Match Review: Bala Town 3 Bangor City 2
Bala Town gave their hopes of European qualification a significant boost by beginning the second half of the Welsh Premier League season with a thrilling 3-2 win over Bangor City
An action-packed first half saw Bangor skipper Gary Roberts miss a penalty, before Bala’s Chris Venables rattled the crossbar with a brilliant freekick.
Venables went one better on the stroke of half-time by powering home a header, before Daniel Nardiello’s ninth goal of the season restored parity.
Bangor hit the woodwork twice in the second half, before a controversial penalty decision allowed Anthony Stephens to put Bala in front.
The visitors failed to recover. Roberts was sent off, while sloppy defending allowed Stuart J Jones to nod Bala further into the lead.
Brazilian striker Rodrigo Branco pulled another goal back with a cheeky rabona late on, but it was not enough to prevent Bangor slipping to a third straight league defeat, although the penalty decision is likely to be seen as a turning point for boss Ian Dawes.
In contrast, following the mid-season split, the result will further strengthen Bala’s Europa League ambitions, with the Lakesiders now level on points with second-placed gap Connahs Quay on 43 points.
An end-to-end contest looked to have swung Bangor’s way on 25 minutes when Conall Murtagh was penalised for a trip on Henry Jones inside the area, only for Roberts to balloon the resulting penalty wide.
Venables whipped a freekick onto the bar at the other end four minutes later, while Bangor debutant Dean Rittenberg also spurned two decent chances.
But it was Bala skipper Venables who found the breakthrough deep into first-half stoppage time, producing a towering header from Stephens’ freekick.
Bangor responded after the break, with Henry Jones at the heart of their recovery, forcing goalkeeper Ashley Morris into a smart save, before seeing his resulting corner headed over the line by Nardiello.
Jones remained a threat, and was again denied when his freekick came off the woodwork, which also frustrated Rittenburg four minutes later.
Bangor’s profligacy was punished 19 minutes from time, when Sergio Uyi was adjudged to have fouled Bala substitute Ian Sheridan deep inside the City box, despite replays suggesting the Nigerian under-21 international had won the ball.
Stephens duly converted, and Bangor collapsed.
A reckless challenge on David Thompson saw Roberts receive a second yellow card, before Stuart J Jones rose to head home another teasing Stephens freekick to extend Bala’s lead.
Substitute Branco expertly rounded the keeper to pull another goal back for Bangor deep into stoppage time, but it proved too little too late for the Citizens.
Man of the Match – Chris Venables (Bala): A strong performance from the home captain, who pulled the strings in the middle of the park all evening and was once again a goal threat throughout.