Port Talbot Town suffered a first league defeat of the season after falling to a 1-0 home defeat to table toppers Risca United. Ben Taylor scored the only goal of the game on the hour mark, with the Blues ruing the early sending off of Matthew Beynon.
It was a match that promised entertainment with two unbeaten sides sitting in 3rd and 1st in the Welsh League Division One table battling it out to maintain their impressive records. However, neither side seemed intent on attack with a cagey first twenty-five minutes focused on structure on organisation from both sides.
James Harris had a couple of comfortable saves to make and Chris Silva went into the referee’s book, receiving a yellow card for a late challenge. Owen Williams had the first big chance of the game, but his close-range effort was well blocked in the box to keep the scores level.
In the twenty-sixth minute, the game turned on its head as Matthew Beynon, scorer of two goals in the 5-0 win at Garden Village last week, received a straight red card for a late foul on Taylor Street. The Risca forward had to go off injured a couple of minutes later as a result and was replaced by Tom Berry.
Port Talbot Town dealt with the red card well and reverted to a three-man defence with the man deficit. Joshua Clayton came closest to putting the away side ahead but his strike at goal resulted in another comfortable save for James Harris.
Tomos Blizzard, making his first start since signing from Pontardawe, struck over with a shot from distance and Jack Underwood went very close in first-half stoppage time with a header from Jordan Pike’s delicious free kick going just over. Chances were a rarity as the teams went into the break goalless.
It was Risca United who had the chances at the start of the second half with Ben Taylor causing problems for the diminished defence. He delivered a sumptuous ball across goal but there was nobody there to put the ball into the net for the away side. Tomos Blizzard then went close for Port Talbot after meeting (little) Ryan Morgan’s long throw, but his header was comfortably saved by Jack Willmot in goal.
Risca made their numerical advantage count just after the sixty-minute mark as Ben Taylor met a ball flashed across the box to powerfully smash home from close range and give the away side the lead.
The Blues nearly had an instant reply with Tom Neville agonisingly close to his first goal in a Port Talbot shirt. Conor Harris danced through the away defence to find Neville, but he dragged his shot just wide in front of a vocal home contingent. Harris himself nearly had Port Talbot level shortly after with his strike from outside of the box skidding on the wet surface but Willmott saved again to maintain his side’s lead.
Risca United seemed content with their one-goal lead despite having the man advantage and it was Owen Williams who nearly equalised for the Blues. His acrobatic volley from the 18-yard line produced a comfortable save, before goal scorer Taylor fired a rare Risca effort over from inside the box.
Port Talbot Town threw on Dylan Llewellyn and Ben Rose-Miles late in the game in search of an equaliser, but chances were at a premium for the ten men who fell to a first league defeat of the season. Despite that, results and postponements elsewhere ensured the Blues stayed 3rd in the league table, occupying that crucial final promotion spot.
We caught up with manager Mark Pike after the game who was proud of his team’s effort after going down to 10 men: “The early red card was always going to be the point where the game would turn, and I thought we dominated up that point. It was always going to be difficult after that sending off.”
“However, the lads never once looked like they were going to give in and remained on top throughout, but just could not find the goal despite a few good chances,” said Pike. “Risca broke away and our shape was all wrong which allowed them to pinch what was the winning goal. Even at that point we created some decent chances, but it was not to be.”
“The positive is that these lads never give up and they will keep going to the end,” added the gaffer. “Beynon’s sending off in the official’s opinion was wreckless, but in everyone else’s view it was a yellow at most. Other things happened out there today that were far more wreckless which went unpunished. It was frustrating to say the least when luck is against us from everyone. ”
“In all, it was a frustrating afternoon, but one we all will learn from. A big positive today was that the supporters were in fine voice and it was great to see so many there. We are doing everything we can in difficult circumstances, and we will be better for it long term. Their voice today was magnificent, and I just urge you all to stick with this group as they are a real credit to all of you. Let’s stick together and we will move in the right direction.”
Attentions now turn to next week’s league fixture with AFC Llwydcoed at Victoria Road (kick off 2.30pm) on 19 October. This is a rearranged fixture in place of the scheduled away match with Croesyceilog which has been postponed.
All image credits: Russell Morris.