With the Welsh football season having been suspended since March, Brandon Arthur looks back on Mark Pike’s time in charge of Port Talbot Town. Nearly two years have passed since the club stalwart was appointed first team manager and Pike’s time in charge has provided a number of memorable highlights. Here, we look back on ten key victories under the current gaffer.
10. Port Talbot Town 3-1 Undy Athletic (09 March 2019)
As the Welsh League Division One season reached the business end of the season, this fixture saw two clubs positioned towards the bottom of the table do battle at Victoria Road. It was billed as a six pointer with the Blues coming into the match with just two points from the previous four games, and there was a familiar feeling at half time as Undy went into the break with a 1-0 lead. However, tables turned in the second half with Jandir Zola, Ryan Morgan and Keane Watts netting at the Burns Road End to secure a key three points against relegation rivals that went a long way to securing mathematical safety.
9. Gorseinon Athletic 3-4 Port Talbot Town (14 September 2019)
The draw for the second round of the FAW Trophy saw the Blues make the short trip to Gorseinon Athletic and the nature of the competition saw Port Talbot Town embark upon unfamiliar surroundings. On an incredibly small pitch against stubborn opposition, the Blues did storm into a 1-0 lead, but credit to the hosts saw them go 2-1 and 3-2 up with little more than twenty minutes remaining. It was a key game under Pike as he was able to hand 16-year-old Rhys Jones his first senior start and he delivered with two fine goals including the crucial equaliser at 3-3. The victory will forever be remembered for a sensational Owen Williams winner in the 89th minute that set the Blues on a run to the fifth round. It was a victory that showcased the grit and determination of the team which would become a common theme throughout the rest of the season.
8. Port Talbot Town 4-2 Cwmbran Celtic (15 December 2018)
Thirteen games into the season and a promising first couple of games, Port Talbot Town found themselves in search of a first league victory since the opening day. Cwmbran Celtic were the only team the Blues had taken three points off back in August, and the league double was soon complete in a match full of highlights (and comedy). Torrid conditions and a questionable playing surface were not enough to deny a fine display to secure a second win of the season and kickstart the season over a somewhat hectic Christmas schedule.
7. Caldicot Town 0-1 Port Talbot Town (11 March 2020)
After five weeks of consecutive postponements, an away fixture at Caldicot on a foul Wednesday night was the only answer to avoid severe fixture congestion. It was only a second game in nearly two months for the Blues, but they fought against high winds and torrential rain to secure a huge victory that lifted Port Talbot Town back into 2nd and in the promotion places, despite Jordan Edwards going off injured inside ten minutes. Jackson Hall unleashed an unstoppable effort from 25-yards to seal the victory with Blake Morgan also returning for his first ninety minutes in eleven months. It was the last Blues’ fixture before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, and with the fate of the league still unknown, it could prove to be a crucial win if things are decided on a points-per-game basis.
6. Garden Village 0-5 Port Talbot Town (05 October 2019)
There are some games where just everything goes right, and this match was one of those days for Port Talbot Town. It was a fine example of what the Blues’ squad was capable of with a sublime attacking display amongst a controlled and assured performance. The result never looked in doubt from the start and with the hosts also missing a penalty, PTT were able to run wild. Dylan Llewellyn netted his first senior goal for the club
5. Port Talbot Town 2-1 Briton Ferry (18 January 2019)
After a somewhat shaky run of form against fellow relegation candidates, including a 2-1 home capitulation against Taffs Well and a 1-1 draw at Pontypridd Town despite the hosts playing an hour with 10 men, the Blues came into this local derby with little expectation. However, they produced a superb display against tough opposition to secure a massive confidence boosting win. It was the first time that season that Port Talbot Town were victorious in the league against a team other than Cwmbran Celtic and it set up a fantastic end to the month that was followed by a 5-0 victory over Ton Pentre the following week. Goals from Morgan Thomas and Jandir Zola provided a much-needed Friday night derby delight.
4. Port Talbot Town 4-1 Bridgend Street (09 November 2019)
After an unbeaten start that lasted until October, the Blues followed up defeat at home to Risca with a lacklustre 1-1 draw with AFC Llwydcoed at Victoria Road. Against fellow promotion hopefuls at this stage of the season, all bets were on a draw for this game. What ensued was a sublime display from the Blues as they absolutely destroyed the opposition. Tom Neville (2), Jack Underwood and Conor Harris all got on the scoresheet as PTT cemented their position in the promotion places in emphatic fashion.
3. Risca United 0-3 Port Talbot Town (25 January 2020)
Despite being one of the favourites for promotion out of Welsh League Division One, it appeared that Port Talbot were not going to make it easy for themselves. In what had been a somewhat stop-start season when it came to consistency, the Blues came into this fixture on the back of a 4-0 drubbing at home to Garden Village. It was second versus third with the hosts unbeaten at home all season. What ensued was one of the finest performances of a Port Talbot Town team in recent memory. Goals from Conor Harris and Owen Williams put the Steelmen into a brilliant half time lead, with a measured second half performance seeing the win sealed by Jordan Edwards in injury time and get the Blues’ promotion push firmly back on track.
2. Port Talbot Town 3-0 Goytre (20 April 2019)
Mark Pike and the club had made it clear from the start of the 2018/19 season that avoiding relegation was the aim. With around a month of the season to go, that was achieved against all of the odds in sensational style. A home fixture against fellow relegation rivals, the Blues ran riot to secure their mathematical safety with goals from Jandir Zola (2) and Morgan Thomas in glorious sunshine. With off-field issues causing a demotion at the end of the season into tier three, this victory has perhaps lost its significance, but it is still a favourite victory amongst many current players and supporters. Mathematically, it secured safety and that was a superb achievement for Mark Pike and his squad.
1. Cwmbran Celtic 1-2 Port Talbot Town (18 August 2018)
It is often said nothing is more important than how you start, and for Mark Pike’s tenure in charge of Port Talbot Town it couldn’t have gone any better. After a summer of rebuilding the entire squad from scratch and assembling a team of mostly local players, the Blues were written off before the season even started. However, PTT were able to silence all of their doubters as a Dylan Thomas penalty and a sublime Morgan Thomas curling strike secured a first three points under Pike at the first time of asking. It showed that Port Talbot Town would be a match for anyone in the league and gave the Blues the confidence that would lead to a successful season on the pitch.