Sunday 2nd August 2015.
Port Talbot Town 2-4 Hull City.
The Genquip Stadium, Port Talbot.
Attendance: Circa 100.
Pre-season friendlies throw up all kinds of strange, or perhaps, surprising fixtures don’t they?
The strangest I can remember watching as a kid was an intriguing but quite hilarious fixture between Cwmbran Town and a Manchester United ‘XI’ at Cwmbran Stadium in the Summer of 1994. 8200 spectators crammed into the Cwmbran Stadium that afternoon to watch one of the most ‘David & Goliath’ pairings known to man.
The then League of Wales champions (kind of a precursor to what would eventually become the Welsh Premier League) put in a good performance on the day and lost 3-1 against a side that included first team regulars Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Denis Irwin and Dion Dublin.
Look up and down the fixtures on Sky Sports News today and you’ll probably find all manner of strange friendly fixtures, admittedly since the lure of the East really took hold (Premier League Asia Trophy anyone?) there have been less of these matched than one would like. The idea of seeing Chelsea running out at Boreham Wood or Manchester City sending out an ‘XI’ side to play Salford City in July is not as laughable as it would have once been.
One such friendly that took place today (and admittedly this is one I had to check several times before believing) was a friendly fixture between Port Talbot Town and Hull City (the very same side who were relegated from the English Premier League last season).
Being a big fan of Port Talbot Town and always loving a visit down to Victoria Road I was determined to get down to Port Talbot for this match.
The day started at Porth train station in the Rhondda. I needed to get the train back into Pontypridd to reclaim my car from one of the town’s car parks after we took the train home last night.
Feeling somewhat adventurous we headed down to Port Talbot over the picturesque Bwlch mountain road that takes you from the upper echelons of the Rhondda Valley to the mountainous pretty town of Cymer in the Port Talbot valleys and down the rest of the valley until you hit the centre of Port Talbot.
With admission at a fair £6 and a match day programme setting me back a further pound, I made a beeline for the clubhouse to get hold of an infamous Port Talbot Town Chip Butty.
Port Talbot have a new look about them this season, they’ve adopted a new tidy blue kit with futuristic looking squad numbers on the back, they’ve made some new signings, the most high profile of which being the return of the infamous Cortez Belle – a man comfortable playing in pretty much any position on the field and with Football League experience under his belt he certainly is a welcome ‘re-addition’ to the squad.
As we sit down and start eating away at the gargantuan Chip Butty in front of the young Hull City side it’s clear to see that the squad is filled with youngsters from the Development side, Steve Bruce is sadly nowhere to be seen and we’re being treated to a performance by a side filled with potential future Premier League stars.
Being a pre-season friendly there isn’t a massive attendance this afternoon – I’m guessing we’re probably looking at an attendance of about 100 or so.
It becomes clear immediately from the kick off that Port Talbot Town are not here just to play the role of inviting guests to Hull City today as they break away immediately from kick off and almost open the scoring within seconds from an unidentified player, who hits the post from close range after the Hull defence started the game slowly.
Port Talbot start the game in a strong manner which makes it even more frustrating for them when their opponents were awarded a soft penalty after ten minutes. Will Annan, a neat little player who has just been awarded his first Development Squad contract, broke into the box and went down softly after a challenge.
Will Annan stepped up to take the kick and scored with a powerful but placed effort into the left corner of the goal. So against the run of play the Tigers took a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, Port Talbot Town were almost a victim of their own neat play when after a series of passes around their defence they came unstuck and Hull’s Taylor Tombides found himself staring down on the goalkeeper in a one-on-one scenario. Luckily for Port Talbot Town, Tombides could only hit a poor effort straight at the Port Talbot goalkeeper.
On the half hour Hull City really started to show their skill and were unlucky not to score a second after Tombides headed a powerful effort past the Port Talbot keeper, only for his effort to be blocked on the line by Leigh de-Vulgt.
Hull’s second eventually came after 40 minutes with a second goal from striker Will Annan who beat the Port Talbot offside trap and looped the ball over the oncoming goalkeeper to tap home into an empty net to double his side’s advantage.
Hull fired a further blow with a couple of minutes of the half left to play when they added a third through the troublesome Taylor Tombides who had been threatening to score for the whole half. Tombides latched onto a lovely ball laid across the Port Talbot back four and tapped home to give his side a three goal lead and to effectively seal the win for his side.
During the half time break we remained in our seats in the Gerald McCreesh stand and were treated to some interesting disco covers over the PA system.
These were the kind of CDs you buy at petrol stations, not featuring the original artists, kind of ‘done over’ in a 2000’s club style? It made me smile for a bit anyway.
It wasn’t long before normal football service resumed and we were treated to something we’ve become more accustomed to in the terraces up and down the country.
There’s that old cliche that ‘they came out for the second half a new side’ and never has this cliche been more true than when Port Talbot Town came out for the second half with all guns blazing.
The Steelmen got their first goal back on 55 minutes in spectacular fashion after a phenomenal goal from Jonathan Hood. Hood hit a superb volleyed effort from the far corner of the penalty area into the top left corner of the goal in a style not too dissimilar from Marco Van Basten’s infamous Euro ’88 goal, to give his side something to build on.
Five minutes later The Steelmen reduced the Tigers advantage to a single goal after a well worked piece of play by Joseph Jones, who took on two men before sending a great pass across the box to Jonathan Hood who smashed the ball home from close range to claim his second goal of the afternoon and to really put the pressure on the young Hull side.
I’m a big fan of the Port Talbot Town fans, they are a cracking bunch of guys who love their side inside out and travel the length and breadth of the country in fine voice to support their team.
The Port Talbot fans crack me up and almost reduce me to tears when their physio Duane Saunders takes to the pitch to treat an injured player and they start a passionate chant about him to his blushes. I know I should have noted down the words to the chant, because I’ve already forgot them. I only remember the lyric ending with “..he makes us smile” or something similar.
Hull City were made to defend resolutely to hold onto their slender lead and were lucky not to find themselves level with thirteen minutes to go as Cortez Belle came close to scoring a headed effort from a corner which only just went over the bar.
Unfortunately for Port Talbot Town, against the run of play, Will Aimson gained possession of the ball just outside of the box and produced a moment of individual brilliance to pick his spot in the top left corner and restore a two goal advantage for his side with about 4 minutes of the game left to play.
The game fizzled out in an unspectacular style but Port Talbot Town, at the end of the day should be quite pleased with their performance today. Even against a young Hull City side it was always going to be difficult but they more than matched their Hull counterparts for large parts of the game this afternoon and at times, particularly in the second half were the better side.
Port Talbot Town, if they can string a couple of wins together at the start of the season may be a force to be reckoned with in the Welsh Premier League this season and will certainly be targeting European qualification come next May.
As for Hull City, do not be surprised if any of the players mentioned above end up gracing the Premier League stage in years to come.
I’d like to wish the very best of luck to Port Talbot Town for their upcoming Welsh Premier League campaign and send my very best wishes to all of the fans of Port Talbot Town who have been great supporters of my blog in previous months. I hope to see you all again very soon.