Dave Jones: My 10 favourite North Wales football matches of all time

Mike Foster prepares to take a free kick for Porthmadog in their remarkable 6-5 win against Connah’s Quay in 2008-09. Picture: Emyr Gareth

In 34 years of sports reporting I’ve covered a fair few hundred (if not thousand) matches.

Here are 10 of the very best I was fortunate enough to attend.

1 Rhyl 5 Prestatyn Town 5 (NWCFA Challenge Cup Final)
August 2013 – Prestatyn won 4-3 pens

Prestatyn Town players, officials and supporters all celebrate after the 2013 NWCFA Challenge Cup final

Two teams on the crest of a wave staged a classic never to be forgotten.

Prestatyn had in the previous three months lifted the Welsh Cup for the first time in their history, won their first-ever European tie, beating Liepajas Metalurgs of Latvia on penalties, and finished in the Welsh Premier top six.

Rhyl had broken new ground in the Huws Gray Alliance, becoming the first-ever champions of that league to emerge through an entire season unbeaten.

Greg Strong’s men were on their way back to the Welsh Premier.

What a final these two Denbighshire coast rivals served up at Belle Vue!

It was 4-4 at half time, record 16-time NWCFA Challenge Cup winners Rhyl striking through a Steve Lewis hat-trick and Josh Williams net-finder, Chris Davies firing in two for the Seasiders, David Hayes’ 30-yarder and Carl Murray making it all-square.

No further goals until the 73rd minute, Andy Parkinson putting Town 5-4 up, but a stupendous volley from Dave Forbes levelled it before the 90 minutes were complete.

Just before the end of normal time, Rhyl’s hat-trick hero Lewis was sent off.

Extra time was goal-less, so it went to spot-kicks.

Jon Hill-Dunt – the master of penalty savers – kept out two for Prestatyn, leaving skipper Hayes to convert the winner, sealing Town their first-ever Challenge Cup success.

To this day, I cannot believe what I saw that night. I know all those that played and I like to think that was their present to me to take to my grave. Thanks all.

2 Denbigh Town 1 Caernarfon Town 0
NWCFA Challenge Cup – Feb 29, 1992

The Denbigh Town team which beat Caernarfon Town in 1992. Back row (left to right): Tim Cronin, Alan Anderson, Craig Kelly, Garry Wayne Jones, Mike James, Mark Lewis, Mark Pierce Jones, Peter O’Brien. Front row (l-r): Roy Cook-Hannah, Ceri Lloyd, Andy Jones, Dave Calvert, Allan Jones, Paul Jones (physio).

The biggest shock I’ve ever witnessed in North Wales football – and I doubt it will ever be surpassed.

Denbigh Town of Clwyd League Division One (tier 4 Wales at the time) took on semi-pros Caernarfon Town from the HFS Loans Northern Premier League Division One (tier 7 English pyramid) in the ultimate David v Goliath battle at Central Park.

The tie was given added spice in the fact John Trevor Roberts, Caernarfon manager, used to be boss of Denbigh.

As expected, the Canaries dominated possession and did most of the attacking in this Challenge Cup clash, but home keeper Garry Wayne Jones had the game of his life, one save in particular from a Tony Livens volley defying belief.

After a goalless first half, Central Park went crazy in the 62nd minute when Denbigh’s striker Alan Anderson took advantage of a loose ball from a Caernarfon throw-in and from the right side of the box whipped an unstoppable shot into the net.

The visitors came back strongly, but some phenomenal defending, plus more heroics from keeper Jones, made sure the underdogs held on for a stunning triumph.

The after-match scenes, complete with tearful Denbigh players and a pitch invasion, will be remembered forever.

3 Porthmadog 6 Connah’s Quay Nomads 5
League of Wales – December 27, 2008

Porthmadog’s Marcus Orlik on the attack during an 11-goal thriller against Connah’s Quay. Picture: Emyr Gareth

Due to geographics, I have not visited Y Traeth as often as I’d have liked over the years.

However, every time I have been to the ground, I’ve been thoroughly entertained and have never seen Porthmadog’s first team lose there.

This was the case just after Christmas 2008, although it looked very much like Port would be beaten when they trailed 5-1 to visitors Nomads after 70 minutes.

However, when Phil Doran was sent off for the Deesiders in the 71st minute, Port netted from the resulting free kick and went on to complete a remarkable victory.

Captain Liam Loughlin gave Nomads a fourth-minute lead from close range before he set up Craig Jones for number two 13 minutes later.

The hosts reduced the deficit through Gareth Parry shortly after, but the visitors restored their two-goal advantage on the half-hour mark when the in-form Peter Doran tapped in before having another effort disallowed.

Jones headed home his second 13 minutes after the restart before Mike Cronshaw, four minutes after coming on, also nodded in.

Then came the turning point as Phil Doran, upset after a decision went against him, was red carded for foul and abusive language.

Rhys Roberts scored seconds later and it was game on.

