SATURDAY marked a significant milestone for Bala Town boss Colin Caton - as it was his 700th match in charge of the club.

And despite the scoreline at Barry Town United - a 6-2 loss in the JD Cymru Premier - going completely against the Lakesiders, Caton, believed to the longest-serving manager in the UK, says it 'didn't take the shine off' the occasion for him.

Caton, 50, took over at the club back in the 2003/04 season and in his first campaign pulled off a league and cup double in the Wrexham Area Premier League with Bala also earning promotion to the Huws Gray Cymru Alliance.

In his first six seasons with the Lakesiders, he took the club to 12 cup finals (winning 10 of those) and earned two promotions - the most important of which was when they were crowned champions of the Huws Gray Cymru Alliance in 2008/09.

As a result of that, Bala moved on up to the JD Cymru Premier - where they have remained ever since and enjoyed further success stories under Caton.

At the end of the 2012/13 season, Bala finally managed to book their place in Europe for the following campaign. After two unsuccessful attempts in the play-offs previously, they beat Port Talbot that year to go on and face Estonian side Levadia Tallin in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds and beat them 1-0 in the first leg before losing 3-0 away in the second.

Since then, they have faced sides from Liechtenstein, San Marino, Sweden, Malta, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Their most famous night in Europe of course came at the start of this season when they beat Valletta 1-0 away in the UEFA Europa League to advance to the second qualifying round for the first time ever.

It was there that Caton’s side would go on to face Belgian giants Standard Liege and put in a very brave performance only to narrowly lose out 2-0.

Arguably, the biggest achievement the club has enjoyed during Caton’s 700 matches in charge though, and indeed one of their greatest ever wins, was the year they went on to lift the Welsh Cup (2016/17).

After finishing third in the league, the Lakesiders went on to beat league champions The New Saints 2-1 in the cup final - a late Kieran Smith header securing a fantastic triumph for Caton’s side.

During his time at Maes Tegid, Caton has also been instrumental to changes at the club’s home ground - from floodlights being put in place to the 3G pitch being installed in the summer of 2016.

Now, having passed the 700 game mark with Bala Town, his club once again sit in third place in the JD Cymru Premier table.

Speaking to the Free Press about passing that 700 game milestone, Caton said: "The result on Saturday was disappointing but it certainly doesn't take the shine off what we have achieved as a club over the years.

"It's been a long journey since that first game away to Brymbo, although it certainly doesn't feel like 700 games. It's been a real dream come true really.

"When I first started here, we had a three year plan to get out of the Wrexham Leagues and into the Cymru Alliance and we did that in the first season. We then had a ten year plan to get us into the top-flight and we did that in four or five seasons.

"What we've achieved with the resources available is incredible."

Asked about whether or not he celebrated the milestone, Caton added: "No, I didn't do anything. It's on to 701 on Friday now and try to put things right in the league!"

Chief Executive Nigel Aykroyd also congratulated Caton for his achievement, saying: “Huge congratulations to Colin on his epic milestone of 700 matches in charge at Bala Town. 18 years at the helm of the Club is truly a remarkable achievement. The considerable successes which he has recorded along this very long winding road are an everlasting testament to his outstanding ability, loyalty and dedication to Bala Town. The long winding road has still a long way to go! Thanks Col.”

Up next for Bala Town is a home match against Flint Town United in the JD Cymru Premier - their last fixture before the season is split into two phases - which sees the top six battle it out for the title/a place in Europe and the bottom six fight to stay up.

Bala have already secured their place in the top six and will be looking to gain automatic qualification for the UEFA Europa League qualifiers once more.

With the title now seemingly beyond them after three defeats in a row in the league, Caton says his team 'must bounce back' against the Silkmen on Friday.

He said: "It will be tough a game, they've signed plenty of players from Warrington recently who are a great club in the English leagues.

"We've got to do our best to turn it around really. We've lost four games all season which is outstanding for us - people don't realise the resources we have in comparison to the 'big two' in the league.

"I think being disappointed with three defeats in a row shows how far we've come. Sometimes defeats are a good thing because it shows you who's up for the fight and we've just got to get over this bump in the road now."