Port Talbot Town 3-0 Newtown – Welsh Premier League – 8th January 2011
Two of the Principality Welsh Premier League’s out of form sides lined-up against each other at The GenQuip Stadium in front of a predictable low crowd of just 150. Newtown came into the match bottom of the table following a four-goal defeat to fellow strugglers Bala Town in midweek while Port Talbot Town went into the match without a win since November. Mark Pitman was there to see the action unfold.
The fixture did have a high-profile addition to it in the shape of Port Talbot Town goalkeeper David Cornell, who was making his Welsh Premier League debut after joining the club on-loan from Championship promotion challengers Swansea City. Cornell may only be 19 years of age but in October he was named on the Wales bench for the European Championship qualifier in Switzerland, and while that match in Basel represented his full-International debut, his Welsh Premier League debut would be in very different surroundings.
In fact Cornell and his opposite number for Newtown, Lee Williams, are polar-opposites. Williams, 42, is currently the assistant-manager of Newtown and was making just his third appearance of the season. With a journeyed playing career spread across the respective pyramid systems of England and Wales behind him, Williams has been in better shape, and represented the stereo-typical opinion that outsiders have of the Welsh Premier League as each goal-kick caused him to break into a heavy sweat.
Before the match Port Talbot Town were forced to make a change as star-striker Martin Rose pulled out of the game ten minutes before kick-off with a groin strain, his withdrawal was a blow for manager Mark Jones but a boost to the attendance figure by one, as summer-signing David Brookes took his place in the side.
With both teams ready to start in a subdued atmosphere, kick-off was delayed due to a problem with the net in the Port Talbot Town goal. Whatever impression David Cornell had of the Welsh Premier League before the match soon took a turn for the worse as central defender Kye Edwards was hoisted onto his shoulders to repair the damaged net. Looking more like a scene from a Sunday League encounter than a top-flight domestic league match, Edwards balanced on the shoulders of Cornell for a few minutes before back-up arrived in the form a step-ladder, and the game eventually began after the comical delay.
Port Talbot Town started the better of the two sides in what was a scrappy match devoid of any quality or any real football and took a deserved lead after just 12 minutes. Defender Lloyd Grist stepped-up to swing a free-kick into the area and after a slight deflection the ball quickly headed towards the portly visiting goalkeeper. Williams fumbled the ball before dropping it between his legs and letting role under his giant frame and into the net. The goal further added to the Sunday League-esq quality of the occasion.
The home side remained in control as Williams redeemed himself with a string of saves as Cornell watched on untroubled at the other end of the field. The Port Talbot Town fans remained in good voice as their side dominated with Williams an easy target for the expected traditional weight-related terrace banter. Referee Matt Bridges put in a whistle-happy performance and the stop-start nature of the game resulted in the already diminished crowd heading towards the clubhouse well before the half-time break.
The first incident of the second half saw Port Talbot Town have a strong penalty appeal turned down as the whistle-happy Bridges restrained himself for the first time in the match despite Luke Bowen appearing to be brought down inside the area at a Port Talbot corner. The appeals from the players and management were waved away but as the second half progressed it looked as if the decision would eventually prove crucial as Newtown began to make an impression on the match.
Substitute Dylan Blain was brought on for the visitors against his former club and caused problems for the Port Talbot Town defence as Newtown started to enjoy a spell of possession midway through the second half. As Port Talbot struggled to hold onto the ball, Newtown became more positive in their approach and Cornell was called into action to make a fine save on 65 minutes. Cornell was quickly becoming the busier of the two goalkeeper’s as Williams enjoyed a welcome break at the other end and a Newtown equaliser appeared to be not too far away.
A rare incident of note occurred in the second half as the assistant referee flagged Port Talbot Town offside despite the ball being played forward from a goalkick. A player cannot be offside from a goalkick and after a confused moment referee Bridges re-started play with a dropball. Last month an assistant in the Port Talbot Town versus The New Saints match flagged for offside following a long-throw forward. A player cannot be offside from a throw-in. There is a long-standing campaign for respect to be shown to officials. If the officials want respect they should learn the rules, mistakes in decisions can be accepted within reason, whether made by players, managers or referee’s, but not knowing the basic rules of the game is unacceptable.
Cornell and his defence remained strong and the home side eventually won the match on 82 minutes. Lee John picked up the ball on the right and cut inside to make space for himself on the edge of the area before placing a low shot into the net. Williams went down in stages and failed to prevent the crucial second goal. With the game now out of their reach, Newtown allowed Port Talbot Town to add a third two minutes later as Gareth Phillips supplied Drew Fahiya and he made no mistake with a well-struck shot that rebounded off Williams leg and into the net.
A convincing win and a clean sheet certainly papered over the cracks in a less than convincing performance from Port Talbot Town. Newtown were without doubt the worst team to come to The GenQuip Stadium this season but were denied a share of the points by a fine save by debutant David Cornell. Off the field Port Talbot Town can be pleased that there was such a low crowd in attendance, such was the dire quality of football on offer from both teams, and the interested locals who decided on alternative pastimes this weekend may be attracted back on the strength of the result.
The Welsh Premier League has its critics, but based on the quality shown at The GenQuip Stadium in this match, the criticism is justified. For all the promotion, build-up, signings, news and spin, the league will be judged on the quality of football it produces, and games such as this do little to help the cause. Despite the victory, Port Talbot Town fans will be generally concerned as manager Mark Jones was forced to name one of the most experimental starting line-ups seen at the club for a number of seasons, while Newtown fans will be far more concerned having just watched their side suffer a comprehensive defeat against them.
Visit www.markpitman1.com for links to all blogs, news stories, features, reports and opinion as the big Welsh football news stories break. You can also follow Mark Pitman at www.facebook.com/1markpitman and www.twitter.com/markpitman1