James Curran reports from the Educate Group Stadium
Rhyl 2 (Aaron Hassall 39, Tom Creamer 88)
STM Sports 0
The excellence and importance of this result for Rhyl cannot be under-estimated.
Not only did they beat a team performing well in fifth spot in the Cymru South – the tier-two equivalent of the Cymru North, where the Lilywhites currently sit fourth – STM have also reached the final of the Nathaniel MG Cup, knocking out two Welsh Premier sides along the way.
Rhyl had also lost their last two home games, so confidence would not have been necessarily high ahead of meeting their visitors from Cardiff.
But on the day the Lilies recorded a comfortable win in a lively game at the Educate Group Stadium which saw the visitors finish up with eight men.
With the wind in Rhyl’s advantage they had the bulk of the early possession, James Murphy having the first clear shot of the game where his effort was saved by Ben Boyer.
The visitors struggled to get out of their opponents’ half and the next chance fell to Arek Piskorski. After he was played in, he looked to lift the ball over Boyer. The keeper crashed into him but the referee turned away appeals for a penalty.
In the 17th minute Rhyl had the ball in the net but Sam Molyneux was in an offside position when he tucked the chance home.
The turning point of the game came in the 37th minute when a two-footed challenge by Josh Graham on Piskorski drew a red card from referee Huw Jones which enraged STM Sports, who also had a member of the coaching staff red-carded for his actions. In the melee Piskorski was also booked.
Eventually the free kick was taken and a floated delivery by Aaron Hassall evaded the Rhyl attack, the STM defence and keeper Boyer as the ball went into the net to give the hosts a deserved lead.
The second half saw a professional performance from the Lilywhites as they held possession well and sought to stretch the 10 men of Sports.
A fine Cai Owen cross was close to reaching Molyneux, but Tom Burridge intercepted to get the ball over the bar for a corner.
Piskorski played a weighted pass to Murphy but he found Boyer in good form. Then after a corner was initially cleared, a Ben Nash header looked goal-bound before a last ditch clearance off the line.
The best chance for STM Sports fell to Lamin Conteh in the 61st minute after a long ball from Burridge allowed the athletic forward to advance on the Rhyl goal and after keeper Keighan Jones initially forced him wide Danny Sullivan produced a great challenge to deny the South Walians an equaliser.
As Rhyl looked to close out the win, the last 15 minutes of the game saw crazy scenes as STM suffered two further dismissals.
With Herman Yohanes already on a yellow, his refusal to retreat 10 yards at a free kick with the following dissent to the referee left the official with little choice to show the second yellow to leave the visitors on nine men.
The Hassall free kick was whipped into the box but this time Boyer dealt with the ball. The visitors failed to learn their lesson and another foul by Marcus Jones resulted in a second yellow for him, reducing Sports to eight.
Creamer looked to have wrapped the game up in the 87th minute when he slotted the ball past Boyer but the shot hit the post and rebounded back to a grateful glovesman.
A minute later came Rhyl’s second after good play by Callum Roberts and Cai Owen saw the delivery into the box partially saved by Boyer, but the ball fell to Creamer who finished from close range in the 88th minute.