Down with the trumpets! or Steelers Reel: Port Talbot Town vs Bala

On a gloriously sunny day Port Talbot Town welcomed Bala to the GenQuip Stadium for the playoff final to decide which of them would get to go to the Europa League next year.

It was a high stakes game and the end of the season for both teams, and the nice weather and flowing booze meant that a decent crowd had gathered to enjoy the fun, festive, end-of-term atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the game that unfolded was painfully uninspiring. The Steelmen had the home advantage, and vocal home support, but perhaps the occasion got the better of them, and they were wasteful, sloppy and confused throughout. A few half chances emerged and the woodwork rattled, but there was a lack of edge to the team, and their passing was often wayward, the ball bouncing about aimlessly and they looked rusty.

I’d witnessed Welsh Premier matches before, and they can be good fun, I’ve seen the GenQuip play host to thrilling encounters, but here the home team seemed to have come undone. Any other team would have had them on the rack much earlier, but Bala were shaky too.

Bala passed the ball a bit better, and showed better vision, but they were sloppy too and far too much time was spent aimlessly hoofing it back and forth, with both teams being guilty of woeful first touches and passes struck into areas they wanted teammates to be in, as opposed to where they actually were.

My friends, new to the League, and spoilt by the free passing skill available at the Liberty were even more frustrated by the display, the pre-kick off enthusiasm melting away in the sunshine. With the game proving a dud, much of our enjoyment came from watching the fans.

Port Talbot’s home support was the more vocal, especially the “ultras” (as with all self endowed nicknames it was comical in its egotism and distance from reality) who kept up a healthy stream of chanting throughout and seemed to be enjoying their singsong more than the game unfolding, at times seemingly oblivious to the events on the park as they switched songs with enthusiastic verve.

However, they appeared to have blown their wad a little too soon, having thrown their blue and white loo rolls onto the field at the start they were left to content themselves with waving flags, donning comedy wigs and stripping to the waist. It’s never the people you want to go topless who take off their shirts, is it?

The atmosphere was cheerful enough, although the tuneless trumpeter would have been grounds enough for violence in the stands, as he played the instrument like a man who’d seen the instrument played once but not quite worked out the mechanics or what a tune was.

Watching the gang of drunk middle aged men and their oddly menacing children helped pass the time through a dragging first half, with the highlight being the fans jeering at a small girl who fell over at pitch side. Stay classy, Port Talbot.

The second half was mor of the same, and after chips and cans of tepid cider and lager from the clubhouse we relaxed in the sun, sat behind the Town goal where a gaggle of Bala had gathered and subjected us to chants in the insufferable Gog accent. The youthful group had clearly come down with family members who’d wisely decided to distance themselves from their spawn.

Taking a 3 hour trip to watch your team may sound like dedication, but having been to Bala I’m sure they’d take any excuse to get out of town for a few blissful hours.

Bala continued to be the better of the two teams, faint praise indeed, and as the clock ran down my shaky allegiance to Port Talbot wavered. I just wanted a goal, any goal, to be scored, as the promise of an extra half hour was as unappealing as leftover kebab after a big night out.

Port Talbot, Bala, it didn’t matter. I just wanted out.

The sun was baking my brain and my irritation with my Northern countrymen was growing by the second, especially as I listened to some moron discussing that North Wales is dominant in the football stakes, a statement that spoke either of complete ignorance of the wider footballing world or the most serious case of sun stroke ever recorded.

The heat and frustration had the awakened something within me and I felt it rising, the need to tell this idiot that the three best teams in Wales are all Southern and that dominance in the Welsh Prem is equivalent to being the tallest dwarf in the circus.

Port Talbot appeared to be nearing a chance, and a blatant penalty was overlooked by the referee, before Bala came down and turned the screw. A good save from the first chance denied them, but the rebound was buried into the net and the Bala fans reacted with an explosion of joy usually reserved for when Bruce Willis stops an asteroid hitting the earth.

Their joy was grating, but hand on heart, their team deserved the win. Port Talbot had been too sloppy and blunt to earn a victory, and Bala had kept their heads better.

bala

We left the ground quickly, as Bala fans stormed the field. It was a pity, and a wasted opportunity from the Steelmen. Bala must wait to see who they draw, but given yesterday’s display I imagine their European adventure will be quite short lived.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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