Match Report – Newtown v Carmarthen Town (31 March 2018)

Newtown (2)  Carmarthen Town (3) 

Carmarthen produced a highly disciplined and determined performance against Newtown to deservedly capture three vital points which, with results elsewhere working in their favour, provide a significant boost to their prospects of finishing the Welsh Premier League season outside the relegation places.

Yet it took some time for this game to spring to life – during a fairly quiet opening spell both sides were guilty of giving the ball away all too easily and no significant scoring chances emerged.  Certainly, neither goalkeeper was seriously tested.

But all that changed after 13 minutes when Newtown took an unexpected lead.  Alex Fletcher played a fine pass forward to Ethan Jones who, with worrying ease, slipped between two defenders on the edge of the penalty area before neatly slotting the ball around ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the back of the net.

Spurred by that success, the Robins began to enjoy a greater share of possession and went close to scoring again on 18 minutes – Craig Williams, from the right-wing, crossed the ball deep into the packed goalmouth where Luke Boundford sent his glancing header just wide of the post.

However that brief period of Newtown pressure was abruptly terminated in the 20th minute when Luke Bowen embarked on a dazzling burst along the right flank, powerfully shrugging off the attention of several defenders, before dispatching an immaculate cross to the edge of the penalty area where Liam Thomas arrived with perfect timing and sweetly drove the ball beyond the reach of ‘keeper David Jones and into the top corner of the net.

[This continues Liam’s rich vein of scoring form, being his ninth goal in his last nine matches and his 14th overall this season, thus already equalling his total for the whole of last season – indeed, demonstrating remarkable consistency, this is a total which he has achieved in three of his last four seasons with the Old Gold but he is unlikely to surpass his best total of 21 which he reached in his debut season 2012-13]

While the Robins continued to enjoy the greater share of possession, they were unable to make any significant use of it in the face of some resolute Town defending – the back-four, comprising the central partnership of Lee Surman and Jordan Knott flanked by Luke Cummings and Dan Sheehan, showed commendable strength and composure while, directly ahead of them, industrious midfielders Kieran Lewis, Clayton Green and early substitute Ceri Morgan eagerly provided a further valuable layer of defensive support whenever necessary. 

Additionally, further upfield strikers Thomas, Mark Jones and Bowen (until injury forced him off the field, worryingly for the second successive match) were always an available outlet, willingly using their pace and mobility to mount frequent counter-attacks that kept the home defenders fully occupied.

And from one of these raids, on 38 minutes, the Old Gold went ahead having won a corner-kick – from this Cummings produced a searching delivery into the crowded penalty area which Jones, reacting far quicker than any defender, met with a delightful glancing header  that sent the ball past the helpless ‘keeper and into the roof of the net.

Then after the interval Carmarthen made the perfect start by extending their lead through a startling breakaway goal within the first 90 seconds.  A clearance out of defence along the left touchline was keenly pursued beyond the half-way line by Jones who held off Williams before playing a sublime pass across to Lewis who had raced forward through the centre in support – he took the ball on towards the penalty area then, as David Jones came out of his goal to challenge him, he confidently fired a crisp drive into the back of the net.

While unsurprisingly the Robins urgently pressed forward in an effort to at least restore parity, once again they were unable to penetrate the visitors’ formidable, well-organised defence – and, as in the first-half, the Old Gold were managing to retaliate with a number of incisive counter-attacks from one of which, on 66 minutes, Mark Jones went close to further extending their lead. 

Sheehan finished a strong run along the left flank with an inviting cross deep into the goalmouth where Town’s lively striker turned sharply and struck an angled close-range shot just narrowly wide of the post.  Newtown responded moments later with Nick Rushton dispatching a 20 yard free-kick that Idzi was well-placed to claim. 

But generally Carmarthen were content to drop back, defend in depth and pack their own penalty area – and this proved to be a highly-effective strategy which ensured that Idzi’s primary involvement was confined to dealing with a series of crosses, corners and free-kicks all of which he successfully accomplished, usually under extreme pressure from a crowd of nearby players, with his customary assurance and safe handling.   

Indeed, the hosts managed very few further scoring opportunities late in the game.     

After 83 minutes Williams’ corner-kick was met by Tom Goodwin who saw his close-range looping header land on the roof of the net, while shortly afterwards he was again off-target when from a good position he contrived to fire the ball over the bar.

Yet at last, in the sixth minute of added time, Newtown broke the visitors’ stubborn resistance when a corner from Williams led to a mass scramble in the goalmouth that finished with Callum Roberts prodding the ball into the net.  But, thankfully, immediately after the restart the final whistle was blown to the immense relief of Carmarthen fans.

And while conceding that late goal was a disappointment, it certainly did not detract from Town’s highly-commendable performance to which every player, demonstrating extreme fitness levels and an immense work ethic, contributed.

The Old Gold, from being in a seemingly hopeless position in the League a couple of weeks ago, have now reduced the gap up to tenth-placed Aberystwyth to five points with just three more fixtures remaining.  The forthcoming match between these two old rivals on 20th April could well be pivotal to both clubs’ prospects of WPL survival – but in the meantime Carmarthen next entertain Llandudno at Richmond Park on Saturday 14th April (k/o 3.30pm).

Team:

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Lee Surman;  Jordan Knott;  Dan Sheehan;  Kieran Lewis;  Clayton Green;  Aidan O’Kelly (Dave Vincent 77);  Luke Bowen (sub Ceri Morgan 31);  Mark Jones;  Liam Thomas (sub Craig Hanford 88);   

Unused subs:  Lewis Thomas;  Danny Thomas; 

Cards: (Y)  Aidan O’Kelly (24); 

Goals:  Liam Thomas (20);  Mark Jones (38);  Kieran Lewis (47); 

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