Holywell celebrate the goal that gave them a shock lead (Kevin Hughes)
Aberystwyth Town booked their place in the Welsh Cup final, but were made to work hard by Welsh Alliance side Holywell Town in a fast paced game at Latham Park, Newtown, writes Aneurin Venables.
In a breathtaking first half it was Aberystwyth Town who had the first chances. It was Holywell though who created the best chances, as Steve Thomas shot a great free kick which Aber could only clear for a corner. And on 11 minutes it was the Welsh Alliance side who took the lead, as the Wellmen shocked the Seasiders by crossing in low from the resulting short corner, with Graeme Williams poking home from close range.
The rest of the half saw both sides have chances before Aber boss Ian Hughes made a bold move seven minutes before the interval, by changing formation and withdrawing the unfortunate Tom Shaw for another striker in Mark Jones.
That offensive change had an almost immediate impact as Aberystwyth managed to equalize on 43 minutes, as Geoff Kellaway made a mazy run down the left, before crossing low to Craig Williams to finish from six yards out. Aberystwyth had more chances just before the half time whistle but it was all square at Mark Whitby's whistle.
The second half continued with the same frenetic pace of the first half with both sides having chances to take the lead, Cledan Davies early in the half with a mazy run for Aberystwyth then Paul Williams for Holywell being twice denied by Mike Lewis.
Aberystwyth midfielder Antonio Corbisiero pressurises Holywell's Sam Jones (Kevin Hughes)
Aberystwyth were doing most of the attacking though and scored twice in the last 10 minutes to put themselves in the final. First, Venables on 82 minutes lifted a shot over Danny Stanton before Aberystwyth scored their third on 88 minutes as Geoff Kellaway shot into the bottom corner to send the Welsh Premier side through, despite a strong performance by their Welsh Alliance opponents.
The New Saints sealed their place in the FAW Welsh Cup Final after goals from Matty Williams and Jamie Mullan ensured a two nil victory against a brave Bala Town.
Williams opened the scoring in the 15th minute but ten minutes later, Connall Murtagh drew his side level. Nottingham-born Mullan gave his side the lead with a brilliant curling shot and the goal proved to be the winning goal of the game.
Within the first minute of the match, Mike Wilde put the ball in the net but the referee ruled the goal out, after the TNS striker was adjudged to have pushed a Bala defender.
The Saints had the majority of possession early on and after 15 minutes went in front. Simon Spender's wonderful cross was calmly volleyed in by Williams. The former Manchester United man found space in the box and was composed enough to place his controlled shot into the top corner.
However, although TNS seemed to be in control, Bala drew level. Murtagh smashed in an unstoppable shot from a narrow angle after The Saints had failed to clear a free kick.
Minutes later, Chris Jones missed the target from close range after Mullan had done really well to pick out his opposite winger.
Seconds later, Mullan turned from provider to scorer and helped TNS retake the lead. The winger wonderfully curled his effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the box leaving Ashley Morris no chance.
The Lakesiders continued to push forward in search of the equaliser but with Mullan causing problems down the left, it was The Saints who looked like scoring next.
The second half started with both sides going forward and TNS nearly scored a third minutes into it. Aeron Edwards' cross was met by Mullan but the winger smashed over from close range.
Bala, who beat Aberdare Town in the previous round, started to apply a lot of pressure on the TNS defence but the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League Champions continued to defend well.
Mark Connolly had a shot for Bala that flew just over the bar and soon after, Aeron Edwards nearly latched onto a wonderful free kick from Chris Seargeant.
Sam Finley replaced Williams with half an hour to go as Bala continued to push forward.
The Bala goalkeeper somehow denied Seargeant with only ten minutes left. The TNS number 12 expertly turned in the box and his excellent shot was magnificently kept out by the diving Morris.
As Bala pushed up higher and higher, Wilde raced through one on one with the Bala 'keeper but the TNS forward shot straight at Morris as the game became increasingly stretched.
TNS defended the final four minutes of the match well and secured a spot in the FAW Welsh Cup Final.
TNS: Paul Harrison (C), Simon Spender, Chris Marriott, Phil Baker (Lee Fowler 82), Kai Edwards, Aeron Edwards, Chris Seargeant, Jamie Mullan, Matty Williams (Sam Finley 63), Chris Jones and Mike Wilde.
Unused substitutes: Ryan Kershaw, Greg Draper, Ryan Fraughan.
Bala Town: Ashley Morris, Stuart Jones, Ryan Valentine, Dave Morley, Conall Murtagh, Mark Connolly, Mark Jones (C), Stef Edwards, Stephen Brown (Lewis Codling 60), Kenny Lunt (Sean Thornton 79) and Kieran Smith.
Unused substitutes: Matt Boswell, Danny Collins, Chris Mason