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Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Home of The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club aka The New Saints or TNS, once known as Total Network Solutions.

Scene of the most recent historical achievement of Dumbarton FC, the mighty Sons of the Rock.

Since The New Saints play in the Welsh Premier League this also counts as a Welsh Football ground.

The ground is more or less in the middle of nowhere, across the main road which by-passes the town of Oswestry and up a narrow unlit road. And it doesn’t have much in the way of dedicated parking spaces.

Entrance Gates:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

From southwest. The structure on this side is a TV camera platform.

Park Hall Stadium from Southwest.

Main Stand from southwest. The word stand isn’t really appropriate. The brick structure is more like a social club with a small balcony fronting onto the pitch. It doesn’t seem to have seats. The covered area to the left here does, though:-

Main Stand from Southwest, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Main stand and north terracing/stand from southwest:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Stadium from main stand, showing TV platform:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry from Main Stand

Pitch and TV platform from northeast:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, from northeast.

Pitch and East terracing from northeast:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Pitch and East terracing

North Terracing/Stand:-

Park Hall Stadium Main Stand

Camera platform from north:-

Camer Platform, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Main stand and covered terracing from north terracing:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Teams Shake Hands, Irn Bru Cup Semi-final, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Feb 2018:-

Teams Shake Hands, Irn Bru Cup Semi-final, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Feb 2018

Oswestry

The name is enough to bring on a warm glow for any Sons fan, more so to one who was there that unforgettable night, shrouded now in mystic memory.

Not that it was an unalloyed delight. For three-quarters of the game we weren’t in it – and it was a pretty glum experience. I was wondering why I had travelled all that way only for us to surrender meekly. Still we weren’t exactly out of it, not even when The New Saints scored early on the second half. But we gradually started to push forward and even got a couple of crosses in.

Then the moment it all changed with that pass from Kyle Hutton to Danny Handling, the sublime run from Mark Stewart to take away the defender and leave space for the shot, the shot itself, the outburst of almost disbelieving delirium, Danny Handling running up the park in delight, Sons fans applauding and shouting with a kind of relief.

Then a few minutes later the ironic cheers when the referee finally gave a free-kick against their defence for fouling Christian Nade, who’d been getting no joy up till that point.

Up stepped Froxy with that beautiful, beautiful, sublime strike into Sons legend. If his goal at Dunfermline earlier that season hadn’t already made him one, this certainly confirmed it.

Below are the game’s (short) higlights – with Welsh commentary.

Watch Kyle Hutton’s reaction to Froxy’s goal (at about 2 minutes seven seconds in.) It looks like he’s thinking, “Did that just happen?”

Sometimes the football gods are with you, at others not. Pity the final wasn’t so memorable, but that was another story.

Oswestry, however, will stay with me forever.

I took photographs, naturally, of the ground and the town, all coming up.

And of course I have already posted the video of the celebrations at the final whistle.

We’ll Always Have Oswestry

Sons have parted company with manager Stevie Aitken.

I can’t say it comes as a surprise. The fans forum site Pie and Bovril (aka the Pie Shop) has been alive for weeks with people clamouring either for him to resign or be sacked.

Results this season have been so disappointing, notwithstanding a long injury list, that it was almost inevitable he would have to go.

Many blamed his odd decisions for the loss in the play-off final in May and a perception that he was wedded to defensive football certainly didn’t help his cause.

He did keep us up in Tier 2 for an extra two seasons with quite a few notable wins against “big” teams and got us to the Challenge Cup final last term but again his negative approach to that game annoyed many fans.

The high point of his tenure though was the semi-final game against the New Saints at Oswestry. Being there for that was an incredible experience – even if for the first hour it felt like purgatory. Two great strikes more or less out of the blue saved us that day and rescued a poor season.

Now his tenure as manager ends even if he lasted longer than many at the Rock.

So long, Stevie, and thanks for (some of) the memories. It was time for you to go though.

The New Saints 1-2 Dumbarton

Scottish Challenge Cup*, Semi-final, Park Hall Stadium, 17/2/18

I was at Oswestry!

This is a boast that may be overtaken in a month or so’s time. Or not as the case may be.

