ONCE again this season – no goals scored and no points gained. But, unlike any of the other defeats, the Old Gold this time produced a sparkling performance which fully deserved far better rewards and will have certainly delighted their supporters.
Carmarthen went into this match firmly rooted at the bottom of the Welsh Premier League table and knowing that a victory over Newtown, at the time just one place and five points above them, would significantly boost their chances of rising away from the relegation zone by the conclusion of the first-phase programme.
And in the opening stages they demonstrated exactly the right attitude as they poured forward with some refreshingly bright, brisk, competitive football in their search for an early goal – yet the Robins too were positive on the counter-attack and the play quickly shifted from end to end although initially, with both defences performing soundly under intermittent pressure, no significant scoring chances emerged.
The first notable opportunity only arose after 22 minutes with Liam Griffiths capitalising on some slack defending deep inside the visitors’ half when he intercepted a poor back-pass and raced forward into the penalty area then struck a crisp drive that ‘keeper David Jones blocked with a smart save – Liam Thomas reacted quickly to pounce on the rebound but as defenders closed in he was forced to slide the ball across to Kieran Lewis who straightaway set it up for Liam Walsh but from 20 yards he hurriedly fired his shot wide of the target.
Then on 27 minutes Newtown registered their first decent chance when Jones sent a long free-kick upfield where Ryan Sears hooked the ball on to James Murphy who was in clear space inside the penalty area – however he saw ‘keeper Lee Idzi turn his fierce 15 yard strike away with a remarkable reflex save.
Yet the Old Gold were enjoying marginally the greater share of possession and attacking momentum, driven primarily by the industry and vision of midfielders Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Walsh, while Luke Cummings too was always a willing outlet with his powerful running along the right flank.
And in the 34th minute Town went close to taking a deserved lead when Jordan Knott won the ball close to the left touchline then played it on to Lewis who moved swiftly forward and from 25 yards dispatched a stunning shot that Jones denied with a fine full-length save.
After the interval Carmarthen, continuing to display an impressive measure of collective spirit, commitment and character, again took the early initiative – and they fashioned the first serious scoring opportunity on 57 minutes when a long ball out of defence reached Thomas who, with an astute pass, put Griffiths in clear space just inside the penalty area only for the tall striker to squander the chance with an angled drive that Jones comfortably claimed.
Yet as in the first-half the match soon developed into an entertaining and fast-paced end-to-end affair, albeit one of few significant scoring chances as both defences again performed strongly.
But then, as the game seemed destined to finish goal-less, Newtown made the vital breakthrough in the 83rd minute – Craig Williams sent a corner-kick into the crowded penalty area where Luke Boundford, benefiting from an uncharacteristic lapse in the home defence, found space to plant his close-range header firmly into the back of the net.
And worse was soon to follow. On 87 minutes Jamie Reed struck a fierce 30 yard free-kick that Idzi blocked with a smart reaction save only for Neil Mitchell, showing far more alertness that any Town defender, to reach the loose ball and drive it into the roof of the net.
The Old Gold swarmed forward in an effort to reclaim at least one point from the game and went close on three occasions in added time. First, in the 91st minute, Lewis finished a determined run with a 25 yard strike that flew narrowly off-target – then moments later Cummings, out wide on the right flank, fired an inviting cross into the packed penalty area to find Lewis who headed ball on towards the far post where Griffiths, from a good position, somehow managed to stab it wide of the target. And this belated frenetic assault on the Robins goal ended, unsuccessfully, with Morgan dispatching a 20 yard drive that flew just marginally outside the post.
While the final result was naturally a huge disappointment for Carmarthen fans, they will surely have been encouraged by the much-improved performance that they witnessed – if that level of passion, energy and commitment is on display in forthcoming matches, coupled with at least a little better fortune, it is reasonable to hope that a much more favourable League position will eventually be secured.
The next fixture for the Old Gold provides exactly that opportunity since the team currently directly above them in the WPL, Prestatyn Town, are the visitors to Richmond Park on Saturday 18th November (k/o 2.30pm).
Team: Lee Idzi, Luke Cummings, Dan Sheehan, Lee Surman, Jordan Knott, Kyle Bassett (Kostya Georgievsky 58), Ceri Morgan, Kieran Lewis, Liam Walsh (Kyle Williams 88); Liam Griffiths, Liam Thomas.
Unused subs: Danny Thomas, Neil Smothers.
Cards: (Y) Ceri Morgan (10), Kyle Bassett (26); Liam Thomas (86).