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Sunday, 06 October 2013 18:47

ABSENT FRIENDS

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The PTT Ultras The PTT Ultras

SATURDAY 5TH OCTOBER: The GenQuip Stadium – warm and dry.
PORT TALBOT TOWN 1 RHYL 0 (Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League)
My autumn plans always had today down as one to take in a WPL game: either Port Talbot or Carmarthen. In the end, the need to be back in Cardiff by six p.m., and the small matter of an account receivable, swung it in favour of Port Talbot and the familiar, easy journey to the GenQuip. Well, easy in theory, and although a non-running train on my branch line means a bad start, I still get to Victoria Road over half an hour before kick off. Sparse crowd at this time, and still sparse as 2.30 approaches. Now Port Talbot Town can't be accused of taking a 'build it and they will come' approach to WPL crowds: they've tried various initiatives, and this season have even reduced entry to a paltry £5, the lowest in our national league and way below non-league football prices elsewhere in Britain. It doesn't seem to be making a difference, and I fear it's lack of interest rather than affordability that stops the citizens of Aberavon and Port Talbot from turning up.

In front of an attendance looking well under 200 (officially 217, but probably including absent season ticket holders), the match starts with Port Talbot on the front foot: Rhyl are immediately under pressure as the home side attacks promisingly on the flanks. Bond, O'Sullivan and Harling in particular link up well on the right, and crosses are soon flying in towards former golden boot Rhys Griffiths. The problem is, Rhyl are pretty effective at blocking the crosses, and when the ball does find Griffiths and his fellow strikers in the box they seem too fearful and hesitant to put Ramsay under pressure in the Rhyl goal. Given the amount of time play is spent in the Rhyl half, he has a fairly comfortable first half. And although Rhyl offer precious little beyond dogged resistance, Hall at the other end has to make the smartest save of the half. 0-0 at the interval and as lacking in drama as that scoreline suggests.

And, to be honest, the second half is even worse: Rhyl, clearly here with limited ambitions to defend for a point and nick the other two on a breakaway if possible, nearly take the lead but are denied by a smart save from Hall again. And then the game is won at the other end by a goal that is so in keeping with the match that it prompts a wry smile: a scramble in the box ends with two Port Talbot men on the line, the ball between them. Time seems to stand still with this tableau unchanged, until substitute Martin Rose finally pokes the ball over the line.

Although there's over 15 minutes left, Port Talbot now play to the corners, lacking the confidence to go on and make the points safe. It's in one such foray to the corner flag that tempers flare in stoppage time, with the yellow card brandished at several players, including a couple who arrived late on the scene.

There's little time after this for any football, and Port Talbot hold out for a desperately needed win. They are understandably delighted with the result, but for the neutral this was instantly forgettable. A nervous home side, negative and unenterprising visitors.

Now I believe in the Welsh Premier, I want it to succeed and I frequently spring to its defence, but... I find it hard today to say that the absent citizens of Aberavon missed all that much. Every game can't be a classic – but if this was really Town's "best performance of the season" (manager Scott Young, post-match) then no wonder the collective confidence looked at rock-bottom here. For Port Talbot Town, South Wales's best hope of success in the national league, let's hope this victory is a turning point.

Read 4890 times Last modified on Monday, 14 October 2013 19:03
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