Young Nomads, rather than sitting back, naively went for a sixth, but Port countered and were awarded a 77th-minute penalty by referee Andrew Harms for a debatable foul by Danny Forde that seemed to have taken place outside of the box.

Mike Foster converted the spot-kick before John Rowley reduced the deficit to one.

Marc Lloyd-Williams then made it 5-5 with 86 on the clock before the legendary striker, eight minutes into injury-time, netted again to complete a quite remarkable reversal which guaranteed Port their first home win over their Deeside opponents in 12 seasons.

4 Caernarfon Town 2 The New Saints 3
Welsh Cup third round – November 30, 2014

Darren Thomas scored a stunner against Saints. Picture: Paul Evans

Although favourites Saints eventually won this cup classic, all the talk afterwards was of THAT goal from Caernarfon’s Darren Thomas and the catastrophic events that followed it.

Then Huws Gray Alliance side Caernarfon welcomed the mighty Welsh Premier champions to The Oval for a round three tie shown live on S4C.

The Canaries were already one-up through Nathan Craig’s free kick before Darren Thomas brought the house down – literally.

In the 25th minute, Thomas turned sharply close to the halfway line before leaving a trail of defenders in his wake and lashing home a beauty from the edge of the D.

Unfortunately, a wall behind the goal Thomas had just fired into gave way, causing a large group of supporters to fall in a heap.

Thankfully, no-one was badly injured, but the game had to be delayed at a crucial stage.

On resumption, TNS settled much the better, and three goals in seven minutes via Mike Wilde, Chris Marriott and Jamie Mullan put them ahead by half time.

Despite a fantastic second half display from the Cofis, there was no further score and Saints went through, but one will always wonder how Town might have fared had they not been disrupted in their prime.

Thomas’ wonder effort was later named Goal of the Decade by Sgorio viewers.

5 Bala Town 1 Holyhead Hotspur 4
Cymru Alliance League – April 2009

Kenleigh Owen (blue) had a stormer at Bala in 2008/09. Picture: Chris Howells

Even though it’s never been accepted or respected in certain circles, I was proudly born in Holyhead and have always been an ardent follower of Hotspur.

I began watching games at The Oval and Millbank in the mid-1970’s as an 11-year-old, when my heroes were the likes of Dick Roberts, Steve Jewell, Sammy Spiers, John Edwardson and Peter Webb for both Town and Juniors.

I’ve been a keen supporter of Hotspur since they were formed in 1990, so I was delighted to see Campbell Harrison’s side produce a fantastic performance on this April day almost 12 years ago when thrashing Cymru Alliance champions-to-be Bala on a terrible surface at Maes Tegid.

Victory for the Lakesiders would have secured them the championship, but Hotspur had other ideas as they romped to a ninth straight league win.

The result of this game, televised by S4C, left Bala six points clear of Holyhead, who had two games in hand.

The Holy Islanders got at the leaders from the start and were unlucky to have a Curt Williams goal ruled out before Mike Kelly fired them in front on 18 minutes.

A deep cross from the left by Tomos Jones was weakly palmed away by keeper Leon Bimpson and the ball was fed into the six-yard box where midfielder Kelly slotted home.

Bala equalised right on half time when Gary Penlington’s deflected header fortunately dipped in under the bar, but the second stanza brought a Hotspur super show.

Kenleigh Owen’s deflected left-foot drive made it 2-1, the same player’s free-kick to the back post was bundled home by Lee Webber and Curt Williams completed the rout when taking advantage of a defensive mix-up after 77 minutes.

The visitors were still indebted to Mike Doutch for excellent saves from Tommy Mutton and Owain Roberts.

Bala eventually won the title by three points from runners-up Hotspur, their best-ever finish in the Cymru Alliance.

This was, in my opinion, Hotspur’s best-ever performance, although I am sure others would see it differently.

6 Rhyl 3 FC Haka 1
Uefa Cup – July 19, 2007

I’ve been covering Rhyl matches in earnest for the best part of 20 years and this was the finest display I’ve ever seen from them.

John Hulse’s heroes looked to have put one foot in the Uefa Cup second round with a comeback win over nine-times champions of Finland FC Haka on a sunny evening at Belle Vue.

The visitors took the lead after 15 minutes, Mikko Manninen powering 50 yards upfield before releasing Toni Lautinen for a simple finish.

Andy Moran fired the equaliser from an acute angle, and when Haka failed to clear Jimmy Kelly’s free kick Lee Hunt gave Rhyl the half-time lead.

Tireless debutant Craig Garside added a third in the second half, rounding off a fine move.

Sadly, the return leg in Finland ended 2-0 to Haka, meaning they went through on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate outcome.

It was 0-0 at half time, but Mikko Innanen broke the deadlock on 63 minutes before striker Valeri Popovitch, who missed the first leg in Wales due to fear of flying, scored from 18 yards to send the home side through.

7 Prestatyn Town 4 Rhyl 4
(Prestatyn won 5-3 on pens – Welsh Cup quarter-finals – Feb 27, 2010)

A great day in the Welsh Cup for then Prestatyn Town manager Neil Gibson. Pic: John Pickles

These two teams produced so many barnstormers over the years.

