JOHNSTON 3 PENLAN CLUB 2.
(2-2 after 90 minutes).
Steve Mills was the match-winning hero for Johnston, with the Pembrokeshire side celebrating a dramatic victory against Penlan Club in the Tony Nakonecznyj Insurance Brokers West Wales Intermediate Cup Final at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium. (reports Robert Clement).
It was Penlan Club who appeared to be candidates for the silverware, after establishing a two goal first half interval lead supplied by Carl Mucha and Daniel Roberts.
However, the second half unfolded with the west Wales Tigers responding with quality finishing from Joe John along with Mills, who was stretchered off the pitch with the tie level at full time following a clash with goalkeeper Dale Hulland. Johnston then returned to full compliment during extra-time, with Mills on target five minutes from the end.
It was Penlan who were the more creative in the early exchanges, and they were close to moving ahead with a Jamie James free kick being fingertipped around the upright by goalkeeper Martin Langdon after five minutes.
There was reward for enterprising Penlan during the 12th minute with Daniel Roberts bursting forward into Johnston territory, Adam Carroll then made himself available to maintain pressure, and his cross was met by Mucha, who applied a delicate chipped finish which flew over Langdon, and deflected off the underside of the bar and into the net.
Encouraged by that breakthrough, Penlan went close to doubling the lead after twenty seven minutes, with Lee Morgan having his progress forward halted by Johnston skipper Chris Ormond. Robert Connochie then curled the free kick over the two man wall, but unfortunately his attempt went inches wide of the far post.
Despite having to operate on the back foot and absorb pressure, Johnston carved out their first scoring chance six minutes prior to the interval, with a Mills cross being met by the head of Adam Hawkins at the far post, but the ball then deflected away off the edge of the bar.
With two minutes of the opening period remaining, Penlan Club increased the tempo with the reward arriving when Daniel Roberts curled a corner directly into the Johnston net.
The attacking momentum was maintained at both ends within fifty seconds, Firstly a Morgan shot was blocked by the legs of Langdon, then Johnston broke swiftly forward with Joe John going close for the Tigers, being narrowly off target after having seized onto a Hawkins cross.
There was reward for Johnston after fifty eight minutes with them back in the match, with a Hawkins by-line cross being drive home by Joe John from twelve yards.
Midway into the second half Johnston increased their attacking work rate, with a Scott Murray free kick rebounding off the goal frame, and a follow up shot from Hawkins was then cleared off the goal-line by Jamie Davies.
With three minutes left on the clock Penlan attempted to secure a third goal, but a good pass from substitute Damian Owen saw Mucha blaze wide of the target.
With the match two minutes into added on time, it was Mills who raced onto a Hayward through ball to slide home from just inside the eighteen yard area, only to then collide with Hulland, with the tie destined for an additional thirty minutes.
Following a lengthy delay with Mills finally being stretched away, Johnston began extra time operating with ten men. Mills however reappeared to take up an attacking role, and he set up Murray for a match winning finish, but his on target effort was blocked by the struggling Penlan keeper.
Additional pressure continued to be applied to the Penlan defence with Hulland continuing the labour with a leg injury, and during the 115th minute the decisive outcome arrived with Mills applying a quality finish, having advanced swiftly forward to send a right footed shot over the top of Hulland, following an opening carved out by substitute Martyn Tweedie.
Johnston’s joint coach Russell Murray later spoke with Robert Clement, pitch side at the Liberty Stadium, with him reflecting on the epic one hundred and twenty minutes.
“After a disappointing first half performance, I thought that there was a marked improvement; we appeared to be the fitter team, and if we were able to score a goal I felt that we could get back into the game, which was the case”.
“It was important for us to play the ball on the floor and to maintain our concentration, with us at times giving possession away too easily. Penlan were a good side in fairness, but I think that when we started to get our foot on the ball, using the width of the pitch along with a few good runs forward, Penlan were put on the back foot”.
Murray added, “It was a fantastic game of two halves, but probably it was a game of four halves really, but the second half and extra-time, I would say that we were the stronger side, and at the end we thoroughly deserved to win”.
“During the cup competition against determined opposition, we’ve battled and shown spirit all season, and it was no more typified when Steve Mills scored two goals. Having been on target to take the game into extra-time, and then go off injured in the process, and for him to return and hit the winner sums up the character of the side”.
Murray then responded to having conceded two goals in the first half, but then somehow the batteries were recharged, and there was a fresh sense of motivation.
“The fact is, we haven’t played as bad as that all season; we were poor, but we regrouped, Chris Ormond the captain had a word with the players during the break, and we got our act together to force our way back into the game”.
“Joe John scored on the hour mark, and to be fair he’s been a regular goalscorer. Sometimes you don’t think that he’s on the pitch, but then he’ll always pop up with one or two goals, and that was so typical of his performance, he was busy but not prolific, but he found the all-important spot for the goal when needed”.
“We made a couple of substitutions and moved Steve Mills out onto the right wing, and it was just a case of getting him on the ball and running at pace. Even though he’s small he’s quite strong and he’s a good finisher, with it being the case of him being brave as well, and that was proven after his opening goal”.
“He was then stretchered off, but I think that his swift return stunned everybody; that typifies the spirit of the whole team, and let’s be fair his second goal was a super individual one with a cool finish”.
“I think that I fancied our chances even if the tie had been level after extra-time; the way we came through at Stebonheath to win on penalties against Morriston Olympic; we were excellent there, but the Penlan goalkeeper was definitely struggling. I think that we would have had a big advantage if it had to be resolved by spot kicks, and overall we probably saved him the embarrassment of that”.
“Winning the trophy is important for Pembrokeshire football, we’re a good side, to finish runners-up in the league; there are four or five good teams in our league, and I think this will be a massive boost for all of them, so well done to our players for that".
Johnston: Martin Langdon, Chris Ormond (capt), Andrew John, Steve Mills, Ben Phillips, James Scudder (Sion Price 83rd min), Scott Murray, Luke Hayward, Adam Hawkins, Joe John (Martyn Tweedie 76th min), Kristian Griffiths (Liam Boswell 65th min).
Penlan Club: Dale Hulland, Craig Connochie (Damian Owen 68th min), Adam Carroll, Jamie Davies, Darren Roberts, Robert Connochie, Lee Morgan, Jamie James (capt), Daniel Roberts (Paul Lewis 116thmin), Carl Mucha, Gareth Morrell (Jamie Day 90th min+1).
Referee Mark Evans (Llanelli).
Score summary: Johnston: Joe John 58th min, Steven Mills 90th min+2, 115th min.
Penlan Club: Carl Mucha 12th min, Daniel Robert 43rd min.
Yellow cards: Johnston: Kristian Griffiths 8th min, Chris Ormond 27th min, Luke Hayward 57th min, Scott Murray 59th min, Steve Mills 115th min.
Penlan Club: Daniel Roberts 45th min+1, Lee Morgan 85th min, Jamie Day 110th min.