There are not many football managers and teams who can look back on their season and reflect that they probably achieved all of the aims they had set themselves back in the previous August.
But Andy Crowe and his CP Llanandras squad can justifiably maintain they ticked almost all of the boxes after their inaugural campaign in the Mid Wales League (South).
True, these aims were not wildly optimistic, but then given the move from Herefordshire League football to the Mid Wales set up, it was only right they should be realistic.
Among the aims was to fufil the 36-game fixture list and this was done with relative ease – there were only a couple of matches in which CP turned out with either the bare eleven or with maybe only one substitute. So, for those concerned about this aspect – and I hold my hands up to being one of them – we need not have had too many worries.
Another stated aim was not to finish bottom of the Mid Wales League (South) and this target was achieved with more than a bit to spare as CP Llanandras ended the season in 14th place in the 19-strong division. Andy Crowe always wanted to win the ‘mini-league’ at the foot of the table and he and his side did this courtesy of a decent finish to the season.
Yes, the first win was a long time coming – they had to wait until 21 November to record three points and I am pretty sure I was the only one there to see it – well, some of it. This was not altogether surprising as the match was played in a monsoon on the John Beddoes School field and those with any sense at all watched the game on the town ground where they could at least shelter in the stand.
It is not often my predictions come right, but I do remember watching the Penybont Athletic side take the field that day and then turning to ‘Crowie’ and saying: ‘If you don’t win today, you will never win’, as there was a number of the ‘bont boys who clearly didn’t fancy it at all.
As the season went on, so the performances and gradually the results improved with a run of three wins in five games in February and March that saw CP start to pull away from the basement. This was ended by a serious 11-0 spanking at Builth Wells, but in truth this was the only real hiding the side took all season and Builth were a class above most other sides in the division.
CP Llanandras were unlucky not to reach the Newcastle Cup final where they lost a penalty shoot-out against Bishops Castle in the semi-finals after Merv Stephens’ screamer had put them back into a game most neutrals (and even some from Bishops Castle) felt they had deserved to win.
Perhaps the crowning moment of the season came on the final day of the league campaign when CP Llanandras thumped Knighton Town 4-1 at Bryn-y-Castell with Mark Ammonds netting a hat-trick including a spectacular long-range effort.
As one long-standing fan said to me after that result: ‘If someone would have told me that Presteigne’s third team would go to Knighton’s first team and beat them like that, I would have laughed at them.’ Knighton put the scale of that achievement in perspective the following week by deservedly beating Presteigne Reserves at Llanandras Park.
The loss of Tim Broome as first-team manager led to a restructuring of the club that means we shall not be running CP Llanandras next season which is a shame but was unavoidable. But it was an experiment that was well worth running and – who knows – maybe it is something we could come back to in the future. After all, local football at this level is all about giving lads the chance to play at a reasonable level and, of all its objectives at the start of the season, CP Llanandras certainly achieved that one.
He was eventually proved right and so will head into the Reserves’ Mid Wales League (South) season with renewed optimism as the CP Llanandras players he takes with him will surely have benefited from the experience of a season at that level.
Les Dickerson Invitation Cup final
Sunday 23 May
Despite a spirited second-half comeback, CP Llanandras’ hopes of rounding off their season with a trophy came to nothing as they were beaten by the odd goal in five at Radnor Valley.
Andy Crowe’s side enjoyed its fair share of possession in the first half but they were struggling to deal with Radnor Valley’s long-ball game and CP’s manager admitted his side had been second best at times.
CP Llanandras stepped up their game after the interval but were twice more caught on the counter-attack and found themselves 3-0 down and seemingly out of the game.
But Mark Ammonds gave them hope when he scored to make it 3-1, while Steve Marsh then popped up with a second goal for CP Llanandras with around five minutes remaining.
But Radnor held out for the victory and CP Llanandras were left to rue what might have been.
Andy Crowe felt his side had not really performed to its best and had struggled with Radnor Valley’s tactics in the first half.
“I am a bit disappointed as we just didn’t deal with their long balls during that first half,” he said.
“It was very hot which didn’t help, although of course it was very hot for Radnor too, but somehow we were just not on the pace.
“Our shape was all wrong for periods of the game while we were just not working hard enough in the middle of the park and if we are not ‘at it’ then we are always going to struggle.
