Tuesday 7th April 2015.
Ton Pentre 2-0 AFC Porth.
Welsh League Division One.
Ynys Park, Ton Pentre.
Attendance: Circa 110.
There are currently three sides in the Welsh League that call the Rhondda Valleys their home and they all ply their trade in Division One, in the second tier of the Welsh football pyramid, for the next few weeks at least.
Following AFC Porth’s disappointing, but perhaps inevitable relegation from Division One, tonight presented probably the last time we’d see this fixture for a while and the bidding of ‘au revoir’ or ‘tata butt’ to a Rhondda derby that always stirs up interest amongst football fans in the area.
Ton Pentre went into tonight’s game knowing that a win would all but secure their place in Division One of the Welsh League.
The Bulldogs, perhaps realising they were getting a bit too involved in the drop zone in recent months have shown magnificent form in the last few weeks to pick up some extremely valuable points. The highlight of which being a stunning 2-1 victory over title chasing Cardiff Metropolitan University on Saturday afternoon. Cardiff Met, of course being a side who could still find themselves playing in the Welsh Premier League next season if results go their way.
The Bulldogs advantage in the relegation run-in is that they still hold a couple of games in hand over most of their relegation rivals. Sometimes that works against you, the pressure can mount on sides. Pentre seem to have taken the pressure and used it to their advantage, going from ‘relegation probables’ to a promising mid-table side in the space of about 6 or 7 games.
AFC Porth haven’t had the best of seasons and probably cannot wait to get the campaign over with to make a fresh start in August and mount a challenge at getting promoted back to Division One at the first time of asking. They sit bottom of the table with a single point to their name and would go into tonight’s game desperate to take something away from Ynys Park.
I’ve only seen Porth once this season. I watched them play out an entertaining match that ended in a 5-2 defeat to a strong Haverfordwest County side back in January at Dinas Park. Porth lost that game in the first half, going into the interval with an already unassailable 4-0 drubbing on the cards.
The Porth side didn’t give up on that afternoon and actually outplayed title contending Haverfordwest in the second half, scoring two goals and were exceptionally unlucky to concede a goal late on.
Now that Porth have finally been officially relegated, perhaps it could be argued that they would come to Ynys Park and play with a little more freedom with a lot less pressure on their heads.
Admission at Ynys Park, as it has been previously, was a rather fair £4. With this fairly low admission fee and the attraction of a Rhondda derby, the turnout seemed to be pretty good for a weeknight match. I always hate predicting attendances, because I’m usually quite wrong – but I’d estimate there being maybe 110 spectators, if not a little more?
Both sides tonight lined up in their away kits. Ton Pentre in a green and black ensemble, whilst AFC Porth adorned an all white kit. I’m unsure of the reason why this change of strip was called for. One of the Ton Pentre fans alongside me commented that “They hadn’t had time to get the home kit washed properly after Saturday!”
At this level of the football pyramid, you’re never quite whether he’s being sarcastic or telling the absolute truth.
AFC Porth make a very positive start to the match, having a couple of good early chances. Neither of their chances test Neil Collins in the Ton Pentre goal, but they show a definite sign of intent from the relegated Dragons side.
Ton Pentre were lucky not to start the plot of their own downfall on ten minutes when an overhit backpass to Collins hit a last second divot in the ground and almost caught Collins out. The keeper made a decent enough contact with the ball to divert it far away from the box, but for a second the Ton Pentre fans hearts were in their mouths.
Ton Pentre’s first real attack started on the quarter of an hour mark. Leon Jacka, a player who has impressed me several times when I watched the Bulldogs play earlier in the season, fired a powerful shot at goal. Unfortunately for Jacka he placed the ball too centrally for it to be a real challenge for the goalkeeper.
A minute later, the Bulldogs took the lead in the match. A well worked corner from the left wing was met by Ton Pentre’s captain Thomas Davies who headed powerfully into the right hand side of the goal.
AFC Porth, to be fair to the side, looked so much more ‘up for’ this match than when I saw them defeated by Haverfordwest earlier this year. They sprint back when they lose the ball, they defend in numbers. They look so much more organised than they have done previously and its clear to see now why, aside from the opening goal, Ton Pentre struggled to break the Porth side down in the early stages of the game.
