Danny Thomas scored the only goal
Daniel Thomas hit the bull’s eye, after displaying skill, positive determination along with a superb lethal finish to provide Port Talbot with three important points against potential champion contenders Prestatyn, in an incident packed ninety minutes at the Gen-Quip stadium. (reports Robert Clement).
With the Steelmen having conceded nine goals from previous matches against Airbus and Aberystwyth Town, caretaker boss Scott Young made three positional changes, with the recall of goalkeeper Craig Richards in place of David Burnett, along with Thomas and Matthew Crowell, who replaced Lewis Harling and Dylan Blain, after manager Mark Jones had his contract terminated.
Meanwhile, Greg Stones and Rhys Owen were draughted into the Prestatyn starting line-up, in place of suspended duo Neil Gibson and Gareth Wilson, following the 1-0 victory against Bala Town.
Within nine seconds of the kick-off, Port Talbot were dealt a severe setback with referee Bryn Markham-Jones being well positioned to issue a red card to Carl Payne, with the midfielder having applied a raised foot challenge to in-form Prestatyn goalscorer Michael Parker in the centre circle.
From the resulting free-kick, just inside the Prestatyn half, Cortez Belle met Anthony Stephens’ delivery, with the danger being cleared in the Port Talbot goalmouth.
Owen attempted to pick out fellow colleague Jason Price, but it was David Brooks who superbly struck a low crossfield pass into the path of Thomas, he then made swift progress, avoided a tackle by Anthony Stephens, before bringing goalkeeper Jon Hill-Dunt into action, by forcing him to stretch to his left to block his firmly struck goal threat.
The all-important breakthrough arrived after twenty nine minutes, when James Bloom played a simple pass into the feet of Thomas, he then sprinted clear unzipping the Prestatyn defence, firstly skipping past Owen and after having made a terrific long burst run forward he wrong footed Paul O’Neill, and from twelve yards applied a sure right footed finish, to beat Hill-Dunt, and that was joyfully followed with a celebration swipe to the corner flag.
Seven minutes later, Port Talbot were once again threatening to add to their lead following a David Brooks corner, and there was a massive chance for Belle to head home, but it was Price who had positioned himself on the goal-line, with him making an all-important clearance.
The Seasider’s gained a free-kick after seventy minutes, but from Anthony Stephens’s in-swinger, it was Daniel Sheehan who blocked the goal threat; Dan Evans then miskicked allowing lee John to seize possession, and he enthusiastically burst forward to release the accompanying Sheehan, but unfortunately it was the outstretched foot of Hill-Dunt that prevented Port Talbot from doubling their lead.
There was a last gasp chance for the Denbighshire visitors during the first minute of added on time, when a cross into the goalmouth by Chris Davies was headed back to O’Neill by Price; the Bolton born central defender then saw his left footed shot strike the upper arm of Ryan Green.
Andy Parkinson stepped forward to despatch the spot kick home, but Richards reacted superbly, getting down to block the strong delivery, Davies then swiftly seized upon the opportunity, but blazed over the top, and that was followed with him lowering his head into the turf in disbelief.
Port Talbot caretaker manager Scott Young then spoke with Robert Clement in the Gen-Quip media suite, remarking to the situation of the outcome being quite dramatic with three points gained.
“Obviously after going down to ten men early into the first minute, it certainly was a big ask for the lads, and to be fair they’ve come through, and all credit to them for what they’ve achieved today”.
With that major incident at the beginning of the game, Young was asked if he feared the worse when the red card was brandished.
“Certainly, but I think that we stayed positive; we had a good chat that if we ever went down to ten men we’d remain solid and take the game to them, and the boys responded with them thoroughly deserving the three points”.
Young commented on the situation of referee Bryn Markham- Jones getting both calls right, involving the red card at the beginning and then the award of the penalty for Prestatyn right at the end.
“I don’t know, it would be interesting to see the tackle, it has to be a serious incident to have someone sent off so soon, but with regards to the handball issue, I really could not see it, but it was a great save from Craig Richards”.
With so much happening at the club following the departure of Mark Jones, Young was asked how important the result was, with him being appointed to take responsibility for this important game.
“As it stands, at the moment I’m in charge for today; I’m having a meeting with the chairman and the board of directors now, so we’ll have a discussion and see where that takes us, but it’s one game and they are needed week in week out, and that’s what we need to achieve”.
Prestatyn’s suspended player/manager Neil Gibson then agreed that it was a cruel way to end the game, being unable to secure a point having a missed opportunity from the penalty spot.
“That’s correct, obviously we’re not going to blame Andy Parkinson for that, he’s been tremendous for us this season and anyone can miss a penalty really, what is more disappointing is the lack of chances we created in the other ninety minutes of the game with Port Talbot being down to ten men virtually from the kick-off, and we haven’t been good enough to open them up, which is of concern for us”.
Having played for more than ninety minutes with the one man advantage, Gibson was asked if he was surprised that the team were unable to make it count.
“Yes, I think that it caught up with us a little bit today, losing Michael Parker so early because of the tackle, myself and Gareth Wilson were also missing, and we lost Ross Stephens to an injury during the game”.
“There are no excuses, because Port Talbot fully deserved their victory and they fought excellently, but I don’t think that we had the right personnel to try and win us the game, and that’s probably the reason behind us not creating as many chances as we’re used to”.
Gibson was then asked if he thought that the referee got the decision to send Carl Payne off was correct.
“We don’t like seeing players getting sent off early in the games because it disrupts it, but it looked like an easy decision to make from my point of view, and it was just one of them that which way it goes, it’s a sending off, it’s a bad tackle”.
Asked how tough it was to come to Port Talbot with Scott Young in charge, Gibson added, “It’s always tough when you come to Port Talbot, they’re a good side and I expect them to finish in the top six this season, I’ve got a lot of time for Mark Jones and obviously feel for him that he’s lost his job, but I knew that they’d be up for it and they didn’t disappoint us”.
“I think that with them scoring the goal, that gave them something to hang onto, then it made it extremely difficult for us, where we should have come away with a 0-0, but a lapse in concentration from us defensively, a really good individual finish from Daniel Thomas, and credit to Port Talbot they held onto it and fully deserved the victory”.
“We’ll dust ourselves down now, disappointed that it was a chance for us to push on and pull away from teams around us, but with a good Welsh Cup game down the road against Afan Lido next week, hopefully we can try top progress, and get back to winning ways”.