Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Welsh Cup: Aberystwyth 2 TNS 3

A magnificent second half comeback led to Welsh cup heartbreak for Aberystywth as Saints showed their pedigree to land a league and cup double for the second time in three years.
But it was a desperately close call after the golden boot of Chris Venables threatened to end Saints’ double dreams and lift the cup for Aberystwyth for the first time in 114 years.
Venables struck an early double blow to put the Seasiders on the road to one of the biggest upsets in the 127 year history of the competition before Saints hit back in a thrilling finish to complete cup glory at Wrexham’s Racecourse ground.
After early Saints pressure, the Seasiders stole a 10th minute lead, Chris Venables smashing a right foot volley into the roof of the net after Antonio Corbisiero’s free kick into the box was deflected into the path of the Golden Boot winner.
Aber sensationally went two up a couple of minutes later when Sam Finley caught Mark Jones in the area to concede a penalty and Venables sent Paul Harrison the wrong way to give the underdogs a fairy tale start.
Those two shock early strikes blew the final wide open with Aber looking to use Geoff Kellaway’s pace down the right flank to cause Saints further problems.
Saints’ growing frustration was shown by Phil Baker who blasted a 40 yard shot high and wide of the target as Aber squeezed the space in front of Lewis to restrict Saints to long range attempts.
Finley did create a good chance from the edge of the area, only for Lewis to deny the youngster with a comfortable diving save to his left.
Leading 2-0 at the interval and with one hand on the trophy, the challenge for Ian Hughes’s side was to continue to keep Saints out of striking range and to keep their concentration.
Saints’ boss Craig Harrison made a half-time tactical change, bringing the more attacking Jamie Mullan off the bench for defender Baker in a bid to break their duck.
Although Saints succeeded gaining a stranglehold on possession and forced Aber to defend much deeper, they could not break the challengers’ defence as precious minutes ticked away.
In a last throw of the dice Harrison sent on the prolific Greg Draper and the substitutions played a key part in dragging Saints back into the final on 73 minutes as Draper scored from the penalty spot after Peter Hoy had handled Mullan’s cross from the left.
That set up an enthralling finale and with just over 11 remaining Draper met a drilled free kick from the right into the danger area with a point-blank header to net the equaliser.
It was a huge blow to the tiring Seasiders in the face of relentless second half pressure from the full-timers and Aber’s hopes were dealt a final blow three minutes from time when Michael Wilde was on hand to smash home the winner and to complete a famous fight back.


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