Two first half goals from midfielder Jesci Hare proved to be the ideal platform and confidence boost for Port Talbot, with it preparing them for their debut away Welsh Premier League win of the season, against Llandudno Junction at Victoria Drive. (reports Robert Clement).
Having gained maximum points from their previous games against Northop Hall and Caerphilly Castle, both teams were eager to maintain their form with a positive and determined outcome.
Llandudno began the quicker, being the first create a likely looking scoring opportunity, with Simone Drummond sending a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area after only two minutes. Having survived that scare, Port Talbot responded by moving ahead five minutes later from a Coryn Sexton corner, with Hare heading home at the near post, despite a determined attempt from Jessica Hughes to turn the ball around the upright.
Junction quickly overcame that shock setback; equalising three minutes later when Sophie Owen broke through Port Talbot’s defensive lines, to despatch a low shot into the visitors net.
The momentum was increased by Port Talbot, and Hughes was required to be sharp and alert to prevent Sexton, Gabby Pughsley and Gemma Evans from establishing a firm and positive foothold, with a series of breathtaking saves.
However, it was pin-point precision from Hare that moved Port Talbot ahead for a second time, from an Evans corner, but with five minutes of the first half remaining, Bethan Ellis received a shoulder injury, and following the interval was replaced by Jessica Curran.
Just after hour mark, Port Talbot increased the score line, with Middlesbrough born Sexton displaying her attacking pace to good effect, and was on target with a sweetly struck shot from just inside the penalty area. Llandudno attempted to seek a way back into the game soon after, but from a Drummond free kick, Port Talbot’s substitute keeper did well to make an important save.
Midway into the second half, Hughes was once more keeping Junction in contention, this time finger-tipping away a determined effort from substitute Lauren Williams. With four minutes remaining, there was an element of good fortune for Port Talbot final finish, with Courteney Thomas firstly having her shot blocked; her second attempt then deflected off Hughes, onto the post and into the net.
Having secured a first away win on their debut journey to North Wales, Port Talbot captain Hayley Williams spoke with Robert Clement about the travelling, match preparations and the teams approach to the game.
“Unfortunately we did start slowly, but I think that you must also take into consideration the fact that we were a little tired, having left at seven o’clock; thankfully we faced no real problems on our 180 mile journey, but despite Llandudno looking the brighter straight from the start, we went ahead against the run of play, but that lasted only a couple of minutes with them equalising”.
Williams added. “With Jesci Hare having given us the lead she was then on the mark with a second, but goalkeeper Bethan Ellis was injured just before half-time. We used our substitute in the second half, regrouped, remained focused and fortunately added two more goals to give us the important three points”.
“Both Coryn Sexton and Courteney Thomas are capable players, who can cause defences problems on the left side, and they each scored during the final thirty minutes, to put the outcome beyond doubt”.
“We now have another away game this weekend at Llanidloes, and with them having beaten two times champions Swansea City last month, we’re aware that it’s going to be difficult, and we’ll need to approach the game with a more competitive attitude if we want to remain near the top of the table”.
With a few fixtures complete, the midfielder then provided her personal early season impression of the new national format, following the merge of the North /South Conference sections.
“I think that it’s good for Women’s football, because you have the opportunity to play against top teams from North Wales, but the travelling can possibly have a major influence on the outcome of results”.
“All the clubs in the league were aware that the new structure was going to take place, following a two season regional campaign which concluded with a play-off final, but that has now all changed, hopefully for the better”.
Llandudno Junction: Jessica Hughes, Georgia Smith, Jessica Wall, Claire Colville (capt), Gail Naylor, Hollie Farr, Sarah Lawson, Catherine Higgott, Simone Drummond, Sophie Owen, Jennifer Davies (Stephanie Short 82nd min).
Unused substitutes: Katie Lewtas, Katie Probert, Laura Nicholls, Stacey Tradewell.
Port Talbot Town: Bethan Ellis (Jessica Curran 46th min), Stephanie Cook, Jesci Hare, Coryn Sexton, Hayley Williams (capt), Gaby Pughsley, Sian Scannell (Lauren Williams 62nd min), Rachael Ball, Courteney Thomas, Alex Thomas (Nadine Powell 74th min), Gemma Evans.
Unused substitute: Jessica Wadey.
Referee: David Jones (Wrexham).
Score summary: Llandudno Junction: Sophie Owen 10th min.
Port Talbot: Jesci Hare 7th min, 32nd min. Coryn Sexton 61st min. Courteney Thomas 86th min.