As the fourth official put up the board to indicate three minutes of additional minutes at Port Talbot on Sunday afternoon, it wouldn’t be a surprise that the thoughts of a goal in the next 180 seconds was on the cards for either side given Town’s habit of both scoring and conceding in the dying embers of matches over this season, writes Matthew Wallace.
But thankfully, there would be no dramas in the final minutes of the regular season as a resolute back line performance ensured that Aberystwyth secured their first victory since January by a 2-1 score line over Port Talbot Town on the South Wales coast.
The ever-dangerous Geoff Kellaway grabbed the first, heading in after Chris Venables’ powerful drive could only be parried into the Kellaway’s path and then scorer turned provider as the winger’s mazy run down the right hand side accumulated in a shot that was parried to the feet of Craig Williams. Despite former Seasider Luke Bowen grabbing a 50th minute header, Town hung on to claim a big win ahead of the Europa League playoffs and manager Ian Hughes was pleased with the outcome of the match.
“We’re pleased with the way we played today. I thought first half we were terrific. We were switching play well, we had full backs overlapping and the two goals were a great reward for a good performance. Second half was a different kind of game. We had to dig in, show grit and determination but we also looked a threat on the counter attack. Chris Venables has hit a post and we’ve created chances so all in all a pleasing day.”
Despite the victory, Aber don’t gain any league positions but finish the campaign in a very respectable fourth position, the highest the club has achieved since the introduction of the Super 12.
“In terms of league position, today’s game was a dead game so we didn’t want to take any chances. [Antonio] Corbisiero has been struggling with a hamstring for a while so as soon as he felt something we brought him off and the same with Geoff. It was a precaution to save him for another day ahead of the playoffs. We’ve learned a lot over this season. I’m very pleased with the first half of the season and we’ve learned a lot in the second half.”
In terms of those lessons, Hughes was confident he knew where they had come.
“It’s the first time the squad has played against the best week in, week out. It’s a squad game and we need to utilise the squad as often as possible. We picked up four points against Newtown and Port Talbot and although we came close against Bala, Airbus and TNS, we didn’t get close enough so we’ve seen the importance of getting strength and depth and a squad to deal with it.”
A fourth place finish guarantees the Seasiders a berth in the Europa League playoffs, with a Semi Final at Park Avenue the weekend after next. With the Semi Final opponents not confirmed until next week’s Welsh Cup final, it’s not something that Hughes is too concerned about.
“It’s about preparation whoever we play against. We know that whoever we play are going to have a bit of momentum after winning games in the bottom six like we’ve done in previous years. But we’ll prepare well and we’ll be ready when the time comes.”