Deja vu – the feeling that one has loved through their present situation before. That’s how it feels watching Cardiff Met, who have failed at the final hurdle before, losing the Europa League play-off final in the last two years.
In 2017 it was a close one, but Blackburn loanee Dean Rittenburg was the difference to give Bangor City the spot against the Met. Then in 2018, the Archers again missed out by one goal, this time to James Davies and Cefn Druids.
Now it was Bala Town who stood in Archers way to Europe and 230,000 euros. Both teams had somewhat upset the odds to get here. Bala Town beating Newtown home and away while the Met put in a great counter-attacking performance to beat Caernarfon 3-2 at The Oval.
The away side started brightly, with Joel Edwards header from a corner being cleared off the line by Sean Smith.
But the home side, who qualify for Europa regularly, weren’t messing about. Some Bala pressure on the Archers midfield led to Henry Jones powering a shot into the hands of Will Fuller.
With 11 minutes gone, Elliot Evans lifted the ball to the back post and from 2 yards but Adam Roscrow headed his cross against the post. To be fair to Roscrow he was stretching. I don’t agree with the commentators claim that it was the ‘miss of the season.’
Henry Jones opened the scoring for Bala after 19 minutes, Burke chipped a ball into the box and Met couldn’t clear the ball. Jones pounced and found the bottom corner with a half volley.
However, it only took Christian Edwards’ side four minutes to equalize. Joel Edwards played a ball over the top finding Will Evans. The midfielder found himself in oceans of space and took advantage, his cross parried out to Elliot Evans who finished low – nutmegging Keighan Jones in the process.
The game lulled before Bala started to assert some dominance before half time. On the ball the Lakesiders looked dangerous and Chris Venables was always lurking in and around the Met area.
With a matter of minutes to go before the break, Kieran Smith burst past Emlyn Lewis prior to hitting the side netting.
In the second half Lewis only half cleared to Venables but he couldn’t beat Will Fuller at the near post. Then Fuller had to parry away Kieran Smith’s shot low down to his left.
It was getting to the point where one goal looked it was going to win it. Elliot Evans almost tested Jones with a free-kick which flew over the wall but just fell wide of the post.
The game was becoming scrappy, Will Evans went drove at the Bala defence prior to playing it to Roscrow who layed it off to Chris Baker. However, the number eight could only drag his shot wide. The 25-year-old had another chance soon after, heading Elliot Evans’ corner down and over.
And so extra time was needed to separate the sides.
Both teams had great opportunities to seal their pathway into Europe in this time. Chris Baker hit the woodwork from close range as the first half was drawing to a close – this time the crossbar.
In the second 15 of extra time Baker hit a shot which swerved away from the Bala goal at the last minute. Initially, the midfielder had struggled to get into the game but now it looked like the winning goal was going to come through him.
Then Anthony Stevens hit a shot which was pushed away by Fuller low down – a match-deciding save perhaps?
Substitute Evan Horwood is known for his sweet left foot, and he nearly created the winner when his free-kick from the right was headed onto the crossbar by Jones and then Hayes who just needed to keep his effort down.
It seemed the pressure was getting to some of the players, because the majority of the penalties in the shoot-out were awful. Kyle McCarthy rolled his into the lap of Keighan Jones and Nathan Burke’s for Bala was pretty tame too. With six penalties taken, only Dylan Rees had scored for the students.
Nevertheless, Emlyn Lewis sent Jones the wrong way and despite Stephens scoring, Elliot Evans had the chance to wrap it up.
And that he did, the winger placing it in the bottom left corner before running off to celebrate with the traveling Archers fans.
Last season it seemed the Met were cursed, but 2019 has been a fantastic year for the student side. A Nathaniel MG Cars cup win and a Europa League play-off spot is game-changing. A huge shout out to the Women’s side too who managed to qualify for the Champions League as well.