Bala Town booked their place in the 2023 JD Welsh Cup final following a 3-2 win over Connah’s Quay Nomads in a dramatic semi-final.
But Colin Caton’s side were forced to come from behind following a nightmare start as Harry Franklin netted the opener after 40 seconds at the Essity Stadium.
Nathan Peate responded for Bala seven minutes into the second half and the Lakesiders took the lead shortly after the restart through George Newell.
Jack Kenny drew the Nomads level on the hour mark but Bala’s talisman Chris Venables had the final say, scoring with four minutes left on the clock to send the 2017 champions into the final.
Two goals had been scored in the last three meetings between the two sides, but it took less than a minute for the Nomads to go in front this time around. Franklin started the move in his own half and found the run of Kenny, who raced down the wing before looking to cut the ball back to Aron Williams. Bala defender Ross Williams was the first to the ball but could only clear to Franklin, who took a touch and slotted beyond Alex Ramsay with a composed finish.
Bala came close to drawing level midway through the first half when Mendes turned well and found Adam Roscrow in the area. He looked destined to score the equaliser but goalkeeper Andy Firth reacted quickly, sticking out his left leg to keep out the striker’s low effort.
The save helped the Nomads head into the interval in the lead but Bala levelled shortly after the restart. Naim Arsan’s attempted effort came off a Nomads defender and fell kindly to Peate, who slotted home a low effort.
Dave Edwards’ first-time pass then set up Newell and he fired beyond Firth to complete the turnaround for the Lakesiders, but the Nomads came roaring back eight minutes later. The goalscorer Franklin turned provider and his cutback from the byline was prodded in off the underside of the crossbar by Kenny.
The two teams were forced to settle the Nathaniel MG Cup final on penalties in January, and it looked like spot-kicks would be required again in Flint. But Bala captain Venables popped up with his fourth goal of the season in this competition with four minutes left, heading home substitute Luke Wall’s flick on to send the Lakesiders through.
Bala will take on Penybont or The New Saints in the final, with the pair meeting at Carmarthen Town’s Richmond Park in the second semi-final on Saturday afternoon.