 or so. Ryan Bolter went into the book.
Bluebirds keeper Tomos Bodger spent some time lining up his four-man wall but for little reward. Leon Thomas’ superb curling effort went up and over the wall before finding the top right hand corner. Bodger was left watching as Risca equalized.
The goal hadn’t done much for the quality of the game however. Both sides ended the half scrapping for possession with long balls into the channels being the order of the day – despite the wind and driving rain.
Risca centre back Rhys Clayton was making it look quite easy however. He wouldn’t have looked out of place in midfield with the quality of his passing.
Tedstone had half a chance just before the whistle, but found his effort slashed into the side netting before the sides went into the break a goal apiece.
Trethomas had more of the ball in the opening 45 minutes, with Loss looking the best player in midfield. The Bluebirds had also threatened the opposition’s goal more and would have gone into half time mulling over missed chances.
Risca on the other hand would have been glad to go in all-square at the break. They caused some serious threat down the left hand side when they got forward, and the freekick which led to the goal all started there.
Although he had a decent enough half, Bluebirds coach Mark Dunford identified that Emmanuel was looking potentially vulnerable and made the swap for Alfie Jones.
The first big chance of the half fell to Rees once more. With ten goals this season he would have expected better with his shot from the edge of the area. Deflected wide for a corner.
From the corner, the ball bobbled around in the Risca box before landing at the feet of centre back Gwion Pugh-Jones, who like Rees, saw his effort slide past the post. Trethomas were beginning to turn the screw.
After 55 minutes the rain was pounding down hard and it was beginning to feel like a proper derby. Risca’s Daniel Spencer put a crunching tackle in the midfield that had both sides in each other’s faces before the referee handed out a yellow and sent everyone away.
This seemed to buoy the Cuckoos, who again targeted Trethomas’ right hand side, Cuddihy again asking questions as he skipped past Jones this time before firing wide.
The game was beginning to open up now, Trethomas countered the other way and had a huge appeal for a penalty. It’s waved off Kevin Russell who was looking to keep things free-flowing.
For the remaining 20 minutes or so it was table-topping Risca who were asking all the questions.
Lewis Ellis had a free header at the back post just before the 70th minute and the Trethomas bench was getting animated.
Moments later, Risca had two free hits from the edge of the area, Trethomas leaving far too much space as the fans became restless.
With 77 minutes gone, a big chance fell Risca’s way. A one-on-one save by Bodger saw the ball rebound to the feet of substitute Morgan Stead who should have buried it. The ball zipped wide however as audible gasps were heard around the ground.
The game became as scrappy as ever. Both sides were desperate not to lose as the automatic promotion spot seemed to creep into the mind of everyone involved.
Tackles were flying in but neither side was trying to slow the game down. Risca had a series of corners at the death but it wasn’t to be.
The full time whistle went at the same time a slightly late tackle went in by Loss, who was quickly confronted by the Risca team and coach – who let his feelings known to Loss and the referee.
In the confusion of it all, Loss was sent off for his troubles. A silly dismissal that otherwise ruined a man-of-the-match performance.
Overall, a draw was a fair result. Both teams fought hard until the end but there was to be no winner.
Trethomas will wake up the happier side, moving up one spot to fifth with four games in hand and a ten point gap over Risca, who remain top of the league.
Risca host Blaenavon Blues this Friday night while the Bluebirds face Lliswerry at home on Saturday.
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