Friday 4th September
Port Talbot Town 4-2 Aberystwyth Town.
Welsh Premier League.
The Genquip Stadium.
Here we go again. After a tough week at work it was fair to say that I was more than looking forward to a spot of Friday night football at The Genquip Stadium. It doesn’t really get any better than this does it?
Well, only if both teams involved happen to be Port Talbot Town and Aberystwyth Town.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I have quite the soft spot for both Port Talbot Town and Aberystwyth Town, so watching them play each other is usually torture for me if I’m brutally honest.
I took in a fixture between these two sides last season at The Genquip in April in what was the last day of the 2014/15 Welsh Premier League campaign and to be truthfully honest I probably needed hospital treatment to remove the splinters of wood from my behind that I’d managed to get from vehemently sitting on the fence for 90 minutes.
I liken the situation to something like being a younger brother watching two of your older brothers fighting, or if you have sisters then it’s probably like watching them fighting. You don’t mind your older siblings going out and beating up other kids but you absolutely dread the idea of them kicking each other’s heads in.
I’m a single child so it’s hard for me to analogise this theory without resorting to siblings kicking people’s heads in.
In all seriousness, I’ve got a great deal of time for both clubs and it shows in the amount of blog entries I’ve wrote involving both clubs. I don’t believe I’ve watched another team in the Welsh pyramid this year (my beloved Pontypridd Town excluded) as much as I’ve seen either Port Talbot Town or Aberystwyth Town.
I’ve also touched on having family connections to the town of Aberystwyth, the town being a regular holiday haunt for both my family and my wife’s family and my Father-in-law David studied at the town’s University in his teens, so it holds a firm place in the heart of many in my family.
It was lovely then to be able to bring my Father-in-law David to this evening’s match having spent some of his most important years in the town. We’d taken him to Aberystwyth earlier this year so he could show us some of the places he remembered from his student days so it was lovely to offer another form of reconnection with the place, if you will.
David is a great man, a complete gentleman and makes for such easy company and I always love spending time with him. My wife and I are lucky that we see a lot of David, especially in recent months, which has been great.
Among most of our shared interests photography stands above all and David was kind enough to lend me a pretty decent 70-300 lens that has resulted in the better quality photos the blog has been enjoying over the last two months or so.
It was great then to pull up on Victoria Road in Port Talbot to see David waiting outside the ground for us. Having never taken in a Welsh Premier League game before I was keen to see what he’d make of The Genquip, the game and the infamous Port Talbot Town Ultras.
After making our way into the ground we immediately headed for the club house to partake of another infamous Port Talbot Town Chip Butty, a thing of myth and legend. Quite how the club’s catering staff can fit so much potato into one tray and surround it with a bread roll big enough to give a man a carbohydrate induced heart attack.
Sadly David wasn’t hungry so was forced to wait until his next visit to meet the greatest football meal in the world.
We made our way over to the Gerald McCreesh stand alongside the touchline and took up roughly our usual seats in the far corner towards the Burns End of the ground.
Port Talbot Town have been talking about upgrading their pitch to a 3G surface for a few months now. After securing funding during the Summer it looked very much like the Newport County friendly early in pre-season would be the last match played on grass at the ground, only for the date to slip and it then look like the Hull City friendly would be the last game played on grass at the ground.
It now appears that this evening’s game would be the last game played on grass, although I will wait to see whether the diggers start their engines next week before confirming this. One thing is for certain though is that the club may need to find an alternative home for the next ten weeks or so.
Tonight’s match would be a pretty intriguing one to be fair. If we’re all honest with ourselves (and here I really need to apologise in advance to both Newtown and Gap Connah’s Quay fans) that when Aberystwyth Town were matched up against Gap Connah’s Quay and Port Talbot Town were pitched up against Newtown in the Welsh Premier League Europa League Playoff semi-finals in May, this was the match we were all expecting to be taking place at Park Avenue with the winner taking their place in the Europa League.
As it happens, Port Talbot Town were caught out by a single Newtown goal in the last minute of stoppage time at the end of extra time on that May afternoon at The Genquip. Aberystwyth went one better by reaching the play-off final but ultimately lost against a dogged Newtown side who really took the game to Aberystwyth and outplayed them.
Both sides then would be keen, no doubt, to make a good start to the Welsh Premier League. The sheer dominance of The New Saints over recent years has meant that sides who don’t keep up with them before Christmas simply fall away over the new year period. The constant threat of sides like Gap Connah’s Quay and Carmarthen Town (we also have to assume that the once title winners Bangor City will come good again) mean that a top six berth come January is never assured.
