Neath Trundle into Europe

Mark Pitman reports on an unexpected football fairytale as Neath win the inaugural Welsh Premier League play-off final. Photo’s courtesy of Mike Greenslade.

The celebrations at The Gnoll on Saturday were down to relief more than achievement as big spending Neath made the first step in justifying their substantial investment by qualifying for the UEFA Europa League. The South Wales club hit the headlines with a number of high-profile signings last summer, but while the attentions of the Welsh Premier League were focused on Lee Trundle and their other former Football League stars, a figure from their humble past, Andy Hill, scored the decisive goals that would take Andy Dyer’s side into Europe for the first time.

Neath were formed as recently as 2005 and achieved promotion to the Welsh Premier League in 2007. The club had previously played in the neighbouring village of Llandarcy, but following a merger between Neath Athletic and Skewen Athletic, a new-era begun and the club made a further and significant stride forward with a move the The Gnoll, the home of Neath Rugby Club. An ambitious project for football success began last year and the arrival of players such as Lee Trundle, Kevin Cooper, Kristian O’Leary and Chris Jones amongst others meant that success for the club would only be a matter of time. Continue reading

Hughes header a history repeating derby deja-vu

Ask any Port Talbot Town fan for their most memorable derby goal in recent years and the majority of the Burns Road End regulars will fondly talk of the events that occurred at local rivals Afan Lido on the 26th December 2003. The two sides were juggling for supremacy in the town at the time as Afan Lido adjusted to the promotion of Port Talbot Town to the Welsh Premier League just a couple of seasons before as one of the fiercest games between the two clubs took place on a wet Boxing Day afternoon at the Lido.

Man of the moment Craig Hughes

The game had all the traditional dramas of games between the two sides with the referee being the busiest man on the field as local pride took over the implementation of any tactical plan. A local event for the people of the town, both clubs benefited from a ten-fold increase in attendance when the two rivals came together, and the game of 2003 did not disappoint. For the record, Port Talbot Town won 2-1 with a late winning header from Craig Hughes as he sprung above the opposition defence to capitalise on a superb cross from the right. Then on the 16th April 2011, something all too familiar happened all over again. Continue reading

Legg up

Abi Davies takes us across Swansea Bay for the local derby between Andy Legg’s Llanelli and Lee Trundle’s Neath.

Friday nights Welsh premier league game saw Andy Dyer’s Neath travel to Llanelli with the hope of extending the gap between themselves in 3rd and Llanelli in 4th.

With the last meeting between the two sides resulting in a 4-0 victory to Andy Legg’s side, Neath looked adamant they were not going to allow history to repeat itself, looking the brighter of the two sides in the early exchanges with ex-Swansea city players Lee Trundle, Chris Jones and Chad Bond combining well and causing the Reds back line countless problems.

Dyer’s side were handed their first chance to capitalise on their dominance after Llanelli keeper Ashley Morris handled the ball outside the area, having been put under pressure by Chad Bond. Trundle stepped up to take the free kick but his effort fired just over the top corner. Continue reading

Worth the admission price alone?

Mark Pitman, our Welsh wizard, brings us another Welsh football weekend double as Neath take on The New Saints in the Principality Welsh Premier League and Wales take on England in a European Championship qualifier. With little in common initially a glaring familiar theme emerges however, as the wallets of football fans across the country become subject to situation exploitation at every level of the game and the occasion of it.

Neath 2-2 The New Saints – Principality Welsh Premier League – 25th March 2011
A popular football phrase for a flash of on the field brilliance before it was replaced with modern day Sky nonsense such as ‘take a bew, son’ or ‘unbelievable tekkers’ is the more traditional ‘that was worth the admission price alone’ or variations thereof. Neath invested in their own brand of tekker-potential in the summer with the signing of Lee Trundle headlining the arrival of a number of former Football League stars with significant Swansea City connections, and while the flashes of brilliance have been few and far between, a new initiative by the South Wales club seems set to backfire spectacularly.

