A large crowd at Ynys Park enjoyed a spectacular curtain raiser to the season as Ton Pentre entertained Newport County in The Brian Lomax Supporters Direct Cup.
The Cup is played for each season by clubs that are community owned. As the first Welsh League club to convert to a community ownership model it was a huge honour to be asked to compete for the cup but also a huge boost as Ton Pentre get their future plans off the ground. Supporters Direct chose Newport County to also take part in the match as they too recently switched to a community ownership model.
Previous winners of the Supporters Direct Cup include AFC Wimbledon, Brentford, Merthyr Town and FC United of Manchester. The Bulldogs can now also be added to that roll of honour.
Newport County chose to rest their senior players for this fixture and, with the benefit of hindsight, their decision to field a team made up from their development squad backfired in a spectacular fashion.
Ton Pentre dominated the opening encounters and were duly rewarded in the 7th minute. Leon Jacka won the ball infield and broke into the Newport penalty area, his low cross was met at the near post by Liam Reed who scored from close range under pressure from both defender and keeper.
Reed nearly doubled his tally in the 16th minute, Jacka’s corner from the left was parried away by Marcus Beauchamp in the Newport goal, Reed was waiting on the corner of the area and hit a powerful volley back goalwards. Beauchamp, who made a string of fine saves, was again equal and kept the shot out.
County’s first real opportunity came in the 24th minute. A mistake by Scott Hayward almost let the Newport attack in on goal but Gavin Morris was alert to the danger and snuffed out the chance with a covering tackle.
The Bulldogs were in the ascendency in the first half though. A free kick from Liam Hutchinson fizzed narrowly over the bar before a Liam Reed cross was met by Adam Lewis on the edge of the box, his shot lacked power though and was safely collected by Beauchamp.
A second goal looked on the cards and it duly arrived on the 30th minute. Last season’s top scorer Leon Jacka collected the ball inside the area and shot across the keeper into the right hand side of the goal.
Further chances fell to Reed and Sam Small before the home crowd celebrated again with a third goal just before half time. Small’s initial shot was parried wide of the goal, he collected the loose ball and squared it back into a central area where former Newport County player Corey Shephard was arriving to bury the ball into the back of the net. Is there anything sweeter than scoring against your former team? Corey certainly didn’t think so at that moment.
The County side appeared early for the second half and whatever was said in the dressing room seemed to galvanise them. The second half was a much more even encounter under the grey, drizzly floodlit skies. County had chances to reduce the deficit but lady luck and Cael Jones in the Pentre goal denied them.
On 54 minutes a mistake saw substitute Rob Blatchford lose the ball on the halfway line. Rhys Kavanagh broke free and surged to the edge of the area, his cross was met by the impressive Momodou Touray, but his shot was beaten away by Jones in the Bulldogs goals. In the 71st minute Touray went close again, this time his shot beat Jones but it passed the goalpost several inches the wrong side.
After the excitement of the first half the game seemed to be heading for a goalless second half but Ton added a further two goals shortly before the end to rub salt into the Newport County wounds.
Seven minutes from the end Gavin Morris hit a sweet volley to score his first goal for the club then with time ticking away Lewis Hitchcock scored a spectacular fifth for the Bulldogs. Corey Sheppard, who looked impressive throughout, turned provider on this occasion.
A professional display from the Bulldogs, who formed a guard of honour to applaud the young Newport County team off the pitch. In turn the County players showed great sportsmanship to return the tribute by also forming a guard of honour as the Ton Pentre side collected The Brian Lomax Supporters Direct Cup from Rhondda’s Welsh Assembly Member and Leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
Ton Pentre: 1. Cael Jones 2. Phil Clarke (Thomas Davies) 3. Scott Hayward 4. Adam Lewis (Adam Hawkins) 5. Andre Griffiths 6. Liam Hutchinson (Captain) 7. Gavin Morris 8. Leon Jacka (Rob Blatchford) 9. Corey Shephard 10. Liam Reed 11. Sam Small.
Newport County: Marcus Beauchamp, Evan Press, Liam Martin, Ben Jones, Liam Angel, Momodou Touray, Lewi Bamford, Jake Young, Dafydd Jones, Rhys Kavanagh, Kyron Tolland. Subs: Finlay Wood, Tom Savigar, Liam Warman, Dion Molyneux, Tom Hillman, Rhys Davies.