Port Talbot Town kicked off their return to the second tier of Welsh football with a 4-0 defeat to Trefelin as the JD Cymru South season began.
It was the first taste of league action since a 1-0 win at Caldicot Town in March 2020, but only James Harris survived from the line-up that night as a youthful Blues team with an average age of just 20 battled against their local rivals.
Following the departure of manager Mark Pike and a number of players opting to leave with him, preparations were less than an ideal with positive Covid tests in the camp heavily impacting training following last week’s Nathaniel MG Cup postponement against Swansea University.
With nine of the team making their first competitive start, it was always going to be an uphill task against an experienced Trefelin side that were also backed by a strong following in what was a bumper derby day crowd. The young Blues started brightly and had a spring in their step with a big point to prove. Ronan Whalley impressed on the wing with Lewis Robinson looking bright in a number 10 role.
As the game developed, Trefelin grew into proceedings and mounted pressure after quarter of an hour with Jamie Latham doing well to get past the young defence to find Ryan Griffiths who stabbed wide.
Bless Kim and Bailey Embling-Jones orchestrated the defence well and were limiting the away side to shots from distance, with Ceri Williams forcing James Harris into the first of several good saves on eighteen minutes. A few minutes later and he was down at his near post to keep out Griffiths.
It was nearly a dream debut for 17-year-old Manny Maloney after new signing Daryl Hughes did brilliantly to send him through on goal, only for a last gasp block from Joseph Jones denying the youngster. It was to be a rare moment on goal for the Blues as Trefelin asserted their dominance.
With pressure mounting, Trefelin had their goal after Scott Tomlinson was fouled in the box after a smart move and Damon Thomas stepped up to slot the spot kick into the bottom left corner and gave the away side the lead.
That lead was nearly doubled moments later as Latham was allowed too much space in the box, but Harris got down well to his left to deny the former Steelman a goal. Ceri Wiliams tried his luck from range with a sumptuous effort on the outside of his boot that just evaded the target, as the score remained 1-0 going into half time.
A recurring theme of Harris producing a fine saved was how the second half began as he denied Williams’ effort from outside of the box, but despite a man-of-the-match performance there was nothing he could do about Trefelin’s second as Scott Tomlinson fired home from the edge of the box after a cleared corner.
There was nearly a comical way back into the match for the young Blues after a miscommunication between Darius Waters and Chris Curtis nearly resulted in the defender heading past his ‘keeper.
Waters nearly made amends on the hour box when he got a shot away after a corner but once again Harris stood his ground to deny the defender. Latham worked the ball well past the Blues’ defence, but he could only curl wide before Harris once again saved well to keep out Thomas with a sublime save at full stretch.
As the most senior player, Harris really was leading by example and he somehow managed to keep Damon Thomas out with his feet at close range before one of many double saves. Despite the score line, it was an inspired performance in goal.
Damon Thomas somehow missed from two yards with the goal begging on 75 minutes, but that miss wouldn’t prove costly as the away side had a third five minutes later with Joe Clarke coolly chipping a penalty down the middle after Ryan Griffiths was fouled.
Harris wasn’t stopping with the sublime saves and this time he produced a sensational double save to keep Latham out again. Unfortunately, Trefelin had a fourth with a minute to play as Damon Thomas broke through the offside trap and slotted past the goalkeeper to make it 4-0 and complete the scoring, as a youthful Blues opened the season with defeat whilst doing themselves and the club proud.
The games come thick and fast now and league action continues midweek, with a trip to Cambrian & Clydach on Tuesday (7.30pm).
Image credits: Russell Morris.