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Welsh Cup classics – No 7: Bala v Prestatyn 2008/09 – have there been many more brutal ties than this one?

Ian Griffiths scored twice for Prestatyn in an epic Welsh Cup win at Bala. Picture: John Pickles

Bala Town 3 (L Roberts 5, Penlington 11, O Jones 110)
Prestatyn Town 3 (Griffiths 45 & 98, Parker 78)
Welsh Cup R2 – October 4, 2008
aet – Prestatyn won 5-4 on pens

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of what has been described as the most brutal match in English football history – the 1970 FA Cup Final replay which saw Chelsea defeat Leeds United 2-1 at Old Trafford.

Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to stick an equivalent label on the 2008/09 clash at Maes Tegid between Bala and Prestatyn, but it will be remembered as one of the Welsh Cup’s most bruising battles.

Six goals, three red cards, a mass brawl and a penalty shoot-out – it was quite an afternoon requiring an extra large reporter’s notepad to jot down all the action.

Five previous tussles between these teams – also littered with sendings off and bad feeling – had all gone the way of the Lakesiders.

So Prestatyn, who had been promoted to the Welsh Premier for the first time this season and left Bala behind in the Cymru Alliance, were delighted to finally lay a particularly stubborn ghost. The Lakesiders did go up to the WPL a few months later.

Bala started strongly and took the lead on five minutes when Llion Roberts headed home from a corner.

The hosts doubled their score on 11 minutes when Gary Penlington sidestepped Dave Hayes and unleashed an angled drive beyond Jon Hill-Dunt.

On 22 minutes the visitors had the ideal chance to pull one back when Steve Hoult’s shot was handled on the line by Steve Fisher.

The Bala defender received a straight red, but Neil Gibson’s subsequent poorly-struck penalty was saved by Leon Bimpson, who also kept out the rebound.

In the 28th minute, Hoult’s shot just missed the target then Jack Lewis’ 15-yard strike was pushed on to the upright by Bimpson.

Finally, in first half injury time, Jon Fisher-Cooke put in a brilliant ball for Ian Griffiths to tap home and make it 2-1 at the turnaround.

Ten minutes into the second period pandemonium erupted when Fisher-Cooke made a strong challenge and the Bala players reacted furiously.

A mass scuffle ensued and it took between five and 10 minutes for the fracas to settle down before Fisher-Cooke received a red card.

Ten men each now, but Prestatyn held themselves together the better of the two sides and Griffiths hit the post before setting up Michael Parker for the equaliser on 78 minutes.

Penlington could have won it for Bala in normal time when his shot deflected off Andy Davies onto the woodwork.

Then on 90 minutes Davies reacted to an off-the-ball incident by pushing Gethin Lloyd while both were on the floor and became the second Prestatyn player to see red.

Still the Welsh Premier side remained undeterred and eight minutes into extra time the nine men made it 3-2 when a great free-kick by Steve Bowes was headed in superbly by Griffiths.

Gibson and Bowes went close from great opportunities and Hill-Dunt produced a fabulous tip over before on 110 minutes an Osian Jones free-kick levelled the tie once more.
Bowes went near to winning it, but that was the end of the scoring so spot-kicks were required.

Parker, Hoult and Bowes took it to 3-2 before Bala’s Jones missed. Griffiths converted, as did the hosts, so Hayes needed to score to send the Seasiders through and he did just that.

Prestatyn were later to become known as the penalty kings of North Wales football after compiling a remarkable run of victories from spot-kick contests, but going into the Bala tie, their record was iffy to say the least

Winning boss Gibson said: “I was quietly confident we’d win the shoot-out as in three or four attempts I’ve not won a single one so I thought by the law of averages this might be our time and it was.

“Six or seven players came forward asking to take one which was another positive. We’ve finally ended the hoodoo and it’s a great feeling.”

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