“As strange it might sound at 2-0 down I thought we were still very much in the game, but their third goal killed us off,” he added.
Knighton Town 1 v 4 CP Llanandras
Mid Wales League (South)
Saturday 15 March
CP Llanandras rounded off their Mid Wales League (South) season in the best possible style as they came away from Bryn-y-Castell with a convincing victory over Knighton Town.
“If you had told me in the late seventies or early eighties that Presteigne’s third team would beat Knighton’s first team I would never have believed you,” he said.
Make no mistake, CP Llanandras were very good value for this win, although there is no doubt that Knighton’s cause was hardly helped when Lee Sutton got himself sent off after less than a quarter-of-an-hour.
That opening 15 minutes saw the best and the worst of ‘Sooty’ who scored with a neat header following a cross in from the right, and who was then sent off for two yellow cards in as many minutes.
Yes, there were some mitigating circumstances in that ‘Sooty’ was clearly fouled shortly before the first yellow card was flourished in his direction, but nothing was given. However, if you speak to a referee in the way he did and then don’t heed the warnings to back off, then there is every chance you are going to have first chance of the hot water.
CP Llanandras had enough character to take advantage of the extra man, although for much of the first half there was little to choose between the sides.
‘Crowie’s’ side drew level when Mark Ammonds picked out Tom Gibbs with a neat through ball but there will still a bit to do before Gibbs beat the home side’s goalkeeper with a neat finish.
With the game all square at 1-1 at half-time, the travelling CP support – who pretty much outnumbered the home fans – felt the side was capable of going on and winning with a bit to spare.
But for some reason CP were way off the pace at the start of the second half and Andy Crowe admitted they could easily have paid the price.
“We were terrible and we seem to do it every week especially if we have ended the first half well,” he said.
“But once we got the second goal it was always going to be more difficult for them as they were going to have to risk more at the back,” he added.
So it proved as Mark Ammonds took centre stage with a fine hat-trick as CP Llanandras went on to win in fine style.
Twice Mark ran on before beating the advancing goalkeeper with left-foot drives into the bottom corner, but he saved the best for last.
Andy Crowe was delighted with the overall team showing as the three points meant his side had a chance of climbing above both Radnor Valley and Newbridge Reserves in the table.
“The lads did well to be fair,” he said. “We could go up a couple of places and I’d like to as we should really have got 30 points this season.
“Looking back at the fixtures and the results we have had we deserve really to be above Radnor,” he added.
Talgarth Town 4 v 2 CP Llanandras
Mid Wales League (South)
Saturday 8 May
“We went there with no recognised keeper as Mark Ammonds and Jordan Pritchard were both working and Maurice Murphy was still away,” he explained.
“So John Bright went in goal for the first half and Merv Stephens for the second half.
“We lacked a bit of confidence at the back in the opening minutes especially in the blustery conditions when they were using the long ball to McNamara and the other quick lad they had got up front so were turning the back four,” he added.
This policy paid almost immediate dividends for the home side who took the lead after only five minutes when John Bright parried an initial shot only for a Talgarth player to seize on the loose ball and drive it home.
‘Crowie’ admitted his side was struggling with the pace Talgarth had when going forward and he must have been fearing the worst when the home side doubled its lead after around 20 minutes.
The CP Llanandras boss was pleased by the way in which his side rallied to force their way back into the game.
“We started defending a bit higher up the pitch which meant we were catching them offside and with the windy conditions the ball was skidding through for goal kicks,” he said.
“We then got a goal back through Tom Gibbs with a stunning volley from about 25 yards and we then had two one-on-ones with the keeper – one where we did lob Bryan Kirkham only for the ball to catch in the wind and blow wide!
With CP Llanandras 2-1 down at half-time there were grounds for optimism, not least because ‘Crowie’s’ side was playing down the slope in the second period.
But, when the equaliser came there was an element of good fortune about it as they benefited from a rare Bryan Kirkham goalkeeping error.
“We got a free kick within about five minutes of the re-start – Tom Hooper put a soft one in around the wall and across the floor,” explained ‘Crowie’.
“It went through Bryan Kirkham’s legs and into the back of the net so, while it was a bit of a soft goal, we were back in the game at 2-2.
“But then like so many of our games lately the next goal was going to be crucial and without a proper keeper it was always likely it was going to be them rather than us,” he added.
