Saturday 13th January
Aberystwyth Town 4-2 Connah’s Quay Nomads
Aberystwyth Town stunned second placed Connah’s Quay Nomads as they stormed to a magnificent 4-2 JD Welsh Premier League victory at Park Avenue on Saturday afternoon. In front of a bumper crowd of 874, Nev Powell’s side put on a show as a hat-trick from Joe Phillips (5, 39, 63) along with an Ashley Young strike (37) condemned the Nomads to just their fifth defeat of the season. The win sees Aber move on to 22 points in the JD welsh Premier league table, seven points clear of safety and just six points behind seventh placed Llandudno as they now prepare for the second phase of the league season.
Saturday’s game marked the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Aberystwyth Junior League, with hundreds of aspiring young footballers turning out to watch the Seasiders in action. Kick off at Park Avenue was preceded by a touching tribute to former club stalwart Dave Humphreys, as the bumper crowd stood for a minute’s applause in his honour.
The game started in frantic fashion, with Aber enjoying some encouraging early spells of possession against one of the league’s strongest outfits. Within 5 minutes, Town took the early lead they would have been dreaming of before the game, as Ashley Young launched a long throw-in into the penalty area, where Joe Phillips was on hand to nod the ball home after Jonny Spittle’s front post flick-on and make it 1-0. This gave the hosts an early confidence boost as they continued to hassle and harry their opponents, refusing to give them any time or space on the ball. Aber almost doubled their lead on 7 minutes when Phillips fired Declan Walker’s low cross narrowly over the crossbar. But on 12 minutes, the Nomads found an equaliser somewhat against the run of play, as Michael Wilde pulled away to the back post and rose highest to head the ball past Chris Mullock and into the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
Suddenly the game was back in the balance as the visitors grew in confidence and imposed their physical approach on Aber’s back four. Nomads’ Jay Owen fired a shot over the crossbar on 23 minutes before Declan Walker almost regained the lead for Aber as his header sailed inches wide of the far post from an Ashley Young corner kick. However, on 37 minutes Aber did indeed re-take the lead, as Ashley Young sent a wicked free-kick into the six yard area towards Joe Phillips, who let the ball float past him, fooling Nomads ‘keeper Danby as he watched the ball trickle over the goal line and into the back of the net. Soon after, Town really were in dreamland as the Nomads’ back line failed to clear a dangerous ball into the area, and Joe Phillips was again on hand to curl the ball beyond Danby into the far corner and make it 3-1. The visitors refused to lie down and continued to pressurise Aber’s centre back pairing of Jonny Spittle and John McKenna with a succession of long balls towards the penalty area. On the stroke of half time, Michael Wilde thought he’d pulled a goal back for the visitors as he nodded home from a Matty Owen free kick, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside and Aber survived with their two goal lead in tact.
The second half started much differently to the first, with the Nomads switching to a 4-2-4 formation, and new signing Andy Owens being introduced to join strike partner Wilde up front. The visitors immediately began to pump long balls up towards their two target men, putting Aber’s back line under immense pressure from the outset. On 50 minutes, Wilde again went close after a scramble in the penalty area, before Declan Poole volleyed over from John Danby’s 60-yard punt downfield. But on 63 minutes, Aber landed the ultimate sucker punch with their first attack of the second half. Declan Walker broke free down the right flank and picked out Phillips with a pinpoint cross-field pass; Phillips was left one-on-one with the Nomads defender, and he produced a majestic step-over before rifling a low left-footed shot into the far corner beyond Danby to make it 4-1.
The bumper crowd were sent into raptures as Nev Powell’s side took apart the team with the 3rd best defensive record in the league. To their credit, the visitors continued to battle and fight, and were up in arms when they were denied yet another goal by the referee’s whistle in the 68th minute, after Jay Owen was adjudged to have fouled Chris Mullock from a corner kick. On 72 minutes, the Nomads did find a way back into the game as striker Andy Owens bundled the ball into the net after a goalmouth scramble to make it 4-2. Aber began to drop deeper as they continued to deal with a succession of long balls into the penalty area. On 78 minutes, hat-trick hero Phillips was replaced by Luke Borrelli to add some fresh legs and run the channels in behind the sluggish Nomads’ defence. As the game entered it’s final stages, the visitors had yet another goal disallowed for a foul before the ball crossed the line, much to the dismay of manager Andy Morrison. But Aber stood strong, and they defended as a team in admirable fashion as they entered the final five minutes of stoppage time. The Nomads continued to press for a third goal but it wasn’t to be, as Nev Powell’s side earned their fourth win in six home games in the JD Welsh Premier League.
Great credit must go to Aber’s players for the way they fought and battled against one of the league’s strongest outfits, who came into the game unbeaten in their last four games. Manager Nev Powell will be delighted with the bouncebackability his side have shown since back to back defeats against Carmarthen over Christmas, and Town will now have two weeks to prepare for their next game, away against Cardiff Met in the JD Welsh Cup on January 27th.