What a great bank holiday weekend for Bala Town! The Under-12s came from behind to win their U12s Welsh Cup final to make it two Welsh Cups in two days for the Lakesiders.  

Bala Town U12’s took on Risca United U12’s in the FAW Academy Cup National Final at Newtown’s Latham Park Stadium on the May Day bank holiday. It was a game of two halves, with the Lakesiders going in 3-1 down at half time aftare a dominant Risca performance. Undeterred the U12’s came out fighting for the second half and took the game to a very good Risca side to force extra time with the score 3-3. The momentum of the game had well and truly swung in Bala’s favour and two great stunning freekicks from Gruff Ellis in extra time saw Bala come out 5-3 winners.

Bala lined up with James Davies in goal, Ios Rodgers at right back, Steff Williams at left back, Euan Rowlandson at centre back, Dan Jones, Gruff Ellis and Rhydian Williams in central midfield with Dylan Owen and Aleksander Cyra as the two strikers. Iwan Hardy, Ifan Tudor Jones, Ben Sanders, Jack Thomas and Aaron Young being the substitutes.

Bala started the brighter of the two sides with Dan Jones and Rhydian Williams doing a great job of winning the early exchanges in midfield. In the 5th minute a smart through-ball caught the Risca defence out and Aleksander Cyra was able to get on the end of it to coolly slot home past the on-rushing keeper to put Bala into the lead on 5 minutes. Risca settled quickly and took the game to Bala with their midfielders causing lots of problems and forcing James Davies into action straight away. Aleksander Cyra’s goal seemed to sting Risca into action and they equalised minutes after following a nice free-flowing move down their left wing, the Risca winger played a quick ball to Owen Cuddihy’s feet who held off a challenge on the edge of the area to turn and find the corner of the net with a well-placed effort, 1-1.

Risca seemed to lift it yet another gear and were threatening to run riot as the Bala backline was put under consistent pressure. Steff Williams did well at left-back to contain Risca’s lively right winger with Dan Jones and Rhydian Williams working hard to keep a grip on the midfield battle. Risca’s pressure paid off as they forced a corner. A perfect cross found Risca’s Max Jepson unmarked at the far post to head home and put Risca into the lead, 2-1.

Bala responded with a quick move down the left with Dylan Owen finding Gruff Ellis who shot wide from 20 yards. Risca were determined and another surge forwards resulted in another corner for the South Walians. Again a perfect delivery saw Jack Danby Beat his marker to volley home from 5 yards out, 3-1 down with 25 minutes of the first 30 played.

The Lakesiders were hanging on at this point with some well-timed challenges keeping Risca out with Euan Rowlandson winning the aerial battle against the Risca striker. Despite the sustained Risca pressure, Bala were always a threat on the counter attack and a quick break and quality delivery from Dylan Owen almost saw Aleksander Cyra score his second goal of the day, but his volley smashed the crossbar and went out for a goal kick. The half time whistle was greeted by huge cheers from the Risca fans with their team deservedly leading 3-1.

Bala started the second half brightly and were working hard for one another all over the pitch. The defence was steady and keeping the Risca forwards under control as Rhydian Williams covered every inch of the 3G putting in tackle after tackle. An injury to Dan Jones forced a tactical change with Gruff Ellis dropping deeper into midfield and Iwan Hardy coming on as a central striker to make it 3 up front in the 40th minute. Iwan Hardy’s energy and off the ball runs changed the dynamics of the game and Bala were looking the more likely to score.

A quick break and pinpoint cross saw Dylan Owen head home to make the game even more interesting with only 15 minutes left to play. With Bala on the front foot Ben Sanders entered the fray in place of the impressive Aleksander Cyra. The fresh legs made an instant impact with Ben Sanders looking to run at the Risca defence at every opportunity.  With time running out Ben Sanders was brought down 25 yards from goal, freekick. With the 60 minutes of normal time now played, up stepped the captain Gruff Ellis. All eyes were on Gruff as he lined up the angles and let fly with an absolute beauty of a freekick that found the top corner of the Risca goal, 3-3! Soon after the referee blew for the end of normal time and an incredible Bala Town fightback.

Jack Thomas replaced the injured Ios Rodgers for the start of the first period of extra time. The momentum was still with the young Lakesiders as they threatened the Risca goal. Iwan Hardy was putting himself about and causing the Risca defence all sorts of problems and 2 minutes into added time he was bundled over by a Risca defender 20 yards from goal, freekick. Again up stepped Gruff Ellis who found the top corner with another top drawer strike, 4-3! Again Iwan Hardy was in the thick of the action as he took on the Risca backline and was stopped by a Risca midfielder who had accidently clipped his ankles, another freekick in the last minute of the first period of extra time. That man Gruff Ellis stepped up again to line up the chance. After taking a deep breath another quality freekick hit the back of the net in the top corner to cap off a hattrick of freekicks and put the Lakesiders an incredible 5-3 up.

The ref blew for half time in extra time with the boys determined to see the job done. Risca set up to throw everything at it for the final period of extra time but Bala defended stubbornly and restricted Risca to very few chances, but James Davies was again called into action and came up with another fine save to preserve the two goal lead. Ifan Tudor Jones replaced Ben Sanders with 3 minutes to play and Aaron Young replaced Dylan Owen shortly after. The boys held on and the ref soon blew his whistle to end an entertaining cup final. For the second time in two days Bala Town had won a Welsh Cup!

Head Coach Ethan Jones said after the game; “What an achievement by the boys. They’ve been absolutely terrific all season and have given it absolutely everything today. Credit to Risca, they are a great team full of talent and deservedly led at half time. But our lads don’t know when they are beaten, their character and commitment to the club is beyond question. What a group of lads and what a group of parents – the boys are an absolute credit to them.”

“For me the best thing a parent can do for their child, in terms of football, is teach them to be a good team-mate and all of our parents have done that. Our boys are perhaps not the most talented group of individuals in the country but they certainly are the best group of team players! There are no heroes in our team, just hard workers who will push themselves to the limit for their teammates and dig deep when it is needed to find that extra gear to push us over the line.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Alwyn Ellis has been superb and his passion has been such an asset and has rubbed off well on the boys. Owain Williams pushes and pushes the coaches to improve all the time and has certainly taught me a lot. Colin Caton has been great too, taking an interest in the team and coming to support today too. What a day and what a weekend for the club, hopefully the boys can have more days like this. As a coach this is what it is all about, seeing those boys give it absolutely everything to achieve their goal and fight hard for one another and be able to celebrate like that at the end.”

Owain Williams spoke of his delight;

“It is an magnificent achievement from everyone involved. This team simply does not know when they’re beaten; to come from behind to win against Connah’s Quay, Airbus and now Risca speaks volumes about their character, mentality and qualities. I am immensely proud of them all. The way they trust, work hard and play for each other is a joy to see and they can proudly say they are Welsh National Champions. Hopefully this success will act as an incentive to future Academy teams.”

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