There was a renewed mood of optimism in the air on the return trip from Bala after the kind of winning performance that brought back memories of last season’s charge to the title. The sheer bloody-mindedness of Glantraeth will ensure they don’t sit back and let their crown slip away easily and with Saturday’s top two showing signs that the pressure is starting to mount the stage is set for a closer finish than perhaps looked likely before the weekend. Only Glan and Buckley have already proved they can hack it when the going gets tough so the final few weeks of the season promise to be a real test of nerve for the other title pretenders.
Without the injured Warren Gibbs Nigel Barry took over the captain’s armband and responded with an inspirational display in the middle of the park. Carl Thomas moved into Warren’s position and gave an assured performance throughout alongside Gareth Owen, who continues to play through the pain barrier. Young Chris Evans made his delayed debut on the left of midfield and showed promise of things to come when he gets fully match fit.
The early stages saw Glan well on top with Rob Williams going close on 7 minutes and Craig Roberts knocking the ball narrowly wide a minute later. Glan looked to have a strong case for a penalty in the tenth minute as Paul Rowlands surged into the area and appeared to be tripped but referee Matt Bridges signalled play on. Within sixty seconds the visitors were ahead as Richard F Owen swept a ball in from the left and Paul Rowlands finished superbly with a first time strike that went in off the inside of a post.
Bala came more into the game without seriously testing Glan keeper Dave Ball, an effort from striker Mark Griffiths that went a couple of feet wide being their most notable attempt on goal.
There was further bad news on the injury front on 24 minutes as Darren Jones hobbled off and was replaced by leading scorer Richard Owen.
A tackle from Gareth Owen brought strong shouts for a penalty from the home players although from a Glantraeth perspective Gareth appeared to get a firm connection with the ball and again the referee waved the appeals away. It took a fine save by Dave Ball from Griffiths on 36 minutes to prevent what looked a certain equaliser as Bala looked more threatening and the final action of the half came from Glantraeth as Craig Roberts’ firmly struck shot found home keeper Paul Evans well positioned on 43 minutes.
Bala began the second period in determined mood without any reward and again there was controversy on 56 minutes as Glantraeth striker Richard Owen turned his marker brilliantly only to be tripped as he prepared to shoot. It was difficult to understand how the decision could be anything but a penalty but it seemed Mr Bridges had decided that Bala’s pitch was to be a penalty exclusion area that afternoon.
Glantraeth were now playing some good stuff on a difficult pitch with the outstanding Craig Roberts having a shot on the turn blocked on 63 minutes and it came somewhat against the run of play when Bala levelled two minutes later as Neil Fisher forced the ball home from close in following a left wing cross from Neil Davies.
Despite that setback there was the feeling that this was going to be Glantraeth’s day and as they took the game back to Bala another goal looked more and more likely and it came on 73 minutes as Richard Owen took possession of a pass from Craig Roberts and closed in on goal. Faced with an advancing keeper he threaded the ball into the narrowest of gaps past the keeper and just inside the post for a perfectly executed finish.
The game was almost over for Bala eight minutes later as a twenty yarder from Nigel Barry beat the keeper but came back off the crossbar. Craig Roberts was on hand to put the rebound into the net only to be whistled up for offside.
To their credit the home side came back strongly with Neil Fisher heading straight into the arms of Dave Ball and Glan had a real let-off in added time as keeper Paul Evans came forward for a corner kick, wasn't picked up, and connected with a powerful header that was only inches wide of the goal.
Glantraeth: Dave Ball, Carl Thomas, Darren Jones (Richard Owen 24), Emyr Rowlands, Gareth Owen, Nigel Barry, Rob Williams (Osian Pritchard 88), Richard F Owen, Craig Roberts, Chris Evans (Kevin Roberts 72), Paul Rowlands.