A common debate in the English Premier League revolves around the fact that the everyday football fan is being priced out of the game by the greed of their clubs. From over-priced merchandise to four-figure season tickets, the revenue streams at Britain’s biggest clubs play a significant part in the young players from across the world becoming very rich, very soon. The average fan in the street resents the exploitation but the worldwide interest of the Premier League means there is a constant stream of revenue. Interestingly, the Principality Welsh Premier League acknowledged this growing resentment, and used it in their marketing campaign at the start of the season. Continue reading

The inevitable disappointment of anticipation

Mark Pitman brings us a double helping of Tales from the Valleys this week.

This Welsh football double-header over the course of the weekend had all the ingredients to produce two memorable encounters. The action would kick off on Friday night with a MacWhirter Welsh Football League Division One match between third-placed Afan Lido and current league leaders Bryntirion Athletic. The home side are making strides forward with the aim to return to the Welsh Premier League while Bryntirion top the table thanks to an undefeated run of results stretching back to September.

Following this would be the much-anticipated Sunday afternoon Welsh Premier League derby between Neath and Port Talbot Town at The Gnoll. Previous encounters had been memorable contests and a great deal was expected from this latest fixture as Neath stake their claim for an automatic European place and Port Talbot Town show their place in the top six was based on merit and not through the failure of others. Local pride also brought an added edge to the fixture but with both games promising so much there was only ever to be one realistic outcome, they would both be complete rubbish. Continue reading

Neath celebrate as mid-season split derby produces

Neath 2-1 Port Talbot Town – Welsh Premier League – 8th February 2011 by Mark Pitman

The introduction of a mid-season split in the Principality Welsh Premier League this season has been a much-debated and confusingly criticised idea, but this local derby at The Gnoll in front of one of the biggest crowds of the season made the decision more than justified as this Tuesday night encounter on a wet Tuesday in February produced a highly entertaining match. Port Talbot Town went into the game needing at least a point to guarantee a place in the top six for the second half of the season and also to avenge a home defeat against their rivals earlier in the campaign, while Neath, and their collection of superstars, were determined to continue their run of form and increase the pressure on the clubs at the top of the table.

Port Talbot Town manager Mark Jones went into the match without two of his most influential players as captain Liam McCreesh sat out the derby through suspension having been sent off the weekend before while striker Martin Rose, the clubs top scorer for the last few seasons, suffered a re-occurrence of the groin injury that has forced him to miss a number of games already this season. As with most derbies in the Welsh Premier League there was the usual former club twist, this time it was Neath defender Matthew Rees, who earlier in the season had captained Port Talbot Town in their first ever European campaign. Continue reading

New-money noisy neighbours salvage a point

Neath 1-1 Llanelli – Welsh Premier League – 18th January 2011

Our Welsh wizard Mark Pitman visits The Gnoll for a local derby on a cold Tuesday night:-

The Manchester City of the Principality Welsh Premier League welcomed rivals Llanelli to The Gnoll for what would be the second of five successive home games for the noisy neighbours of the top-flights South Wales clubs. Recent signing Matthew Rees, who captained Port Talbot Town in the UEFA Europa League earlier this season, was handed his first start in the all-black colours of the Eagles, but it was the actions of the traditional man in black that would be the subject of controversy at the end of this much-anticipated derby match.

As with most South Wales derbies in the Welsh Premier League, there was a strong Swansea City influence on show for the 500-plus crowd. The alternative option of watching Cardiff City on TV no doubt had some influence on generating the decent Swans-based attendance that Neath had asked for in the match programme, but their optimism was not matched at the turnstile, as only one gate was open as the crowd queued down Gnoll Road as the kick off quickly approached. Another popular theme with derbies in the Welsh Premier League are the sub-plots involving managers, coaches and players who have connections with both clubs and again this match was no different. Former Arsenal, Chelsea and Wales star Peter Nicholas is one of the many backroom staff that occupy the Neath technical area on a matchday, and for this derby he would be up against Llanelli manager Andy Legg, the player he signed while he was manager of Llanelli, and who subsequently replaced him in his job. Continue reading