Smiles all round as the Steelmen head into the play-off final (Gareth Elms)
Port Talbot Town’s hopes of European football took another step to fruition on Saturday as the Steelmen reached the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League play-off final, by overcoming Carmarthen Town.
The bumper crowd at the GenQuip stadium were not left disappointed as David Brooks’ 71st-minute effort finally unlocked a stubborn Carmarthen team, to put Scott Young’s side within 90-minutes of Europa League qualification.
Carmarthen’s intentions of not allowing Port Talbot to settle were clear from the off, as the Old Gold snapped on the heels of the hosts with neither side finding time to settle in possession. But the Blues’ quality eventually shone through.
“It was always going to a difficult game for us today, with our local rivals coming to our own patch but in the end I think we deserved it,” said a delighted Scott Young following the game. “The lads have been fantastic in their attitude and desire to match Carmarthen, and our quality came out at the end.”
James Bloom and David Brooks combined well down the left only for Carl Payne to shoot narrowly wide and Carmarthen full-back Luke Cummings made enough ground to make a crucial interception, after Martin Rose was played through by Ashley Evans’ splitting ball, in a first-half which was limited in chances for the Steelmen. The best opportunity of the goalless opening 45-minutes fell to Carmarthen when Corey Thomas’ delivery from the right was met by Christian Doidge, whose diving header flashed dangerously past Steven Hall’s goal.
And as the second-half continued in similar vein to the first, it was vital that Port Talbot remained organised and disciplined in their attempts to force an opening. And midway through, Port Talbot’s quality finally proved decisive.
Lewis Harling carried the ball forward and set David Brooks free inside the area with a measured pass to leave the in-form winger to manoeuvre his body to find space and pick his spot before striking the ball low past goalkeeper Steven Cann with Paul Fowler, on the goal-line, helpless to deflect the shot away.
Brooks immediately ran straight to the fans gathered behind the goal, who had been constant in their vocal support throughout the afternoon as the Blues took a major step towards reaching the final.
Mark Aizlewood was immediate in his response from the touchline however, sending on Craig Hughes for make-shift centre-forward Carl Evans to bolster the Carmarthen front-line. But as Aizlewood’s side played with less caution, the game became stretched and Port Talbot were finding more space to probe in the middle of the park.
Payne and Brooks both saw chances to seal the game flash by them and in the final stages, substitutes Sacha Walters and Adam Wright did well to set up Harling who shot straight at Cann, shortly before the referee called time, confirming a famous victory for Scott Young’s men.
Port Talbot are now just one game away from a place in next season’s UEFA Europa League and will face Bala Town at the GenQuip stadium in next Saturday’s play-off final (3pm).
PORT TALBOT TOWN 1-0 CARMARTHEN TOWN
Port Talbot: 29. Steven Hall, 9. Martin Rose (18. Adam Wright 87′), 24. Ryan Green, 4. Ashley Evans, 5. Lee Surman, 6. James Bloom, 7. Lee John, 8. Lewis Harling, 10. Cortez Belle, 14. Carl Payne, 39. David Brooks (21. Sacha Walters 85′). Subs not used: 12. Leigh De Vulgt, 25. David Burnett (gk)
Carmarthen: 1. Steven Cann, 3. Ian Hillier (36. Casey Thomas 80′), 26. Luke Cummings, 5. Matthew Rees, 24. Craig Hanford, 8.Paul Fowler, 16. Nicky Palmer, 2. Corey Thomas, 25. Liam McCreesh (21. Iestyn Evans 80′), 6. Carl Evans (9.Craig Hughes 73′), 30. Christian Doidge. Subs not used: 15. Neil Smothers, 35. Kerry Nicholas (gk)
Referee: Nick Pratt Attendance: 410
Images courtesy of Gareth Elms.