Mark Pitman reports on the Welsh Premier League as Port Talbot Town claim a welcome win over struggling Airbus UK Broughton at The GenQuip Stadium. Gareth Elms was also there to provide the photo’s.
Cortez Belle scored twice for Port Talbot Town in front of the live S4/C cameras as Mark Jones side claimed a much-needed win after three consecutive defeats on Saturday. The summer-signing has proved to be the clubs most influential players this season and his return to the front-line after recent failed experiments in midfield and defence meant that fan favourite Martin Rose could only take a place on the bench for the visit of Airbus UK Broughton. Managed by former Middlesbrough defender Craig Harrison, the Wingmakers claimed their only win of the season last weekend with a 3-2 victory over fellow-strugglers Newtown, but rarely looked capable of building on that result on their visit to South Wales.
The match also provided the stage for two goalkeeping debuts as a result of two injuries for the regular shot-stoppers of both clubs. Port Talbot Town were without Kristian Rogers and handed a Welsh Premier League debut to Polish keeper Bartek Fogler, while Airbus UK replaced the injured Niki-Lee Bulmer with 40-year old veteran Andy Mulliner, as the former TNS goalkeeper was tempted out of retirement to make his 471st appearance in the domestic top-flight. Mulliner is best remembered for his heroics in the 1996 Welsh Cup Final. By comparison, Fogler was just 11 years-old when Mulliner was lifting the famous old trophy, and was now up against him on his first Welsh Premier League appearance.
Fogler spent last season as understudy at Crewe Alexandra but the former Polonia Warsaw goalkeeper was rarely troubled by Airbus UK despite their impressive front-line of Ian Sheridan and Michael Hayes. Port Talbot Town dominated from the start in front of a sparse crowd and a live TV audience and Mulliner had to be on his best within minutes of coming out of retirement to prevent an early effort from Lee John crossing the line. Mulliner then saved from Cortez Belle before Port Talbot had another effort headed off the line. Belle was then guilty of shooting over the crossbar but eventually scored a well-deserved opening goal on 32 minutes as his fine shot comfortably beat Mulliner.
The two teams had shown their support to the ‘kick racism out of football’ initiative before kick off while inside the clubhouse the images of Luis Suarez’s tussle with Patrick Evra and the subsequent racism claims in the Liverpool versus Manchester United match were being shown. Despite the sun shining on a warm afternoon, some fans elected to remain seated in the bar and watch Port Talbot Town against Airbus UK live on TV, rather than take the small step outside. The half-time highlights then only emphasised Port Talbot’s dominance as Mark Jones side took a well-earned lead into the break.
The vociferous home fans remained in good form as the two sides came out for the second half and their antics offered some alternative coverage for the television crew. Bartek Fogler had been largely untroubled during the opening half, although a decent block midway through the first half meant that he had answered the few questions that had been asked of him. On 64 minutes however, the former Poland Under-19 keeper was beaten by a fine effort from Ian Sheridan on the edge of the area, as Port Talbot’s defensive problems of recent weeks returned to haunt them.
The goal should have been the catalyst for a comeback by the visitors and their under-pressure boss Craig Harrison, but the potential of earning a share of points did not last long as Cortez Belle rose above the defence to head a well-taken goal past Mulliner. The lift offered a boost for the home side and Mulliner then had to be at his best to save from Dylan Blain and Paul Cochlin. Fogler would also be called into action at the other end however and the former Neath trialist made another good save to keep his new team ahead. As with most Welsh Premier League games that are shown live however, the officials would soon become the centre of attention, as referee Dean John showed a second yellow card to Port Talbot Town substitute Lewis Harlin just minutes before the final whistle.
The victory was a much-needed one for Mark Jones and his ever-changing side. Once again significant changes were made in his team selection as defender Leigh De-Vulgt was restored to the starting line-up in place of Nicky Holland who was left out of the squad. Lee John also returned after being named on the bench in the defeat at Bangor City the weekend before while star-striker Martin Rose was offered the unfamiliar role of substitute for the visit of Airbus UK. A debut for Bertak Fogler completed the changes but this was the only one that was enforced.
The defeat for Airbus UK is more significant than the victory for Port Talbot Town however. Craig Harrison’s side have won just once this season and the form of the side is an unacceptable one. Despite having chances, Fogler was rarely tested in comparison to what was a busy afternoon for his opposite number Mulliner, and there will be questions asked after this latest setback for the ambitious club. The day belonged to Cortez Belle however, as he took his goal-tally for the season to six goals from ten games in his first season back in the domestic top-flight, despite finding himself in both midfield and defence at different stages of the campaign. His performance and form confirm his best and most influential place in the side to be upfront however, and his impact on Port Talbot Town could be as significant as the impact of his two goals on Airbus UK.
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