Carmarthen Town (1) Cardiff Met (2) Europa League qualifier play-off semi-final

Match Report – Carmarthen Town v  Cardiff Met (7th May 2017)

Carmarthen Town (1)  Cardiff Met (2) Europa League qualifier play-off semi-final

Carmarthen’s season slipped away to an all too familiar disappointing conclusion as they failed yet again, for the fourth time of contesting a play-off tie in the past five years, to emerge as winners.  And worse still, to add to the despair of Town supporters, the Met’s winning goal was not scored until deep into additional time at the end of the match.

But the visitors had made a lively start to this encounter – within the opening 30 seconds Will Evans sent a fine pass through to Rhys Thomas who, with the Old Gold defence slow to react, found space just inside the penalty area yet thankfully produced a weak shot that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was able to gather comfortably.

However from thereon the match quickly developed into a fairly attritional contest, evenly-balanced and, for a spell, largely uneventful as both defences looked sound and composed when under any sort of pressure.  But in the 17th minute Town, with their first notable effort on goal, went close to taking the lead when Declan Carroll launched a trademark long throw into the packed goalmouth where Lee Surman nodded the ball on to Liam Griffiths who rose high above defenders only to see his firm close-range header denied by ‘keeper Will Fuller’s smart reflex save.

A further barren period of play ensued with the sides regularly exchanging possession but managing very little in terms of goalmouth activity – then Cardiff, on 29 minutes, threatened when Matt Taylor slid the ball through to Eliot Evans who struck a crisp 20 yard drive which Idzi, with an impressive full-length save, turned around the post.

More keenly-contested but generally unproductive midfield activity ensued before a welcome burst of excitement arose in the 45th minute.  Dan Sheehan lost possession on the touchline under a challenge by Adam Roscrow who, with a measured pass, sent Charlie Corsby surging clear to the edge of the penalty area – as Idzi raced out to challenge him, the Met striker slid the ball across the goalmouth where Eliot Evans was arriving with an empty net beckoning only to be robbed by midfielder Lewis Harling who finished a powerful run from the half-way line with a superbly-timed intervention to stab the ball away to safety.

After the interval the Old Gold put the visitors’ defence under some early pressure and on 48 minutes they went ahead.  Another Carroll long throw into the crowded penalty area reached Harling and he instantly threaded the ball through to Griffiths who turned sharply past his marker and fired home for his first goal in the Old Gold colours.

Then moments later Town once more went close when Liam Thomas played a neat pass across to Harling who released a fierce 25 yard drive that drew a fine save from Fuller, diving smartly down to claim the ball at the foot of the post.

But the Met soon began to press forward with greater intensity in search of an equaliser.  And after 60 minutes they achieved just that, albeit with significant help from an unlikely source.  Carmarthen central defender Dwaine Bailey, well outside his own penalty area and under no real pressure, misjudged his header back to Idzi – Roscrow easily intercepted it and from 20 yards cleverly lobbed the ball over the stranded ‘keeper and into the unguarded net.

The Old Gold, stung by that setback, responded quickly and went close to restoring their lead on 64 minutes when Luke Cummings, from the left touchline, sent a long free-kick deep into the packed goalmouth where Dave Vincent, beyond the far post, saw his close-range header fly just over the bar.

By now the game had opened up with swift flowing, end-to-end football.  Yet the visitors were enjoying a marginally greater share of possession and attacking with more pace and purpose as their strike-force of Roscrow, Corsby and Thomas posed continual problems for Town’s defenders.  Even so, this familiar defensive unit, which consistently throughout the season has been the reliable foundation for Carmarthen’s better performances, remained disciplined and resilient and gave Idzi such excellent protection that his main involvement was in dealing with a number of crosses, corners and free-kicks, all safely accomplished with his usual high competence.

But as the match appeared to be moving inexorably towards a period of extra-time, the Met snatched a winning goal in the final seconds of three minutes of added time.  Josh Barnett, from near the corner flag, drove a free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Corsby reacted quickest at the near post to steer a smart diving header into the net – a cruel blow for the Old Gold after such stern resistance.

So, Town’s season ends with disappointment – yet overall it must, realistically, be regarded as relatively successful.  At the start of this campaign the primary aim, given the strength of the playing squads of so many other clubs, will have been to steer clear of the Welsh Premier League relegation zone – and that was accomplished quite early by securing a top-six finish by the end of the first-phase of the League programme.  In addition to that achievement, during the season they managed memorable victories over TNS and Connah's Quay and took valuable points off the other two big-spending top clubs, Bala and Bangor.  And this was all accomplished with one of the smallest squads in the WPL, one which was further seriously depleted by long-term injuries to several key players.