Right at the start of the second decade of the 21st century, the Seasiders recorded a famous Welsh Cup win over Denbighshire neighbours Rhyl at Bastion Gardens.

In four previous Welsh Premier clashes with the Lilywhites, Town had failed to manage a victory, but things were to be different in the Welsh Cup.

Rhyl led 3-2 at half time, Mark Connolly (2) and Matty Williams netting for the Lilies, Michael Parker and Gareth Wilson replying.

Prestatyn turned the tables after the break, ex-Rhyl hero Andy Moran and Neil Gibson making it 4-3 to the hosts, but Rob Turner levelled in the 90th minute to force extra time.

There were no further goals in the added half-hour, so it went to spot-kicks and Town prevailed 5-3.

8 Bangor City 5 Prestatyn Town 3
Welsh Premier League – December 27, 2011

A vintage shot of Farrar Road. Picture: Bangor City FC History and Memories Facebook page

So proud to be at the last-ever competitive game at Farrar Road.

A huge crowd gathered on what was a very emotional occasion – even for us reporters as we interviewed some true legends who were wrapped up in the scenes.

After just 90 seconds the Prestatyn defence hesitated and Les Davies scored for the sixth successive game with a back-header.

It was a storming start from Bangor, and after 19 minutes Sion Edwards regained his balance in the slippy conditions to lash home number two.

Prestatyn’s first threat on 25 minutes was a conclusive one and ensured the visitors’ last appearance at Ffordd Ffarrar featured a pretty special goal.

Player-manager Neil Gibson took on the entire City defence single-handedly and as he jinked into the box slipped the ball neatly past Lee Idzi.

Only the heroics of Idzi denied the travellers an equaliser before half time.

On the hour it was 3-1 when Dave Morley’s 25-yard scorcher flew home.

Three minutes later Prestatyn failed to deal with Chris Jones’ low cross and Craig Garside made it 4-1.

Ross Stephens replied with a penalty, but in the 71st minute a Jones free-kick into the box fell at the feet of Morley who made it 5-2 from six yards.

Prestatyn midfielder Michael Parker scored the last competitive goal at Farrar Road, but City took the points and entered 2012 top of the Welsh Premier.

The pitch invasion which greeted the final whistle said it all. It was a time to celebrate the life of a football ground awash with 91 years worth of magnificent memories.

9 Bangor City 3 Port Talbot Town 2
Welsh Cup Final – May 1, 2010

Bangor City celebrate winning the 2010 Welsh Cup

Extra special occasion for me as it was a North Wales win and I attended the final at Parc-y-Scarlets, Llanelli, with my esteemed colleague the late Mark Currie.

We witnessed a total corker.

City looked in control after first-half goals from Jamie Reed and Lee Hunt gave them a 2-0 interval lead.

To their credit, Port Talbot really battled back after the break and goals from Drew Fahiya and Liam McCreesh put Mark Jones’ men on level terms with five minutes remaining.

The Steelmen now looked favourites to win, but a late inswinging free kick from Sion Edwards was headed in by Dave Morley and the City fans rejoiced wildly as the all-blues made it three Welsh Cups on the bounce.

10 Llandudno 4 Ruthin Town 3
Welsh Cup fourth round – January 27, 2018

Ruthin Town celebrate a goal at Maesdu Park

Amazing cup tie. Seven goals – some of them stunners – and so close to an upset.

I really enjoyed the build-up week as I had the opportunity to interview Ruthin manager Chris Williams – son of club legend Glyn – about the club’s progress.

I also reported it was the first time Town had reached the Welsh Cup fourth round in 95 years and looked back at their memorable 1986 tie against Wrexham.

The game at Maesdu Park was a tremendous contest in spite of the strong wind.

Ruthin played some lovely football throughout – a credit to the Cymru Alliance.

Welsh Premier favourites Llandudno led 1-0 at half time courtesy of a 25-yard bullet from Toby Jones.

The tie really sprang to life after the break, Tomos Roberts levelling with a wind-assisted, but beautifully struck, free kick.

On 66 minutes a clearance from Tudno keeper Dave Roberts was collected in the centre circle by Ilan Hughes, who let fly and made it 2-1 with a strike which sent the Ruthin fans behind the goal crazy. Roberts dived right over the ball, but it was still a tremendous piece of opportunism from Hughes.

Town keeper Ryan Goldston pulled off a magnificent reaction stop from a Marc Williams header and entering the closing minutes a giant-killing was on the cards.

Unfortunately for the visitors, an 86th minute Jones cross into the box was misjudged by Goldston, came back off the post, and former Manchester United prospect Matty Williams equalised with a diving header.

Two classy finishes in the first period of extra time from Marc Williams and Toby Jones looked to have sealed the result.

But in the second period, marvellous work by Will Owen set up Osian Davies to make it 4-3.

That led to a frantic finish, but Tudno progressed to the last eight.

What a game!

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