Port Talbot Town were knocked out of the Welsh League Cup on penalties (3-1) following a thrilling 2ndround 1-1 draw with Ton Pentre at Ynys Park. Conor Harris had given the Blues the lead midway through the second half, but a last gasp equaliser saw the Bulldogs take the tie to extra time before they eventually triumphed in the shootout.
The two teams were very familiar with each other after playing out a 1-1 draw at Victoria Road in WFL1 just a fortnight ago and it was he home side that started brightly with early chances for Lee Price and Leroy Thomas going close. The pressure continued as Callum Murray again went close for Ton Pentre, but they could not find the target.
Goalkeeper Daniel James and striker Tom Neville made their Port Talbot Town debuts and it was the latter who had the away side’s first chance of the game, but he could only head straight at the keeper from close range.
Owen Williams, the match winner at Gorseinon Athletic last week, tried a repeat of his last-gasp stunner with a long-range effort on the half-hour mark but this time he saw his strike go well wide. Ben Rose-Miles nearly had the Steelmen ahead shortly after as he beat the offside trap but saw his close-range effort well blocked.
Just before half-time, (big) Ryan Morgan received a yellow card for a crunching challenge and Lee Price forced a good save from an impressive Daniel James in the away goal. The resultant corner was met by Gareth Welsh, but he could only guide his header wide as the teams entered the break goalless.
Port Talbot started the second half very brightly and should have been ahead after great work from Ben Rose-Miles on the wing found Tom Neville unmarked in the box with the goal gaping, but he was unable to find the finishing touch. That missed nearly proved costly as Lee Price was agonisingly close to giving Ton Pentre the lead as his shot crashed against the post.
The game was frantic and just a minute later it was Port Talbot who took the lead. Ben Rose-Miles did superbly well to get past his man and find Tom Neville, who calmly flicked onto Conor Harris to slot the ball past the keeper for his second goal of the season.
Harris was close to doubling his tally for the day with a deflected strike being well tipped over by Niall Reed in goal. Port Talbot were searching for that all important second goal and John hall went close with a free kick, but Reed again saved well to keep the ball out.
The tide of the game changed with twenty minutes remaining as (big) Ryan Morgan received his second yellow card for a harsh handball on the halfway line. The Blues would have to play the rest of the game a man down. The home side were lucky not to be down to 10 men themselves a minute later as Gareth Welsh clattered Daniel James with a high boot and escaped with a yellow card.
Ton Pentre were playing with a new lease of life with chances for both Scott Jones and Liam Snowden going close. As the match entered a lengthy stoppage time, Ton Pentre had the ball in the net on two occasions, but both were ruled out for offside and a handball in the build-up respectively.
The home side would get their goal deep into stoppage time though, with the last attack resulting in a powerful header from Gareth Welsh, who perhaps should not have been on the pitch, evading the reach of James in goal to send us into an additional thirty minutes.
The Bulldogs nearly took the lead five minutes into extra time as a scramble from a corner saw a superb Owen Williams block on the line before another tremendous save from James in goal kept the scores level.
Dylan Llewellyn nearly had Port Talbot back in front before the switch of ends, but he could not beat Reed in goal who made a good save to keep him out. Jordan Pike was somehow kept out straight after as he found the ball after a goalmouth scramble, but his goal bound effort was stopped on the line.
He nearly had the Steelmen ahead early on in the second period of extra time as a flying run down the wing saw him put through on goal, but Reed again made a big save to keep his side in the game. Morgan Thomas somehow headed over from inside the six yard back from the resulting corner and the game was being played at a frantic pace with both sides searching for a winner.
That nearly came for Ton Pentre with ten minutes remaining as Owen Williams gave away a cheap penalty. However, Daniel James continued his impressive debut with a fantastic save to his left to keep the score 1-1.
The chances continued to come in a pulsating final five minutes with Conor Harris nearly scoring again via a deflected shot and Andrew Morris somehow missed for the home side in the final minute of extra time as his free header went just over, meaning the tie would be decided via a penalty shootout.
It was the first time Port Talbot Town were involved in a penalty shootout since a 2012 victory over Aberystwyth Town in a Loosemore’s League Cup tie, and there were certainly signs of being out of practice.
Daniel James was unable to repeat his extra time heroics as Ton Pentre stayed perfect with their three penalties. Conor Harris scored for the away side in the shootout, but John Hall, Jackson Hall and Dylan Llewellyn were all unable to convert from 12 yards which handed the Bulldogs a 3-1 win on penalties.
It was a cruel way to suffer a first defeat of the season for Port Talbot Town and we caught up with manager Mark Pike for his thoughts on the afternoon’s proceedings: “Our first half display was arguably one of the worst of the season,” said the gaffer. “The lads know that though and they understand now that they must start brighter.”
“Even as bad as we were, we should have gone in 2-0 up at half time. The second half was much brighter, and we took a deserved lead. The sending off was extremely harsh in my opinion and my view was that it was ball to hand rather than deliberate.”
“We got on with it and dug in, but to draw with the last kick of the game in the ninety was very hard to take. In extra time, tired legs and minds showed, but I thought we were the better team team and looked like we could go on and win the tie.”
“Dylan Llewellyn, Ben Rose-Miles and Conor Harris could have done better in front of goal with the chances they had. We don’t score too many goals, so we need to be better in that final third when the chances come.”
Despite the defeat, the manager was proud of the effort his players put in with 10 men and dealing with a last-gasp equaliser, “I am extremely proud of this group of players and today they demonstrated that they will go through a brick wall for me and the staff,” said Pike. “The togetherness in the side is there to see.”
“I’d also like to give a mention to Daniel James who came in for James Harris in goal today and did superb. He made a great penalty save in extra time to keep us in it, but unfortunately, we didn’t get the better of the penalty shootout lottery. In open play I thought we edged it on the day, but it was not to be.”
Attentions now turn to next week’s Welsh Cup second qualifying round tie as we make the short trip to Ynys Park to take on local and divisional rivals Trefelin BGC. Kick-off for that one is 2.30pm.