19-year-old Craig Richards shines for Llanelli in Welsh Premier play-off finale; Andy Legg’s side reach Europe for seventh successive season; Bala empty-handed but left to reflect on impressive campaign.
LLANELLI edged to a 2-1 victory in an entertaining encounter with Bala Town in the Europa League play-off final – but Bala can hold their heads up high after an impressive campaign.
Rhys Griffiths gave the hosts a fourth-minute lead, in typically clinical fashion, after connecting to Jason Bowen’s cross with a left-footed volley. And Lloyd Grist’s deflected free-kick left Bala’s hopes of qualifying for Europe for the first time in tatters after just 19-minutes of play. But Llanelli had rookie stopper Craig Richards to thank for keeping the visitors at bay. The youth-team product put in an eye catching performance in front of the live TV cameras, superbly denying long-range efforts from both Mark Jones and Mark Connolly before the prolific Lee Hunt finally reduced the deficit through to ensure a frantic finish, which ultimately leaves Bala empty-handed.
“We’re all devastated as this was a game we deserved to win. It would have been great to be in Europe, we showed we’re knocking on the door, but we’ve all got to realise where the club have come from and what we have achieved in such a short space of time,” reflected Bala boss Colin Canton, who celebrates his tenth year with the club next season.
Indeed, the Maes Tegid side’s rise to the upper-reaches of the Welsh pyramid has been meteoric. Going from the Wrexham Area League in the fourth-tier to the Welsh Premier League in just seven seasons, Bala just completed their third year in the top-flight with a record high fifth-place finish.
Whilst Carl Darlington’s well-oiled New Saints’ clinched the league and cup double and Andy Legg once again ensured Llanelli were competitive at the top-end of the table, Colin Canton will surely be named as the league’s Manager of the Year at the Welsh Premier League’s annual dinner at Aberystwyth on 9th June.
The award would be deserved for one of the most respected managers on the Welsh Premier circuit and in recognition of the progress the club has made as a whole.