David Brooks scored the equaliser
Two early second half goals from Martin Rose set up Port Talbot for their 12th Welsh Premiership win of the season, against out of form Prestatyn at the Gen-Quip Stadium. (reports Robert Clement).
However the Steelmen were required to overcome a first half opener for the Denbighshire visitors by Mark Smyth, but that lead was soon cancelled out by a penalty from Port Talbot skipper David Brooks. Following the swift second period finishing from Rose, Carl Payne then rubber-stamped victory, with a fourth goal late in the game, to complete a Championship double, with Chad Bond having previously pinched the points with the only goal of the game, when the teams last met seven weeks ago at Bastion Gardens.
With Port Talbot eager to improve on last week’s 3-3 outcome against Bangor City, there was one change to the starting line-up with Sacha Walters replacing Payne. Meanwhile injury struck Prestatyn brought in Dan Evans and Martyn Beattie for Anthony Stephens and Tommy Holmes following the midweek 1-0 defeat against Bangor City.
It was Port Talbot, who threatened to establish a tenth minute lead when Brooks advanced swiftly into Prestatyn territory, his delivery to Ashley Evans was intercepted by Chris Davies, but the ball ran kindly into the path of Bond, and the former Swansea City youth product despatched a well timed shot from twenty yards straight into the palms of goalkeeper Jon Hill-Dunt.
Within seven minutes of creating that scoring option, Port Talbot were once again moving in the right direction, only for Lloyd Grist to have his progress halted by Dan Evans, just outside the eighteen yard area. Brooks then successfully curled the free kick over the two men wall, only for Andy Parkinson to then produce a swift goalmouth clearance.
The action immediately switched to the opposite end with Neil Gibson releasing the overlapping Parkinson; the former Aberystwyth Town striker then supplied a right sided cross into the goalmouth, only for combined headed clearances from Ashley Evans and James Bloom to relieve pressure, but it was Dan Evans who smartly reacted to fire a low shot from just outside the penalty area which Steven Hall could only push away into the direction of the oncoming Smyth, with the Liverpool born midfielder finding the net from seven yards.
That lead lasted for only fifteen minutes with Port Talbot grabbing the equaliser from a Brooks penalty, with the spot kick taker and Grist both being fouled by Gareth Wilson and Chris Davies, which saw referee Kevin Morgan indicate to the white mark to set up the Steelmen for the twelve yard scoring option which was profited by the home team.
With Port Talbot encouraged by the equaliser, they began the second half with a positive attitude, and within a minute of the restart Bond dispossessed Ross Stephens just outside the penalty area, he then threaded the ball into the path of the awaiting Rose, with the Southampton born frontrunner having the simple task applying a right footed finish from three yards.
Having secured that lead to move ahead, Rose was once again in the right place at the right time; on this occasion it was Brooks and Grist who injected pace and quality on the left side, and with Grist supplying the crucial pass into the feet of Rose, the striker for a second time applied the vital required finish.
Despite conceding those two goals, the Bastion Gardens visitors attempted to seek a route back into the match with a probing run forward from halfway by Gibson, the player/manager picked out the available Parkinson, but regrettably he was narrowly off target, with a rising shot being powered into the framework of the netting support.
Port Talbot however, stretched their lead with six minutes remaining on the clock; an Ashley Evans pass dropped inviting for Payne with the aid of a Smyth’s misdirected headed clearance, the ex Afan Lido midfielder then applied an inviting delivery into the goalmouth which was met by Chris Davies, but the clearance was snapped onto by Payne, and he then supplied a superb left footed curled delivery from fifteen yards, which shaved the inside edge of the far upright.
Port Talbot joint first team coach Marc Cahill then reflected on a competitive opening forty five minutes with Welsh Premier League reporter Robert Clement, followed by a second half performance where the Steelmen dominated the match.
“Yes, Scott and I have to be pleased with the boy’s; they were asked to change a few things at half-time, and I thought that they executed them very well”.
