Football: Poles stung by Welsh courage

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The Independent Online
They were still not quite sure yesterday in the tiny mid-Wales village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain whether their No 1 European football hero was a plumber, a bricklayer or a nightclub bouncer.

What they did know was that the local part-timers from the League of Wales have every chance of writing a chapter of football folklore when they fly out in two weeks' time for the second leg of their European Cup- Winners' Cup qualifying round tie against Ruch Chorzow, who have won the Polish League 14 times.

Llansantffraid's collection of pounds 30-a-week footballers held Chorzow to a 1-1 draw at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, on Thursday. Seven minutes from the end of a game in which the Poles promised to scrape through to a narrow victory by virtue of Dariusz Gesior's early header, the ball appeared - as if by magic - in the back of the Polish team's net.

Most of the 1,558 crowd who had left the tiny village near Oswestry deserted for the day believed big centre-half Arwel Jones - a plumber by day - had applied the crucial finishing touch in the 83rd minute, but the Icelandic referee ruled it was an own goal by Gesior.

Graham Breeze, Llansantffraid's manager and the local newspaper editor said: "We will go to Poland in two weeks' time with all guns blazing for the second leg. After this, I certainly can't see why we won't get a result.

"We are obviously up against a much better team. They are quicker and sharper than us, and when we went a goal down so early I feared the worst. But our boys just rolled up their sleeves and kept battling. And what happened shows what you can do if you really want it."

It will cost Llansantffraid (population of 954 at the last count) between pounds 7,000 and pounds 8,000 to get to Poland to face a crowd of 20,000. But with a Uefa grant and the takings from last night's crowd, they will, at least, break even.