Match Report – Briton Ferry v Carmarthen Town (17 July 2019)
Briton Ferry (3) Carmarthen Town (7)
Carmarthen travelled to Welsh League side Briton Ferry as they continued their pre-season programme with this thoroughly entertaining match which provided not only a feast of goals but also a continuous stream of fast attacking and counter-attacking and plenty of goalmouth action.
And while on the balance of play Town’s impressive haul of seven goals was entirely merited, indeed there could easily have been more, worryingly their defending was far from convincing. All too often defenders were guilty of indecision, poor marking (particularly at ‘set pieces’) and lack of pace at crucial times.
Town largely dominated the early stages with experienced midfielders Ceri Morgan, Lewis Harling and Chris Jones, well supported by newcomer Elliott Scotcher, enjoying a lot of possession and driving the play forward looking to exploit the pace and movement of strikers Liam Thomas and Josh Bull.
And it was no surprise that the Old Gold took the lead on 10 minutes – Jordan Knott, on the left flank, sent a long pass upfield where Bull cleverly capitalised on the hesitancy of two defenders and took possession then raced into the penalty area only to be brought down by a clumsy challenge from ‘keeper Conor McFenton. Thomas, unsurprisingly after his successes from 12 yards last season, comfortably converted the spot-kick.
Moments later Jones moved forward along the right-wing before firing the ball across the edge of the penalty area to find Scotcher who struck a rasping 15 yard drive that defeated McFenton but crashed against the foot of the post and bounced safely away.
Then, in the 17thminute, Town increased their lead with a lightning move that covered the entire length of the field. From a Briton Ferry free-kick ‘keeper Lee Idzi claimed the ball in his goalmouth and quickly threw it upfield to Thomas just inside the centre-circle – he sped beyond the half-way line then threaded an excellent pass through to Bull who took the ball into the penalty area, slipped smoothly around McFenton and fired it into the empty net.
Carmarthen, maintaining the fast tempo of their early play, continued to press the home defence and on 20 minutes Jones again, from wide on the right flank, delivered an inviting cross into the penalty area where Scotcher arrived with perfect timing to send a firm header beyond the reach of McFenton but, sadly, marginally wide of the post.
Yet that disappointment was soon remedied in the 27thminute when the experienced midfielder fired a corner-kick deep into the penalty area and saw Greg Walters instantly strike a rasping drive that flew into the far corner of the goal.
However the Welsh League side, who from the start had shown some keen counter-attacking play, were soon rewarded for their persistence albeit with a fair amount of assistance from a strangely static Town defence. On 29 minutes a corner-kick was directed into the crowded goalmouth – Mark Jones made a strong, purposeful run to meet the ball and from close-range headed it powerfully past Idzi and into the roof of the net while several defenders stood still, seemingly discussing who should have been marking the former Carmarthen striker.
Thankfully that set-back was soon remedied. In the 37thminute Bull, yet again demonstrating his remarkable speed and mobility, burst forward along the left flank and into the penalty area where with some stunning footwork he effortlessly went past two bewildered defenders before being brought down by a third – the resultant spot-kick was, as usual, summarily dispatched by Thomas.
Four first-half goals were clearly not enough for Town and they went close to snatching another on 44 minutes when Jordan Vickers made a strong run along the right-wing before crossing the ball into the penalty area where Thomas held off a defender then struck a fierce drive that McFenton, at full length, turned past the post. And moments later Morgan released an impressive long-range strike that the overworked ‘keeper resisted with another flying save.
After the interval, and several substitutions, Town took some time to settle – and the hosts capitalised on this with their first notable spell of pressure. On 50 minutes Idzi did well to turn a long-range shot over the bar in spectacular fashion. Soon afterwards Luke Jones broke clear from the half-way line and raced into the penalty area before side-stepping the on-rushing Idzi and then dispatching an angled drive that hit the post and bounced safely away.
