UEFA Europa League
Play Off Semi Final
Sunday 10th May
Aberystwyth Town 3 Gap Connah's Quay 2
Irrepressible Aberystwyth Town thrilled their supporters this afternoon with an amazing comeback, scoring twice in the final six minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and set up a UEFA Europa League Play Off Final at Park Avenue at home to Newtown next Sunday (ko 1.00 pm).
Sean Miller game the visitors the lead on the quarter hour, but Town equalised four minutes later through a Chris Venables penalty. Steve Evans appeared to have won the game for the Nomads with a 69th minute header, but then Evans himself deflected a Ross Stephens effort past his own keeper with six minutes left, and then Mark Jones capped a superb performance by sneaked in behind the back four to snaffle a 92nd minute winner for the Black and Greens, causing mayhem in the Dias Stand!
The huge importance of this game led to a rather cagey start, notable mainly for a succession of free kicks conceded in dangerous areas, none of which lead to any real chances. Mark Jones then drew a save from Terry McCormick in Gap's goal with a left footed effort, but then on the quarter hour the livewire Miller sneaked in behind Aber's defence to poach a goal which put the Nomads one up. Aber responded superbly and within 4 minutes Craig Williams had been fouled in the box, and Venables' penalty was strong enough to creep past McCormick's grasp. The visitors looked composed without creating any real openings, with Stuart Jones in particular looking sharp and clinical at the back for Aber. Ryan Fraughan saw a lofted shot gathered by Mike Lewis in the home goal, and Mark Jones shot just over after a surging run - and a tight half ended at 1-1.
Geoff Kellaway had two attempts saved early in the second half but then Connah's Quay had a good spell of pressure. George Horan's goalbound header was comfortably gathered by Lewis, and then Chris Davies was there in the nick of time to clear a dangerous cross from Miller. Finally the pressure paid off on 69 minutes when Steve Evans rose to head home Fraughan's corner, and with Aber struggling to settle, an away win looked on the cards. However, to their eternal credit the Black and Greens retained their self belief and kept attacking. Craig Williams' cross almost dropped into the net only for McCormick to gather, and minutes later the same player volleyed wide from the edge of the box. When Stuart Jones' overhead kick was saved it was starting to look like Aber's European Dream was on its deathbed, but then with just six minutes left Ross Stephens' speculative ball into the box was deflected into his own net by Steve Evans, and the teams were all square again. Kellaway had another low effort gathered, but then in the second added minute of three, with extra time looming, a long ball down the right channel found Mark Jones, and his brilliant first touch put his marker Evans out of the game. Jones still had the presence of mind to slot a pinpoint shot under McCormick from a narrow angle, to win the game for the Black and Greens. The Port Talbot poacher was immediately submerged under a joyous pile of green shirted heroes, and Town held on for an amazing win.
In a tight game Aber managed to find a way to win, when it really, really mattered. This result against the odds must give them team huge self belief running up to next Sunday's Play Off Final at Park Avenue, and after the excitement of this afternoon, that is an occasion that no self respecting Football Fan in Ceredigion will want to miss. See you all next Sunday!