Penrhiwceiber Rangers celebrate their 60th anniversary this year and the club from the Ardal South West will mark the occasion with the visit of high-flying Flint Town United in the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday, 25 September (2:30pm).
“We'll have our hands full with them as I've watched a few clips of their games this season and they have had some good results in fairness,” explained player-manager Dean Brown to FAW.cymru. “But there is a genuine belief within our team that we can give Flint a game and they will have their hands full with us too. Obviously, you have to have a bit of luck whoever you play, but after the last round the confidence amongst the boys is sky-high.”
The Tier 3 side are currently seventh in the Ardal South West table, and have progressed through the 3rd round of the JD Welsh Cup with victories over local rivals AFC Penrhiwceiber, Aberfan and West End, but it was the 3-0 win over Ammanford of the JD Cymru South in the last round that really made headlines. Goals from Brandon Hill and a brace from Joe Jenkins delivered one of the surprise results of the round, and a home draw against JD Cymru Premier side Flint Town United at the Glasbrook Field is the reward for a club that has continued to progress on and off the field despite suffering some difficult times recently.
“Our last manager Steve Haggett sadly passed away a couple of years ago,” explained Brown. “He was my godfather and he and my father were the best man at each other's weddings. When I turned 16 he asked me to come up to the club and it went from there really. Penrhiwceiber Rangers was a massive part of his life and I've taken on that role. It's hard to describe, but there's something inside you that just makes you keep going. Even when you feel like you need a break, you just can't let go. To see where the club is now to when Steve sadly left us, having won the league last year and now having this Welsh Cup run, I just wish he was here to see it. It means more than football.”
Although it is clearly a labour of love for Brown, combining the responsibility of playing and managing the side requires plenty of support. “The hardest part for me is concentrating on my own game so that I can put in a performance that I expect from every other player,” he added. “Sometimes you find yourself overthinking things about the game while it's going on and you lose your concentration. Thankfully, I have a really good management team around me in my assistant Lee Williams and captain Warren Jones along with coaches Daniel Trampelli and Ryan Roberts. We've got a good understanding between us, as it would be impossible to do everything on my own, and they're absolutely brilliant for me.”
Inconsistent results have made it a frustrating start to the new Ardal South West League season for the side from the Cynon Valley, but there have been plenty of positives for Brown and his management to take into one of the biggest games in their history. Neil Gibson's side are currently challenging at the top of the domestic top-flight following their promotion last season, and in veteran striker and serial JD Welsh Cup winner Michael Wilde they are quickly establishing themselves as a formidable outfit.
Flint Town United currently sit second in the JD Cymru Premier, but suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat to Haverfordwest County last weekend. Goals from Mark Cadwallader and a brace each from Jack Kenny and Wilde earned the side a convincing 5-0 home win over CPD Penrhyndeudraeth in the last round, and Gibson knows what it takes to deliver success in the JD Welsh Cup having lifted the trophy as player-manager of Prestatyn Town back in 2013. However, the side will not be taking Penrhiwceiber Rangers for granted, especially if the home side can attract some additional support to the Glasbrook Field on Saturday.
“It would mean a lot for the local community to come out and support us,” explained Brown. “Our boys work everyday, then train twice a week and they really put the effort in. We're fitter now than we have been in a long time, so to see a few hundred people come up and support them would be a deserved reward for the hard work that they put in. When you come out of the changing room and see a good support behind you it really gives you a lift.
“With the JD Welsh Cup there's a lot of prize money involved, and for a small club like this with the costs we have it really helps. It means we can start to build towards next season. There's been a lot of talk about the game since the draw was made but we've had to concentrate on our other fixtures first. The cup run has been great for us though, we've got a good little group who watch us regularly including a few kids, so it's really nice for them to see one of the bigger clubs coming down to play us in the Welsh Cup.”
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