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Better times: When Rhyl FC were unstoppable at Belle Vue

Rhyl’s fantastic fans have enjoyed many an amazing performance at Belle Vue over the years

Since Rhyl FC announced yesterday their future is in genuine danger, clubs from the Welsh football family and beyond have expressed their support and sympathy for the Lilywhites.

Everyone is united in the belief that a football in scene in Wales – and especially the north – without Rhyl would be much the worse off.

The Lilies are not having the best of spells in their distinguished history, but they have soldiered on in tough times, helped by a wonderful band of volunteers and supporters.

To remind fans of some happier days, here are 10 brilliant past performances Rhyl produced at Belle Vue during what many regard their peak decade of the 2000s.

I was present reporting on all 10 of these matches. Look at the contrasts in the crowds, low in the early 2000s, but massive when success grew.

Much of this feature could not have been compiled without information passed on to me by the late Ian Johnson, an amazing Rhyl FC fan who left us in April 2012 for a season ticket in blue heaven watching his beloved Man City. Thinking of you Ian.

The Perfect 10 – Rhyl FC

Rhyl 5 (Greg Strong, Neil Roberts 2, Jamie Reed, Josh Johnson)
Llanelli 1
(Aug 30, 2008 – Welsh Premier League)

What a display this was, champions Llanelli being ripped apart on live TV by Rhyl’s new dream team assembled in the summer under the managership of Allan Bickerstaff and Osian Roberts.
The Lilywhites were scintillating, ex-Wrexham and Wales striker Neil Roberts netting twice, while Greg Strong, Jamie Reed and Josh Johnson added a goal apiece.
Rhyl team: Lee Kendall, Mark Connolly (Paul O’Neill), Greg Stones, Greg Strong, George Horan, Danny Williams, Craig Jones (Jimmy Kelly), Gareth Owen, Neil Roberts (Carl Owen), Jamie Reed, Josh Johnson. Attendance: 937.

Rhyl 3 (Craig Garside, Lee Hunt, Andy Moran)
FC Haka 1
(July 19, 2007 – UEFA Cup)

Has to rank as Rhyl’s best display in Europe.
Toni Lautinen handed the Finns an early lead, but Andy Moran levelled from an acute angle and then Lee Hunt made it 2-1 before half time.
John Hulse’s Rhyl remained on top in the second half and a fine move was rounded off by Craig Garside to ensure a 3-1 scoreline. Sadly the Lilies went out on away goals after losing the return 2-0 in Finland.
Rhyl: John Gann, Mark Powell, James Brewerton (Dan Desormeaux), Mark Connolly, George Horan, Carl Ruffer, Craig Garside, Jimmy Kelly, Lee Hunt (Davie Cameron), Andy Moran, Stuart Graves (Chris Roberts). Att: 1787.

Rhyl 5 (Andy Moran 3, Lee Hunt, Marc Limbert)
Aberystywyth Town 3
(Jan 17, 2004 – Welsh Premier League)

At the time I think this attendance of 644 was a Welsh Premier record for Rhyl (I’ll happily be corrected).
By the end of this title-winning season, you could add another 2,000 plus on top of that.
This eight-goal thriller at Belle Vue had everything. Andy Moran was the home hero with a hat-trick, newcomer Lee Hunt also found the mark and Marc Limbert lobbed the keeper left-footed from near to halfway – a goal of the decade contender.
Rhyl: Paul Smith, James Brewerton, Robbie Wood, Lee Atherton, Tim Edwards, Steve Walters, Gareth Wilson, Marc Limbert, Andy Moran, Lee Hunt, Chris Adamson. Att: 644

Rhyl FC’s Belle Vue ground

Rhyl 7 (Gary McCosh, John Stannard, Robbie Williams, Wes Kinney, Lee Trundle 3)
Llanelli 0
(Jan 20, 2001 – Welsh Premier League)

The Lilywhites chalked up their highest ever Welsh Premier win this day at Belle Vue – a record that still stands for the club.
This game also marked Lee Trundle’s final goals for Rhyl before his five-figure move to Wrexham a month later, after he had netted a hat-trick against them in a 4-1 friendly victory.
Remember some of this team? John Stannard, an electric-fast right winger, classy goal-scoring midfielder Gary McCosh and industrious local lad Robbie Williams, who also played for Bangor City among other clubs.
Rhyl: Lee Williams, James Brewerton (Steve C Jones), Gary Curtis, Gary McCosh, Mark Antrobus, Gareth Wilson, John Stannard (Mick Jones), Robbie Williams, Wes Kinney (Danny Barton), Lee Trundle, Chris Sharratt. Att: 293.

