Friday 11th December
The New Saints 1 Aberystwyth Town 1
A great all round team effort, crowned by a clinical strike from WPL Hot Shot Chris Venables eighteen minutes from time earned Aber an excellent point at League Leaders TNS' Park Hall Stadium last night, and set the Black and Greens up perfectly for an exciting run of home games over the next month.
With Centre Back Lee Surman back from suspension and Jack Rimmer back on the bench Aber's squad looked stronger than last week, and although the visitors started fairly confidently showing some nice passing, TNS took the lead in the 8th minute when keeper Mike Lewis saved a low shot from Chris Seargeant, only for Mattie Williams to gobble up the rebound from close range. The visitors could have crumbled at this point but to their immense credit they went on to play a full part in the game, creating just as many chances as their esteemed hosts for the next 75 minutes of the game. Rhys Griffiths was a rock up front for Town and with young Liam Jaques buzzing around and chasing down space throughout, TNS were never allowed to relax in possession. Griffiths sent in a dangerous cross, then twice went close with headers, the second time from an excellent turn and cross by Jaques. Mike Lewis saved efforts from Adrian Ciesliewicz and Jamie Mullan (twice), but back came Aber with Griffiths again going close from Antonio Corbisiero's corner, Stuart Jones causing a scrambled clearance from a powerful header and Craig Williams the Ross Stephens sending efforts over the bar. Lewis had again to be alert when he parried a Matty Williams header to safety, but a one goal half time deficit was scant reward for a very commendable first half from Aber's point of view.
As the second half progressed Ian Hughes' men continued to exert a high press up front and to show a strong defensive organisation through midfield and at the back, meaning that chances were few and far between. True, Aber did have a couple of let offs when Ciesliewicz glanced a header onto a post from a good position, and when Williams hit the crossbar from inside the area, but it was an even game and then with 18 minutes to go Town got what they fully deserved. Jaques laid the ball back to Corbisiero on the right flank, and his deep cross found Venables lurking on the edge of the box. Always the man for the big occasion, the Powys goal poacher then slipped inside his marker only to pick out the bottom corner of Paul Harrison's net with a brilliant instinctive finish. Of course TNS went on to exert pressure in the final period of the game, but with back four Sion James, Stuart Jones, Surman and Craig Williams strong as oxes, protected by the midfield shield of Stephens, Luke Sherbon, Corbisiero, and Venables, not to mention Griffiths who also came back to defend well, the Champions were restricted to half chances. Lewis did well to save Williams' low strike, and also gathered a Greg Draper header, but Aber fully deserved to hold on through the four additional minutes, and a morale boosting draw was the end result.
After a tough run of fixtures and results, the Black and Greens last night with their excellent and disciplined team performance created a perfect platform to go on a very positive run between now and mid January, and with five out of their last six games at home, Park Avenue is set for some excitement over the festive period. Tuesday night's game at home to Carmarthen Town (kick off 7.45pm) cannot come soon enough!