Cardiff City LFC 7 – 1 Portishead Town – The Welsh Dragon Stirs

The season kicked off for Cardiff City LFC at a new venue, with a new kit, against new opposition.

I arrived at Cwrt-yr-ala road’s grass pitch a couple of hours before kick off, following an invite by Michele Adams MBE, the club’s chairperson: ‘Come down early, meet some legends!’

After navigating my way through a relatively modern housing estate, I reached the ground, which is also home to Caerau Ely, a men’s club. The venue is somewhat different to the Dragons’ usual home venue, a half hour drive from Cardiff in Ystrad Mynach. It’s smaller, with a more ‘old school’ set up of grass pitch, gravel car park and clubhouse. I felt a tinge of nostalgia as I entered, remembering countless games of football I’ve played at similar venues before artificial grass pitches became more common.

Michele had invited a number of past players, some of whom had played not just for Cardiff City Ladies but also for Wales. I was greeted with a warm ‘Hello, you alright?’ from Lesley Judd as I entered the main area of the clubhouse, which was set up with lights, cameras and action ahead of interviewing by Eat Sleep Media. A few minutes later saw the arrival of Gwennan Harries: former Welsh striker and current co-commentator and pundit.

The room was closed off for interviews, and I made my way to the pitch via the changing rooms. The visitors’ changing rooms weren’t bad – I’ve certainly seen worse during my time – but the Home changing rooms were nothing short of magical. The staff had set out kit ahead of the players’ arrival, shirts individually printed with players’ names and numbers were hung up. The wall above was embossed with the club logo and players’ names. Cardiff City LFC in giant lettering overlaid the ensemble. In short, it looked professional.

It was really exciting, the way everything was set up with our club badge everywhere and our shirts with names on the back, was really exciting. Some of these girls would never have had their names on the back of their shirt before or a changing room environment that was so professional. We want to achieve high standards, not only on the pitch but off the pitch too!

Captain, Cori Williams

By the time I exited and made my way towards the pitch, the car park was overflowing and supporters were buying tickets on the gate. Music was blaring out from the stands, and the rain that had been forecast was nowhere to be seen – instead the sun was shining bright and hot on the Dragons’ first league game of the season.

Over the course of the next hour, the team came out in their warm-up tops for a photo and match preparations, and mascots had a chance to be coached by past players in front of the growing crowd.

While there were many elements of professionalism and evidence of the club’s aspirations, there was also very clearly a family feel. Looking back on this I applaud the club for achieving this: there was a media team from Eat Sleep Media, a reporter and a photographer from Wales Online; a representative from Cancer Research Wales who are the club’s charity sponsor for the year.. yet despite the media presence and the big names, the cameras and the commotion, there was a distinctly community feel around the ground as supporters took to their seats. Hannah Walsh, who is currently undertaking a PhD in Gender Equity and Sports Media, said after the game:

‘Such a great 90 minutes watching CCLFC bag 7 goals in the sunshine! Seems like there’s a great energy both with the players on the pitch and the fans supporting off it. Even when sharing a piece of the action with the media interest, there is a real community feel at Cwrt-Yr-Ala that special football clubs like Cardiff City LFC bring. I can’t wait to watch Cardiff in their next home game on  Sunday 11th September’

Cardiff thumped visitors Portishead Town Ladies FC in a resounding 7-1 victory, with goals flying in as early as 2 minutes and as late on as 84 minutes.

Less than two minutes after the season started, Ellie Sargent was brought down in the penalty area. Chloe Lloyd calmly stepped up and fired the ball into the top corner, bagging the first goal of the season for the FAWNL Division One South West.

Portishead retaliated, forcing a save from the Welsh number one, Laura O’Sullivan only a couple of minutes later.

After the early goal and shots at either end, Chloe Lloyd fizzed a ball into the Portishead penalty box from the right wing, but Cardiff failed to convert.

Portishead looked again to punish the Dragons, with a shot from distance that looped in over O’Sullivan’s head levelling the score at 21 minutes thanks to Tamzin Hayward.

A few nervy minutes ensued, with the Possets being forced to make quality saves as Cardiff piled on the pressure. Ellie Sargent again created a goalscoring opportunity, which Ingrid Aadland slotted in at the far post. 2-1 to the hosts, 25 minutes gone.

Again Portishead retaliated, forcing another great save from the Wales keeper who came off her line and touched the ball out past the post. Cardiff seemed to relax into the game a little, with a few minutes of relative calm. However, at 35 minutes with some quick, simple and effective build up play from Cori Williams on to Libby Piggot, Ellie Sargent carried the ball up the left wing, with a rapid and skilful run which culminated in Cardiff’s third goal of the day.

This wasn’t enough for Sargent, clearly, who scored a screamer from distance only three minutes later  and completed her hat-trick only 42 minutes into the game. Just 7 minutes separated Sargent’s first and third goals.

Cardiff were forced to an early substitution at 44 minutes, replacing Chloe Lloyd with Ruby Scahill after Lloyd was on the receiving end of a particularly hard challenge. The Dragons went into the break with a comfortable 5-1 lead.

Photos: Meg Monk

Scahill made an immediate impact in the second half, forcing a corner from clever attacking play. What ensued was a sustained period of domination from the Dragons, peppering the Possets goal area with shots but unable to find the back of the net – though they did hit the woodwork on more than one occasion and had a goal ruled offside.

Twenty minutes into the second half, some slack defending from Cardiff gifted the opposition with a chance, but O’Sullivan saved at full stretch to deny the visitors a second. After another save by their keeper a couple of minutes later, Cardiff dominated the game, with sustained pressure in the final third but unable to convert their chances until Cori Williams found the bottom right hand corner.

More attacking play (and a few more offside calls) from Cardiff City LFC saw the game mostly played in Portishead’s defensive half. At 75 minutes Emily Poole drove through the defence, cutting into the middle and lay off a curling shot which found itself just the wrong side of the post.

Although Portishead looked to apply pressure, it was quickly mopped up by the Cardiff defence, who were excellent at providing quick transitions to set up chances on the counter-attack. It looked as though both teams were seeing out the game in the hot August sunshine, when Kelly Isaac soaked up distribution from the Portishead keeper, sidestepped a player and fired a shot back, only to hit the woodwork.

One minute later, Emily Poole linked up in the box with Cori Williams, who used her strength to hold off the Portishead defence and slot the ball home in the bottom right-hand corner for a classy finish.

Once the players had made use of the showers and got changed into their post-match polos, both teams were served food by Michele Adams, Karen Jones and Kerry Burrows, all former players of the club and part of the original team in 1975.

The club is rich in history and tradition, and yet recognises how it must adapt to keep up with the change women’s football in the UK is experiencing. This was particularly evident on the first home game of the new season, where legends and legacy mixed freely with kids and cameras, and the Welsh Dragons roared their way into the season.