In the first of two reports on Welsh games from the weekend, Abi Davies heads down to the Port Talbot Riviera to see what she describes “The worst game I have seen in my life”…Bet you cannot wait to read on now!
Terry Boyle’s Neath side made the short trip to Port Talbot on Friday night to take on Andy Dyer’s Afan Lido.
The two teams made contrasting starts to the season, with Afan Lido going into Friday’s game still searching for their first point since promotion to the Welsh Premier League, while Neath travelled to The Marston aiming to retain their 100% winning start to the campaign, having already completed comprehensive victories over Aberystwyth and reigning League Champions Bangor.
Having been sacked by Neath three months ago, following a nine year stint at the helm in which he guided Neath from the third division of The Welsh League and into Europe for the first time, Dyer was in the opposing dug out on Friday and the bitterness he felt towards his former club was evident from the outset as he reluctantly exchanged handshakes with Terry Boyle and the Neath coaching staff.
Having got the game underway, it took the visitors less than 5 minutes to create the first chance of the game as space opened up on the edge of the area for Kerry Morgan to try his luck, however the winger’s shot fired well wide of the target.
Shortly after, Gavin Jones had the home sides first shot of the game only for his effort to rattle the wrong side of the net.
The Eagles found it hard to impose themselves on the game with Afan Lido’s intentions clear from the outset, playing with eleven men behind the ball and making it extremely difficult for Neath to press high up the field.
When in possession, the visitors were not using Chris Jones enough out wide, with the diminutive winger posing the away sides biggest threat in the first half on the rare occasion he received the ball.
Jonathan Hood’s long range effort was one of few other chances in a half that never really got going, however he could not direct his shot on target as it went out for a goal kick.
Neath began to up the tempo and with 10 minutes of the first 45 remaining, Christopher Curtis was called into action as he was forced to palm the ball to safety after a curling delivery into the box from Lee Trundle.
Over recent months, a lot of The Eagles success has come courtesy of Lee Trundle who has played a deeper anchoring midfield role whilst also pushing forward in support of Luke Bowen up front. However Friday was a frustrating evening for the ex-Swansea striker as for long spells he was marked out of the game.
With Lido playing so deep, the scores were unsurprisingly level at the break. The visitors were the quicker out of the blocks after the interval as they looked to break through Lido’s defence, and with some crisp one touch passing they were looking the more likely to take the advantage.
Trundle almost set Bowen through on goal, having demonstrated some great close control his ball forward was too heavy for the striker to connect with and Curtis collected with ease.
Despite a fairly quiet game for both keepers and against the run of play, Mark Jones broke the deadlock with a shot from close range on the stroke of full time with what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Lido held out to take maximum points from a fairly lacklustre game, which consisted of very few clear cut chances for either side, in doing so condemning Neath to their first defeat of the season.
Defeat won’t significantly hinder The Eagles title challenge, still sitting at the top of the League after three games, they will look to bounce back from this disappointing result when they welcome Airbus to The Gnoll next Saturday. Whilst victory for Lido moves them off the bottom of the table.