THE noticeable signs of improvement shown in Carmarthen’s last match at Bangor further developed in dramatic fashion with this remarkable performance at Bala which abruptly ended Town’s miserable sequence of defeats since the opening of the Welsh Premier season.
Moreover, it resulted in a margin of victory for an away League match that has not been eclipsed since their all-time record 7-1 win at Caersws in October 2006 [a match in which current Assistant Manager Danny Thomas scored twice].
But for the faithful band of travelling fans that attended, the surprises began even before the kick-off with the news that manager Mark Aizlewood had selected goalkeeper Stephen Hall (recently signed at the beginning of the season from Afan Lido) to replace Lee Idzi, thereby terminating his incredible run of exactly one-hundred consecutive WPL appearances since he joined the Club at the start of the 2014/15 season.
The Old Gold, consistent with recent matches, made a positive start except on this occasion it brought immediate success – after barely 90 seconds of play, Hall’s clearance from his own penalty area reached Kyle Williams who burst forward from the centre-circle then slid the ball out to Kieran Lewis on the right flank and he instantly sent a searching cross deep into the goalmouth where Kostya Georgievsky arrived with perfect timing to plant a firm header past ‘keeper Ashley Morris and into the roof of the net.
Bala responded to this early setback, gradually increasing the pressure on the visitor’s defence although without, initially, managing any notable scoring opportunities. However on 11 minutes Jordan Evans raced down the left-wing then fired a low cross into the crowded penalty area where the ball fell nicely for Les Davies but from 8 yards he struck it over the bar.
Yet Carmarthen continued to look a threat on the break with wingers Williams and Georgievsky, alongside top goal-scorer Liam Thomas, continually testing the home defenders with their lightning pace and movement. And in the 14th minute a swift counter-attack finished with Jordan Knott winning a free-kick just outside the penalty area – Lewis stepped forward and drove the ball around the defensive ‘wall’ and into the top corner of the net leaving Morris well-beaten.
The Lakesiders, with now even more urgency, again pressed forward. But the Old Gold simply continued to soak up that pressure. The now familiar central defensive pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent were looking assured and secure as usual, while versatile full-backs Dan Sheehan and Knott gave them valuable support on the flanks and experienced defender Craig Hanford, clearly undertaking a man-marking role, was also an influential part of Town’s resistance.
Directly ahead of them, industrious midfielders Lewis Harling and Kieran Lewis eagerly provided a further beneficial layer of defensive support, while Williams, Georgievsky and Thomas often willingly added their assistance.
Hall, meanwhile, was never seriously stretched – his main involvement was confined to dealing with occasional crosses, corners and free-kicks all of which he managed confidently and efficiently. Although on 27 minutes, Evan Horwood sent a free-kick into the packed penalty area where Stuart Jones produced a close-range header that flew beyond Hall’s reach, the new ‘keeper was thankful to see the ball strike the bar and bounce safely away.
Yet the Old Gold remained a threat with frequent counter-attacks and after 32 minutes they went close to increasing their lead – Williams surged forward then slipped neatly between two bewildered defenders and into the penalty area before striking a fierce drive that Morris resisted, diving quickly down to claim the ball.
But the final notable action of the first-half arose on 37 minutes when Stuart Jones, from the half-way line, launched a long pass forward to Davies who from close to the by-line drove the ball across the goalmouth where Andrai Jones fired it wide of the post.
After the interval Town looked intent on quickly stretching their lead. On 48 minutes Harling made a determined run from the half-way line before delivering a fine cross-field pass towards the edge of the penalty area where Thomas hit a stunning drive that Morris, stretching high, tipped just over the bar. From the resultant corner-kick Lewis’ delivery eventually reached Georgievsky who saw his smart close-range shot diverted narrowly beyond the post by a defender.
Then, as in the first-half, Bala enjoyed a spell of possession and pressure which was more than matched once again by Carmarthen’s resolute defending. And gradually, as before, the visitors began counter-attacking with greater urgency. After 70 minutes another Lewis corner-kick reached Williams who produced an audacious overhead-kick which skimmed the bar and landed on the roof of the net.
But in the 77th minute the Old Gold put the result beyond doubt with a third goal. Harling’s excellent through ball sent Georgievsky racing into the penalty area and Morris was forced into conceding yet another corner. Lewis promptly sent the kick into the packed goalmouth and Vincent was perfectly placed to drive the loose ball home.
The Lakesiders continued to search for a goal to restore some respectability to the score-line and on 84 minutes they almost succeeded – a long ball from midfield reached Andrai Jones out wide in the penalty area but he saw his angled strike crash against the far post and bounce safely away.
But there was only more misery ahead for the home side. In the 87th minute they conceded a fourth goal when Lewis, from the left touchline, sent a high cross towards the far post where substitute Liam Griffiths leapt high above Morris and directed his close-range header into the back of the net. And if that were not bad enough for Bala, moments later Davies, in the space of 60 seconds, contrived to get himself booked twice for separate incidents leading to his automatic sending-off.
This highly impressive and immensely welcome performance against a very strong Bala side will have ignited the hopes of Carmarthen fans for a continuing improvement in the matches ahead, the next being at Barry Town United on Thursday 21st September (k/o 7.45pm).
Team: Stephen Hall, Dan Sheehan, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Jordan Knott, Craig Hanford; Kieran Lewis (sub Tyler Brock 88), Lewis Harling, Kyle Williams (sub Luke Cummings 79), Liam Thomas (sub Liam Griffiths 69), Kostya Georgievsky.
Unused subs: Lee Idzi, Danny Thomas.
Cards: (Y) Kostya Georgievsky (32), Dan Sheehan (10), Liam Thomas (24), Liam Griffiths (94).
Goals: Kostya Georgievsky (2), Kieran Lewis (14), Dave Vincent (77); Liam Griffiths (87).