Yet shortly afterwards Briton Ferry were deservedly rewarded for their efforts. Carmarthen defenders again failed to deal with a routine right-wing cross, allowing it to reach Mark Jones at the far side of the goalmouth and he capitalised fully by directing a firm header past Idzi.
Perhaps stung by that set-back the Old Gold began to counter-attack with more purpose and penetration and on 64 minutes they extended their lead. Knott fired a long searching pass along the left flank which Luke Bowen, outpacing defenders, eagerly pursued – he reached the edge of the penalty area then cleverly went round substitute ‘keeper Ryan Fleming before slotting the ball into the empty net.
After 70 minutes they went further ahead when Gwion Howell raced along the left touchline then drove the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Jay Woodford struck a smart drive that Fleming was powerless to resist.
Yet the hosts were still causing Town’s defence problems and they snatched another goal on 76 minutes – after a swift break along the left-wing a deep cross into the crowded goalmouth was, worryingly, allowed to reach Mark Jones who stabbed the ball home at the far post.
The Old Gold responded immediately – Woodford’s corner-kick was met by Lee Surman, amongst a pack of players, but his powerful close-range header rattled the bar and the ball bounced safely away.
But the final significant action in this ten-goal feast arose in the 81stminute when after good approach work by Thomas the ball reached Walters on the right flank – he sent a cross deep to the far post where Bowen stabbed the ball home from close-range.
Even at this early stage of the pre-season programme it seems likely that Jones, Scotcher and Bull will prove to be worthy additions to Town’s WPL squad. It seems that both of the new signings yet to appear are defenders and, given the defensive frailties that have appeared in the two matches, it has to be hoped that they too will be similarly valuable.
Lee Idzi; Jordan Vickers; Greg Walters (sub Lee Surman 46); Dave Vincent (sub Greg Walters 68); Jordan Knott; Chris Jones (sub Liam Thomas 68); Ceri Morgan (sub Gwion Howell 46); Lewis Harling; Elliott Scotcher (sub Ceri Morgan 68); Liam Thomas (sub Luke Bowen 46); Josh Bull (sub Jay Woodford 46);
Goals: Liam Thomas (10, 37 both pens); Josh Bull (17); Greg Walters (27); Luke Bowen (64, 81); Jay Woodford (70);
Match Report – Carmarthen Town v Haverfordwest County (13 July 2019)
Carmarthen Town (1) Haverfordwest County (3)
Carmarthen opened their pre-season programme with an attractive fixture against near neighbours Haverfordwest who currently operate in the Welsh League after a long period as local rivals in the Welsh Premier League.
Town’s squad comprised most of the regulars that appeared during the relatively successful WPL second-phase programme last season while there were first appearances for new signings Chris Jones (from Llanelli), Elliott Scotcher (from Haverfordwest) and Josh Bull (from Blaenavon) – in addition several players from the Club’s Academy took part. Notable absentees from last season’s regular match-day squad were Luke Bowen and Ceri Morgan (both unavailable) while Mael Davies and Luke Cummings have transferred to Cardiff Met and Barry Town respectively.
The opening stages of this game were fairly uninspiring and uneventful with the play largely confined to unproductive midfield exchanges and neither defence was subjected to any noticeable pressure – during this spell this “contest” resembled little more than an opportunity for some welcome passing practice after the players’ summer break.
However on 16 minutes County took the lead with their first serious scoring effort. From close to the right touchline Ben Fawcett sent an inviting free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Sean Pemberton found space amongst a fairly static Old Gold defence to plant his firm close-range header past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the back of the net.
It took some time before Town reacted positively to that set-back and it was not until the 29thminute that they managed a shot of any significance on target. Academy player Sam Phillips produced some smart footwork on the left flank before sending the ball across to Chris Jones who from 20 yards struck a fierce shot that, unfortunately, went too straight and gave ‘keeper Stephan Hall a comfortable save.
After a flurry of substitutions on 31 minutes the Old Gold at last began to look more competitive and almost immediately they went close to snatching an equaliser. Lewis Harling received the ball deep inside the visitors’ half then moved forward to the edge of the penalty area before releasing a stunning strike that slid just wide of the post.
