Prestatyn Town 1-1 Port Talbot Town – Welsh Premier League – 15th January 2011
Often associated with the seaside, Prestatyn Town welcomed the worst elements of the beach to Bastion Road for this Principality Welsh Premier League match against Port Talbot Town. A strong wind and sand covered playing surface did little to inspire any football purist in attendance and their concerns were proved correct as both sides struggled against the conditions in this scrappy yet surprisingly entertaining match.
In previous matchday blogs I have highlighted issues that do not help the reputation of the Welsh Premier League and the incidents that only support the doubters belief that the league is nothing more than a pub league with European qualification. By comparison I have also highlighted the positives that the steadily improving league can boast. Unfortunately I have another negative incident to report, as Port Talbot Town arrived at Prestatyn with the same colour kit as the home side, forcing Mark Jones team to take to the field in the red Prestatyn Town away shirts.
Both sides went into the match with enforced changes to their side. Port Talbot Town manager Mark Jones was without regular defensive duo Lee Surman and Lloyd Grist while injuries also prevented striker Martin Rose and summer signing Craig Jones making the journey. Prestatyn Town player-manager Neil Gibson was without injured star-striker Lee Hunt and the changes prompted a view that both sides may be happy with a share of the points as both look to confirm their place in the top six before the mid-season split.
Port Talbot started brightly in front of their three travelling fans as Drew Fahiya defied the sand to beat the Prestatyn defence with his pace while Luke Bowen tested the back-line of the home side with his attacking runs from deep positions. The opening goal arrived inside the opening ten minutes but went against the run of play and in favour of the home side as Jon Fisher-Cooke made the most of a series of defensive mistakes by the visitors.
On-loan Swansea City goalkeeper David Cornell in the Port Talbot Town goal then made the save of the game as he stretched to punch clear a Ross Stephens free kick as Prestatyn looked to build on their advantage with the strong wind behind them. Port Talbot also played the conditions as over-hit balls held up for those pushing forward and Fahiya called Prestatyn goalkeeper Jon Hill-Dunt into action midway through the half to make a fine save.
Incidents of note were few and far between for the remainder of the half despite both sides showing a very positive approach to the game as the conditions rather than a lack of quality prevented both sides creating further chances on goal before the break. Referee Darren Adie eventually brought the half to a close with the home side a goal ahead.
Former Manchester United, Wrexham and Wales star Mickey Thomas was the high-profile figure enjoying a complimentary tea, sandwich and scone in one of the many portakabin’s that make up Bastion Road. Thomas, a North Wales native, was quick to enquire on Port Talbot Town midfielder Matthew Thompson over a free beverage having been impressed with his quality on the ball despite the sandy surface.
Port Talbot Town introduced substitute David Brookes at the start o the second half following an injury to left-back Nathan Cotterrall as the visitors looked to make an instant response in the second half with the wind now in their favour. Long-range efforts from Port Talbot Town would be the theme for the next 45 minutes and it did not take long for Mark Jones side to find an equaliser as Matthew Thompson complimented Mickey Thomas’s half-time praise by grabbing the leveller in spectacular style.
The visitors were awarded a free kick just inside the touchline and as Thompson struck a firm in-swinging ball into the area goalkeeper Jon Hill-Dunt failed to judge the flight of the ball in the wind and could only watch as it sailed into the top corner of the net. Hill-Dunt made amends with a couple of saves from the long-range efforts that tested him as Port Talbot dominated for long periods.
Prestatyn continued to look for a second goal on the counter-attack and were denied only by a fine tackle from substitute Brookes midway through the half. The real chances on goal came at the other end however and with just minutes remaining captain Liam McCreesh could only watch his effort drift narrowly wide of the post after being set-up by Drew Fahiya. Referee Adie then brought the game to a close leaving both under-strength sides generally pleased with the share of the points although it was the visitors who had the better chances to have taken all three.
The wind proved to be the over-riding factor in the game as both sides enjoyed an equal 45-minute share of its advantage but both sides equally struggled on the heavy, sandy surface that did little to promote the quality of football that the Welsh Premier League can offer. The game was surprisingly entertaining against the odds however, and while Mickey Thomas will have enjoyed better footballing occasions, he could have picked far worse fixtures than this share of the points at Bastion Road.
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