Swans take a dip on Port Talbot beach

Abi Davies continues her look at Swansea’s preparations for life in the Premier League with a trip to the seaside. ┬áThe seaside in this case being Afan Lido aka Port Talbot Beach….She is a braver girl than I am a bloke as she took a dip in the water.

Following on from last Saturday’s double header in which The Swans were defeated at The Gnoll before emerging triumphant against Port Talbot, Brendan Rodgers side made the short trip to take on another Welsh Premier League side in Afan Lido. Continue reading

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

Euro glory beckons as Prestatyn show spirit of ’99

Mark Pitman reports on a dramatic ending from Bastion Gardens as Prestatyn Town move to within one win of European football. www.welsh-premier.com were on hand for photos.

For Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 1999, read Lee Hunt and David Hayes in 2011. The former duo may have won the Champions League for Manchester United in dramatic fashion, but the latter did the same for Prestatyn Town on Sunday in the Welsh Premier League play-off semi-final. The games may seem a million miles apart, but both were among the most important in the history of the two respective clubs, and the goals from Hunt and Hayes mean that Prestatyn Town are now one win away from making their own impact on the European football stage.

The Welsh Premier League has been the subject of some drastic cosmetic surgery this season as the traditional eighteen clubs were reduced to twelve, a mid-season split separated the top and bottom six clubs and the last UEFA Europa League place would be decided not by league placings but by an end of season play-off. The format has confused many, but after nine months of football, five teams entered the inaugural play-off competition last week. Airbus UK Broughton were the first club to be eliminated, and on Saturday it was the turn of Port Talbot Town and Aberystwyth Town to forget a return to European football for another season at least. Continue reading

Blues, and Grist, are back on track

Mark Pitman takes in a much-needed victory for Port Talbot Town in the Welsh Premier League.

It has been an experimental season in the Principality Welsh Premier League with the reduction to twelve clubs coinciding with mid-season split and an end of season play-off for the last UEFA Europa League place. For Port Talbot Town the euphoria of confirming a place in the top half of the table in time for the split was followed by a unwanted but significant line in the fixture calendar that was eventually scrapped on the last weekend of the season.

Since the mid-season split, Port Talbot Town had managed six draws and three defeats as they went into the last match of the season against South Wales rivals Llanelli at the impressive Stebonheath. Manager Mark Jones side had last experienced a Welsh Premier League victory in January, but with a crucial match at Prestatyn in the play-off approaching, a confidence boosting win to take into the match was a necessity and not just a bonus.

The string of recent defeats had been just as frustrating for the loyal and vociferous fans that follow the side across Wales each week as it had been for Jones and his players. With one match remaining to claim a victory, it was decided that the match at Llanelli would double-up as the supporters end of season party, and alternative transport in the form of the train was confirmed as part of the pre-match build-up. Wetherspoons provided breakfast, beer and a base to discuss tactics for the day ahead as a dozen fans began their journey to Llanelli. 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