Today’s visitors Aberystwyth Town have had a spluttering start to the season to say the least. An opening day Sgorio defeat to Welsh Premier League new boys Llandudno (who were promoted from the Cymru Alliance) probably wasn’t written in their script and they went down to a 3-2 defeat, despite infamous goalscorer Chris Venables doing everything in his power to try and secure a victory in what at times looked to be a performance of a man possessed. They followed this with a more convincing 3-1 win at Park Avenue over Rhyl.
Port Talbot Town on the other hand have had a very good start to the season. An opening day draw with Bala Town, which was one of those results where the Steelmen would have probably taken a point with both hands had they been offered it before the game. The Steelmen followed this with a good victory up North against Bangor City in which they weathered the storm of Bangor attack after attack for the majority of the game before producing two moments of clinical attacking brilliance to come away with a 2-1 victory and make the long journey back down the A470 all that much sweeter with three points.
I know you’ve all heard the phrase ‘They started strongly’ used time and time again but surely there was no case more deserving of this than the start to the match made by Port Talbot Town.
Aberystwyth’s Chris Venables and Sion James kicked the game off only to immediately lose the ball to their opponents. Highly rated youngster Kaid Mohamed picked up the ball in the Aberystwyth Town half and beat his man before hitting a lovely testing shot towards goal which beat Mike Lewis in the Aber goal but frustratingly cannoned off the post. As has been the case many a time before and will surely be the case many more times, Port Talbot Town hero Martin Rose was on hand to calmly slot home the rebounded effort to give his side a 1-0 lead in what was later confirmed to be the quickest goal ever scored in the Welsh Premier League (10.18 seconds)
It’s often said that a side can score a goal ‘too early’ in a game and this certainly looked to be the case in this game when only three minutes later Aberystwyth found themselves level after a defensive mix up lead to Stuart Jones heading a cross for ex-Steelman Lee Surman to nod the ball home.
Aberystwyth Town after their opening goal really took the game to their opponents and were desperately unlucky not to go ahead on the quarter of an hour mark when Darren Thomas found himself through on goal only for Steve Cann to produce a quite phenomenal save to keep his side level on the night.
Affairs wouldn’t stay level for long however as Aberystwyth took the lead after 20 minutes. A good cross from Craig Williams was picked up by Jamie Reed who hit a delicious volley home to give his side a 2-1 lead.
Port Talbot Town would play out the rest of the half having ever so slightly the better of the game and had a couple of chances to level affairs, one such chance coming from the foot of Jonathan Hood who was superbly denied by Aber keeper Mike Lewis.
It all appeared as if Aberystwyth would go into the half time interval with the lead in hand. That was of course until Kaid Mohamed popped up at the far post to convert what initially looked to be a non-threatening Port Talbot throw in near the corner flag after it took a change of direction from a head. This set the scene for what was going to surely be an entertaining second half.
We had just about enough time before the half time whistle for a moment of relative hilarity which ensued just inside of the Port Talbot half after recent re-signing Cortez Belle and Aber’s Darren Thomas clashed in what looked like a fairly innocuous collision.
Unfortunately for both, as they attempted to grapple each other it looked to everyone in the stands like Cortez Belle had attempted to perform a DDT on Thomas, as seen in the photo above.
For those who aren’t 33 year olds who watched too much WWF wrestling in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s the DDT was the ‘finishing move’ of deeply unfashionable wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts (no relation!) I say ‘deeply unfashionable’ because at his best he was a slightly overweight man with both an advanced receding hairline and a mullet at the same time. When coupled with a cliche porn star moustache this only added to Roberts’ hilarity and ridiculousness (Did I mention that he used to carry a real life snake around in a bag?!)
I was actually deeply shocked to find during my research for this blog entry that Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts was actually still alive and well as I remember him being quite the fan of hard drugs during his time spent wrestling and was convinced he’d passed away years ago.
Anyway, I digress – anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will probably not even be surprised in the slightest that WWF superstar Jake Roberts could appear on a blog entry about a Friday night Welsh Premier League match between Port Talbot Town and Aberystwyth Town but that’s how I run things.
Summed up? It looked like Cortez Belle threw down a lovely DDT on Darren Thomas but the referee disagreed and chose only to award a simple free kick to Aberystwyth rather than the red card some Aber fans were baying for.
Cortez Belle looked to be in fine form this evening and I’m glad he’s returned to The Genquip Stadium to play his football. He’s become something of a maverick in the Welsh Premier League – a kind of Eric Cantona figure of sorts!
Having spent the last couple of seasons at Carmarthen Town and Gap Connah’s Quay not quite being sure of whether his future lies as a hard tackling Centre Back or a 20 goal a season Centre Forward. Cortez Belle now looks the happiest he has on the field for years and this has rubbed off completely on his form.
