BETHESDA ATHLETIC 3 (Davies 2, Owen)
RHYL 2 (Vaughan OG, Roose)
NORTH WALES COAST FA CHALLENGE CUP – FEBRUARY 2008
One of the finest wins in Bethesda’s recent history was achieved at Meurig Park 12 years ago as a Rhyl side containing five first team squad regulars was dumped out of the North Wales Challenge Cup.
This was a 17th straight victory for Chris O’Neal’s side in all competitions.
Although Bethesda had to concede long periods of possession to Rhyl, it was the more clinical finishing of the Welsh Alliance leaders which won them the tie.
“I felt we deserved to win – we took our chances when they came,” said manager O’Neal.
“We defended deep at times, but felt comfortable doing so.
“I knew if we could get in behind their full-backs we could expose them and so it proved. We gave them their first goal and the second could easily have been disallowed after the collision, but we’re really happy to be in the semi-finals.”
Bethesda did not enjoy the best of starts as after just five minutes the unfortunate Malcolm Vaughan chipped his own keeper David Clarke to gift Rhyl the opening goal.
Only four minutes later, however, the all-blues were level when good approach work by Darren Gowans found Gareth Davies who cracked home a lovely shot in off the post via an acute angle from the right side of the area.
Rhyl were on top for the rest of the half, but tremendous Pesda defending, with Carl Thomas, Daniel Wade and Luke Williams particularly outstanding, prevented any further goals.
If the visitors thought they were going to run away with it in the second period they were in for a rude awakening.
On 51 minutes first team defender Paul O’Neill gave the ball away, Gowans raced clear and although John Gann parried his shot the alert Davies was there to snap up the rebound.
Rhyl roared back but more brilliant last-ditch defending denied them an equaliser, Andy Booker twice being thwarted.
Then in the 65th minute Bethesda won a free-kick on the right, Gowans lifted the ball into the box and Richie Owen headed in to make it 3-1.
This seemed to visibly stun Rhyl and now Athletic were looking the more dangerous in attack.
Substitute Darren Ishmael raced clear of the defence, keeper Gann blocked his effort, but Gowans following up missed the target by inches.
As the Lilywhites pushed forward they were susceptible to the counter and Ishmael used his pace again to good effect but Gann smothered at his feet.
A minute into injury time home custodian Clarke collided with a group of players trying to clear a high delivery, the ball broke free and substitute Mike Roose slotted into an empty net, but that was it and Bethesda deservedly claimed their last four berth.
It was virtually impossible to pick a man of the match for the home team but Carl Thomas has to take massive plaudits for marking the experienced Dave Cameron out of the game.
At the end of the game, a long-time Bethesda supporter said to me: “A Bangor lad born and bred (Carl) marked a former Football League striker out of the game today.”
Chris ONeal (Corby) was cheered off the pitch by the Pesda massive, but he still found time to give me an after-match interview.
BETHESDA: Clarke, Williams, Vaughan, Wade, C Thomas, G Ishmael (Pritchard 87), D Roberts, C Roberts, Davies (D Ishmael 80), Owen, Gowans. Other subs: G Thomas, Jones.