Whatever, I was there when the mighty Sons played their first national cup semi-final in 44 years and reached their first national final for 106 years. It’s historic stuff.

Mind you I couldn’t see us achieving that heady goal at any time during the first half. We started poorly and allowed them to play from the outset. They were neat and tidy, passed the ball well, hit the bar with their first attack and continued to look threatening without managing to test Scott Gallacher in goal. I don’t know what the first half possession stats were but we didn’t have much of it that’s for sure. We barely crossed the halfway line and when we did failed to muster any sort of threat on their goal.

I thought it was all over when they scored early on in the second half. Their winger got past stop-gap left back David Smith (a midfielder turned into a makeshift right-back last season) and put in a low cross which from where I was sitting Scottt Gallacher seemed to spill and it fell to the scorer.

The game changed after around the hour mark when Calum Gallagher and Iain Russell were replaced by Mark Stewart and Liam Burt and we started to play.

Still the equaliser was a surprise as we had looked toothless even when we got the ball in their area. It was beautifully worked though with Kyle Hutton winning the ball in midfield before strolling forward and feeding Danny Handling who made space for himself and fairly thumped it past the keeper.

In a hairy moment Scott Gallacher made a one-handed stop for a header after a corner just before the ref whistled for an infringement.

Then. Froxy.

He replaced scorer Danny Handling and slotted into right midfield. I’d watched him at the half-time kick-about and he didn’t look fit to me, but sometimes he doesn’t have to be fit.

It was a free kick given for a foul against Christian Nade (his legs have gone; I don’t know how he lasted the full 94 minutes) – the first he’d got all game despite their centre half being all over him at times. I thought it was too central but Froxy is Froxy, that left foot is something else. Bang. Top left corner. Cue delirium.

It felt like very late on but there were still about ten minutes to get through before the final whistle and I nearly had heart failure when Scott Gallacher had to juggle a shot that must have swerved in the air.

Considering that due to injuries we also had to play a centre half at right back and our midfield wasn’t at its strongest this was an amazing result.

We had only two shots on target in the whole game but they both hit the back of the net. That’s football.

Here’s a video of the scenes after the final whistle. Click on the picture to get to video:-

Sons' Victory Celebrations At Park Hall Stadium Oswestry

*Irn Bru Cup

Morton 3-0 Dumbarton

Scottish Cup, Round Five, Cappielow Park, 10/2/18.

So that’s us out of the cup then. Doesn’t look like it was a good day for us at all. We seem to be really toiling.

Six points behind 8th place in the league now too almost certainly means we’ll be in the relegation play-offs. I can’t see us making up the gap especially with all the postponed games we need to catch up on.

Next up is the Challenge Cup sem-final against The New Saints in Oswestry on Saturday 17th. Catch it live on S4C if you can’t get to the game. Kick-off is 7.35 I think.

It’ll be a change and new experience for the fans. A bit of pressure off for the players too, though arguably today was too. And they’ve got to go again in the league the Tuesday after.

I had some optimism about this game when the draw was made but that’s just about evaporated now what with recent results.

Still, you never know.

Semi-Final Draw

So it’s off to Oswestry, to play a Welsh team, in England, in a Scottish cup competition. The ways of the modern football world are bizarre.

We’ve drawn The New Saints away in the Challenge Cup*.

It’s a long way but I’ll need to keep the weekend of the 17th and 18th of February free, just in case.

*Irn Bru Cup.

More Names

As far as misleading names are concerned the worst offender in British football (in the link to geography sense and in all other respects too) comes from outwith Scotland.

It was/is the Welsh League side, Total Network Solutions, an amalgamation of teams from Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain in Wales and Oswestry in England. Since the sponsorship that gave them that name has lapsed, they have now morphed into The New Saints – much better, but still uninformative.

The Welsh League made up for this lapse by having the best named club in the UK.

Big Rab mentioned in a comment the now defunct Glenbuck Cherrypickers who might have got this accolade. The famous Liverpool manager Bill Shankly (and his brother Bob – who has a stand named for him at Dundee’s Dens Park ground) once played for them.

Ultimately, though, I must say take a bow, the once Newi, but now Elements, Cefn Druids.

[Edited 12/3/2019: And back to Cefn Druids AFC again, I see.] See wiki article.

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