Swansea University maintained their pursuit of Trefelin Boys and Girls club at the top of Welsh League Division Three with a hard-fought win over Penrhiwceiber Rangers.
The Students had to come from behind to take the three points. The decisive penalty late on was harsh on the hosts, who were more than equal to the University club on the day.
Before the game, Swansea Uni would have been favourites given form and league position. The University side is chasing hard on the heels of runaway league leaders Trefelin BGC during their debut season in the Welsh League, while Penrhiwceiber were in lowly 12th and had lost their last two games to bottom two outfits Ely Rangers and Treowen Stars. However, as a hint at what may lay in store, Penrhiwceiber were the first side to take a point off Trefelin in a 2-2 draw at Glasbrook Field on Bonfire weekend.
On a heavy pitch under grey clouds in the Cynon Valley, neither side was able to establish themselves early in the game – although whistle-happy referee Darren Ould hardly helped proceedings with constant disruptions and fussyness over the exactitude of where throw-ins should be taken. Nevertheless, both sides had clearly come to play. It was evident the pace of Marley Bishop-Wisdom would be a particular outlet for the West Glamorganshire side, while the home side’s neat build play was surprising for a side in their position and credit to them given the difficult conditions.
Bishop-Wisdom provided the first real threat on goal, bursting into the Penrhiwceiber box in the 13th minute and working space to fire a powerful shot into the side netting. The best opening for the home side in these early exchanges came via a knock down off a long free kick, Swansea Uni goalkeeper Harry Churchill having to be alert to snatch the ball off Brandon Hill’s head as he looked certain to nod home from a couple of yards out.
Callum Connor rattled the Penrhiwceiber bar from a corner in the 22nd minute and at the other end Churchill was the hero for the visitors again, showing good agility and a strong wrist to get down and push away a low strike from Brandon Davies after finding space in the inside right channel.
These chances were at a premium in a first half that was end to end in nature and highly competitive, yet lacking quality final ball in the attacking thirds. Although the best chance would come at the death of the first half, Nick Hyden playing in Bishop-Wisdom on the left flank, the forward somehow squirmed himself inside his marker along the goal line and found space to fire a close range shot goalwards, Gavin Keepings was on hand to block with his feet.
The second half started in much the same manner as the first ended with both sides tussling for supremacy. The breakthrough game in the 50th minute and it was symptomatic of a lack of communication that had plagued the Swansea Uni backline up to this point. A ball over the top gave Brandon Davies some space to run into, he had the beating of his marker in pace and strength, stroking coolly past Churchill to give Penrhiwceiber the lead.
The students should have been level within a couple of minutes. Given too much room on the right flank, a cross found an unmarked Oliver Roberts six yards out but he squandered the opportunity and headed over.
There was an ugly exchange between Swansea Uni goalkeeper and centre back Daniel Barnard, after another miscommunication in the backline, that required the referee’s intervention, then Connor and Jamie Noble made a hash of another chance to equalise after good work by Chris Fanet down the right; shortly after the hour the Swansea Uni frustrations boiled over when captain Hyden was booked for dissent.
It was beginning to look like it might be one of those days for the students when they did hit back. Hyden was given too much space on the right as the Penrhiwceiber defenders were guilty of ball-watching. His cross to the back post was tapped in by Noble to level the scores with 25 minutes to play.
The equaliser seemed to given Penrhiwceiber a second wind though. Elliot Williams forged a half chance after shrugging off Barnard and forced a save from Churchill, then a long ball forward by Rangers captain Lance Evans was not held by the Swansea keeper, Davies gathered the loose ball but his shot from a tight angle hit the outside of the post. It wasn’t an easy chance, but one that Penrhiwceiber would go on to rue.
In the 86th minute, Bishop-Widsom tried to turn away from a Penrhiwceiber marker and tumbled to the ground in the process. It looked like six of one, half a dozen of the other, but referee Ould pointed to the spot. Hyden stepped up and slotted the ball home down the middle of the goal and Swansea Uni saw out the remaining four minutes plus injury time without any real alarms to inflict a defeat that Penrhiwceiber did not deserve to suffer.
The win means Swansea Uni remain seven points behind Trefelin BGC, but with two games in hand they remain firmly in the hunt for the Division Three title.