Carmarthen Town 1-3 Gap Connah’s Quay
Carmarthen thankfully saved their supporters the anguish of losing important points through conceding late goals for a third successive match – but, sadly, that was managed only because by half-time, with Connah's Quay already two goals ahead and having largely dominated the proceedings, the result realistically was never in doubt.
Yet the Old Gold produced the first scoring opportunity within 60 seconds of the start – Kieran Lewis, from the half-way line, launched a huge free-kick into the crowded penalty area and while the ball was cleared it fell nicely for Lewis who instantly struck a long-range shot that was claimed by ‘keeper John Danby just under the bar.
However the visitors, with the benefit of a strong wind behind them, soon took the initiative, monopolising possession and putting Town’s defence under serious pressure with a series of swift raids. And they went close on 4 minutes when Wes Baynes dispatched a 20 yard free-kick that flew beyond ‘keeper Lee Idzi’s reach but slid narrowly wide of the post.
Yet after that moment for a period the Old Gold’s formidable five-man back-line regained its composure and discipline and coped well with the Nomads constant probing, while behind them Idzi dealt with a stream of crosses and corners with his customary assurance and safe handling.
But in the 27th minute the visitors, almost inevitably, took the lead. Baynes, from the left-wing, drove a low cross towards the congested goalmouth where Ryan Wignall cleverly back-heeled the ball into the net. Moments later Baynes fired another cross into the penalty area that found Les Davies who turned sharply and from 10 yards hit an angled shot that defeated Idzi only to crash against the foot of the post and rebound safely away.
Then on 33 minutes Connah's Quay extended their advantage when Wignall sent an inviting cross into the packed goalmouth where Kai Edwards stabbed the ball home from close-range.
During this spell Town’s players continued to perform with commendable spirit and energy but they were struggling to make any real impression on the Nomads’ well-drilled defence. Yet after 38 minutes they managed a rare excursion deep into the visitors’ half with a rapid break that finished with Liam Thomas threading a fine pass through to Declan Carroll just inside the penalty area and he released a crisp drive that drew a smart save from Danby.
After the interval the Old Gold began brightly, competing more promisingly in midfield and increasingly making better progress going forward on the counter-attack. And on 51 minutes they went close to reducing the deficit when Carroll produced a trademark long throw into the goalmouth where Dave Vincent rose high above defenders only to see his close-range glancing header drift fractionally wide of the post.
However Town were rewarded shortly afterwards – Lewis, fired another enormous free-kick from the half-way line towards the pack of players inside the penalty area and while the ball was cleared, Cummings was quick to claim it and instantly struck a stunning 25 yard shot into the back of the net leaving Danby well beaten.
Spurred by that success the hosts began to play with even more freedom and adventure, typified, in the 69th minute, by a surging run from the centre circle by towering central defender Dwaine Bailey who finished his journey into such unfamiliar territory with a fierce long-range drive – and although that was blocked in front of goal, the ball went straight to Ceri Morgan who saw his immediate 20 yard strike well held by Danby.
But, in just the same scenario as last week against Bangor, the Old Gold paid the price for enthusiastically pressing forward in such numbers – they were caught upfield and conceded a goal on the counter-attack. On 70 minutes a long ball out of the City defence sent Lewis Short racing free along the left flank and as he reached the corner of the penalty area he released smart angled drive that flew past Idzi, who was advancing from his goal, and into the back of the net.
Then in added time an almost identical scoring opportunity arose but while Short, again in the clear, struck another promising angled shot, this time Idzi produced a thrilling reflex save to beat the ball safely away.
Town’s highly impressive start to their second-phase Welsh Premier League programme seems now to be a rather distant memory. But defeat on this occasion by a very strong and experienced Connah's Quay side that competed with some success in Europe last summer and has occupied a top three place in the WPL all season, while disappointing, is no disgrace – especially since in the earlier three matches between these teams the Old Gold deservedly claimed four points and conceded just one goal in the process.
Yet Carmarthen now face a potentially even tougher encounter in their next fixture when they visit League Champions (for the sixth successive season) TNS on Saturday 25th March (k/o 2.30pm).
Team: Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Dave Vincent; Lee Surman; Dwaine Bailey (sub Jordan Ellis 75); Craig Hanford; Declan Carroll; Ceri Morgan; Kieran Lewis; Liam Thomas; Matthew Thomas (sub Liam Griffiths 38);
Unused subs: Lewis Harling; Danny Thomas; Neil Smothers;
Cards: (Y) Declan Carroll (45); Dwaine Bailey (72); Luke Cummings (77);
Goal: Luke Cummings (54);