“We just needed a bit more quality and possession to stop Prestatyn playing as easy as they did in the first half, and then a bit more composure on the ball, which was evident in the second period”.
Cahill then remarked about the two second half goals from the returning Martin Rose.
“I was saying to him that it’s only a matter of time before the ball would cross the line, now he’s got to keep chipping away; he’s been very disappointed with his return so far, but I think he got it right today”.
He then commented on the finish by Carl Payne, with the inside of the post providing him with his fourth goal of the campaign.
“Listen, it was whether or not he was crossing it”, smiled Cahill. “You never know with him; in fairness he’s played well during the final fifteen minutes, having come on for Sacha Walters and he took his goal fantastically well”.
With the series of goalscoring opportunities, Cahill was asked if the all important result was the ideal preparation for the final away fixture at Carmarthen next week, with the play-off’s swiftly following.
“Yes it was; we take every game by game and go from there, we’ll enjoy this now, but it’s back to training and crack on next week”.
Prestatyn player/manager Neil Gibson then responded to the situation of a poor second half, following a competitive first forty five minutes.
“I think you’re right, in the first twenty five minutes I thought we were excellent, we also played really well on Tuesday night against Bangor, and didn’t get our just rewards”.
“It started off really well first half, but the penalty deflated us a little bit, but the timing of the second goal is a real blow for us, coming out and conceding so early on. Obviously it knocked the wind out of our sails and we then gave away some poor goals in the second half, which prevented us from getting anything out of the game”.
The former Tranmere Rovers midfielder was then asked if he could put his finger on the reason why Prestatyn tend to lose their motivation during second half’s.
“I don’t think that you can look into it too much really, because for some performances, like the one at Bangor in February when we were 3-0 down, we then came back to 3-3 in the second period with goals from Andy Parkinson and Michael Parker”.
“I just think that today Port Talbot were a very organised side, doing well this season, and to come here with nine players missing was always going to stretch ourselves, and any team in the league really”.
“The way we played in the first half I thought that we might get away with it, but I’m disappointed with the penalty to allow them back into the game, and I also thought that we might have had a chance of one ourselves, but I was not sure if it was inside or outside the box and those things can maybe change games, and unfortunately they are not quite falling for us at this moment in time”.
Gibson was then asked if the league was proving to be a distraction, especially with eyes on the cup final against Bangor at Wrexham next month.
“I don’t think so, hopefully the players that are missing at the moment will be fit and back in time for the run-in at the end of the season; the lads are getting opportunities and there should be no distractions, with us trying to finish in the league as high as possible, and obviously today’s result could mean that probably Port Talbot are going to finish fourth, and so the next thing for us is to finish fifth”.
With Prestatyn for a second season struggling to put points on the board during the second phase of the season’s campaign, Gibson explained the reasoning for the unfortunate situation.
“As I’ve said before, the clubs above us haven’t the number of players missing as we have; today we’ve given a debut to sixteen year old Daniel Davies, but it’s a fact that we’re not always going to be able to pick up points against the better teams in the league, and I think that last season is slightly different to this”.
“When you push yourself as hard as you do to be where you are, come Christmas it arrived at a cost, and what has happened is that during the season there’s been a series of injuries, so it’s important to have them back for the cup final and the last few games”.
With goalkeeper Jon Hill-Dunt being one of the leading features at Prestatyn, Gibson responded to the problems he’s undergoing at the moment.
“We really do have a catalogue of players absent and that has also to include our goalkeeper who has been labouring to kick a ball; we’ve asked the league for a loan replacement, but unfortunately we’ve been unsuccessful with that, so it was either play a sixteen year old or Jon Hill-Dunt on one leg, so we’ve taken the latter option, and fair play to him, he’s committed to doing that and we can just hope that we keep him free from additional problems”.
“He did get clattered with Martin Rose, and it’s a situation we’ll continue to monitor; it’s something that happens every week, but you tend to close your eyes every time the ball goes near him, because you know how important it is that he’s fit and available for the remaining games”.