Rhyl 2-1 Bangor City: Lilywhites edge Citizes in highly anticipated North Wales Derby
Rhyl FC claimed a 2-1 win over arch rivals Bangor City in the Huws Gray Alliance on Friday evening.
A James Murphy goal sent the Lilywhites ahead in the first half, with Max Peate sealing the winner in the second half to cancel out Alex Darlington’s equaliser.
The game was highly anticipated as the first meeting between the two sides since their spells in the JD Welsh Premier League, and was a six pointer with fifth placed Rhyl welcoming Bangor, who sat fourth.
It also marked Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s first game as Bangor manager since his surprise return to the club, which was announced on Tuesday.
Although a player-manager, Taylor-Fletcher did not place himself in the squad, opting to watch the likes of Yalany Baio and the Williams brothers from the dugout.
The game started with a series of aerial balls being headed around the midfield, before Rhyl’s Mike Pritchard forced a corner in the third minute from which Ben Nash went close.
Bangor replied to early pressure from the hosts with a run from Robbie Parry after five minutes, as the ex-TNS and Nomads man ran into the final third to shoot over from around 18 yards.
The crunch fixture then saw its first yellow, with a full blooded challenge from Les Davies on Max Peate putting the household Bangor name in referee Nick Pratt’s book.
After 10 minutes Marc Williams made a darting run into the Rhyl area, but a challenge from Matt Cook, who seemed to be everywhere for the home side, halted the chance.
Rhyl grew into the game well, with a header from Mike Pritchard from a Cai Owen cross going just over the Bangor bar in the 16th minute.
And after establishing control in the midfield through the likes of Cook and Aaron Hassall, Rhyl’s persistent runs paid dividends in the 24th minute.
Mike Pritchard laid on James Murphy on the right wing, who ran into the area to have a first effort blocked before following up on the rebound to finish from around 10 yards out.
Boosted by their 1-0 lead the Lilywhites were on top, seeing a chance to go 2-0 up missed when Gareth Partridge sent a cross from Owen just wide.
Bangor City struggled to get back into the game after conceding, having a chance to equalise before the interval in the 42nd minute blocked when Reece Fairhurst dispossessed Darlington, who was racing towards goal to test keeper Jon Hill-Dunt.
In the second half Darlington again went close, taking advantage of a defensive error to pounce on a loose ball, with Hill-Dunt holding his 12 yard strike.
After the hour mark, Bangor were pushing to get back into the game, but good game management from Rhyl was proving its worth as they continued to lead despite threatening runs from Parry and Darlington.
The Citizens did enjoy a better performance in the second half, with Darlington sending a header wide before a powerful shot from Robbie Parry glanced across the Rhyl goalmouth on 70 minutes.
And just when it looked as if time was running out for the visitors, Darlington made it 1-1 with 15 minutes to go.
The breakthrough came when a Sam Jones shot was saved by Hill Dunt, with the Citizens striker driving a powerful effort under the outstretched Rhyl stopper to score from just six yards out.
But Bangor’s lead was short lived, as captain Max Peate got a vital touch on the end of a Joe Culshaw free kick to score the winner in the 78th minute.
Culshaw’s set piece from around 40 yards out was lofted into the area, with Peate reacting first inside a packed area to send the ball looping into the left side of the net on the volley.
The game saw a tense finish, with Bangor hitting the woodwork from a curling cross-come-shot into the area, piling into the Rhyl end as Gary Taylor Fletcher urged his side to salvage a result.
Connah’s Quay Nomads-loanee Jake Phillips sent an in-swinging corner towards the Rhyl goal on 88 minutes, but Hill-Dunt was there to deny him.
Rhyl had a chance to win it in the first minute of injury time, when a run from Murphy, Owen, and Liam Chambers, who failed to score a third despite with Bangor keeper Niki Lee Bulmer saving a close range effort from Murphy.
Full time triggered jubilant celebrations from the Rhyl faithful, who saw their side go joint on points with Bangor with their first derby victory for many years.
The result bodes well for the Lilywhites, who will head into the festive fixture period confident in their ability to climb further up the table.
Whilst Bangor can take solace from a spirited second half performance, the defeat goes to show the extent of Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s task to rebuild Bangor into title-challengers after a difficult start to life in the Huws Gray Alliance.