Goals from local duo Jon Foligno and Steff Davies gave Aber a come-from-behind lead against the multi title-winning New Saints at Park Avenue on Friday night, before the visitors equalised late to take a share of the spoils on a hugely entertaining night at Aberystwyth University Park Avenue Stadium.
Going into Friday night’s game, The New Saints held a 100% record and were yet to even concede a goal after 7 games, placing Aber as enormous underdogs on the night. A busier night than usual in the Press Box featured live commentary from BBC Radio Wales with Simon Davies and the lesser known Allen brother, Malcolm, as well as TNS officials hosting their regular TNS FC Radio broadcast from the club shop!
Gavin Allen named 5 changes to his team that lost away at Bala Town, with Connor Roberts and Louis Bradford ineligible to play against their parent club. Also dropping to the bench were Miles John and Gavin Jones, as well as Mathew Jones following his shoulder injury. Thus, Allen’s side was a notably young side that featured 6 locals in the XI and another who made an impact from the bench.
Prior to kick-off, a minute’s silence was held and flag’s flown at half-mast to remember club stalwart Tony Payne, who passed away last week following a short illness. This being Town’s first home game since the tragic news, there were sure to be a few misty eyes among those in and outside the ground to commemorate a great friend to all.
As was the story for the majority of the game, TNS began in control with sharp passing and clever movement to frustrate the Aber press. With former Caernarfon man Leo Smith orchestrating the midfield, the visitors were comfortable in possession, but Aber were resilient in their shape.
Boateng went close for the visitors on 5 minutes followed by a rasping volley from Smith that sailed past the post. On 11 minutes, Aber were gifted 2 chances by a miscued Chris Marriott pass that went for a corner, forcing Harrison to make an excellent point-blank stop, before Lee Jenkins headed over from a free kick.
Soon though, TNS were back in control as Draper was set free through the middle but his chipped effort over Pennock was cleared brilliantly by Rimmer, and Pennock saved well from a long ranger from Routledge. On 24 minutes, the post came to Aber’s rescue for the first time as Hudson’s header ricocheted off the upright to the relief of the home side, but the pressure was building with half-time on the horizon.
On 36 minutes, the visitors finally found the net following another stop from Pennock that looped in the air for Robles to poke home from a yard. It was almost doubled minutes later as the impressive Leo Smith and his silky feet found Jamie Mullan who struck the post.
On the stroke of half-time, the referee brandished 3 yellow cards following some argy-bargy – TNS’ Holland and Hudson and Town’s Steff Davies.
The second half began in ilk with the first, with TNS showing dominance for the initial 15 – Pennock pulling off another great stop on 49 mins.
However, on 64 minutes the tie as turned on its head, as Jamie Veale delivered a delicious free kick from the right side and found the forehead of the veteran Foligno who fired Aber level. Despite the lack on in-stadium supporters, the roar from the vans, buses, stepladder owners and fence on-lookers was quite something!
With TNS in shock, Aber were sure to not lose their heads and undo their good work to that point. Keeping resilient in their shape and no-nonsense in their clearing, Aber soon found their feet again. A midfield battle found the ball at Veale’s feet again who, after a dummied pirouette, launched an inch perfect pass through the lines for Steff Davies to run onto. With a defender by his side, the Ysgol Plascrug PE teacher made Ryan Harrington his pupil as he zoomed past him and confidently finished through Paul Harrison’s legs to give Aber the lead with 20 to play! Once again, the roar from the onlookers was deafening – reminding many of those pre-2020 Park Avenue nights.
Leading the best team in the league with 20 minutes to play, Aber knew the 3 points wouldn’t be easily earned as TNS pushed their man mountain centre half to play striker and pressure Aber’s young backline (Foligno had been replaced by Rowe at this point). Aber could, and should, have made it 3-1 on 73 minutes when Steff Davies set-up Owain Jones from 10 yards out, but his low shot agonisingly skimmed past the post of the grateful Harrison.
TNS finally found their equaliser on 83 minutes as the recently substituted Ben Clark found himself free at the back post to loop home an effort from Marriott’s cross. And so, Town had 10 minutes to weather the storm or even find their own winner!
The tireless Gwion Owen continued to run like his life depended on it, winning Aber field position and keeping TNS away. On 89 minutes, Alex Pennock once again pulled off an excellent reflex save to keep the score level, before Adam Davies found himself 1-o-1 with Harrison, only to fire at the veteran keeper.
Into stoppage time, Town’s midfield orchestrater and Cardiff Academy graduate Jamie Veale turned former Swansea man Tom Holland who scythed him to the floor, leaving referee Nick Pratt in no doubt to dismiss him on 90+1 minutes, despite the protests of Scott Ruscoe and Steve Evans.
A final TNS corner missed the target, and the final whistle was blown to the delight of the Town faithful.
A fantastic performance from Allen’s men who showed enormous character to keep strong in the face of TNS’ relentless pressure. After a humbling defeat to Bala Town, Aber were able to prove themselves as a strong and resolute unit who, on their day, can give anybody a game. This ends a difficult run of fixtures, as we now face those around us in the table – first up, Caernarfon Town live on Sgorio next Saturday for a 17:15 KO. Your continued support on our social channels and from outside ground boundaries is much appreciated – diolch i chi gyd!