Sligo Rovers 0 Bala Town 1
(2-2 on aggregate, Bala lost 4-3 on pens)
First qualifying round, Europa Conference League
Bala are out of the Europa Conference League but they put up a brave fight against full time outfit Sligo Rovers and on the balance of play will count themselves very unlucky not to progress.
Trailing by one goal after the 2-1 defeat at Park Hall a week earlier, the Lakesiders were by far the better side in the return, outmuscling their League of Ireland Premier Division opponents all over the field and creating a string of chances.
But they found a man in top form in home keeper Ed McGinty who pulled off several top save including two in the penalty shootout, which ultimately was the difference between the two sides.
Bala boss Colin Caton, while understandably dejected, was full of pride for his players.
He said: “Every one of them absolutely outstanding, a credit to the club and a credit to the Welsh Prem.
“It was difficult being our second competitive game since 23 April but we’ve absolutely dominated them in terms of chances.
“Ramsay’s had one comfortable game to make in the game
“The keeper for them was the difference in the game, he’s made save after save and then he’s saved two penalties.”
He added: “Should we have taken our chances? Yes we should have, but sometimes it doesn’t go for you. I can’t fault the lads.
“It was a great atmosphere, a great game, but we’ve gone out and we should have won the game.
“It just shows the fitness and the desire of the lads to try to put it right. Penalties are a lottery, two lads have stood up and missed but there’s no blame on them.
“We had good chances in the game to have won it, an outstanding performance but sometimes it doesn’t go for you.”
Bala made their intentions clear from the start, giving the hosts no time on the ball and surging forward at every opportunity.
Kieran Smith. making his 14th European appearance for the Lakesiders, tested McGinty with an early effort.
The hosts threatened to extend their overall lead after a string of corners but Bala were back onlevel terms on the half hour, Dave Edwards forcing the ball home after good work by Brad Bauress.
Last week’s goalscorer Lassana Mendes guided a powerful effort towards Mcginty who did well to prevent a second for the Lakesiders early in the second half, with Bala well on top.
James Davies then pulled clear of the Sligo defence for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but McGinty came out on top again.
And at the end of 90 minutes, Antony Kay nearly turned in a goalwards header by Mendes but that man Mcginty was well placed to deny him.
The visitors, despite the disadvantage of playing against full time opponents in peak fitness and midway through their domestic season, continued to boss proceedings in extra time with Luke Wall and Edwards going close.
And the woodwork came to Sligo’s rescue twice when Chris Venables fired against the post, and again in the follow up before being cleared off the line.
Edwards fired an effort just over the bar in the dying seconds before the dreaded penalty shootout with Mcginty cementing his man-of-the-match display with two saves to break Bala’s hearts.
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