Port Talbot Town FC have been a Welsh Premier League side for ten successive seasons and believe it is time they gave their supporters a taste of European football. After collecting 22 points from a possible 24 they hope they are on course to bring that dream to fruition.
Last weekend's crucial 2-1 victory over champions Rhyl FC saw the west Wales outfit leapfrog their opponents into fourth place. Another big test comes on Saturday with a trip to league leaders The New Saints FC, a team who have lost just once this season in 27 league and cup fixtures – away to Port Talbot. Things are neatly falling into place for the Steelmen and manager Mark Jones is excited about what the future holds. "We've got a good spirit in the camp and everybody wants to play," he said. "They all want the shirt which is a healthy position to be in."
It is a big season for the leading Welsh clubs, who must finish in the top 12 – maybe the top ten depending on those sides vying for promotion – to be sure of taking part in the slimmed-down competition next term. Jones said the Blues' only target at the start was to finish in the top ten, but with their form holding up impressively, sights are shifting higher. The experienced boss – in his second spell in charge of Port Talbot – says there is a lot more work to be done. "There are some big clubs in this league and the competition is getting stronger all the time," added Jones. "Take Saturday's game – it attracted people other than those with an interest in Port Talbot and Rhyl and I've taken lots of phone calls saying what a marvellous game it was."
It was a game decided in the 84th minute by Port Talbot substitute Nicky Holland. A piece of touchline inspiration from Jones? Hardly. "To be perfectly honest I sent Nicky on to do a marking job because we were getting overrun in midfield, but he lost a bit of discipline and ended up scoring the winner. He got a telling-off afterwards!" If Port Talbot do make it into Europe they will be in good hands. Jones guided Carmarthen Town AFC to what remains the biggest-ever victory by a Welsh club in European competition since the league's inception when they defeated Republic of Ireland side Longford Town FC 5-1 in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup first qualifying round.
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