With Carmarthen needing to continue their successful opening to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme they suffered a serious setback even before the start, being forced to field a seriously depleted defensive unit due to the absence (through injury, illness or suspension) of both experienced ‘keeper Lee Idzi and his impressive on-loan replacement Lewis Thomas, along with key defenders Dave Vincent and Luke Cummings.
Yet in the early stages this barely mattered since the game was a decidedly scrappy affair, confined to unproductive midfield exchanges with neither side seemingly able to create any positive attacking momentum.
However at last, on 20 minutes, the match came to life when Llandudno took a surprise lead. Toby Jones, from the by-line, fired a free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Danny Shaw found the space to drive the ball home from close-range.
Stung by that set-back, Town reacted well and immediately from the re-start they swarmed upfield to win a corner-kick which Kieran Lewis delivered into the penalty area only for Jordan Knott to see his 15 yard volley fly narrowly wide of the post,
The Old Gold continued to press forward and their efforts were deservedly rewarded in the 26th minute – Luke Bowen, with a smart piece of footwork on the wide edge of the penalty area, slipped past a defender then sent an inviting cross towards the goalmouth where Liam Thomas rose high to direct a subtle glancing header beyond the reach of ‘keeper Alex Lynch and into the back of the net.
[Town’s top all-time goalscorer is enjoying a rich vein of form having now scored in each of the last four matches with this goal being his sixth in this spell and his eleventh of the season so far.]
The play continued to be fairly evenly-balanced with both sides enjoying short bursts of attacking pressure but without either of them managing to create much in terms of serious scoring opportunities.
Yet after 38 minutes the hosts regained the lead largely due to some noticeably slack Old Gold defending. Toby Jones was allowed, all too easily, to run in from the right touchline towards the penalty area before sliding a fine pass across to Matty Williams who had been left completely unmarked just 6 yards from goal – from there he had the simple task of stabbing the ball past ‘keeper Stephen Hall and into the net.
After the interval Town began positively as they sought to get back on level terms and they soon went close when on 49 minutes Mark Jones cut inside from the left-wing and dispatched a fierce 25 yard angled drive that flew just beyond the far post.
But that was an isolated early chance – as in the first-half, while the play switched briskly from end to end, there was limited goalmouth activity and only sporadic serious scoring opportunities arose.
It was not until the 63rd minute that Llandudno managed a notable shot on target – Toby Jones made a strong run down the right flank before crossing the ball into the penalty area where Marc Williams, from 15 yards, hit a crisp shot that drew a sharp full-length save from Hall to turn the ball aside.
Shortly afterwards the visitors again went close – Lewis played a fine pass through to Bowen and he outpaced his marker along the right touchline before delivering a searching cross deep beyond the far post to find Jones who produced a powerful header that left Lynch well beaten only for Wes Baynes to block the ball on the goal-line.
Yet at last on 75 minutes the Old Gold deservedly restored parity. Knott, on the right flank, lifted a well-judged cross to the far side of the goalmouth that reached Mark Jones who headed the ball back towards the goal where Dwayne Coultress, reacting quicker than Lynch, scrambled it into the net – his first goal on his first appearance and only a few minutes after coming on as substitute. Quite a way to introduce himself!
The end-to-end pattern of the game continued with the home side going near to re-taking the lead after 80 minutes. From a Toby Jones corner the ball fell nicely for Robbie Parry who executed a smart overhead kick that had Hall well beaten but crashed against the bar and bounced safely away.
Town quickly responded when on 83 minutes O’Kelly sent an inviting cross deep into the goalmouth where Bowen planted his close-range header just fractionally too high with the ball landing on the top of the net.
But that proved to be O’Kelly’s last useful involvement in the proceedings as moments later he was sent-off by the referee having been cautioned for the second time in the match.
Llandudno, making good use of their unexpected numerical advantage, poured forward relentlessly in the closing minutes, virtually laying siege to the visitors’ goal – and despite some resolute, often desperate, defending by the Old Gold they eventually conceded a late, late goal in added time when another Jones corner reached Shaw who headed the ball down for Marc Williams to stab home from close-range.
[Remarkably, this was the fourth time in the last six League matches that Carmarthen have conceded a goal in the 90th minute or later – thankfully, on none of the other occasions did it prove critical to the result of the match.]
This defeat is not only a serious disappointment in itself for Town in their quest for WPL survival but it also halts the valuable winning momentum that had developed over the previous two matches. Realistically, it seems that victory in their next match, against Aberystwyth at Richmond Park on Sunday 25th February (k/o 5.15pm due to the match being televised live on S4C) is now essential.
Team: Stephen Hall; Jordan Knott; Craig Hanford; Lee Surman; Aidan O’Kelly; Ceri Morgan; Kieran Lewis; Clayton Green; Liam Thomas (sub Dwayne Coultress 72); Mark Jones; Luke Bowen;
Unused subs: Dan Sheehan; Danny Thomas; Neil Smothers;
Cards: (R) Aidan O’Kelly (2xY 62+88); (Y) Luke Bowen (19); Clayton Green (60); Craig Hanford (65); Ceri Morgan (82);
Goals: Liam Thomas (26); Dwayne Coultress (75).