Aberystwyth Town started the 2018/9 season as somewhat of an unknown quantity, with a wholesale squad turnover following the Welsh Cup Final defeat of May 2018. Only Ryan Wollacott, Declan Walker, Matthew Jones and Joe Phillips of the starting eleven remained from the previous season, but Town started well with Walker’s fine 15th minute strike calming nerves on a sunny opening night at home to Llandudno. Debutant goalkeeper Leigh Jenkins was injured with 35 minutes to go, and he was replaced by Rio Ahmadi who did brilliantly to keep a clean sheet and ensure a perfect start for the Black and Greens, with 16 year old Centre Back Lee Jenkins impressing at the back.
A rude awakening awaited the following Friday as Cardiff Met bossed their way to a 4-1 win at Park Avenue in Sgorio’s live game. The one silver lining, which came with Aber already four down was Wes Baynes’ superb volley from the right wing, but it was a bad day at the office for the Black and Greens. Things didn’t get any easier with Neville Powell’s men next facing Connah’s Quay away on Bank Holiday Friday night. Despite a positive start from Aber Nomads were 2-0 up by the break and dominated the second half. Despite a nasty injury to Ryan Wollacott Town were only two down when Declan Walker’s late penalty was saved by John Danby. Baynes then smashed home with another great finish and Aber threatened an unlikely point, but in vain.
After falling behind two goal Geoff Kellaway and Joe Phillips inspired Aber to a 3-1 win at Welshpool Town in the Nathaniel MG Cup Second Round, but after two League defeats Town’s match at home to Llanelli on the last Friday of August was looming large as a crucial game. The match also gave the Club the opportunity to remember the late great Emyr James who had tragically passed away that week. The livewire James Loveridge beat the offside trap to put the visitors ahead but a super second half comeback and a fifteen minute burst of goals from Rio Ahmadi, Geoff Kellaway and Joe Phillips ensured a vital 3-1 win and a respectable six points from the first four games.
A heavy 6-0 defeat away to TNS on a Tuesday evening was no great surprise, but back came Aber again four days later with a stirring 3-2 victory over Bala, in Sgorio’s live game with the rumbustious Matthew Jones earning a Man of the Match Award for his midfield commitment. Kellaway’s opener was equalised by a Mike Hayes stunner, but Ahmadi and new signing Ash Ruane scored in the last ten minutes to ensure that Bala’s late penalty was meaningless. As at the end of the previous season Aber’s raucous supporters were starting to make their influence heard, inspiring the Black and Green players to exceed expectations, in tight games. A pallid first half at Carmarthen the following Saturday saw Powell’s men deservedly two down, but second half strikes from Ruane and Declan Walker saw Aber grab what once had looked an unlikely point and kept the positive momentum going. A much changed side then fell to defeat at Cambrian and Clydach in the Nathaniel Cup Third Round with Town going out 3-1, with Kellaway’s goal the only consolation.
The Black and Greens were poor again at home to Barry the following week in a 1-0 defeat which could have been more, and when Cefn Druids sneaked a late winner up at The Rock at the start of October some Town fans were fearing a bad run. They could not have been more wrong as the Black and Greens embarked on a remarkable seven game unbeaten sequence which transformed the Club’s outlook!
The amazing run started in the driving wind and rain at the eye of Storm Callum, with a goal less draw at home to ten man Caernarfon Town, for whom Noah Edwards saw red, which steadied the ship somewhat. A further crucial away victory away at Llandudno, where a late penalty from Declan Walker, allied to a ridiculous sending off for Zac Edwards, transformed an unspectacular game into a fantastic away win; and half way to the split Aberystwyth Town were on 14 points from 11 games. With the Black and Greens retaining hopes of a Top Six finish, “Encouraging Start, Better Yet To Come?” was atfc.org.uk’s half term report. Better was indeed yet to come!!
Matches 12-22 to follow on Wednesday.
Match highlights available on Sgorio's website here