Derby delight in deluge for Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth Town FC 1-0 Newtown AFC

Chris Venables (Pen.) 10’    |    Craig Williams Sent Off 90’

1009981_10152829457004452_4227017259569484273_nIT WAS BILLED as a ‘Night of Fright’ at Park Avenue, with the fans being encouraged to don suitably spooky attire, but on the pitch it was Aberystwyth who held their nerve as they ground out a 1-0 victory on a rain-soaked Halloween night to take all three points in a feisty Mid-Wales derby. Coming into this match at the back of two consecutive defeats, including a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Bala Town last week, Ian Hughes’ side were itching to regain their early season form which had propelled the Seasiders’ into the upper echelons of the Welsh Premier League table. This win will do much to restore team confidence and galvanise Aberystwyth’s push for a top half finish as we approach the crucial mid-point of the season.

Given that it had been Newtown themselves who had ended Aberystwyth’s seven match unbeaten run at the start of the season with a 6-3 win at Latham Park, the promise of revenge offered a tantalising added dimension to proceedings, and from the very first whistle it was evident that Aberystwyth were determined to seize the initiative. The men in Green and Black dominated the play for the first twenty minutes, with the industrious Geoff Kellaway linking up well with right-back Antonio Corbisiero to stretch the Newtown left flank with a number of darting runs. Kellaway’s endeavour was soon rewarded, as he was clumsily brought down in the Newtown box in the tenth minute to earn his side a penalty. Up stepped top scorer Chris Venables, who converted the spot-kick with typical aplomb to give Aberystwyth a well-deserved lead.

Aberystwyth’s thirst for revenge was not yet satiated, as Kellaway continued to harass the beleaguered Newtown defence, and the Seasiders were unlucky not to double their lead on the twenty-second minute, as Venables’ headed finish was harshly disallowed for foul play. Having weathered Aberystwyth’s opening salvo however, Newtown seemed to regain some composure from this point onwards, and the game became a far more even affair. Jason Oswell’s fine header on 26 minutes, which was only denied by the corner of the Aberystwyth bar, was a timely reminder that for all their early dominance, the Seasiders’ lead remained slender. Worse was to come at the end of the half, as Aberystwyth’s goalkeeper Mike Lewis, striving to deal with a stray ball, was clattered by an onrushing Newtown forward. Despite admirably soldering on until the half-time whistle, it was clear that Lewis was in no fit state to continue, and he was replaced at the interval by reserve goalkeeper Cledan Davies.

Aberystwyth_Town_FCThen came the deluge. A relentless torrent of rain greeted the players as they returned for the second half, lashing the Park Avenue pitch with the ferocity of a hungry werewolf. While the supporters huddled under whatever shelter they could find, no such comfort was afforded to the players, and it is to their great credit that the match did not degenerate into an ugly spectacle of hoof-ball, as well it might have done given the unforgiving conditions. Indeed, despite the sodden pitch, both teams exhibited some slick passages of play on occasions, as an exciting and open half of end-to-end football ensued. Newtown pressed hard for an equaliser, with Oswell once again looking their most likely scorer, but Cledan Davies expertly executed a string of fine saves to keep the Robins at bay, and as the half wore on Aberystwyth were able to exploit ample spaces in their opponents half to launch a barrage of quick-fire counter-attacks.

Kellaway, with the same rapier-like incisiveness that he had displayed throughout the first half, was unsurprisingly the chief architect of Aberystwyth’s offensive play, and one of his penetrating assists almost yielded a second goal for the Seasiders in the dying seconds of the match, but Mark Jones’ shot crashed against the right post of the Newtown goal. The miss mattered little in the end, as the referee blew for full time soon afterwards, sealing a hard-fought but thoroughly accomplished win for Aberystwyth over their old rivals. The only blemish for Ian Hughes’ side was the late dismissal of Craig Williams for time wasting, but Aberystwyth will otherwise look back on this match with a great deal of satisfaction. For the time being they are back into second place in the league, and after recording three defeats in their previous four games, it appears that the Seasiders’ are once again cruising through smooth waters to a top-half finish.