Rhyl 2 (Alan Tait OG, Steve Walters)
Swansea City 0
(Apr 7, 2004 – FAW Premier Cup semi-final)

Steve Walters (centre) starred in Rhyl’s amazing 2003-04 FAW Premier Cup win over Swansea City

Never to be forgotten.
A crowd of 2,379 at Belle Vue were treated to a fantastic performance by Rhyl against their esteemed Football League One opponents in the Premier Cup semis.
This thriller, shown live on S4C, saw the Swans field a full strength side which included former Lilywhites striker Trundle and Roberto Martinez.
An Alan Tait own goal, quickly followed by a second from man of the match Steve Walters, a venomous left foot piledriver, gave the hosts a 2-0 half time lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Welsh Premier champions-to-be Rhyl outplayed Kenny Jackett’s Swansea from start to finish.
Rhyl: Paul Smith, James Brewerton, Mark Powell, Lee Atherton, Tim Edwards, Steve Walters, Gary Powell, Marc Limbert, Andy Moran, Chris McGinn, Chris Adamson. Att: 2,379.

Rhyl 1 (Andy Moran)
The New Saints 0
(Apr 11, 2004 – Welsh Premier League)

Not a classic by any means, but what a massive three points for the soon-to-be title winners.
Four days after beating Swansea in front of 2,379, an even bigger crowd was at a sunny Belle Vue for this Sunday battle of the top two.
It looked like finishing 0-0 before Andy Moran capitalised on a fumble by Saints keeper Richard Acton to stab in a late winner.
Rhyl: Paul Smith, James Brewerton, Mark Powell, Lee Atherton, Tim Edwards, Steve Walters, Gareth Wilson, Marc Limbert, Andy Moran, Lee Hunt (Gary Powell), Chris Adamson. Att: 2,741

Rhyl 6 (Gary McCosh 2, Danny Barton, Lee Trundle 2, Chris Sharratt)
Bangor City 1
(Nov 3, 2000 – Welsh Premier League)

A night where even lightning bolts from the sky could not upstage the dazzling Lee Trundle.
The in-form Lilywhites striker netted twice, as did Gary McCosh, as their traditionally fiercest rivals Bangor were put to the sword.
Danny Barton and Chris Sharratt were also on target for the hosts in this Friday night affair watched by a low turnout of 360.
Rhyl: Lee Williams, Mark Powell, Gary Curtis, Mark Antrobus, James Brewerton, Steve C Jones (Phil Owens), Steve Gibson (Tim Steel), Gary McCosh (Lee Congerton), Danny Barton, Lee Trundle, Chris Sharratt. Att: 360.

Rhyl 5 (Mark Connolly, Chris Williams, Lee Hunt 2, Matty Williams)
Bangor City 1
(Sep 11, 2009 – Welsh Premier League)

The quality of goals Rhyl produced in this stunning display against their coastal foes were something else.
Best of the bunch was a long-range missile by Lee Hunt against his old club.
The game was over by half time as the Lilies went goal crazy, Hunt’s double added to by Mark Connolly, Chris Williams and Matty Williams.
Champions on fire.
Rhyl: James Coates, Mark Connolly, Greg Stones, George Horan, Greg Strong, John Leah, Chris Williams, Gareth Owen, Lee Hunt, Matty Williams (Martin Naylor), Tyrone Kirk. Att: 1,074.

Rhyl 2 (Lee Hunt 2)
FK Atlantas 1
(July 14, 2005 – UEFA Cup)

A special night as it marked Rhyl’s first win in European competition.
Lee Hunt bagged both goals for the Welsh Premier side, but a 2-1 lead at the end of the first leg was considered not enough by many ahead of the return in Lithuania.
Nonetheless, a lionheart display from the Lilywhites saw them lose 3-2 in Klaipeda, thus winning overall on away goals (aggregate 4-4).
At the time, Rhyl were only the second Welsh Premier team to win a European tie, with Carmarthen Town becoming the third later that evening.
Rhyl: Gerard McGuigan, Chris Adamson, Mark Powell, George Horan, Greg Stones, James Brewerton, Gareth Wilson (Alan Morgan), Lee Hunt (Gary Powell), Stuart Graves, Marc Limbert, Andy Moran (Mike Thompson). Att: 1,570

Rhyl 2 (Gary McCosh, Chris Sharratt)
Total Network Solutions 0
(Oct 21, 2000 – Welsh Premier League)

One of the major highpoints of Lee Williams’ reign as Rhyl boss.
Since taking over from Brian Kettle, Williams had led the Lilies to three wins in a row, but champions TNS were tipped to be a bridge too far.
The game had added needle in the fact Saints coach Dr Andy Cale had left Rhyl the season before and taken a fair few good players with him.
Cale’s return to Belle Vue was not to be a good one – and the home fans were delighted. Gary McCosh and Chris Sharratt found the net in guiding the Lilywhites to a famous win.
Surprisingly, below 300 watched the game, but it came before the start of Rhyl’s most successful era trophy-wise.
Rhyl: Lee Williams, Mark Powell, Gary Curtis, Mark Antrobus, James Brewerton, Steve C Jones, Steve Gibson, Gary McCosh, Danny Barton (Aaron Thomas), Lee Trundle, Chris Sharratt. Att: 279.

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