Dafabet Welsh Premier
Friday 25th March
Abeystwyth Town 3 Rhyl 1
Goals from Craig Williams (18 minutes), Ross Stephens (48 minutes) and Chris Venables (55 minutes) earned Aber a priceless victory over relegation haunted Rhyl at Park Avenue this evening, for whom Zac Corbett opened the scoring on 13 minutes. The win takes Town back up to the all important seventh spot at the top of the Play Off Conference, and with rivals Carmarthen losing at home to Port Talbot the Black and Greens know that wins in their final three games will guarantee them a UEFA Europa League Play Off Spot.
Aber went into the game knowing that a win was a must to retain hopes of a Seventh placed finish, while Rhyl needed a victory to retain even a theoretical chance of saving their WPL Status. Craig Williams returned to the starting eleven after an impressive cameo last week and the hosts were soon on the attack. Rhys Griffiths flicked on a header for Geoff Kellaway to fire over early on, and then Williams sent in a trademark free kick from which Venables glanced a header just wide. Then from their second attack Rhyl scored. A soft free kick on the edge of the area was fired in low by Rob Hughes, and Mike Lewis’ save fell perfectly for Zac Corbett to nod the ball home from close range. The response came immediately and within 5 minutes Aber were level, when they were awarded a penalty for handball. Venables’ effort was saved by Terry McCormick but Williams was first to the rebound to snaffle up a deserved equaliser. The hosts continued to attack with Kellaway setting up a great chance from the left, crossing for Venables who placed an effort agonizingly past the post. Williams then drew another save from McCormick before at the other end a superb goal saving tackle by Stuart Jones denied Corbett as he closed in on goal. Griffiths headed wide for Aber, and then at the other end the hosts survived a difficult injury time which culminated in Greg Stones hitting the bar from close range, and parity at half time was probably just about right.
Aber started the second half with much more urgency and a classy period of pressure effectively won the game. Just three minutes had elapsed when Kellaway surged before sending in another superb cross, and who but Ross Stephens was there to score with a thrilling diving header right in front of the Dias Stand. Hughes went close for Rhyl but then back again came the hosts. A quick free kick set up Venables but his low drive was parried to safety by McCormick. This was only a temporary reprieve though and with the Black and Greens showing strong commitment in the tackle and a clinical edge up front the third had to come. It did so when Venables found space in the right side of the area to dance around his bete noir McCormick and bury his sixteenth WPL goal of the season with a low drive: a goal which brought him back level at the top of the WPL’s Golden Boot contest. Town went on to dominate the remainder of the game, with more goals seemingly inevitable. Griffiths’ deft touch set up Kellaway who went close again, and Griffiths himself then headed just over from an excellent Williams delivery. Venables was again denied by McCormick before Kellaway fired wide, while at the other end Mike Lewis pulled out an excellent save to prevent a deflected shot from David Mannix finding the net. Next Antonio Corbisiero sent in a great cross which Griffiths headed against the bar, and with news filtering through of Port Talbot’s surprise win at Carmarthen Good Friday was indeed turning into Great Friday. Lewis denied Stones and Jon Owen who both saw close range headers saved, and Venables was yet again denied by McCormick, sub Kane Owen blasted wide, and another wonderful touch from Griffiths set up Jonathan Evans who scored with a sweet curling effort, but his special goal was ruled out for offside.
An extremely entertaining game therefore went Aber’s way and the importance of the win was underlined by Carmarthen’s defeat, which means Town return to the top of the Play Off Conference on 40 points. Equally encouraging however was a very positive performance at home, and if the Black and Green can replicate that level over the next three games they can be confident of a UEFA Europa League Play Off place. The next chapter in this intriguing season comes in thirteen days when Haverfordwest County visit Park Avenue on Friday 8th April (ko 7.45pm).