Saturday 16th October
Saltney Town 0 Aberystwyth Town 0 (Aber win 5-4 on penalties)
Aber Town progressed to the Welsh Cup Quarter Finals with a win on penalties away to redoubtable Saltney Town, who had done a superb job to attract a record crowd of 604 which made for a big match atmosphere, and demonstrated all that is good about the JD Welsh Cup. Aber peppered Saltney’s goal but home keeper Josh Cooke held out, however the Black and Greens’ penalties were immaculate and Raul Correia scored the winner to ensure two positive away results in four days for Antonio Corbisiero’s men.
The visitors started confidently and Owain Jones shot wide early on. Forwards Correia and Steff Davies were working very hard to cut down the hosts’ opportunities to break and on a small pitch there was a flow of chances. Cooke held Alex Darlington’s free kick, and at the other end Jordan O’Brien took some set pieces which failed to trouble Gregor Zabret in the goal. Harry Franklin put in a low cross which Steff Davies nearly connected with, then Cooke punched clear a free kick from Darlington and Owain Jones set up Correia who shot straight at the goalkeeper. The hosts were trying to build from the back but with Jack Thorn a permanent shield in the middle, and dependable Louis Bradford and Lee Jenkins blocking off the central area they couldn’t get through. Cooke denied Jones again, and then saved from Steff Davies soon afterwards to keep his side in it. Jenkins was next to have a header saved from a free kick and then at the other end Ryan McCleary sent a header wide for Saltney. Darlington and Davies had further shots blocked, then Steve Chiocchi drew the largest noise of the half, curling a right footed effort past the post for Saltney. Steff Davies had a penalty shout denied, and Tom Booth headed over at the other end, and despite dominating the half Aber just couldn’t score, and the players went in at 0-0 at the break.
The excellent sportsmanship on display was demonstrated at half time as Aber Town’s subs joined in a game of keepy uppy with Saltney’s young players, but into the second half and Aber were right back at it, with Davies yet again denied and Franklin seeing an early effort turned over for a corner. Steff Davies saw a back flick cleared, then Zabret was out quickly to block off the lively Thomas Booth down the left. Booth got the crowd going again, curling an effort just wide soon afterwards and Aber knew they were in a game. The visitors were still controlling the ball, but Saltney’s dogged defending was demonstrated when keeper Cooke chased Owain Jones half way up the touchline and wisely brought him down before Aber’s wily winger could get a shot in! Jones’ nemesis struck again, saving a curled effort, and Cooke then saved from Sam Phillips, Darlington, and Rhys Davies in close succession to somehow keep the scores level. Jones and Phillips down the wings were trying to get past Saltney’s deep block, but there was just no way through for Aber. As the sun came out Phillips had an attempt deflected over the crossbar, and Darlington hit the post with a free kick. As the game moved towards the final whistle Shaun Tinsley saw the chance of glory for the hosts but found only the side netting, and a frustrating game for the visitors ended 0-0 with Saltney defending brilliantly for the full ninety minutes.
Welsh Cup matches no longer feature extra time but proceed straight to a penalty shoot out, which adds an element of jeopardy to proceedings for higher ranked clubs, so Aber were delighted to gain an advantage when the unfortunate Lee Butterworth blasted Saltney’s first spot kick over the bar. Successful penalties followed from Darlington, Thorn, Jon Evans and Phillips for Aber, and Jack Roberts, Chiocchi, Jake Johnson and McCleary for Saltney, which meant that Town needed to score their last penalty to progress. Up stepped brave Correia, who had missed a spot kick on Wednesday, and he kept his nerve to slot home and send the visitors through; however Aber’s muted celebration at the end reflected an appreciation of the excellent job Saltney Town had done both on and off the field.
Two huge results away from home in four days have transformed Aberystwyth’s outlook, as they now stand just three matches from Europe and have a February Welsh Cup Quarter Final to look forward to as the long winter months draw in. The draw will be held on Monday night at 8pm on the FAW’s Youtube and Facebook channels, but on Friday League points will be up for grabs again as Corbs’ cup heroes take on Penybont at Park Avenue, with an 8pm kick off. We go again!