Grassroots North Wales Game of the Day: Rhyl Dragons v Henllan – NWCFA Junior Cup

Henllan FC (pictured in their away strip) were good value for their Junior Cup success at Rhyl. Picture: Henllan FC Facebook account – with thanks

NORTH WALES COAST JUNIOR CHALLENGE CUP ROUND TWO

Rhyl Dragons 3 (Danny Williams 57, Dale Lewis 90+3, Kelvin Berks 105)
Henllan 3 (Bower 24, Sam Davies 32, Stephen Davies 92)
After extra time – Henllan won 3-1 on penalties

One of Henllan’s finest results since they formed a winter league team in 2017 saw them reach the quarter-finals of the prestigious NWCFA Junior Cup.

Although next-to-bottom of the North Wales Coast East Division One table, the Vale of Clwyd village side raised their game to secure a second away win over Rhyl Dragons this campaign.

No doubt inspired by playing at the grand Bellevue stadium in Rhyl, Henllan started on the front foot, some nice passing football leading to a first-minute effort from Ashley Andrews flying wide.

The visitors looked to have taken the lead in the 11th minute when poor defending from the hosts allowed Alex Thomas to force the ball over the line, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on keeper Richard Hillier-Evans.

Dragons began to settle and a 19th minute cross from Richard Hill picked out Adam Cassidy, who was unable to get his header right.

The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute when a free kick floated into the area was not cleared by the home defence and Henllan defender Chris Bower had time and too much space to skillfully volley home.

Eight minutes later it was 2-0. Sam Davies hit a shot from the edge of the box which Hillier-Evans completely misjudged and the ball found the net.

The Dragons thought they had replied in the 36th minute but the effort was ruled out for offside.

Henllan finished an impressive opening half on top, Sam Davies’ free kick being pushed behind by the keeper before an Alex Thomas chip went close.

Half-time: Dragons 0 Henllan 2

The home side improved after the break, Barry Roche seeing a 20-yard attempt kept out by Sam Roberts before Dragons pulled a goal back in the 57th minute.

Substitute Danny Williams had made a big difference since coming on as a substitute and his smart header over the keeper from a Colin Sargerson long throw into the penalty area made it 2-1.

The hosts were now on top. Sub Kelvin Berks was denied by Roberts before the same player miss-kicked in front of goal following a superb ball in from Richard Hill.

Henllan remained a threat on the counter. Hillier-Evans blocked bravely from Steffan Jones before Alex Ballard failed to connect with a pinpoint Sam Davies cross.

Dragons pressed but looked to be running out of ideas.

Henllan, meanwhile, could have sealed it when Steffan Jones struck the underside of the bar, then Ballard ran the length of the field before being foiled by another heroic Hillier-Evans stop.

And Ballard then hit the post before a last-ditch Shaun Gillespie tackle prevented Sam Davies finishing from the follow-up.

Dragons made the most of their escapes by equalising in the third minute of added time.

Nathan Griffiths lobbed a free kick from the right into the box and although Dale Lewis did not appear to get that much purchase on the header, it carried enough strength to find the net.

The Dragons players and bench celebrated wildly – they had forced extra time.

EXTRA TIME

Full credit to Henllan, they could easily have been deflated by conceding that late equaliser, yet within two minutes of the first period they were back in front.

From a corner, Stephen Davies’ header got past the diving Hillier-Evans to make it 3-2.

Lewis missed a golden opportunity to level the tie from a header before in the final minute of the first 15, Roche brilliantly broke to the byline and crossed low for Berks to make it three-apiece.

Chances were limited in the second period, so penalties were needed to settle this epic in the gathering gloom.

PENALTY SHOOT-OUT

Hillier-Evans, who had been magnificent since conceding that forgettable second Henllan goal, produced a marvellous save to keep out Ballard’s penalty. 0-0

Dragons could not capitalise. Mason Kenny’s low strike was saved quite comfortably by Roberts – 0-0

John Owen converted his penalty for Henllan and Gillespie did likewise for the hosts – 1-1

When Sam Davies missed for the visitors, things looked good for Dragons, but Danny Williams drilled his kick against the post. Still 1-1.

Alex Lewis netted for Henllan and Roche’s pen was saved by Roberts. 1-2.

Up stepped Steffan Jones who knew if he scored, Henllan were through. Jones finished well and the visitors were left to rejoice.

TEAMS

Rhyl Dragons
Richard Hillier-Evans, Shaun Gillespie, Shaun Walsh (Danny Williams 49), Arron Querci, Nathan Griffiths, Colin Sargerson (James Bouch 68), Luke Elden, Barry Roche, Richard Hill, Dale Lewis, Adam Cassidy (Kelvin Berks 55).

Henllan
Sam Roberts, Chris Bower, Ben Williams, Ashley Andrews (Chris Evans 63), Steffan Jones, Sam Davies, Alex Thomas (Alex Ballard 58), John Owen, Stephen Davies, Elliot Morris, Michael Cooper (Alex Lewis 68).

Players of the Match

Rhyl Dragons: Danny Williams
Henllan: Sam Davies

IN SUMMARY (Dave Jones’ observations)

On the three previous occasions I had seen Rhyl Dragons this season they had not conceded a goal and looked watertight at the back.

Today, they were unusually shaky in defence in the first half and it cost them.

By contrast, a Henllan side struggling in the league played some neat football and always looked a danger in attack. A 2-0 half time score did not flatter them.

In the second half, we saw more of the Dragons I’d witnessed in earlier matches.

Constant pressure, fighting spirit.

Henllan FC badge

After pulling a goal back, they looked good for another, especially with dynamic sub Danny Williams making such a difference, but Henllan rode the storm and really should have clinched it late on when they struck the woodwork twice.

Dragons were also indebted to keeper Richard Hillier-Evans for some great saves after he had conceded a soft second Henllan goal.

The home side’s 93rd minute equaliser was typical classic cup drama, Dale Lewis’ header finding the net from the last action of the 90+.

Hats off to Henllan, they really did show guts and determination to regain the lead early in the first extra time period.

Dragons were good value for their equaliser, then in the second period it was anyone’s game, but neither side could land the knockout blow.

I backed the home side to win on penalties as they had come back from the dead twice, but you can just never tell what’s going to happen.

After Henllan missed two of their first three, I was even more convinced Dragons would edge it, but they failed to take their opportunities and in the end it was the visitors who prevailed.

It was a pity there had to be a loser, yet overall Henllan probably just about deserved it. especially as they had hit the goal frame twice on top of their three goals.

Nonetheless, a cracking cup tie at Bellevue and hopefully both sides can glean some success in the remainder of the season. This Tier 5 football is pretty impressive.

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