They continued to probe the County defence but few scoring opportunities arose, too often due to a poor ‘final pass’. Yet after 45 minutes triallist Brad Flay produced a fine pass to set Harling racing towards the corner of the penalty area – the stylish midfielder finished the move with a rasping angled drive that, sadly, flew narrowly wide of the goal.
Yet despite Town’s welcome improvement they conceded another goal in the 48thminute. Haverfordwest defender Miles John burst forward into the penalty area only to be brought down by a poorly-judged tackle from Declan Carroll – Tyler Brock comfortably converted the spot-kick.
However the Old Gold were quick to reduce the deficit. New signing Elliott Scotcher, since coming on as a substitute, was performing impressively in midfield – always looking comfortable in possession and demonstrating very effective distribution. And, on 52 minutes, from the wide edge of the penalty area his searching free-kick to the far side of the crowded goalmouth was met by Harling who planted his firm header beyond the reach of substitute ‘keeper Kyle Stuart and into the roof of the net.
Town continued to press forward and went near to restoring parity after 63 minutes when Jordan Knott on the left flank lifted a high cross towards the far post where Liam Thomas, closely marked by a defender, hooked the ball just narrowly wide and into the side netting.
Yet with the Old Gold now attacking with greater intent, County began to present more of a threat on the counter-attack. On 66 minutes Pemberton broke clear to chase a long ball played forward into the penalty area only to be denied by Town’s substitute Academy ‘keeper Tom Windsor who rushed way out of his goal to clear the danger.
Soon afterwards Windsor was beaten by a fierce 20 yard drive from Alfie Stotter but thankfully Craig Hanford was well placed to block the ball on the goal-line.
However as Town continued to pour upfield in search of an equaliser the threat of conceding a breakaway goal remained – and, almost inevitably, in the 85thminute the Welsh League side were not to be denied. Marcus Griffiths made a strong run along the left-wing before cutting inside and passing Jordan Vickers all too easily before releasing a powerful drive that went beyond Windsor’s reach and into the roof of the net.
And in the closing moments of the match the Old Gold almost conceded another – Griffiths outpaced Hanford along the left flank to reach a long pass then sent a perfect cross to the edge of the penalty area where Fawcett released a promising shot that defeated Windsor but hit the underside of the bar and the ball bounced straight down and into the arms of the grateful young ‘keeper.
On the admittedly very limited evidence of this single match it would seem that in the forthcoming season either Town might again struggle in the WPL or County will enjoy a very successful WL programme since for long periods there was little to separate the two teams.
And while results in pre-season fixtures are of no real importance, performances certainly are – and with the start of the WPL season just five weeks away some evidence of progressive improvement during the forthcoming PSF matches would be very welcome.
Carmarthen’s next PSF is on Wednesday July 17th(k/o 7.30pm) when they visit Welsh League side Briton Ferry – then on the following Saturday July 20ththey have a very attractive fixture against Swansea Town (under 23s) at Richmond Park (k/o 2.30pm).
[Note: Curiously, the coaching staff in the two dug-outs for this match have all been respected long-serving Carmarthen Town players. Neil Smothers and Craig Hanford (replacing Danny Thomas for the day) have made a combined total of 289 WPL appearances but Wayne Jones and Tim Hicks (now both coaching Haverfordwest)“hold the bragging rights” with the greater combined number of 303 appearances!]
Lee Idzi (sub Tom Windsor 61); Jordan Vickers; Dave Vincent (sub Elliott Scotcher 31); Lee Surman (sub Craig Hanford 61); Jordan Knott (sub Greg Walters 76); Chris Jones (sub Lewis Harling 31); Greg Walters (sub Chris Jones 61); Declan Carroll (sub Liam Thomas 53); Brad Flay (sub Dave Vincent 61); Liam Thomas (sub Gwion Howell 31, sub Sam Phillips 85); Sam Phillips (sub Josh Bull 31):
Goal: Lewis Harling (52);