HILL-DUNT: IT WAS HARD TO LEAVE PRESTATYN
Jon Hill-Dunt is a name that needs little introduction within the domestic Welsh football scene. A Welsh Cup winner, he is best known for a 10 year career with Prestatyn Town which culminated in a Europa League appearance.
Now at Denbigh, Y Clwb Pel Droed caught up with him about the past, present and future of his impressive footballing pedigree.
Hill-Dunt starts by looking back to his time at Prestatyn, starting out in the third tier to go on and make Welsh Cup history.
“I loved every minute there, it was amazing to be a part of what we achieved in my 10 years there especially with us all being really good mates. From playing in the 3rd division to playing in the Europa League and winning the Welsh cup. It’s a really unique club which was proven with the amount of money that was raised before Christmas.”
The goalkeeper is not only recognised as Prestatyn’s Welsh Cup winner, as he was the hero on the day. A number of dramatic stops from Hill Dunt defended their 1-0 lead before a penalty save against Citizens stalwart Dave Morley provided a real turning point in favour of Prestatyn.
Looking back on that moment, he recalls his confidence having prior experience against Morley’s penalties in the Welsh Premier.
“Yeah definitely, that season I think I saved 5 so was very confident facing Dave in the final. He went to the right in the league game, and I just had an idea he’d change because he missed another one after the league game going to the right again.”
Beyond the game, he remembers the build up to that day at the Racecourse.
“It was an amazing day; to be fair to the club they couldn’t have done more for us in the build up to the final. We trained the day before at Colliers Park aswell as training at the Racecourse the week of the final.
We also stayed over in a hotel the night before, some of the fans made videos for us to watch in a team meeting and after that we all feel invincible. Our form leading up to the final wasn’t great but on the day we were outstanding and it’s a day I’ll never forget.”
The knock on effect of that Welsh Cup was a ticket to Europe, with the draw sending Prestatyn to Latvia and Croatia in the first and second qualifying rounds respectively. He reveals the surreal and brilliant experience, even when work commitments clashed for some members of the team.
“It was brilliant; we had such a close knit grip of lads. So to spend near enough 2 weeks living like a professional flying to different countries with your mates was fantastic. It was crazy getting a police escort to the away games, kind of hit home the level we had reached.
“Worst part was ringing my manager in work telling her I needed another week off to travel to Croatia. Luckily I managed to get it sorted as not everyone managed to get the time off work.”
And Prestatyn weren’t alone in Europe, with a sizeable following from the Seasiders.
“It was unreal to see the following to both away games. We had around 100 in Latvia I think. They were amazing, there’s a great video somewhere of all the players running over to them once we won on penalties. And the celebrations after had a few stories that can’t be told!.”
Around 18 months after his Europa League adventure, Hill Dunt left Prestatyn and explains that the time felt right.
“I just think my time at the club had run its course. At the time Gibbo wanted to go a different way meaning that I wasn’t going to be first choice. Previously when that happened I always fought for my place and got it back, but I just felt this time round it was the right time to leave.”
Leaving Prestatyn to join Gresford, Hill Dunt became a rival of Prestatyn’s as both sides battled in the Huws Gray Alliance.
“It was a really hard decision to leave Prestatyn after so long with good friends there. But another one of my good mates had taken the Gresford job in Eddie Maurice-Jones. I was speaking to him saying I was going to leave and he joked saying fancy coming to us…”
“I also had Joe Garner, Jamie Price, and Josh Griffiths and Shaun Williams already playing there who I was good friends with so I just thought give it a season enjoy it and see what happens. But I was lucky to join another great club with great people running it.”
Hill-Dunt left Gresford to join manager Eddie-Maurice-Jones at Denbigh, and reveals his Welsh Premier aspirations for Central Park.
“The move to Denbigh was one I see as an opportunity to get back to playing in the WPL. Granted this season hasn’t gone well, results have changed since Eddie came in and we’ve made some great signings, so things are looking up. I was looking at the bigger picture and the potential at Denbigh is huge and it’s a project I’m happy to be a part of.”
As Denbigh continue their campaign to climb the Huws Gray table, Prestatyn are title bound with a 16 point lead at the top. Hill Dunt praises Gibson’s side as they close in on the league championship.
“They are brilliant, and by far the best team I’ve seen this season maybe I’m a little biased. A lot of credit has to go to Gibbo for keeping the lads from last season and just added a couple to the squad. It would have been easy to get rid and try to start again.”
Hill-Dunt reveals he wants to stay involved with football after his playing days, preferring a role on the touchline or part of the coaching staff.
“Definitely like to stay involved. I think I’d like to be an assistant or a goalkeeper coach, I don’t think I have the temperament to be a manager but I think I’d be a good number two.”
Whatever comes next for Hill Dunt, it’s clear his fascinating career is far from over.
Jon-Hill-Dunt’s all time career XI:
Dave Hayes Max Peate Nathan Peate
Steven Hoult Mike Parker Gareth Wilson Jack Lewis
Jason Price Andy Parkinson