‘Tie’s not over’ says Bala boss Caton after defeat against Sligo

Friday 8th July 2022 8:00 am
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OSWESTRY, ENGLAND 07 July 2022: Bala manager Colin Caton ahead of the UEFA Europa Conference League First qualifying round fixture between Bala Town & Sligo Rovers, Park Hall, Oswestry, England, 7 July. (Pic By Will Cheshire/FAW)
Bala boss Colin Caton was proud of his players after an impressive display against Sligo Rovers (Football Association of Wales )

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Bala Town 1 Sligo Rovers 2

First leg, first round qualifier Europa Conference League

Park Hall, Thursday, 7 July

BALA boss Colin Caton was proud of his players after they competed admirably in the first leg of the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.

The Lakesiders lost out 2-1 against full time League of Ireland Premier Division side Sligo Rovers who are midway through their season.

Trailing by just the one goal, the tie remains alive as Bala head to The Showgrounds in West Ireland on Thursday.

Caton said: “They’re a full time team and they asked a lot of questions of us and it was difficult.

“After half time they’ve bossed the first 20 minutes but I thought we weathered it. Poor clearance by us for their second goal and I think we should have been better.

“Chris (Venables) headed just past the post in the second half and obviously the Lassana Mendes blatant penalty, I thought it was and the players close to it said it was as well.”

OSWESTRY, ENGLAND 07 July 2022: UEFA Europa Conference League First qualifying round fixture between Bala Town & Sligo Rovers, Park Hall, Oswestry, England, 7 July. (Pic By Will Cheshire/FAW)
The Bala starting 11 at Park Hall on Thursday evening (Football Association of Wales )

On facing Sligo in peak match fitness midway way through the season he added: “I think it’s a massive bearing, if you look at the facilities and the standard they play at.

“I went to watch them on Saturday and they’re streets ahead of us as a football nation.

“The crowds that they get are miles bigger than ours. 2,500 fans there when I went to watch them on Saturday and 500 fans travelled here.

“If you put all the crowds together in the Welsh Premier we wouldn’t be anywhere near their home crowd. The infrastructure of the Welsh Prem has got to change.”

He went on: “It’s difficult for us. We’ve got to start early, lads have got to have a holiday before the domestic season starts, and they’re halfway through their playing season.

“It’s so difficult but I’m proud of the lads, their fitness levels to compete with them, a real big test that we’ve had pre-season.

“The tie’s not over, it’s important that we go about it and do ourselves justice in the second round.”

It was a bright start for Bala who started on the front foot with Kieran Smith having an early chance blocked.

Moments later, they had the lead, the ball falling kindly to Mendes in the area who was given time and space to hammer home at Park Hall.

Following the goal, Sligo started to grow into the game as they piled some pressure on the Bala backline.

Alex Ramsay was tested for the first time just after 10 minutes with a smart save to deny William Fitzgerald.

Max Mata fired against the post from close range before strike partner Aidan Kenna equalised midway through the half with a moment of individual brilliance.

OSWESTRY, ENGLAND 07 July 2022: UEFA Europa Conference League First qualifying round fixture between Bala Town & Sligo Rovers, Park Hall, Oswestry, England, 7 July. (Pic By Will Cheshire/FAW)
Lasanna Mendes broke the deadlock at Park Hall to give Bala the lead (Football Association of Wales )

The Lakesiders looked unaffected by the opposition’s equaliser and continued to look to cause the visitors’ problems with every attack. Venables looked to pull off the spectacular to regain Bala’s lead when he attempted an acrobatic effort inside the area, but his superb shot was matched with a super save.

With the half drawing to a close, Sligo looked to try snatch a second, Keena with an ambitious effort from range but the ball blazed over the bar.

Following the interval, Mata looked lively as he continued to ask questions of the Bala backline. He had a great chance to give his side the lead when he ran through on goal surrounded by defenders but his effort was tipped past the post by Ramsay.

From a following corner, Mata got the goal his side were searching for. Bala failed to clear a ball in the box which led to the striker tapping in a cool finish from close range that sent the away section into raptures.

OSWESTRY, ENGLAND 07 July 2022: UEFA Europa Conference League First qualifying round fixture between Bala Town & Sligo Rovers, Park Hall, Oswestry, England, 7 July. (Pic By Will Cheshire/FAW)
Sligo celebrate a goal in front of their travelling support (Football Association of Wales )

Chances came for Colin Caton’s men to equalise with Venables leading the line. It was the visitors’ number 9 however who went closest to a fourth goal of the match as, against the run of play, Keena was played through but was unable to beat Ramsay who saved well.

Bala’s hopes of a result from the first leg were boosted with ten minutes remaining when star man Nando Pijnaker received his marching orders from the referee. The New Zealand international was shown a straight red card having taken down Dave Edwards as the last man.

A late chance for Smith saw his effort cleared off the line with The Bit O’Reds packed out in front of their goal. While uproar soon followed when penalty claims were ignored by the referee late on following a clumsy challenge on Mendes who had appeared to have been tripped in the area.

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