Bowen eases past Evans in number nine battle

Port Talbot Town 3-0 Caersws – Welsh Cup 4th Round – 5th February 2011 by Mark Pitman

Attentions turned to the Welsh Cup for Welsh Premier League side and last season’s finalists Port Talbot Town as Cymru Alliance opponents Caersws arrived at The GenQuip Stadium. Manager Mark Jones has built a young and talented squad at Port Talbot and their latest test would be against a Caersws side guided by experienced manager Mickey Evans and featuring a number of players with a wealth of Welsh Premier League experience. Graham Evans, the manager’s son, was the biggest name of note on the Caersws team-sheet and he would be up against his former Aberystwyth teammate and strike partner Luke Bowen, as both players took to the field wearing their respective number nine shirts.

Graham Evans is a familiar name in the Welsh Premier League. A three-times golden boot winning striker, Evans has spent the majority of his career at his home village of Caersws where his father Mickey, a veteran of almost 500 games for Wrexham, is now in his second spell of managing the club. After ten seasons at Caersws, Evans had an opportunity to join Hereford United in 2005 but his move was unsuccessful and he later signed for The New Saints for one season before returning to his village club. Aberystwyth then signed the striker in 2008, and in 2009 Luke Bowen joined him at Park Avenue.

Luke Bowen

Bowen, the nephew of former Norwich City and Wales defender Mark Bowen, left Aberystwyth in the summer to join his hometown club as he returned to Port Talbot Town after progressing through the clubs Academy. While Evans had his best season at Aberystwyth in 2008, Bowen took over his role as the main striker in 2009 and went onto enjoy his best season in the Welsh Premier League. Both players went into this match at The GenQuip Stadium as the number nine for the respective hometown clubs and it was Bowen who went onto enjoy the better day.

Port Talbot Town manager Mark Jones named a strong starting line-up and it was clear he would not be taking his lower league opponents lightly. Caersws were relegated from the Welsh Premier League last season but retained the majority of their squad and could have opened the scoring through influential midfielder Richard Evans but his long-range effort was well-saved by on-loan Swansea City goalkeeper David Cornell. Port Talbot soon settled into the match however and on 32 minutes Bowen rounded visiting goalkeeper Alex Ramsey and slotted the ball into the empty net. Two minutes later Lloyd Grist extended the advantage after some excellent work from the clubs other Swansea City loanee Casey Thomas to leave Port Talbot Town well in control of the match.

Although the crowds at The GenQuip Stadium are not the best, the achievement of qualifying and playing in the UEFA Europa League this season being sadly lost on the town’s football public, they remain one of the most vociferous in the league and as the second goal extended their lead the familiar trumpeting and chanting began. With the benefit of a two goal lead the side settled into the match as goalkeeper David Cornell joined in with the outfield action with a mazy run and a Cruyff-turn taking the ball past the Caersws front-line before a panic clearance restored the Wales Under-21 keeper to his goal. On 44 minutes a third goal was added by captain Liam McCreesh and Port Talbot took a commanding lead into the break.

As the few visiting supporters mixed in with the home fans to take in the other half-time scores inside the clubhouse, the attendance figure at the ground began to swell as the two teams returned to the field. An initial crowd of 160 appeared to grow for the second half as public of Port Talbot decided to take advantage of the fact that admission is free after the break. Those saving the £7 entrance had missed the key moments of the game however as the result was already confirmed as referee Darren Adie signalled for the re-start.

A non-descript second half followed as Port Talbot Town made a series of changes and continued to control the game without really testing Ramsey in the Caersws goal. The visitors had little chance of taking anything out of the game and rarely troubled Cornell at the other end. The trumpeting and terrace banter continued as full-time approached but controversy would soon follow as a reckless challenge by the visitors went unpunished by referee Adie. Port Talbot Town captain Liam McCreesh protested to Adie and his opponents and was promptly shown a straight red card for dissent despite the protests of his teammates, his bench and even the opposition.

With a crucial derby against Neath up next for Port Talbot Town on Tuesday night, the influential McCreesh will now miss the match and the frustrations of manager Mark Jones became apparent and overshadowed the fact that his side had booked their place in the last eight of the Welsh Cup with this comfortable victory. Port Talbot Town will now take on Bangor City in the quarter-final as the holders defeated Haverfordwest County to set-up a repeat of last season’s final while Caersws will now return to the Cymru Alliance to concentrate on moving back into the promotion places and with it a possible, if unlikely, return to the Welsh Premier League.

What will be apparent to Caersws and manager Mickey Evans however is that their experienced players are no longer able to compete against Welsh Premier League opponents while Graham Evans will reflect on once again being overshadowed by Luke Bowen after the Port Talbot Town striker scored and led the frontline in this latest victory. Port Talbot manager Mark Jones has a successful record in the Welsh Cup and will be delighted by his sides progression but the dismissal of his captain ahead of his sides most important league game of the season will be the overwhelming negative from the victory. As for the football public of Port Talbot, the vast majority will remain blissfully unaware of the progress of their local team, at a time when their support is needed far more by their hometown club than by the teams they choose to follow from a distance at the top end of the English Premier League.

Mark Pitman

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