North Wales football’s greatest stories No11: Welsh Cup Final 2017 – Bala break TNS jinx in dramatic style
Bala Town players celebrate the greatest day in the club’s history. Image: http://www.faw.cymru

When you have never beaten an opponent in 29 attempts it must be easy to start thinking the jinx will last for eternity.

But Bala Town never stopped believing. And when they finally did defeat The New Saints at the 30th time of asking the occasion was pretty prestigious – the 2017 Welsh Cup Final.

It was a day no Lakesiders fan will ever forget as Colin Caton’s side laid a particularly stubborn ghost by overcoming TNS 2-1 in the May 1 showpiece at Bangor City’s Nantporth stadium.

For Town followers it was the icing on the cake of Caton’s prolific reign so far.

Since the former Colwyn Bay chief took over as boss at Maes Tegid in 2003/04 it had been mainly success all the way.

Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) Premier Division champions in Caton’s debut season at the helm, Cymru Alliance title winners in 2008/09 and a subsequent set of adventures in the Welsh Premier that no-one would have dared to dream of a few years earlier.

For all the cups on top of the league crowns lifted during Caton’s tenure, plus exploits in Europe, Bala had never won Wales’ premier knockout tournament.

Having lost 20 and drawn nine of their previous clashes with TNS in all competitions, Bala were understandably underdogs entering the 2016-17 Welsh Cup Final.

The previous weekend, full-timers TNS had won a thrilling Welsh Premier League tussle 6-4 between the sides.

The Saints were looking to win the cup for a fourth year in a row which would have seen them clinch an unprecedented third successive domestic treble.

But the holders met their match in Bala who, after falling behind to Greg Draper’s close range strike close to the hour, turned the final around in stirring fashion with two goals in the last 13 minutes.

Substitute Jordan Evans struck a leveller through a crowded box on 77 before Kieran Smith headed home a Chris Venables cross four minutes from time to spark dramatic scenes.

The encounter was in the balance throughout.

Jamie Mullan had an early strike saved by Bala keeper Ashley Morris, who went on to make some key stops.

The Lakesiders had a strong claim for a penalty turned down in the first half after Venables appeared to be shoved in the back, while Lee Hunt forced TNS keeper Paul Harrison to turn his close range shot around the post.

The Maes Tegid men were then indebted to Morris, who pulled off a terrific one- handed save at full stretch to keep out Draper’s glancing header in a breathtaking first half.

Chris Marriott struck the bar for the Saints with a free kick 10 minutes into the second period, but the reprieve was short-lived as the holders took the lead moments later.

Connell Rawlinson’s looping shot was parried by Morris, and Steve Saunders got to the loose ball first before teeing up Draper to slot into an empty net from six yards.

With the game becoming stretched out, Adrian Cieslewicz went close to a second on 62 minutes when he launched a dazzling run down the left before forcing a smart save from Morris with a rising drive.

Mullan’s goal bound volley was foiled by the foot of Morris after the winger found space, but the Lakesiders dug in to turn the tables in dramatic style.

Sub Evans made an instant impression when his shot from the edge of the box found its way through a crowded goalmouth in the 77th minute.

Morris kept out a deflected shot from Cieslewicz at the other end, but Bala grabbed a famous win four minutes from time when Venables worked space on the right to whip in a terrific cross for an elated Smith to head firmly past Harrison.

Bala Town had well and truly broken the hoodoo. The greatest day in the club’s history.

BALA TOWN’S TROPHY RECORD UNDER MANAGER COLIN CATON

2003/04

Wrexham Area Premier League Champions; North East Wales FA Challenge Cup winners.

2004/05

Huws Gray Alliance League Cup winners.

2006/07

Huws Gray Alliance League Cup winners; North East Wales FA Challenge Cup winners.

2007/08

Huws Gray Alliance League Cup winners; North East Wales FA Challenge Cup winners.

2008/09

Huws Gray League Champions; Huws Gray Alliance League Cup winners.

2012/13

Europa League Playoff Final winners.

2016/17

JD Welsh Cup winners.

Trophies won: 11.


Other notable achievements

Welsh Premier runners-up twice

2017/18: Colin Caton’s 15th season in charge – 600 games as Bala manager.

Five campaigns in Europe (all in Europa League)

2013/14: Levadia Tallinn (Estonia) – 1-0 (h); 1-3 (a); aggregate 2-3.

2015/16: Differdange (Luxembourg) – 1-3 (a); 2-1 (h); aggregate 3-4.

2016/17: AIK (Sweden) – 0-2 (h); 0-2 (a); aggregate 0-4.

2017/18: Vaduz (Lichtenstein) – 1-2 (h); 0-3 (a); aggregate 1-5.

2018/19: Tre Fiori (San Marino) – 1-0 (h); 0-3 (a); aggregate 1-3.

Played: 10 Won 3 Lost 7 Goals For 7 Goals Against 19

Irn-Bru Cup 

2016/17: Bala Town 2 Alloa Athletic 4.

Other stats

Welsh Premier positions (2009-10 to 2017-18)

2009/10 – 11th; 2010/11 – 11th; 2011/12 – 5th; 2012/13 – 7th; 2013/14 – 8th; 2014/15 – 2nd; 2015/16 – 2nd; 2016/17 – 3rd; 2017/18 – 4th.

Colin Caton managerial record (competitive games from start of 2003/04 up to April 6, 2019)

Played 644 Won 347 Drawn 102 Lost 195 Goals For 1257 Goals Against 844.

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