CP Llanandras created other good chances and ‘Crowie’ was of the view that on another day they might have taken a point from the game.
While clearly disappointed by the final result Andy Crowe admitted it is a measure of how far CP Llanandras have come in recent weeks as he agreed there was a stage in the season when they could have lost such a game by seven or eight goals.
He will now be looking for a strong finish to the season in CP Llanandras’ final fixture when they will head to Knighton Town on Saturday 15 May.
Rhayader Town Reserves 2 v 1 CP Llanandras
Mid Wales League (South)
Tuesday 4 May
CP Llanandras’ manager Andy Crowe hailed his side’s battling performance in the 2-1 defeat at Rhayader Town Reserves as further evidence of how far the side has come over the final third of the season.
“Even six or seven weeks ago that sort of game would have proved a game too far,” he admitted.
“We are playing lads out of position at the moment and at least they are digging in and are doing the job – they know now they have to do what is asked of them.
“We set out our stall as we have done in the last couple of games to go four-four-two with one lad off the front dropping as most teams we have played lately play three across the middle which makes it hard work.
“We battled well, closed them down quickly while they were big and physical, but they were a good side and had three or four really good lads in there,” he added.
In the first half, Rhayader Town Reserves created a couple of half-chances but nothing on target so as to seriously trouble Mark Ammonds who had to play in goal as Maurice Murphy was stranded in Ireland due to the volcanic dust grounding his flight.
‘Crowie’ said his side soon discovered they were able to make inroads down the flanks by taking on the home side’s full backs and it was from here that CP Llanandras surprised Rhayader by taking a first-half lead.
“It was from a position out wide that we got in a nice cross and Jammer [James Watkins] was about five yards out and he banged the ball home,” he said.
“Then we had another good chance just before half-time which resulted in Jammer going off injured as the keeper landed on him twisting his ankle.
“They pushed on in the first 10-15 minutes of the second half as we always knew they were going to and then John Bright got injured.
“It was while we were sorting that out and getting organised after losing somebody out of the back four that they scored an equaliser,” he added.
‘Crowie’ admitted his side’s heads went down for 10 minutes as a result of this setback and Rhayader Town Reserves twice went close to taking the lead, but CP Llanandras then regrouped.
“We picked it up again and Jamie Allen had a chance but headed straight at the keeper,” he said.
“But they went straight up the other end and made it 2-1, while we had one other good opportunity with about five minutes to go,” added ‘Crowie’.
This was CP Llanandras’ first defeat in four league outings, three of which have been away and there is no doubt that the level of performance has gone up in recent weeks.
It will probably have to go up another notch this coming weekend when they head to a Talgarth Town side that has consistently been up towards the top of the table throughout the Mid Wales League (South) season.
Newcastle 0 v 0 CP Llanandras
Mid Wales League (South)
Saturday 1 May
CP Llanandras came away from south Shropshire with a hard-earned point after a battling display from what was largely a makeshift side.
Manager Andy Crowe was delighted with his team’s showing as they travelled with only 12 players and he had to shuffle what pack he did have to cover key areas of the pitch.
“We went there with an untried back four that included Danny White and Tom Hooper playing as a brand new centre-back pairing, but they rose to the challenge and both played very well,” he said.
“In the first half we pretty much cancelled each other out as there was no real threat in final third from either side although they did pose some kind of threat when they had free headers from a couple of set pieces.
“But after the break they pushed on a bit more looking for the breakthrough and this actually worked to our advantage as it allowed us to counter-attack more,” he added.
There was a potential turning point on 60 minutes when Mike Lewis picked up his second yellow card of the afternoon and so CP Llanandras were reduced to 10 men for the final half hour of the game.
But this allowed for an even more open game and again this played to CP’s advantage as they continued to pose a threat on the break.
Newcastle were always going to have their moments but they didn’t create too many clear cut chances with Jordan Pritchard largely untroubled in the CP Llanandras goal.
Andy Crowe felt this was yet more evidence of the improvement his side has made in recent weeks.
“We could have nicked it about five minutes from time when a long ball forward glanced off a defender’s head and fell nicely for Tom Gibbs.
“But Tom fired wide across the face of goal after racing on to the ball.
“But it was an excellent point – Newcastle were as we expected – big and physical – but we dug in and matched them and were good value for the point especially as we had a very young side out for this one,” he added.
