Rhuddlan Town 4 (Matty Rees 2, 49 & 72; Ben Smith 9)
Llanfairfechan Town 2 (Iwan Jones 20, Ryan Lewis 48)
Salisbury & Co (St Asaph) Vale of Clwyd League and Conwy Premier Division – February 1, 2020
The figure 13 may be unlucky for some but Rhuddlan Town will not see it that way after stretching their unbeaten run in the Premier Division to that number of games today with a hard-fought home win over close rivals Llanfairfechan.
The turning point in this afternoon’s clash at Coronation Gardens, Rhyl, probably came early in the second half.
Trailing 2-1 at half time, Llanfairfechan came back to level early in the second period, but just a minute later they gifted Rhuddlan a third goal and the visitors never recovered.
Neither side really hit the heights they are capable of in a game which ended in rather unsavoury fashion with a 20-man melee which resulted in two red cards – one for each team.
Originally down to be played at Llanfair, the match was switched to become Rhuddlan’s home fixture and was labelled beforehand as potentially one of the games of the season in the Premier.
Wayne Hughes’ hosts had a dream start when in just the second minute visiting keeper Barry Eccleston failed to come out for a through ball and Matty Rees was able to lob the glovesman smartly from a slight angle – a good controlled finish with a strong breeze at his back.
Jay Whitehouse was a fraction away from making it two before Ryan Lewis set up Sion Devereux at the other end, but Rhuddlan keeper Jordie Baker, an impressive addition in recent weeks, blocked well with his legs.
The leaders went two-up in the ninth minute when Ben Smith let fly with a mighty volley from 30 yards which whizzed into the net.
Llanfair gradually settled and pulled a goal back on 20 minutes when Lewis’ cross into the box was flicked on and Iwan Jones finished from close range.
Andrew Croston’s away side now had their tails up and two minutes later they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Connor Bucknall on Lewis.
Jones took the spot-kick but blasted high over the bar.
That seemed to take some of the wind out of Llanfair’s sails and Rhuddlan remained in front up to the interval.
Half-time: Rhuddlan 2 Llanfairfechan 1
The next goal in this encounter looked likely to be crucial and it was the visitors who came out all guns blazing.
The dynamic left-winger Ryan Lewis made it two-apiece with a cracking finish and now the initiative looked to be with Fechan.
However, within 60 seconds the hosts were 3-2 ahead, a tame low drive from Rees somehow evading Eccleston’s dive and finding the net.
This appeared to knock Llanfair back and the game from there on became scrappy with few clear chances.
Again it was a case of the next goal being vital and it came to Rhuddlan, Rees firing in a beauty from out wide to complete his hat-trick on 72 minutes.
The home side saw out the game comfortably enough and in the closing minutes came a double red card after a mass ruck ended with Llanfair’s Lewis and Rhuddlan’s Bucknall receiving their marching orders.
Probably just about a fair result, although Fechan did not help themselves by conceding bad goals at important stages.
Rhuddlan are now six points clear at the summit with a record of 11 wins and two draws.
I was due to visit a game elsewhere today, but once this much-awaited battle was switched to my town of residence I decided it was one not to miss.
Six goals, a missed penalty, some great saves, a bit of needle and plenty of passion sounds like the recipe for a perfect afternoon’s entertainment, but overall I felt maybe both sides under-performed and can play much better.
Nonetheless, Rhuddlan appear to have the ‘Liverpool FC Formula’ this season in that they always find a way to win even when not at their best.
Hat-trick star Matty Rees was tremendous for the home side, while goalkeeper Jordie Baker also shone regularly.
Llanfair always looked a danger when Lewis was on the ball, but he seemed to go slightly off the boil after his second-half goal.
When they played their trademark slick, possession football, Fechan looked the better side, but they did not do it enough in danger areas and the windy conditions did not help them in this regard.
No travel news as it was only a 15-minute walk there and back to the Corrers for me. Safe to say though, I stood out for being the only idiot without a coat in the unfriendly weather, which was cold in the first half then got freezing in the second when the sun went down.
Again, great to be touchline reporting and mingling with the masses.
Brilliant to meet Rhuddlan manager Wayne Hughes, who I have known for a while but had the pleasure of saying hello to face-to-face for the first time today.