Bala Town FC
Europa League Playoff
|04.05.13 | 2:30pm|
Match Report written by Ray Brown:
The 2012-13 season drew to a close for the Nomads as they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Bala in the first round of the play-offs for a place in the Europa Cup. Playing to the same plan of containing the in-form Bala that had almost succeeded in the previous game, the Nomads once again put in a tremendous performance but in the end the sides were separated by a goal scored from a disputed penalty just fifteen minutes from time..
With Alan Hooley missing, Danny Forde returned to the starting line-up and rather surprisingly lined up at right-back with Danny Dobbins operating at left-back.
The game started with the Nomads settling into a similar pattern of play to that used the previous week and it looked like being another tight game. The first goalmouth action of any note came in the 13th minute when Bala were awarded a free kick after John Hardiker took out Lee Hunt just outside the penalty area and John Rushton did well to push John Irving’s goalbound shot round the post for a corner. A minute later, Ricky Evans put Mike Hayes through on the left but his lobbed shot went just over the crossbar. The 18th minute saw a scare for the Nomads as a cross from a Bala corner was punched high into the air by John Rushton but the pressure was relieved when John Hardiker was fouled by a Bala player.
As the game developed, the Nomads were defending well and playing a containing game in midfield. Up front, they were looking for scraps and rarely troubling the Bala goal. Indeed, it was the 31st minute before the Nomads got their first corner kick of the game. The rest of the first half proved to be a bit of a tame affair and it came to an end with Rob Jones looking to have a good claim for a penalty denied and Bala’s Lee Hunt being booked for a late challenge on Craig Jones.
At half time, the Nomads will have been very happy with their performance, which may not have been spectacular but was certainly effective in containing and frustrating a very good Bala side which had won all ten of their phase two games.
The second half started with the Nomads pushing forward and earning an early corner but it was back to defence soon afterwards and Bala were awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. The impressive John Irving lined up for the kick but thankfully his shot went high over the bar. After good play by Ricky Evans and Rob Jones, Jamie Petrie was put through but he was stopped by the Bala defence. The Nomads probably just edged the first 15 minutes of the second half and the few sights on goal which were falling to Bala were being wasted as first Mark Jones and then Lee Hunt blasted efforts over the crossbar. An excellent run into the Bala penalty area by Danny Forde resulted in a cross into the goalmouth causing the Bala defence to concede a corner. The Nomads continued to look dangerous on occasions and Jamie Petrie was foiled by the Bala keeper after he ran into the penalty area from a Danny Dobbins pass.
With the game moving towards the last 15 minutes, the Nomads received a hammer blow when the ball appeared to hit John Hardiker’s upper arm and referee Mark Whitby had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Strong protests led to bookings for Hardiker and Mark McGregor and there appeared to be claims that immediately before the penalty award there had been an offside which the linesman has failed to spot. But, as might be expected, the officials ignored these claims and Lee Hunt stepped up to convert the penalty.
The Nomads had no alternative other than to try to pull a goal back but they were unable to put the Bala goal under any real threat. Frustration got the better of Rob and Craig Jones and they were both booked. Then Bala almost got a second goal but were foiled by a fine goal-line clearance in the 82nd minute. As time ticked away, and despite there being four minutes of added time, the task proved too much for the Nomads and Bala celebrated as the final whistle ended the game.
Although obviously disappointed to lose the game after such a tremendous performance, the Nomads could look back on a successful first season back in the WPL and they received a good reception from the crowd as they left the field. The thirty or so Nomads fans who had made the trip were left to talk about the ups and downs of the season and to look forward to the 2013-14 season.
Hunt (pen 76),