Unbeaten Trefelin BGC returned to the top of Welsh League Division Three with a hard-fought and somewhat fortuitous 2-1 home win over Panteg.
Goals from Jamie Latham and Jordan Edwards secured the points for Trefelin, but Richard Ryan’s side were largely indebted to goalkeeper Matthew Stanton who produced a string of saves in the first half, including a brilliant penalty save from Panteg’s Luke Dyke.
At the start of play Trefelin found themselves in the unusual position this season of staring up the league table. Swansea University’s win at Ynysgerwn on Friday night saw them overtake the Port Talbot-based outfit and Trefelin knew only a win would take them back above their title rivals.
Despite the league positions, Panteg – firmly rooted in mid-table and playing only for pride with promotion out of range and no threat of relegation – started the much better side on a pitch that was more conducive to their more direct attacking play than Trefelin’s efforts to play out from the back.
Pressing high up the field, Panteg forced a number of mistakes from Trefelin players in the opening stages, resulting in wave after wave of attack in the first half.
Trefelin stopper Stanton was forced into the first of his many first-half saves as early as the seventh minute. A free-kick from wide on the right was swung into the near post, Ben Taylor’s glancing header forcing Stanton to push the effort over the bar.
For all their territorial dominance in the opening twenty minutes, Panteg were caught out by a counter-attack from one of their attacking corners. Trefelin’s Dylan Thomas led the breakaway through the middle of the field, runners either side creating a 3 on 2 in the home side’s favour. Thomas took his time over the options and a perfectly weighted slide rule pass released Jamie Latham on the right. He finished with great composure, squeezing an accurate shot just inside the far post from 20 yards.
If that was the cue for Trefelin to take the game by the scruff of the neck, it didn’t materialize. Instead, the visitors continued to press and started to create chances.
A superb crossfield pass found Lewis Iles in space on the left flank. Iles demonstrated skilful wing play to cut inside and force a good save from Stanton. Shortly after Iles was again threatening the goal after being set-up by Ben Taylor, but Stanton once again came to his side’s aide.
The chances kept on coming for Panteg though. Shortly after the half hour, Stanton and Iles continued their personal duel, Stanton’s latest stop from Iles deflecting towards Taylor at the back post. He slid in and it seemed like all that was needed was a good contact to put the ball into the gaping goal. However, Taylor’s effort rolled across the goal line and hit the opposite post and away from goal. It didn’t take long before Taylor was denied again, this time he beat Stanton at close range, but there was a Trefelin defender on the goal line to turn the effort away.
The best chance of all for Panteg came a minute before halftime. Referee Paul Meredith awarded the visitors a penalty following a clumsy challenge from behind by a Trefelin defender. Luke Dyke stepped up and struck the ball low and hard, Stanton went the right way and showed a strong right hand to keep the effort out.
After an even start to the second-half, Panteg did finally get their reward. Breaking quickly through midfield, Jordan Ryan was fed the ball on the edge of the box and his brilliant first time side-foot effort found the top corner ten minutes after the break.
Richard Ryan’s response was to make a double substitution, including the introduction of Shaun Best. Substitute Best made a telling contribution, providing the cross from the left that Jordan Edwards fired home on the turn from 12 yards to restore Trefelin’s lead on the hour mark. A fine half-volley from Ceri Williams also stung the palms of James Aurelius as Trefelin suddenly began to look like they may assert control of the match.
The final half-hour was played out in end to end fashion as both sides went in search of the game’s potentially crucial fourth goal. There was no shortage of endeavour, but Panteg, wearying on a heavy pitch, were unable to reproduce the quality of chance they did in that first-half spell. Ben Walker and Jordan Ryan came closest but were both off target. The best chance for any further goals fell to Jordan Edwards on the counter, but his effort was saved.
The last noteworthy incident involved a melee on halfway after an altercation involving Jamie Latham and Jordan Ryan. Despite high numbers of players piling in, referee Paul Meredith maintained his distance and let the tension fizzle out. Once the handbags were over, Meredith was satisfied that a yellow card for Ryan and, mysteriously, Trefelin’s Warren Hudson was sufficient action.
Panteg continued to put the ball forward in search of one last chance which never came and Trefelin saw out three minutes of added time in fairly comfortable fashion; their place at the top of Division Three restored.