BALA Town’s impressive six game unbeaten run was halted on Sunday afternoon as Rhys Griffiths fired Llanelli to a 4-2 victory at Maes Tegid.
Having previously won their previous five outings, Bala not only picked up their first defeat of the season but also slipped from the top of the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League.
Prolific Llanelli striker, Rhys Griffiths took just six minutes to open the scoring as the Bala defence shipped their first goal since the opening day of the season, before inflicting more damage, heading in his second, unmarked, on 13 minutes.
Bala’s hopes of getting back on track were summed up when Lee Hunt was unable to find the target, as the stunned Gwynedd based club struggled to assert themselves. And Griffiths was again involved as Llanelli added a third goal in the 62nd minute, with Craig Moses latching onto a loose ball to get on the score sheet.
Bala did finally show a response though and two minutes later, the Lakesiders were finally able to pierce the Llanelli defence as Liam Loughlin headed home to give a brief glimmer of hope.
But Griffith’s was on hand yet again, to head in his third of the afternoon, restoring Llanelli’s three goal margin, before Rhys Darlington restored some pride with a wonderful second goal for Bala late on, with Llanelli all but confirmed of the three points.
The defeat confirms The New Saints as the Welsh Premier League’s new pacesetters, on goal difference, as the title race in Wales begins to heat up.
The New Saint’s position at the summit of the Welsh Premier is a far cry from the very start of the season, when The New Saints got off to an unconvincing home draw with Bala and a defeat at Port Talbot a week later, did little to dispel talk questioning the Saint’s ability to improve on thier second place finish last year.
In response, Mike Davies’ side dispelt any talk of not being equipped to lead an assault for this season’s championship, by stringing together a five match winning run, which included notable victories over title rivals Llanelli and Neath, and a commendable 3-0 win at defending champions Bangor City – despite the departure of influential striker Chris Sharp in the transfer window.
Bala must now show they can respond to their first setback of the season next weekend as they travel to Neath, followed by another stern test, with the visit of Bangor a week later. For The New Saint’s, a favourable run of games pits them against the struggling trio of Airbus, Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, which should ensure the Saints now go on from strength to strength.
The race for the 2011/12 Welsh Premier League title has well and truly begun.