Porth started to open up the Ton Pentre defence as the half went on and came close to scoring on 34 mins when their captain Chris Bullock found himself completely unmarked in the box from a corner kick. His effort didn’t challenge Neil Collins in goal, but it wasn’t too far off the mark, going out for a goal kick.
Neil Collins, a goalkeeper who I’ve written a fair bit about on this blog previously, was visibly and audibly furious with his defenders for what he perceived as being their reluctance to stay touch tight to AFC Porth strikers at corner kicks.
At half time, being fed up of being bitten by gnats that had taken up home in a nettle bush near to my vantage point I made my way over to the main stand, which would be behind the goal that Ton Pentre were going to be attacking in the second half.
Porth started the second half as they finished the first, retaining a lot of possession, but not really forcing Neil Collins into making any notable saves.
Collins was finally called into action on 57 minutes when a looping free kick was dispatched into the box and an assured Collins punched the ball far into safety before an AFC Porth striker could capitalise.
Ton Pentre defended professionally from then on and despite their opponents holding a lot of the ball in midfield, Porth were unable to truly break down the solid Pentre defence for the rest of the second half.
Andre Griffiths, of Ton Pentre, was unbelievably unlucky not to seal the game for his side when he fired an absolutely sublime shot towards goal at a hell of a speed from about 25 yards out from goal. Griffith’s shot beat the outstretched goalkeeper but he could only look on in frustration as his shot smacked the cross bar and went out for an AFC Porth goalkick.
The relegated Dragons came closest to equalising on 71 minutes after a frantic period of play just outside the Pentre penalty area.
Dan Williams, a tricky and skillful Porth midfielder went on a bit of a run when he picked up the ball about forty yards from goal. After passing two or three men he was perhaps callously brought down just outside the box.
There was a bit of confusion in the box following the awarding of the free kick. The referee produced a yellow card for one of the Pentre defenders, but the Porth fans present and the management team on the bench believed that the wrong player had been booked.
Craig Billington stepped up to take the free kick but again he was unable to force Collins to make a save. The same player got another chance at a free kick from similar distance a minute later. The resulting free kick offered more in the way of a threat to the Pentre goal, despite being well worked – the shot went just wide of the far post.
As I’ve stated earlier on this blog. I’m a big fan of Neil Collins the Ton Pentre goalkeeper. He’s a fairly assured goalkeeper with a giant presence in goal. He orchestrates his side from the penalty box and always communicates his intentions and wishes to his defenders, which reduces the amount of mistakes they can and will make. Not only is Collins a superb shot-stopper, but he is also a brilliant leader on the pitch.
True, I haven’t seen every single goalkeeper in the Welsh League yet, but of those I have seen, Neil Collins is the best goalkeeper by a fair distance.
AFC Porth would feel desperately unlucky not to come away from this match with something for all of their effort and their defeat was confirmed in the 89th minute when Leon Jacka picked up the ball on the right wing and put in a lovely cross for Shane Davies who fired a great shot into the bottom corner past the flailing James Billington in the Porth goal who could do little to stop Pentre from doubling their lead.
A little bit of a coming together between Shane Davies and Adam Fisher following the goal was fortunately stopped before it started by quick acting team mates who put their bodies between the two players, who then shook hands thirty seconds later when spoken to by referee Darren Adie.
The referee blew the final whistle after four minutes of injury time, bringing the final Ton Pentre vs. AFC Porth derby (for at least one season) to a close.
For AFC Porth little changes in terms of the league table. Although they will surely feel that tonight’s performance was one of their better performances this term. If they perform like this in Division Two and work on their finishing in the Summer, it may not be too long until we see them taking part in a Division One Rhondda derby again.
Ton Pentre, now sitting in 9th place with 31 points and still with two games in hand over most of their relegation rivals must surely know feel that they have done enough to secure their Division One status. Even the most pessimistic of Pentre fans would have acknowledge that any sort of positive result from this Saturday’s showdown with strugglers Garden Village will make them certainly safe and even give them a mid-table finish challenge. Something that seemed so far away about a month ago.
Ton Pentre will feel now that they can finish the season in a strong manner and make an attempt to finish as far up the Division One table as they possibly can,
My Man of the Match: Thomas Davies put in a good steady performance, keeping the decks clear whilst carrying out his captaining duties brilliantly for the whole match.