During the half time interval we remained in our seats and enjoyed Port Talbot Town’s always interesting choice of half time tunes. During the recent Hull City friendly game we were treated to some fantastic disco cover versions and we were chuffed to find that the person behind the wheels of steel at The Genquip chose to treat us to ‘We Can’t Stop’ by Miley Cyrus twice! I was truly chuffed, we chucked the tune in our evening reception playlist at our wedding last year (a quite eclectic mix it must be said which paired together Girls Aloud and Sonic Youth, Sugababes and Pavement, Steps and The Smiths and Spice Girls and Bring Me The Horizon)
Port Talbot came out for the second half with a sort of renewed intent and looked sharper to every single loose ball.
It was during the second half in particular that the infamous Port Talbot Town Ultras made their voices be heard. I’ve always been a big fan of this groups of fans on this blog and they are truly a credit to their club and on occasions like this evening it’s clear to see why the side consider them as their 12th man.
Jonathan Hood was unlucky not to put his side ahead in the 52nd minute after picking up on a defensive mix up and hitting a decent shot towards goal which just went over the bar from about ten yards out from goal.
Mid way through the second half Port Talbot started to pump the ball down the left wing and they exposed the Aberystwyth defence time and time again as Aber struggled to keep up with the pace of Kaid Mohamed, Jonathan Hood and Chris Jones who gave the Aber defence a torrid time in the second half.
Kaid Mohamed in particular was very unlucky not to score a second and give his side the lead in the 73rd minute after James Parry produced a piece of brilliant play down the left channel and unleashed a lovely cross which was met by Mohamed. Unfortunately Mohamed was only able to put his shot a yard or two wide of the post.
After dominating proceedings in the second half there always stood the danger that Port Talbot Town would come away from the game with a single point or if the ball happened to fall to players of the ilk of Chris Venables anywhere near goal, finishing the game on the losing side.
Port Talbot Town finally re-took the lead in the game with ten minutes of normal time to play after Chris Jones again made headway down the left wing before hitting a lovely testing cross deep into the box for Jonathan Hood to produce a great headed effort from a tight angle to give his side a 3-2 lead.
Port Talbot Town made certain of the three points a couple of minutes later after Aberystwyth Town found themselves exposed down the left wing again by Chris Jones in an almost exact replica of the previous Port Talbot Town goal when he managed to send another sublime cross into the box for Jonathan Hood who again made no mistake from the back post to slot the ball home and give his side an unassailable two goal lead with only five minutes or so of the game remaining.
What followed was a moment that will live with me long after my time watching football has ended and when I grow to be a bitter old man who hates everyone and everything.
The infamous Port Talbot Town Ultras, who for most games make Block A of the Gerald McCreesh stand their home – at least in the first half, quite often migrate to the Burns End in the second half of matches.
It’s probably a tactical move more than anything. One part trying to support their players as they attack the Burns End goal and one part throwing harmless witty banter at opponent goalkeepers.
What followed Jonathan Hood’s second goal was a moment of such outward emotion that was something so strong that even my Father-in-law, who I was convinced would be an Aberystwyth Town fan with his life history in the town, rose to his feet and applauded loudly.
In a truly beautiful moment players and supporters embraced with only the advertising hoarding separating them in what must surely have been one of the best adverts for the Welsh Premier League we will see for a long time.
Being so deeply engrossed in the Welsh football pyramid I often find myself being asked by friends and family whether these games actually mean anything to anyone. After all to most people it looks like all I do is travel around the footballing outposts of Wales mainly watching games played out in front of a couple of player’s family members and their wives.
From this moment forward when being asked that question, I’ll have that photo to show people. Yes, these teams mean a great deal to a lot of people and to be so ignorant as to state they mean less simply because these players aren’t earning millions and being broadcast on Sky Sports is quite simply stupid.
The match ended with a moment of individual brilliance from man of the moment Jonathan Hood, who after spotting Mike Lewis off his line, hit a stupendous effort from the half way line which almost caught Lewis out, having to act quickly to deny Hood what would have a superb goal to round off his hat trick.
Port Talbot Town have now amassed 7 points from a possible 9 from their opening three games which is a superb start for the side. They travel to champions and title favourites The New Saints for their next league encounter surely looking to try and take advantage of what has been quite a bumpy start for the champions (1 win and 2 draws) in the scale of things.
Aberystwyth Town made the journey back home wondering what might have been had they come out for the second half with a few more ideas. Panic alarms won’t be sounding yet but they’ll know that 1 win and 2 losses from their opening three games wouldn’t match their opening expectations.
I’d like to wish both sides the very best of luck for the rest of the season and again thank both clubs for their ongoing friendship and support of the blog. It won’t be long before I see either club again, as regular readers will no doubt be more than aware.
My Man of the Match: There were several good performances on both sides but Jonathan Hood made his chances count and was only denied a superb hat trick by what was a brilliant save by Aber keeper Mike Lewis.