By David Williams
Niall Flint is the hero Aberystwyth Town will toast this summer after the club made sure they will be in the JD Cymru Premier next season – for the 32nd consecutive time.
It was Flint who grabbed the Aber winner in stoppage time in their weekend thrilling 3-2 win over Caernarfon Town.
It means the club’s proud record of never having been relegated from the top domestic tier was sustained.
Flint secured safety for the Seasiders, but ironically ensured his namesakes Flint Town United were the ones to join Airbus UK Broughton in being relegated from in a dramatic final day in the JD Cymru Premier season.
Aberystwyth are one of two sides, along with Newtown, to have been ever-present in the Premier and they will play in the top tier again next season.
It wasn’t looking good for the Green Army, who started the day with their club in the bottom two, when Rob Hughes put the visitors ahead after just two minutes at Park Avenue.
Harry Arnison levelled six minutes before the break before Laurie Bell restored Caernarfon’s lead in first-half stoppage time.
But Anthony Williams’ side refused to give up the fight and they equalised for a second time through Mark Cadwallader 10 minutes into the second half.
With Flint Town United losing 3-2 at Pontypridd, a point would have been enough to keep Aberystwyth up.
But Niall Flint’s 94th-minute winner for Aberystwyth, a stooping header at the far post from Sam Litchfield’s cross, removed any doubt that the Green & Blacks would extend their 31-year stay in Wales’ top tier.
“We had so many chances and we should have been out of sight in the first half,” said boss Williams.
“We had one cleared off the line, we hit the bar and the post, and we thought it wasn’t going to be our day.
“But they are a brilliant group of lads, and that’s what has got us through.
“We may not be the best footballers, but, as a group, they are as tight as they come and all credit to them. They believed in themselves and that beats everything.
“We’re in a good position to build now and hopefully the fans can get behind us moving forward.”
Aberystwyth’s joy was in stark contrast to Flint Town United’s despair as they join bottom club Airbus UK Broughton in being relegated.
FT: ATFC 3-2 Caernarfon Town
WHAT. A. TURNAROUND
— Aberystwyth Town FC (@AberystwythTown) April 22, 2023
Lee Fowler’s men led through Okera Simmonds’ eighth-minute opener at USW Sport Park and again through Rhys Kavanagh after Owain Jones had levelled for Pontypridd.
But late goals from Tom Davies and Ben Ahmun sealed Flint’s fate and secured a second-placed finish for Pontypridd in the Play-Off Conference.
Haverfordwest County ended their regular-season campaign with a 4-1 win at basement boys Airbus thanks to two goals from Jordan Davies and one each from Jack Wilson and Henry Jones.
Tony Pennock’s men have a chance of qualifying for Europe via the play-offs in a few weeks’ time.
In the Championship Conference, champions The New Saints ended their league campaign with a 4-1 home win over second-placed Connah’s Quay Nomads.
Cardiff Met University were 2-1 winners against visiting Bala Town, and Penybont won 2-1 at home to Newtown.