North Wales football’s greatest stories No18 – giant-killers Denbigh Town reach Word Cup Final

Denbigh Town (red) celebrate Sam Jones’ winner in the Word Cup semi-final against Connah’s Quay Nomads. Picture: Nik Mesney of NCM Media.

One of the most romantic North Wales football stories since the turn of the new Millennium has to be Denbigh Town’s amazing march to the Word Cup Final in 2015/16.

Gareth Thomas’ Huws Gray Alliance underdogs eliminated three Welsh Premier sides before eventually succumbing to mighty TNS in the showpiece game at Maesdu Park, Llandudno.

Town had never caused shocks of this magnitude prior to breathing new life into a competition formerly known as the Welsh Premier League Cup before the format changed in 2014/15.

In a radical shake up, the 12 Welsh Premier League clubs were joined by six teams each from the two feeder leagues, and also four wildcard entrants.

Tier-two Denbigh’s astonishing achievements certainly justified the changes.

Denbigh Town’s run to the 2015/16 Word Cup Final

Rhyl 2 Denbigh Town 4 (round one)

A superb opening 45 minutes saw Denbigh race into a 4-0 lead by the interval at the expense of shell-shocked Welsh Premier hosts Rhyl.

In the 17th minute a superb through ball from Jack Abraham released Anthony Dunleavey to fire home.

On the half-hour, a slick flowing move ended with Kristian Pierce finding space on the edge of the box before lashing home a lethal strike.

Mike Sharples added a third from a Matty Hughes free kick before a dazzling run by Carl Lamb saw him play the ball across goal for Pierce to head in.

A stunned Rhyl did rally in the second half, but they could only manage two goals against a strong Denbigh defence which included a heroic keeping performance from Elliot Power.

Holyhead Hotspur 0 Denbigh Town 4 (round two)

An all-Huws Gray Alliance encounter was dominated by Denbigh.
Kristian Pierce scored the only goal of the first half. After the break, Carl Lamb, Pierce and substitute Sam Jones wrapped up the tie.

Denbigh Town 2 Airbus 1 (quarter-finals)

Another giant-killing for the Town in a tie where the kick-off was postponed by half-an-hour as the WPL visitors were caught in traffic.

The opening period saw Airbus have majority of play but from the first serious attempt on goal Keighan Jones had to produce a fantastic save from Denbigh’s Anthony Dunleavey.

The deadlock was broken on 32 minutes when Andy Jones headed home to put the Wingmakers one-up.

Denbigh pushed hard for a leveller before finally on 86 minutes Sam Jones shot and Jay Owen handled on the line which produced a red card. From the resulting spot kick Tony Davies smashed the ball home to send the tie into extra time.

The first period was five minutes old when Dunleavey found space and belted in a beauty to give Town a famous victory and put the club into the Word Cup semis.

Denbigh Town 1 gap Connah’s Quay 0 (semi-finals)

Roared on by a 500-plus home crowd Denbigh had to defend for large spells of the game against their WPL opponents with keeper Elliot Power making several brilliant saves.

Power’s highlight was a penalty stop from Ash Ruane on 73 minutes.

Straight from the save Denbigh broke with pace and should have scored when Mark Roberts broke, but he fired high and wide.

The winning goal arrived on 83 minutes when a tantalising Pierce run resulted in the ball breaking for sub Sam Jones to deliver the winner.

The New Saints 2 Denbigh Town 0 (final)

A huge Denbigh contingent were at Maesdu Park to see their team experience the biggest occasion in the club’s history.

The live S4C cameras being present did not prevent a massive crowd of 1,158 attending.

WPL champions and strong favourites Saints were always dangerous on the attack and found the breakthrough they desired in the 25th minute when a cross from Chris Marriott was glanced in by the head of Matty Williams.

Despite this setback, the Huws Gray Alliance club remained tight and prevented any further goals in the first half.

A second goal was to come on 56 minutes when Adrian Cieslewicz crossed into the box from the left, and Mike Wilde beat his marker to head in for 2-0.

With five minutes left, Denbigh were doing all they could to find a way back into the match and when sub Paul Hart got on the end of a long ball forward he noticed Paul Harrison off his line in The New Saints goal.

Hart hit a lob on the volley but the ball went over the crossbar.

TNS were deserved winners, but Denbigh Town could feel immensely proud of their efforts in the competition.

Denbigh Town: Elliott Power, Joe Freeman, Matty Hughes, Dave MacIntyre (Paul Hart 72), Tony Davies (Dan Lloyd 46), Mike Sharples, Ant Williams, Kristian Pierce, Warren Duckett (Mike Cronshaw 80), Sam Tate, Mark Roberts. Subs not used: Sam Jones, Jack Rowlands, Sam Lewis, Connor Jones.

The New Saints: Paul Harrison, Simon Spender, Chris Marriott, Connell Rawlinson, Kai Edwards, Adrian Cieslewicz (Scott Quigley 80), Jamie Mullan, Chris Seargeant, Mike Wilde, Matty Williams (Greg Draper 86), Aeron Edwards (Danny Gosset 80). Subs not used: Andy Wycherley (gk), Ryan Edwards, Phil Baker, Ryan Pryce

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