 

Team:  Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Dave Vincent;  Dwaine Bailey (sub Craig Hanford 70);  Lee Surman;  Dan Sheehan;  Declan Carroll;  Lewis Harling;  Ceri Morgan;  Liam Griffiths;  Liam Thomas;

Unused subs:  Matthew Thomas;  Jordan Ellis;  Danny Thomas;  Iwan  Roberts; 

  Cards:  Dan Sheehan (67); 

Goal:    Liam Griffiths (48);               

Carmarthen Town (0) Cardiff Met (4)

Match Report – Carmarthen Town v  Cardiff Met (14th April 2017)

Carmarthen Town (0)  Cardiff Met (4)

Carmarthen’s objective before this match, if they were to hold on to fifth place in the Welsh Premier League and thereby ensure a favourable home tie in the end of season UEFA play-offs, was quite straightforward and seemingly relatively simple – avoid defeat against a Cardiff Met side which had secured just one point in their previous eight League second-phase fixtures and had failed to beat the Old Gold in the three earlier encounters between these clubs this season.

But regrettably Town, in front of their biggest home crowd (527) for over 15 months, chose this occasion to produce one of their worst performances this season as they displayed not only uncharacteristic defensive frailty at key moments but also a serious absence of craft and confidence going forward.

Cardiff however made a positive start to the match, putting immediate pressure on the home defence with a series of swift raids – and this approach soon earned them the reward of an early goal, albeit in controversial circumstances. 

In the 9th minute Dave Vincent went into what looked to be a 50:50 challenge with Matt Taylor out wide on the edge of the penalty area – the referee, ignoring Town’s protests, decided to penalise Vincent and awarded a spot-kick despite his assistant, who was closer to the incident with a clear view of it, apparently remaining completely unconcerned.  Kyle McCarthy duly fired the penalty beyond the reach of ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the net.

The Old Gold, stunned by that setback, went in search of an equaliser with some spirited counter-attacks but they were rarely able to make any noticeable impression on the visitors’ well-drilled defence.  However on 14 minutes Met ‘keeper Will Fuller was eventually called into serious action – Kieran Lewis sent a huge free-kick from the half-way line into the crowded penalty area to find Liam Thomas who turned sharply past his marker and struck a crisp drive that drew a fine reflex save from Fuller.

But that, remarkably, was Town’s only notable effort on target during the entire match which Cardiff effectively went on to dominate.

And they soon extended their lead when after 26 minutes McCarthy burst forward along the left-wing before playing the ball invitingly into the penalty area where Will Evans, in plenty of space, hit a spectacular 15 yard volley that flew into the net leaving Idzi well beaten.

The half-time whistle could not come fast enough for home supporters – not only were they having to endure such a poor display, after being very much impressed (and often pleasantly surprised) with the Old Gold’s performances in their previous phase-two fixtures, but the prospects for any significant improvement in the second-half looked particularly grim since two key players, influential midfielder Lewis and top scorer Liam Thomas had already been forced off the field with injuries.

 

After the interval the Met once more took the early initiative and their constant probing of the home defence led to them extending their lead in the 59th minute – Taylor raced forward on the right flank to reach the by-line then fired a low cross towards the goalmouth where defender Craig Hanford, in attempting to clear the danger by the near post while under pressure from Rhys Thomas, unluckily steered the ball into his own net.

Then on 65 minutes the visitors went further ahead when Eliot Evans received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and dispatched a fierce drive that was just too good for Idzi.

While Cardiff continued to press forward at every opportunity, thankfully the Old Gold were able to protect their goal from any further damaging encroachment – but they finished the match well beaten, and deservedly so, by a much better side on the day.  Although Town’s players, as usual, could not be faulted for their energy, spirit and commitment, that was simply not enough to counter their opponents who were sharper to the ball and making better use of it when in possession as well as being far more clinical and positive in the final third of the pitch.

Yet over the course of this season these sides have proved to be remarkably well matched.  With only one game remaining in their respective League programmes, just one point separates them while in their four fixtures, they have drawn twice and each has won their away match relatively comfortably.  Given those considerations, the forthcoming UEFA play-off qualifier between these two clubs should be a fascinating contest.

Carmarthen’s final WPL fixture is next Saturday (22nd April k/o 5.15pm) when they visit Bangor City.

 

Team:

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Dave Vincent;  Lee Surman;  Craig Hanford;  Lewis Harling (sub Jordan Ellis 73);  Ceri Morgan;  Kieran Lewis (sub Dwaine Bailey 20);  Matty Thomas;  Liam Griffiths;  Liam Thomas (sub Danny Thomas 40); 

Unused subs: Dan Sheehan;  Neil Smothers;  Iwan Roberts; 

  Cards:  Liam Griffiths (38);  Dwaine Bailey (53);  Ceri Morgan (56);  Lee Surman (70);         Dave Vincent (86);                  

Bangor City 0-2 Carmarthen Town

 

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.

