Match Report – Prestatyn v Carmarthen Town (24 March 2018)

Prestatyn (0)  Carmarthen Town (1) 

There’s still hope!  Carmarthen enhanced their slender chances of Welsh Premier League survival with this narrow, but highly valuable, victory over fellow relegation candidates Prestatyn thanks to a clinically dispatched penalty from top goal-scorer Liam Thomas.

However there was little to excite the crowd during the opening stages as both sides, no doubt anxious to avoid conceding an early goal given their dire circumstances, played with caution – preferring possession rather than progress.

It was not until the 9th minute that the Old Gold managed the first notable scoring effort – Dan Sheehan, from the left touchline, fired a deep cross into the crowded penalty area and while the ball was cleared, it fell nicely for Jordan Knott who struck a fierce 30 yard drive that ‘keeper Carl Jones was well-placed to claim.

While the pace of the game improved, the ensuing end-to-end pattern of play resulted in very little in terms of goalmouth incident as both defences dealt with the intermittent pressure quite comfortably.  Yet on 20 minutes the Seasiders went close to taking the lead – Ross Stephens, from the half-way line, sent a free-kick deep into the penalty area to find Zebb Edwards but from a good position he put his smart angled shot into the side-netting.

Then another fairly uneventful spell of midfield attrition was thankfully interrupted after 30 minutes when Clayton Green sent a long ball upfield where Mark Jones won possession off defender Reece Fairhurst and from the edge of the penalty area he hit a crisp strike that sadly failed to seriously test the home ‘keeper.

But for the remainder of the first-half Town were looking more of a threat going forward as they sought to exploit the pace and movement of  experienced strikers Thomas, Jones and Luke Bowen.  Then on 39 minutes a Luke Cummings free-kick was cleared from the packed goalmouth but only as far as Kieran Lewis who from 20 yards instantly returned a rasping drive that Carl Jones resisted with a sharp reflex save.

However in the 43rd minute Prestatyn suffered a setback entirely of their own making when defender Zebb Edwards contrived to collect his second yellow card in the space of just a few minutes leading to his automatic dismissal.

And only moments later another well-flighted Cummings’ free-kick into the penalty area was met by Thomas, arriving with perfect timing, but he saw his promising close-range header turned aside by Carl Jones with a fine flying save.

After the interval the home side began brightly, launching a series of spirited attacks which tested, but failed to penetrate the Old Gold defence in which the central partnership of Knott and Lee Surman performed capably under pressure, while being well supported on the flanks by Cummings and Sheehan.  And behind them experienced ‘keeper Lee Idzi, making a welcome return to the side  after eight weeks out of action with a serious hand injury, looked comfortable and assured – as always.

The closest that Prestatyn went to scoring during that spell was on 65 minutes when a quickly taken free-kick caught the Town defence unprepared and led to Noah Edwards sending a dangerous cross into the crowded penalty area where twice the ball was scrambled away from the goal before eventually being cleared to safety.

But Town, having endured that moment under serious pressure, instantly responded in the best possible way.  In the 67th minute Cummings sent a corner-kick to the far side of the goalmouth to reach Jones who was immediately tripped by Fairhurst – the referee inevitably awarded a penalty which Liam Thomas, calm and confident, easily converted.

The visitors seemed energised by that success and surged forward in search of another goal which, after 74 minutes, they were close to securing – Thomas broke clear and raced forward into the edge of the penalty area before releasing a stunning angled drive that defeated Carl Jones only for Fairhurst to make a timely intervention and clear the ball off the goal-line.

Yet straightaway the Seasiders once more threatened when Edwards made a surging run down the left-wing then crossed the ball dangerously into the goalmouth where Damian Ketley put his close-range shot just wide of the near post.

This spurred the Old Gold into even greater effort to consolidate their lead with a further goal and this they almost achieved on 76 minutes – Cummings, so often the inventive source of scoring opportunities, received the ball near to the by-line and crossed it deep to beyond the far post where Thomas produced a smart header that flew narrowly over the bar.

And Town continued their late spell of pressure when in the 82nd minute Jones, fresh from his goal-scoring appearance for the Wales C national side in midweek, dispatched a powerful 25 yard strike that drew an impressive full-length save from the home ‘keeper.

After that, Carmarthen played out the closing stages comfortably in control of the vital three points that have taken them further ahead of their vanquished opponents to consolidate their current 11th place in the League table.  And this may prove to be vital since in four of the previous seven seasons since the advent of the WPL 12 team set-up the 11th placed side has not, for differing reasons, been relegated.

And, in any event, it is still mathematically possible (although realistically unlikely) for the Old Gold to finish ahead of Aberystwyth and Llandudno, the two teams currently above them.   

All that Town can do now is strive to win as many of their four remaining fixtures as possible, starting with their match at Newtown next Saturday 31st March (k/o 2.30pm).    

Team:

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Jordan Knott;  Lee Surman;  Dan Sheehan;  Kieran Lewis;  Clayton Green;  Aidan O’Kelly;  Luke Bowen (sub Craig Hanford 78);  Mark Jones;  Liam Thomas; 

Unused subs:  Dave Vincent;  Lewis Thomas;  Ceri Morgan;  Danny Thomas; 

Goal:  Liam Thomas (68 pen); 

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