Campbell Harrisons’ men did the town and Huws Gray Alliance league proud with a battling performance against Welsh Premier high flyers Bala Town in a Welsh Cup fourth round tie played at times in horrendous conditions. With the visitors enjoying the difficult conditions in their favour in the first half Bala restricted their Holyhead hosts to barely a solitary effort on goal while they themselves dominated proceedings against a resolute home defence before taking the lead a minute before the half hour via a very well executed free kick by Nathan Burke. However, torrential rain added to the worsening elements in the second period and it was Hotspur’s turn to try and take advantage and force the Maes Tegid side back, and the 400 strong crowd went wild when Mike Kelly’s well directed header put the home team level midway through the half. It was right back into the melting pot at this stage and it took two late strikes with extra time looming by Mike Hayes and Mark Jones to put Colin Caton’s side into the fifth round (quarter final draw).
The visitors certainly knew they had to pull out all the stops to get through and Hotspur can feel well pleased with their performance against one of the top sides in Welsh football. It will be back to the bread and butter of the league next Saturday when Holyhead travel to Cefn Druids who are pushing for the top position but quite capable of bringing home a result.
As both teams attempted to adjust to the difficult conditions the visitors began to enjoy a lot of possession and came close to taking the lead on nine minutes. Carl Jones who had come out of goal failed to cut out a searching ball leaving Mark Jones free but the former Wrexham and Welsh International put a good opportunity inches the wrong side of the near upright. A few minutes later the keeper was out quickly to deny the onrushing Bala forwards. On fifteen Ryan Valentine crossed into the goalmouth but Mark Hayes headed wide, while Mark Connolly twice had opportunities which drifted just past. Bala continued to press but up to this stage had failed to turn it into goals. However, on twenty nine they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box and Nathan Burke steered his side ahead without Jones even moving. Hotspur were defending well as Bala continued to have the ascendency while at last Dewi Thomas put Kenleigh Owen in on the left and his shot tested Ashley Morris at his near post (HT 0-1).
With conditions now in their favour Hotspur pushed up higher and Ketley tested Morris on 48. On fifty two Hayes brought out a fine save from Carl Jones to his left following a fine Bala break. Hotspur now having much of the play as players struggled to keep their feet. More of a contest now and on sixty seven Hotspur drew level – Ketley sent over a searching cross into the goalmouth and Mike Kelly did well to get in first and direct his header wide of Morris. Game on now and on seventy nine Carl Jones came miles out of goal to prevent a dangerous situation while Mike Edwards tested Ashley Morris.
Extra-time loomed but on eighty four the visitors regained the lead a corner on the right was headed down and Hayes was the quickest to react back healing past Jones. Two minutes later it was game over for the gallant hosts when a cross from the right by Valentine was clipped home by Mark Jones and the same player was only inches away from a fourth although that would have been harsh on Hotspur.
Gareth M Davies