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Game of the Day – No2: Rhyl All Stars v NFA

NFA line up before their opening game against Llandudno Amateurs Reserves. Niall McGuinness is fourth from left – front row

Rhyl All Stars 0) 0
NFA 3) 7 (Turner, McGuinness 3, Falvey, Taylor 2)
Vale of Clwyd and Conwy League Division One – Saturday, August 24, 2019

As I made the short walk to Saturday’s game, I couldn’t help but think Rhyl All Stars v NFA sounded like a fixture more suited to American football than British soccer.

However, less than two hours later I left Rhyl High School having been thoroughly entertained by a tier-six Vale of Clwyd and Conwy League Division One clash which may have looked one-sided scorewise, but was very much a contest – certainly for most of the first half.

Having seen than the newly-formed NFA men’s team had won 5-0 in midweek, and that fellow fresh recruits All Stars lost their opener 4-2 on the back of some very heavy pre-season thrashings, I expected a big victory for the side with three letters (NFA = North Football Association).

Although NFA’s title gives no suggestion where they hail from (apart from the north), they are in fact Rhyl-based and share the same home ground as the All Stars – the very presentable new grass pitch at Rhyl High.

For league purposes, the ‘home’ side on this day were the All Stars, who were in all-green, while NFA turned out in a pleasant shade of blue – just like the sky.

The weather was sunny, quite gorgeous in fact, perhaps a little too hot for 90 minutes of combat, but there was to be no shortage of commitment on show.

My only bugbear was the noisy Rhyl Air Show going on above and especially the low-flying planes which I avoided looking at as it gives me vertigo.

I knew one player out of the two squads on show, but it was a special one – former Rhyl manager and now very promising Flint Town United boss Niall McGuinness.

It had been a good week for Niall. He scored a hat-trick for NFA on Wednesday, then two nights later celebrated a great 1-0 victory for Flint at Colwyn Bay in the Cymru North.

I knew plenty about Niall’s skills as a coach and manager; I also remember him boxing as a youngster, but I’d not seen him play football that much.

I was in for a treat as he bagged another three goals – all left-footers, the second of which would have made Gareth Bale extremely proud.

The All Stars came out of the blocks in lively fashion and for the first half-hour were very competitive.

They did not allow NFA time on the ball, closing the boys in blue down high up the pitch and forcing numerous mistakes.

The greens had the first chance when Craig Brophy was picked out in space inside the box after just three minutes, but he did not make the best of connections.

As the half wore on, Ste Robinson’s NFA side began to carve out some decent moves, Will Turner and Jordan Taylor both going close.

One or two long kicks from All Stars keeper Joe Murray caused a couple of concerns at the back for the ‘visitors’ – but nothing too drastic.

Then on 27 minutes came the breakthrough. A fine low cross from the right and Turner could not miss from close range.

All Stars had a great chance to equalise when a high ball dropped nicely onto Simon Roberts’ left foot, but he blasted over.

In the 31st minute, NFA won a free kick 20 yards out and McGuinness’ precision left foot strike found the left-hand corner of the net – 2-0.

At the other end, Ricky Roberts’ free kick was well saved, then on 38 minutes came the goal of the game, McGuinness playing a slick one-two before lashing home an absolute missile from around 22 yards. Stunning stuff and half-time arrived with a comfortable three-goal lead for NFA.

Half-time: Rhyl All Stars 0 NFA 3

It did not take McGuinness long to make it back-to-back hat-tricks.

A minute after the restart great work by Matt Robinson set up Niall to convert from 10 yards with his trusty left foot.

Murray produced a couple of good stops to prevent a fifth, doing especially well to deny Ste Falvey and McGuinness again.

It was now really hard work for the All Stars who could not produce an attack of note.

On 61 minutes, Taylor beautifully hooked the ball into the path of Falvey, who had an easy finish.

Before being substituted, McGuinness added an assist to his afternoon’s work as a lovely ball released Taylor, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot and make it 6-0.

Taylor added his second following more good play from Robinson and it could have easily ended up double figures, but All Stars to their credit kept going till the end.

NFA, who were not at full strength, should do really well in Division One, while All Stars will take time to find their feet, but the effort and belief is there and they possess some decent footballers. I look forward to reporting on their first win.

Experienced referee Caerwyn Davies had an excellent game. No cards were issued and when there were any potential flashpoints, the official dealt with them quickly and sensibly.

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