Two goals in five first half minutes gave Cefn Druids a winning start in their Play-Off Conference campaign away at Rhyl.
Adam Hesp and Ashley Ruane marked their returns to the side by getting the goals at the Corbett Sports Stadium which saw The Ancients go above their hosts.
Cefn Druids 2
Adam Hesp 31
Ashley Ruane 36
Huw Griffiths made six changes to the side that lost at Llanfair in the Welsh Cup last week. Naim Arsan, Stuart Cook, Michael Jones and Kyle Parle returned to the side along with Hesp and Ruane. Missing out were Steve Blenkinsop, Fisnik Hajdari, Ellis Healing and Filippo Mosetti Casaretto – who all dropped to the bench – while Jordan Harper and the suspended Rakim Newton missed out.
The opening exchanges created little danger to either defence, but the first action came on the quarter of an hour mark when Corey Roper’s overhead kick was blocked by his marker as far as Cook. But he was tackled and Rhyl were able to launch a counter attack, but came to nothing as a low cross went behind the forward running attackers.
A long throw from the right for the hosts was flicked on towards the far post, but the visiting defence cleared the danger.
In the 31st minute Ruane crossed from the right which got a slight flick by Roper. Arsan ran on to the loose ball and cut back to shape up a shot on his right foot, but it was blocked behind for a corner.
From the resulting corner from the left the ball found found its way to the far post where Hesp was quickest to react to bundle the ball over the line.
Rhyl had been playing a high line at the back, looking to catch Druids offside in a ploy which successfully thwarted the The Ancients’ attacking plans.
That was until the 36th minute when Ruane sprang the offside trap and cut back on the left side of the penalty area on to his right foot and curled his shot in to the top far corner giving Dan Lavercombe in the home goal no chance.
Three minutes before the break Mike Pritchard almost broke clear. He sent a diagonal ball towards Roper, but the attempted pass was cut out as far as Cook, who shot over from 30 yards out.
In an attempt to get back into the game Rhyl made a double substitution with Chris Rimmer and Josh Davies replacing Aaron Simpson and Steve Lewis.
But it was Druids who were first close to scoring in the second half when, in the 47th minute, Ruane was again through on goal, but Lavercombe was able to get to the ball first and snuff out the threat.
A minute later Hesp’s long throw caused problems inside the Rhyl area with the ball eventually going behind for a goal kick after a scramble.
Druids had a golden opportunity to kill off the game in the 58th minute when Ruane held the ball up inside his own area before finding Cook. His long diagonal pass released Arsan through one-on-one with Lavercombe, but the home ‘keeper blocked the Wales international’s effort with his legs.
A minute later Jones made his first real save of the game when he palmed Davies’ effort behind for a corner.
At the other end Ruane’s low cross from the left was met by Pritchard, but the forward was unable to make a clean connection and was unable to score against his former club.
In the 65th minute Sion Edwards sent in a dangerous cross from the left after getting past Kyle Parle. He found Alex Jones, but his shot was blocked and Druids were able to launch a counter attacke which resulted in Ruane firing over the bar from 20 yards.
Rhyl continued to press to find a way back into the match, but every effort they had on target went straight to Jones, who was able to make comfortable saves.
But, deep into stoppage time, it took an excellent save from Jones to keep his clean sheet as he was able to get to Jack Abraham’s goalbound header to avoid a potential nervous finish.
Rhyl FC: Dan Lavercombe, Aaron Simpson (Chris Rimmer 46), Tom Hartley, Stefan Halewood, Michael Sharples, Alex Jones, Ashley Young, Sion Edwards, Steve Lewis (Josh Davies 46), Jack Abraham, Toby Jones (Christian Langos 55). Substitutes not used: Rory Crowther (gk), Zyaac Edwards, Chris Durkin, Iwan Murray.
Cefn Druids: Michael Jones, Kyle Parle, Adam Hesp, Matthew Eckersley, Jordan Barrow, Stuart Cook, Michael Pritchard (Fisnik Hajdari 88′), Nathan Peate, Naim Arsan, Corey Roper, Ashley Ruane (Steve Blenkinsop 78), Substitutes not used: Ellis Healing, Jonathon Taylor, Filippo Casaretto (gk).
Referee: Kris Hames