Bala Town (1) Carmarthen Town (1)

Match Report – Bala Town v Carmarthen Town (8 April 2017)

 

Bala Town (1)  Carmarthen Town (1) 

 

Carmarthen continued their impressive and productive second-phase form by again taking points off one of the undoubted top three teams in the Welsh Premier League with another spirited and disciplined performance that earned them a valuable and well-deserved draw against second-placed Bala.

 

The earlier stages of this game were fairly uneventful with the play largely confined to midfield exchanges and with neither side looking able to penetrate the opposition defence no serious scoring chances emerged.  And while gradually the hosts began to secure a greater share of possession, increasingly the well-drilled Old Gold defensive unit, comprising the recently proven central trio of Lee Surman, Dwaine Bailey and Dave Vincent flanked by Luke Cummings and Craig Hanford, were offering stern resistance and successfully contained and nullified the potential threat posed by the experienced and prolific Bala strike-force of Mike Hayes, Lee Hunt and Chris Venables.

 

Behind that formidable back-line ‘keeper Lee Idzi was never really stretched – his main involvement was dealing with a series of crosses and corners, all of which he accomplished with his customary assured and safe handling.

 

Additionally the visitors’ industrious midfield trio of Lewis Harling, Ceri Morgan and Matthew Thomas eagerly provided a further valuable layer of defensive support whenever necessary – but they were also influential in orchestrating frequent counter-attacks which strikers Liam Thomas and Liam Griffiths enthusiastically exploited, seeking to unsettle the Bala defence at every opportunity.

 

Yet at last this match came to life in the 36th minute when Morgan, from the half-way line, launched a long pass into the penalty area where Griffiths, racing forward and in clear space, leapt high to reach the ball only to be clattered to the ground by ‘keeper Ashley Morris who was charging out of his goalmouth – although the tall striker’s header was cleared off the goal-line by defender Stuart Jones, the referee immediately penalised Morris and awarded a spot-kick.

 

There then followed a lengthy delay while the ‘keeper, injured in that collision, was treated – a remarkable eight minutes passed before Liam Thomas stepped forward and confidently drove the ball into the corner of the net.

 

Then deep into added time Carmarthen fashioned another decent chance when Harling slid the ball neatly across to Cummings but he saw his 25 yard strike fly over the bar.

 

After the interval the Lakesiders took the initiative, putting the visitors’ defence under pressure with a series of swift, piercing raids – and that soon brought them the reward of an equaliser on 55 minutes when Anthony Stephens sent a corner into the packed goalmouth where Hayes scrambled the ball home from close-range.

 

Spurred by that success Bala continued to swarm forward relentlessly but once again they were confronted by some outstanding Old Gold defending, both individually and collectively.  Shots were successfully blocked or otherwise provided the experienced Idzi with no more than routine saves – also, helpfully, on several occasions the Lakesiders were woefully well off-target with their finishing.  And while the ball flew dangerously across the visitors’ goalmouth with worrying frequency, it never found its way into the net.

 

Throughout the second-half Carmarthen were able to break upfield on the counter-attack only sporadically and just once, on 65 minutes, did they force Morris into any meaningful action – Kieran Lewis, a more than able midfield replacement for Harling at half-time, sent a corner into the crowded penalty area to find Griffiths, rising high above defenders, but he saw his firm header claimed by the ‘keeper just under the bar.

 

And in the final action of the game in added time Bala created, but wasted, another decent opportunity when the ball was played forward into the penalty area only for Venables, from 10 yards, to fire his angled drive over the bar.

 

This result ensures that the Old Gold remain in fifth place in the WPL, four points ahead of Cardiff Met – accordingly the match between these clubs, their penultimate fixture of the League season, next Friday (April 14th k/o 2.30pm at Richmond Park) is of high significance since if Carmarthen avoid defeat they will finish in fifth position and thereby ensure a home tie in the following end-of-season UEFA play-off match.       

   

 

Team:

 

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Dave Vincent;  Lee Surman;  Dwaine Bailey;  Craig Hanford;  Matty Thomas;  Ceri Morgan;  Lewis Harling (sub Kieran Lewis 46);  Liam Griffiths;  Liam Thomas; 

 

Unused subs:  Dan Sheehan;  Danny Thomas;  Neil Smothers; 

 

Cards:  None   

 

Goal:   Liam Thomas (44 pen);  

Next-up

Saturday 1st July 2017
FRIENDLY
Cwmaman United v Carmarthen Town
The Canolfan
Kick-off: 14:30

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