Match winner Lowri Savage (Photo: Nick George)
Llanidloes winger Lowri Savage scored a dramatic “Shared Access” Welsh Premier Women’s League Cup semi-final goal during the first period of extra-time, to provide the mid Wales side with a high profile fixture against league leaders Cardiff Metropolitan next month. (reports Robert Clement).
With the tie twice having to be postponed due to the Victoria Park pitch being unplayable, the game was switched to the GenQuip Stadium, and it was Port Talbot who made a bright start with Clare Daley sending a low sot wide of the post after only three minutes, following a Fontaine Franklin-Queeley right sided delivery.
Port Talbot continued to apply pressure and eleven minutes later Daley was again attempting to make an impact with her angled attempt being punched away by goalkeeper Rebecca Gunson, with defender Nia Davies producing a hasty clearance.
With the interval approaching there was a scoring option from a Lauren Amor corner, with Sian Scannell seizing possession on the edge of the eighteen yard area; then Courteney Thomas had a scoring opportunity, but sent a rising shot straight into the palms of Gunson.
Llanidloes continued to operate on the back foot following the interval, and Gunson was alert to gather a low struck effort from Amor following a Scannell opening.
For just over an hour the Port Talbot defence had hardly been stretched, but there was a warning of the likelihood that Llanidloes were capable of springing a surprise.
That moment arrived when a Naomi Evans shot was pushed away by goalkeeper Bethan Ellis, then Julia Hyndman reacted swiftly to seize possession, and it required a hurried goal line clearance from Lucy Olde to prevent Llanidloes from moving ahead.
Following that threat, it was Scannell who delivered a slide rule pass into the path of Amor, but with the lively frontrunner threatening to advance into the penalty area it was Daisy Smith who made an important challenge.
With eleven minutes remaining, Port Talbot skipper Hayley Williams embarked on a twenty five yard run into the Llanidloes half, but she was a shade unlucky with a curling shot flying wide of the near upright.
There was a final chance for Port Talbot to prevent the tie from going into extra-time from a Lucy Edwards corner with a Scannell shot being cleared in the goalmouth by Sian Jones.
With two minutes of added on time available Port Talbot made a last gasp effort to secure victory, but a long range shot from Rachael Ball was punched away by Gunson, then within a minute an additional threat from Gemma Evans fizzed narrowly over the top.
With extra-time required, Llanidloes broke the deadlock within seven minutes, with Caereinion High School student Savage being eager eyed to gain possession from a Gunson goalmouth clearance, with her then swiftly advancing forward to confidently send a well timed shot into the Port Talbot net.
In the absorbing contest, Port Talbot on two occasions attempted to seek a way back into the game, firstly Edwards burst forward with urgency only to be denied by the good strong hands of Gunson, then during the final piece of action Thomas unselfishly laid the ball into the path of Amor, for the teenager to see her effort blocked once again by Gunson.
Llanidloes Ladies captain Jenny Broughall spoke with WPWL reporter Robert Clement, in the GenQuip Stadium Media Suite about the delight of reaching the final of the League Cup during a dramatic extra-time period.
“It was a fantastic performance from the whole team; we struggled in terms of not having our full squad available, which was unfortunate, because the weather over the last couple of weeks hasn’t been great with the match being called off twice”
“We’ve come here with a good squad that really wanted to win, and they gave 100%, so as captain I’m massively proud of them because Port Talbot probably had 80% to 90% of the possession along with a series of scoring chances, but at the end of the day the aim of the game was to get the ball into the back of the net, and we done that once and also defended very well”.
With both you and Port Talbot were unable to make the breakthrough during the ninety minutes, the scales tilted in your favour during extra-time.
“That’s right, Port Talbot certainly had more chances than us to score, but we put our bodies on the line throughout the game, so we didn’t really give them too many opportunities apart from a few towards the end of the second half, but we stuck together and defended well and fortunately managed to sneak a goal”.
Broughall was then asked what her expectations were, coming into this semi-final tie.
“We always knew that it was going to be a hard game, with us aware that if we had the opportunities we could take them, but it was a situation of working together to defend very well, and then when we get the chance to take it”.
With Cardiff Metropolitan in the final, Broughall was asked how the Daffs would approach the game.
“We’re going to have to be at our best, they’re a very good side that pass the ball extremely well, which we found out last month when we struggled against them, so we’ll have to adopt the right game plan, and if that happens then anything goes. It’s a cup final that we’re going to be focused on, and I’m sure that there’ll be opportunities to win”.
Port Talbot Head Coach Dan Liddiard later commented on coming with-in touching distance of a League Cup Final appearance.
“It was a very competitive ninety minutes, and then with extra-time as well it was even closer with the outcome going either way, but credit to Llanidloes they defended fantastically”.
“We definitely had the better opportunities, but they defended well, and finally scored the winning goal in a quick break forward during extra-time”.
“I was on the edge of my seat during the final minutes of extra-time with us applying a period of pressure; if we had been able to take one of those opportunities it could have gone to penalties”.
He added, “With us having been unable to score during normal time it was a little difficult with us starting the thirty added minutes slowly, and Llanidloes capitalised on an error, and managed to make the vital breakthrough”.
“We expected a close outcome after the league game last October when we returned with a point, but throughout this match we were the better team with the greater number of scoring chances, unfortunately we couldn’t stamp our authority with a goal, and Llanidloes took their chance with a good finish”.
Port Talbot Town: Bethan Ellis, Hayley Williams (capt), Lucy Olde, Sian Scannell (Lauren Williams 105th min), Rachael Ball, Courteney Thomas, Lauren Amor, Gemma Evans, Lucy Edwards, Fontaine Franklin-Queeley, Clare Daley.
Llanidloes: Rebecca Gunson, Nia Davies, Samantha Marshall, Daisy Smith, Elin Green, Sara Davies, Sian Jones, Jenny Broughall (capt), Julia Hyndman, Naomi Evans, Lowri Savage.
Unused substitute: Natasha Hill.
Referee: Amin Said (Cardiff).
Score summary: Llanidloes: Lowri Savage 97th min.