Venables grabs brace as Bala Town move up to second

Chris Venables scored twice as Bala Town saw off Penybont and climbed up to second-place above Connah’s Quay as the battle for the second automatic European spot intensifies.

Venables added a pair of late strikes to round off a comfortable 4-0 win for Bala as they put their recent shock Welsh Cup exit behind them and left Penybont hovering above the relegation zone.

Mike Hayes marked his first start of the season by opening the scoring, heading Bala in front after 11-minutes before the Lakesiders upped the ante in the second-half.

Henry Jones pounced on Chris Venables’ rebounded attempt before Venables himself threatened with a superb 60-yard run, going past four players, before Penybont eventually scrambled the ball to safety.

Three minutes from time Venables finally did get himself on the scoresheet converting a powerfully struck penalty past returning Penybont goalkeeper Rhys Wilson. And there was time for one more as Venables thumped home a fourth in added time, following a splendid delivery from substitute Steve Leslie, to take his tally to 15 league goals in just 16 matches.

“I was made up to be in the starting line-up, we started really well,” said Mike Hayes after scoring his first of the campaign. “We got the early goal and built on that. We said at half-time we’d had a lot of the ball in their box but we didn’t really do enough with it, but in the second-half the final ball was a lot more clinical and we put the chances away.

“We knew the magnitude of tonight’s game as a win would take us into second-place. Losing [in the Welsh Cup last weekend] was a tough one to take and we trained hard in the week and came here tonight and did the job.”

The win leaves Bala Town a point clear of Connah’s Quay, who slip to third now before the two sides meet at the Deeside Stadium on Friday night.

Bala Town 1 – Josh Tibbett, 2 Andrew Burns, 3 Sean Smith, 5 Anthony Stephens, 6 Jonathan Spittle, 8 Nathan Burke, 9 Michael Hayes (14 Steven Leslie 71′), 10 Henry Jones (7 Lee Molyneux 86′), 11 Kieran Smith, 20 Lassana Mendes, 25 Chris Venables. Subs not used: 4 Stuart Jones, 18 Louis Robles, 22 Sion Sullivan

Red Cards: None
Yellow Cards: None

Penybont FC – 1 Rhys Wilson, 3 Kane Owen, 5 James Saddler, 9 Kostya Georgievsky, 10 Curtis Jemmett-Hutson (11 Luke Borrelli 70′), 16 Billy Borge, 17 Daniel Jefferies, 20 Matthew Harris (15 Nathan Wood 20′), 25 Owain Warlow, 26 Rhys Griffiths (21 Daniel Griffiths 23′), 28 Michael George. Subs not used: 8 Cullen Kinsella, 24 Ioan Emanuel 32 Brad Borge (gk)

Red Cards: None
Yellow Cards: Harris 33′ Saddler 47′ Borge 75′

MY VERDICT: VENABLES REIGNITING THE LAKESIDERS
Bala would’ve have been fully expected to take maximum points going into last night’s game and they duly delivered as they looked to bounce back from that shock Cup defeat to Flint Town United. Despite that blip, Bala are looking as formidable as ever and are now on a solid run of five-straight league wins.

Much of Bala’s impressive start to the season has to do with the form of veteran Chris Venables, who remains as dangerous as ever in the Cymru Premier and is back leading the league’s goal scoring charts. Moving him into a more attacking role this season was a gamble that has paid off handsomely for Colin Caton and Venables. Now on 15 goals, Venables has already surpassed his previous best goal record in a single season since making the switch to Maes Tegid four seasons ago and on current form, you wonder just how close can he push to reach the 30-goals he scored for Aberystwyth in 2016/17?

For Penybont, this won’t be a particularly difficult defeat to swallow. A rearranged midweek game with an unwanted long trip up to Bala was always going to be testing and it should be a game in which they draw a line under and move on from. All things considered, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Penybont are in a very good spot where they are still very much in charge of their destiny this season. Rhys Griffiths will not have been expecting his team to be taking points off the higher end Cymru Premier teams, it will be those Phase 2 games, particularly at home, which will ultimately shape Penybont’s season.

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