Carmarthen rediscovered their impressive and productive early second-phase form with another spirited and disciplined performance that secured a well-deserved victory against a strong Bangor side which only a week ago convincingly defeated runaway Welsh Premier League champions TNS.
The opening stages of this game were fairly uneventful with the play largely confined to midfield exchanges and while City were clearly enjoying the greater share of possession, Town seemed content to fall back and soak up the pressure, quite comfortably resisting any potential goal threat.
Yet eventually, after 10 minutes the hosts fashioned a scoring effort when Gary Roberts burst forward to the corner of the penalty area but his weak shot gave ‘keeper Lee Idzi a simple routine save. Then moments later Brad Jackson raced into the penalty area closely shadowed by Lee Surman who, with a timely intervention, managed to deflect the winger’s 15 yard drive beyond the near post.
Yet in the 12th minute the Old Gold, with their first serious advance deep into the Bangor half, took the lead. A sweeping move along the right flank led by Declan Carroll finished with Matthew Thomas releasing a 25 yard drive that was partially blocked by Roberts just inside the penalty area but the ever-alert Liam Thomas swiftly pounced on the loose ball and fired it crisply past ‘keeper Matthew Hall and into the back of the net.
Stunned by that setback the hosts again pressed forward repeatedly only to find Town’s defence in formidable form. The back-four, comprising the familiar central partnership of Surman and Dave Vincent flanked by Luke Cummings and Dan Sheehan, showed commendable strength and composure in the face of the hosts’ persistent probing while, just ahead of them Dwaine Bailey diligently undertook a highly-effective man-marking role on City’s experienced playmaker Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
Additionally, industrious midfielders Carroll, Ceri Morgan and Lewis Harling eagerly provided a further valuable layer of defensive cover whenever necessary while lively striker Liam Thomas also offered regular support inside his own penalty area.
Behind that defensive shield only rarely was Idzi seriously tested. After 27 minutes Bangor went close to claiming an equaliser – Roberts, with a free-kick from near the by-line, struck a fierce angled shot towards the top corner of the goal but saw Town’s experienced ‘keeper produce a spectacular flying save to turn the ball narrowly beyond the far post.
Then on 30 minutes Roberts’ fine pass set Yalania Baio racing clear into the penalty area yet Idzi came quickly off his line and dived bravely down at the striker’s feet to claim the ball.
After the interval the same pattern of play emerged with City enjoying both the greater share of possession and territorial advantage – but yet again they remained unable to disturb the Town defence in any meaningful way, less still create a decent scoring chance.
And then, just as occurred in the first-half, the Old Gold again scored a breakaway goal. In the 52nd minute Sheehan sent a long clearance forward out of defence which reached City defender Sergio Uyi who decided, fatefully, to head the ball back some 40 yards to his goalkeeper – Liam Thomas, already ahead of him, easily intercepted the header and, with no other defender in sight, casually took the ball forward into the penalty area then coolly slotted it past Hall, who had advanced from his goal, and into the empty net for his 13th League goal (and remarkably his fifth against Bangor) this season.
[And, of even greater significance, this was Liam’s 57th WPL goal for Carmarthen, in 132 (+17 sub) appearances, making him the Club’s top all-time record League goal-scorer deposing current player/coach Danny Thomas who has held the record for 7 years, almost to the day, having scored his last goal on 24th April 2010 in a 4-0 victory over Cefn Druids.]
While City continued to press forward at every opportunity, they were yet again unable to make any tangible impression on the Old Gold defence which gave Idzi such complete protection that he never again had a serious scoring effort to contend with – the experienced ‘keeper’s only activity was dealing with a series of crosses, corners and free-kicks, all of which he accomplished with his customary assured and safe handling.
Indeed, the best chance arose at the other end of the pitch when, in a rare breakaway on 75 minutes, Carroll won possession on the half-way line played a sublime pass through to Harling who took the ball forward into the penalty area only to see his smart low drive kicked aside to safety by Hall.
So, Town finish their season on a high note having secured fifth place in the WPL and, accordingly, can look forward to a home tie against Cardiff Met in the first play-off qualifier for a place in the Europa League. This will be staged on Sunday 7th May (k/o time to be confirmed) and will be televised live on S4C.
[Another notable feature of this season concerns Lee Idzi. He has played every minute of every one of Town’s fixtures (League, Welsh Cup, League Cup and pre-season friendlies) amounting to 43 matches and 65 hours of football (there was extra-time played in the Newtown LC tie) – and there is still one more play-off game to play, possibly two!
Also, significantly, Lee has now made 96 consecutive WPL appearances for Carmarthen over the past three seasons since he signed at the start of 2014-15 – this record comfortably surpasses that of any other player in the Club’s LoW/WPL history.]
Team: Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Dave Vincent; Dwaine Bailey; Lee Surman; Dan Sheehan (sub Craig Hanford 81); Declan Carroll; Lewis Harling; Ceri Morgan; Matthew Thomas (Liam Griffiths 18); Liam Thomas (sub Jordan Ellis 84);
Unused subs: Danny Thomas; Neil Smothers;
Cards: Liam Thomas (64); Lewis Harling (90+3);
Goals: Liam Thomas (12, 52);