Saints stunned as Bala hit back to lift the cup

Published date: 04 May 2017 |
Published by: Jonny Drury
Read more articles by Jonny Drury


Chris Venables challenges TNS' Adrian Cieslewicz 

TNS' Steve Saunders challenges Bala striker Lee Hunt 

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JD Welsh Cup Final

Bala Town 2

The New Saints 1

TNS’ triple treble dream was ended by an inspired Bala Town comeback in the JD Welsh Cup Final.

Big favourites to take a fourth successive Welsh Cup, the Saints took the lead through Greg Draper early in the second half.

But Bala, who have been the Saints closest rivals in recent years, levelled through Jordan Evans 15 minutes from time.

And with five minutes left, the impressive Kieran Smith headed home to hand Bala their first ever Welsh Cup win in their first ever final.

As ever TNS began on the front foot with Bala sitting back and soaking up early pressure.

Jamie Mullan was the main man early on, pulling a save out of Ashley Morris before Jon Routledge tested the palms of Morris from long range.

Colin Caton’s men managed to get a foothold in the game 15 minutes in, and saw a penalty shout waved away when Chris Venables went down in the box under pressure from Steve Saunders.

And moments later, Paul Harrison had to be sharp to deny a theatrical overhead kick from Lakesiders danger man Lee Hunt.

On 25 minutes it was Bala who had to rely on the brilliance of their stopper to keep the scores level.

Draper’s glancing header from an Adrian Cieslewicz cross looked to be nestling in the corner, but Morris’ strong right hand denied the Saints.

Stuart Jones headed over for Bala, and Chris Marriott flashed a free kick over, as both sides pushed for a first half lead, but to no avail.

TNS threatened early in the second half as Marriott struck the bar with a curling free kick.

However the Saints recycled the move, and capitalised on a mistake from keeper Morris to get their noses in front.

Connell Rawlinson’s shot was parried, and his defensive partner Steve Saunders followed up to square the ball to Draper, who passed it into an empty net.

It sprung Bala into life for a 10 minute spell but it was the Saints who should have increased their advantage, however Mullan was denied by the feet of Morris.

Caton brought on former Wrexham winger Evans in an attempt to get back into the match, and it turned out to be an inspired substitution.

From a corner the ball was rolled to Evans on the edge of the box, and his curling effort deflected off a Saints defender and under the helpless Paul Harrison.

Within seconds though the Saints almost restored their lead as a deflected Cieslewicz effort deceived Morris who parried the winger’s effort, but the defenders cleared the danger.

However the goal had Bala’s tails up, and they completed the turnaround with five minutes remaining.

Chris Venables turned in the corner and produced a superb cross for Smith to nod in at the front post, sending the Bala fans behind the goal wild.

Saints piled men forward late on, and Scott Quigley was denied from close range by the goalkeeper.

The league champions couldn’t find the elusive equaliser, and it could have been more for Bala, as Evans stormed forward in stoppage time, only to be upended by Routledge.

Bala – Morris, Stephens, S Jones, SJ Jones, Sheridan (Wade 71), Smith, Hunt (Evans 65), Venables, Iriving, Thompson, Burke. Subs: Goldston, Connolly, Valentine

TNS – Harrison, Spender, Marriott, Routledge, Brobbel (Darlington 88), Draper (Quigley 74), Mullan (Seargeant 88), Saunders, Rawlinson, Cieslewicz, Edwards. Subs: Wycherley, Pryce

Att – 1,110

  • See full story in the County Times

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