Port Talbot Town returned to Welsh Football League Division One action following a three-week break with a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw with Ton Pentre. The Blues raced into a 2-0 lead inside twenty-five minutes with goals from Jordan Edwards and Jordan Pike, but the Bulldogs scored in either half to have a share of the spoils at Ynys Park.
It was the third meeting between the sides in the last four months following a 1-1 league draw at Victoria Road and Ton Pentre’s penalty shootout victory in the Nathaniel Car Sales League Cup, but from the get-go there only seemed like one winner following a dominant start from the Blues.
Jordan Edwards looked lively up front in his first start after joining from Trefelin and he nearly had a goal in the first three minutes. He met a lofted ball and beat the keeper with his head only for the ball to drop inches wide of the post. There were big claims for a Port Talbot penalty shortly after with Callum Murray handling in the area from close range. Nothing given.
The Blues continued to apply pressure with Jackson Hall heading wide off a delightful Jordan Pike free kick. Hall turned provider on the quarter-of-an-hour mark with a sublime through ball from inside his own half finding Jordan Edwards racing through on goal and he made no mistake with a brilliant slotted finish into the left corner to put Port Talbot 1-0 up before celebrating with the jubilant and very vocal away following.
One minute later and he nearly had a quickfire double with a strike from the edge of the box just going over. It was one-way pressure before Ton Pentre saw a rare attack result in a strike off the crossbar. James Harris did well to save Jamie Bebb’s initial effort and from the rebound it was Jonathan Welsh who smashed the woodwork.
The Bulldogs were left to rue that miss as two minutes later Jordan Pike netted his second goal in as many games to double the Blues’ advantage. It was no direct corner this time around, but the goal did come from Pike’s own free kick. He delivered the ball in but the clearance found its way back to the full back who wonderfully found the bottom corner with a curling strike from the edge of the box.
With a two-goal advantage, Port Talbot continued to attack and it was nearly 3-0 with Conor Harris seeing a bobbled effort go straight into the goalkeeper’s hands. The game could have been sealed on 35 minutes with Jordan Edwards breaking clear of the defence once again on the counter, but he could only slot his effort wide of the advancing keeper this time around.
The Steelmen would be made to rue that miss as five minutes before half time Ton Pentre had a goal back. Following a set-piece, the Blues cleared as far as Jamie Bebb who found the bottom corner through the gap in a crowded penalty area from 25 yards quite brilliantly. It was a goal against the run of play that gave the home side an impetus going into the second half.
The second half was a completely different story than the first with Ton Pentre largely in control and Port Talbot showing no signs of the attacking dominance they had been showing. Jonathan Welsh nearly had an equaliser after 50 minutes, but James Harris was forced into a great save to keep the narrow lead intact.
The Blues were probing despite struggling to break down a stubborn home setup with Tom Blizzard putting Conor Harris through on goal, but his strike was well saved from inside the box.
Ton Pentre had their equaliser after 70 minutes from another set-piece with Jonathan Welsh eventually bundling home from a free kick to make it 2-2 and it was nothing less than the Bulldogs deserved for their second half performance.
There were unsavoury scenes towards the end of the match with the game being stopped due to some distasteful comments made towards some of the Port Talbot Town players that resulted in a section of home supporters, if they can be called that, being ejected from the ground following consultation with both managers from the referee.
Jordan Edwards had a chance to win it for Port Talbot four minutes from time with a well-timed effort, but the goalkeeper did well to save and hold. Tom Blizzard then forced another fine save from a free kick in the 90thminute with the Blues unable to make anything come out of the resulting scramble.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment for the Blues in the fifth minute of added time as Ton Pentre had the ball in the net from a well-worked move, but the goal was correctly ruled out for a clear foul on James Harris. That was the last of the action as the game finished all square to see out 2019.
We caught up with manager Mark Pike after the match where he reflected on the draw. “For thirty minutes we were incredible and fully deserved to be 2-0 up which could and should have been more,” said the gaffer. “But for some reason we stopped doing what we do best.”
“I’m not sure if it was the Christmas break or the fact we haven’t played for three weeks but we got tired. Credit to Ton Pentre who dug in and scored from two set-plays.”
“Jordan Edwards on another day could have had three or four goals, particularly in that opening half an hour. We take the positives from the game, learn that we don’t take our foot off the gas and we finish teams off when we are on top. We now move onto the next game against Pontardawe.”
“Despite some mindless personnel in the crowd, we never got involved and credit to the officials who would not restart the game until they were removed. There is absolutely no room for comments like what was said in the game. The referee dealt with it very professionally, as did the committee and management of Ton Pentre FC.”
“We now move into the New Year unbeaten in six games and with confidence.”
“Finally, I would like to personally thank all the players, coaches and supporters during 2019 fo their continued support and I wish everyone at the club and beyond a happy and safe New Year. Long may your support continue into 2020.
Port Talbot Town will return to action on Tuesday 7 January with a home fixture against Pontardawe Town in Welsh Football League Division One. Kick off for that one is 7.30pm.
All image credits: Russell Morris