CP Llanandras will have a swift turn around as they are next in action on Tuesday 4 May when they will head to Rhayader Town Reserves for a Mid Wales League (South) game that is due to kick off at 7.30pm.
Sennybridge 0 v 0 CP Llanandras
Mid Wales League (South)
Sunday 25 April
When someone refers on a website to a game as being: ‘quite possibly the most boring, pointless game of football ever’, somehow you get the feeling that this might not have been a classic.
CP Llanandras manager Andy Crowe admitted this had not been the finest game of the season but he was still pleased to have taken a point from the game.
“We applied ourselves quite well in the first half but there weren’t many clear cut chances throughout the whole game although we did hit the cross bar with about 10 minutes to go,” he said.
“It wasn’t a classic and I suppose a hard-fought draw was a fair result, really.
“The pitch wasn’t great but then in fairness it was the same for both teams,” he added.
‘Crowie’ said Sennybridge were a big, strong side and he felt they might have caused his side more problems than they did.
“They were quite big and physical but both sides did try to win the game in the last 20 minutes which was probably the best part of the game,” he said.
“But the pitch wasn’t the greatest as the grass was a bit long, while it was very uneven and a bit rutted but I think that is just the nature of it,” he added.
‘Crowie’ now faces the challenge of pulling together a squad to go to Newcastle on Saturday 1 May and he already has potential headaches as he is without a recognised centre-half.
A detailed preview of that game will appear on the site later in the week, while the kick off at Newcastle on Saturday will be at 2.30pm.
CP Llanandras 3 v 2 Llandrindod Wells Colts
Mid Wales League (South)
Saturday 17 April
CP Llanandras picked up their fifth league win of the season as they climbed above Radnor Valley to 15th place in the Mid Wales League (South) table courtesy of their 3-2 home win over Llandrindod Wells Colts.
Substitute Tom Gibbs will quite rightly take the bulk of the plaudits from this one after he netted a hat-trick for CP Llanandras as the home side added to the Colts’ woes.
The visitors arrived at the John Beddoes School field without a league win since November, but no doubt aware that bottom side St Harmon had left with all three points from their visit to CP a week earlier, so this would have given the visitors grounds for optimism.
CP Llanandras’ boss Andy Crowe was well aware of the potential pitfalls involved in this game and was pleased his side had been up to the task.
“They would have looked at the St Harmon result the week before and would have thought: ‘We have got a chance there’, but I didn’t think they were as good as when we played them earlier in the season,” he said.
“Whether that is because they have lost a few players or just because of the position we are all in, I don’t know.
“We’re just playing for pride now in the next five or six games,” he added.
After a goal-less first half in which the hot conditions and firm pitch played their part, ‘Crowie’ felt his side had got to grips with the game.
“We were too lacklustre in midfield and gave them too much of the ball, but once we got to grips with it it always looked a matter of when we would score rather than if we would score,” he said.
“They were quite organised in midfield but they didn’t have much threat in the final third so our boys at the back were coping quite well and [goalkeeper] Maurice [Murphy] didn’t have much to do.
“We created several good chances in the first half but just didn’t convert them,” he said.
The team talk after a goal-less first 45 minutes centred on the need to put pressure on the visiting goalkeeper – the feeling was that if CP Llanandras were able to do this then the goals would come.
Andy Crowe felt the introduction of Tom Gibbs early in the second period proved the turning point as he was to link well up front with another substitute Merv Stephens.
“The ball fell nicely for Gibbsy for two goals while his third one was probably the best strike from a narrow angle,” he said.
“We went 2-0 up and they then got one back through and own goal before we went 3-1 ahead and they then got a penalty late on.
“But generally we were well worth the win and it could have been by more goals,” he added.
CP Llanandras have now completed their home league fixtures so will face four successive away trips to round off their league season.
Who are CP Llanandras?
CP Llanandras are the latest incarnation of Presteigne’s third team. Known as Presteigne Colts, they competed for a number of years in the Herefordshire League but the committee opted to switch them to the Mid Wales League (South) for the 2009-10 season.
The reasons for this were many and varied, but uppermost among these were the belief that it would offer a better standard of football, as well as better facilities that would lead to the retention and recruitment of players.
Who have we got and how did we do?
For all of CP Llanandras’ fixtures and results, as well as access to a fans forum, why not try the BBC Wales site.