Pre-season continued for Port Talbot Town with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Garden Village. A second-half Jordan Edwards penalty cancelled out an early Alex Giardelli strike as 100 spectators returned to Victoria Road for the first time since February 2020.
The Blues seemed buoyed by the return of their fans with a fast-paced start, and they nearly had the lead inside three minutes as Jordan Pike’s long-range free kick evaded everyone in the box before bouncing off the post.
The visitors grew into the game in the early stages, and they should have taken the lead when a huge chance fell to the away winger who somehow fired wide from two yards out. Village then worked the ball well out wide to find space and get the shot away, but Harris saved comfortably.
Morgan Thomas was back in his familiar outfield position and produced some magical stuff on the wing to find Daryl Hughes in the box whose shot was saved. Hughes then combined brilliantly with an advancing Jordan Gibbs from the back, but the defender’s effort was scuffed wide after a terrific one-two. Hughes continued to threaten his former club and he was so close to opening the scoring after Edwards did well to put him through, but the keeper saved well.
After seventeen minutes, Garden Village took the lead through Alex Giardelli’s powerful effort across Harris nestling into the bottom corner to make it 1-0 to the visitors, arguably against the run of play.
The Blues didn’t let the goal get them down and continued to attack brightly with Cameron Harris testing his luck from distance after some good build-up, but his strike was over. James Harris was then forced into a big save after Gibbs gave the ball away across field to allow Village the opportunity to attack and afford them the space to get the shot away.
Jordan Edwards was inches away from equalising on thirty-four minutes after showing his strength to break through and evade the Village defence, but his lovely, caressed effort struck the post. Thomas continued to have the beating of the defender on the wing, and he once again did well to find Hughes in the box whose shot was well blocked to ensure Garden Village led 1-0 at the break.
There was nearly an immediate equaliser inside the second half with Jordan Pike delivering a sumptuous corner into a packed penalty spot where the referee deemed there was a foul on the Village goalkeeper before the Blues could attack the cross. Garden Village then should have doubled their lead on fifty-eight minutes after they broke well on the wing, but the striker somehow fired wide from inside the six-yard box.
Moments later and Edwards advanced into the Village box where he was fouled after some clever footwork to earn the Blues a penalty. He picked himself and scored a sensational penalty into the top corner giving the keeper absolutely no chance, and Port Talbot were level. It delighted the home fans who were back behind the goals at the Burns Road End for the first time in nineteen months.
Once the scores were level, the second half turned into an even affair and a controlled share of possession, but things got feisty in the last ten minutes after Jordan Pike was cautioned for a late sliding tackle.
The Blues kept searching for the winner and substitute Callum Holden did well to hold the ball up in the box before his strike was deflected wide. It was nearly a dream conclusion in stoppage time when Adam Llewellyn met Pike’s corner, but he headed wide to ensure the match finished level at 1-1.
Following the friendly fixture, we caught up with Port Talbot Town manager Mark Pike to reflect on the welcomed return of fans to Victoria Road:
“For the first time in almost two years we saw fans return to Victoria Road and it was an incredible feeling seeing old faces around the ground. If today is anything to go by, we can look forward to a massive support and following this season which these boys need and deserve.”
“I personally look forward to and welcome everyone’s support and I can’t wait to continue hearing the noise that gets behind the lads which has been missing for so long,” said Pike. “Having 100 fans in today was great and hopefully we will be allowed more in by the start of the season. The fans’ noise was brilliant today and I look forward for more to come in our first competitive game in two weeks.”
The return of spectators would not have been possible without the volunteering efforts of Port Talbot Town DFC and the club would like to extend its gratitude and thank all of those who gave up their time yesterday to ensure the fans’ return to Victoria Road was a smooth operation. Diolch!
The Blues continue pre-season preparations on Tuesday 6 July with a local derby against Baglan Dragons at Vivian Park (6pm kick off).
Image credits: Russell Morris & Port Talbot Town DFC.