FOR the second successive match Carmarthen suffered the agony of conceding a goal in the closing minutes to deny them the draw that they had battled keenly to secure, this time against a strong Connah's Quay side which has remained close to the top of the Welsh Premier League since the start of the season, having finished runners-up to TNS last term.
The opening stages of this match were remarkably uneventful. It quickly became evident that the Old Gold were set up to contain and frustrate the visitors by operating an essentially defensive formation – and for some 30 minutes it worked. While the Nomads comfortably enjoyed the majority of possession and territorial advantage, they were unable to penetrate the home defence in any meaningful way – nor, in particular, despite winning a number of corner-kicks did they manage any notable scoring opportunities or otherwise seriously test ‘keeper Lee Idzi.
But after 32 minutes Connah's Quay at last made the breakthrough they had struggled to achieve. Nathan Woolfe finished a strong run down the left wing by slipping easily past full-back Dan Sheehan, not for the first or last time in the match, then fired a cross deep into the penalty area where Ryan Wignall struck a smart angled shot that flew into the top corner of the net leaving Idzi well beaten.
Yet that setback for Carmarthen did nothing to alter the general pattern of their play and they simply remained content to soak up the Nomads’ continuing pressure. While the experienced Lee Surman superbly marshalled the rest of the defensive back-line, directly ahead of them the midfield unit eagerly (and very frequently) provided a further valuable layer of defence – and the sight of Liam Thomas, Town’s all-time top WPL goal-scorer, spending the great majority of his time on defensive duties in and around his own penalty area, rather than operating in his usual territory at the other end of the pitch, was quite surreal.
Numerous times Kostya Georgievsky remained an isolated figure upfield and on the few occasions that the Old Gold were able to make any noticeable progress beyond the half-way line they sadly often lost possession due to a careless final pass. Consequently, John Danby in the visitors’ goal enjoyed a fairly untroubled first-half.
After the interval Connah's Quay straightaway resumed their search for more goals and nearly succeeded after just 90 seconds – Callum Morris burst forward down the right-wing and fired a dangerous cross into the goalmouth only to see Idzi punch the ball clear to deny Michael Wilde, as he came racing in, a simple close-range conversion.
Once more the Nomads were monopolising possession and effectively controlling the game for long spells, although the home defence was still maintaining a stubborn resistance with Idzi only occasionally called into serious action.
Then, remarkably, in the 76th minute the Old Gold drew level following a swift break out of defence. Sheehan, on the right flank, fired a long ball forward to Thomas who turned it neatly across to Lewis Harling and he raced into the penalty area only to be brought down by defender Danny Harrison – the referee instantly awarded a spot-kick which Thomas confidently drove past Danby and into the back of the net.
Immediately the visitors increased the intensity of their attacking play in an attempt to restore their fragile lead while Town’s resistance, correspondingly, became more resolute than ever under Surman’s compelling leadership.
As the final few minutes ticked away and the prospect of securing a valuable share of the points became a growing reality in the minds of Carmarthen supporters, the Nomads frantically poured forward, virtually laying siege to the home goal. And on 88 minutes they got their reward – Wignall surged forward along the left-wing towards the by-line then drove the ball into the packed goalmouth and saw substitute Melford Simpson, who had only been on the field barely a minute, pounce for the vital touch that sent it over the goal-line.
Yet there was still time for Connah's Quay to launch another attack with Wignall, this time on the opposite flank, firing the ball across the edge of the penalty area where another late substitute, Matthias Bakare, dispatched a fierce drive that Idzi, with an impressive full length save, turned around the post.
So, the Old Gold’s miserable start to the WPL season continues with this eighth defeat in nine games – and this is now statistically their worst start in terms of points return since the Club’s promotion to the top tier of Welsh football in 1996. The previous worst, an identical return from the opening eight fixtures in the 2011-12 season, was halted by a 3-1 home win over Airbus UK in the ninth match. Town, having remained in the relegation places for most of that season (midway through which Mark Aizlewood was appointed as manager), eventually finished safely in tenth position very much due to an impressive late surge, winning five of their last seven matches.
Carmarthen’s next League fixture is on Saturday 21st October (k/o 2.30pm) when they travel to Cefn Druids – then on Tuesday 24th October (k/o7.45pm) Newtown provide the opposition at Richmond Park for the League Cup Quarter-Final tie.
Team: Lee Idzi, Dan Sheehan, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Jordan Knott, Kyle Williams (Kyle Bassett 66), Lewis Harling, Kieran Lewis, Liam Thomas, Liam Griffiths (Ceri Morgan 71), Kostya Georgievsky.
Unused subs: Liam Walsh, Tyler Brock, Danny Thomas.
Goal: Liam Thomas (pen 76).