Match Report – Aberystwyth v Carmarthen Town (20 April 2018)
Aberystwyth (1) Carmarthen Town (1)
Carmarthen continued their recent impressive sequence of performances with another highly spirited and determined display to secure a well-earned draw from this typically fiercely contested encounter with old rivals Aberystwyth – and on any other day this would have been a welcome result. Regrettably, however, the Old Gold needed three points from this match in order to keep alive their lingering hopes of Welsh Premier League survival.
The match began at a hectic pace with the play quickly switching back and forth as both sides sought an early breakthrough. And while there was goalmouth action at both ends of the pitch, it was the visitors who managed the first significant scoring chance after 8 minutes – Luke Cummings fired an inviting corner-kick into the packed penalty area where Liam Thomas measured his arrival perfectly and produced a smart close-range header that ‘keeper Chris Mullock, reacting sharply, claimed on the goal-line.
Yet following a further period of fast-paced, competitive, end-to-end play the Seasiders took the lead on 21 minutes. Declan Walker, from the right-wing sent a searching cross into the goalmouth and while the ball was cleared, it fell nicely for Tom Owens who struck a stunning 20 yard volley beyond the reach of ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the top corner of the net.
The pace and momentum of the game never weakened and in the 28thminute Town went close to restoring parity. Cummings, so often the source of scoring opportunities throughout the season, delivered a right-wing cross that reached Kieran Lewis who from 25 yards instantly dispatched a rasping drive that left Mullock beaten but clipped the top of the post and bounced safely behind.
While the Old Gold were getting forward on plenty of occasions, they failed to test the home defence often enough as attacking moves too frequently broke down outside the penalty area due to indecision or a poor final pass allowing Aberystwyth to clear the danger. By contrast, the Seasiders posed more of a threat with a series of incisive attacks but they were rarely able to penetrate the visitors’ defensive unit at the core of which Lee Surman and Jordan Knott confidently provided stubborn resistance.
After the interval Carmarthen looked more lively and inventive and were clearly intent on quickly getting back on level terms. But as they enthusiastically pressed forward they became vulnerable to occasional counter-attacks – and on 53 minutes Aberystwyth went close to extending their lead. Malcolm Melvin raced forward into the penalty area then neatly slid the ball past Idzi, who had quickly advanced out of his goal, but it struck the base of the post before being cleared to safety by Knott.
However moments later the Old Gold were rewarded for their positive opening spell. In the 57thminute a slick passing move through the centre finished with Luke Bowen setting up a fine chance for Lewis on the edge of the penalty area – he instantly fired a sharp drive that Mullock, under pressure from Liam Thomas, spilled and Ceri Morgan eagerly snatched the opportunity to stab the ball into the unguarded net from close-range.
Encouraged by that success, and the real prospect of snatching a vital match-winning goal, Town pressed forward with even greater intensity. On 61 minutes Thomas weaved smartly through several tackles just inside the penalty area before releasing a crisp close-range drive that Mullock resisted with a fine reflex save.
Shortly afterwards Lewis delivered a right-wing cross into the goalmouth where Clayton Green, arriving with perfect timing, saw his powerful close-range header crash against the bar – the ball rebounded out to Surman on the edge of the penalty area but he also was marginally off-target with a smart volley that flew narrowly too high.
Then in the 69thminute the increasingly productive Lewis directed a marvellous cross-field ball to Bowen on the left-wing – he instantly cut inside past his marker before dispatching a fierce 20 yard strike that Mullock, diving quickly down, claimed at the foot of the post.
All through this spell the Old Gold had managed to resist the Seasiders’ intermittent counter-attacks with some solid, composed defending. Howeverduring the last 15 minutes of the match their defensive set-up resembled little more than tokenism once Carmarthen were understandably committed to all-out attack.
Manager Neil Smothers sent towering central defenders Surman and Dave Vincent upfield to function as strikers, while full-backs Cummings and Dan Sheehan were already operating well beyond the half-way line. Consequently the versatile Knott was often left in isolation, sometimes attempting to deal with two or three marauding opponents on the counter-attack – and several times Idzi was forced to race way out of his penalty area to help clear the danger.
Inevitably Aberystwyth created decent scoring chances as they broke forward. Notably on 87 minutes a long cross-field pass from Craig Hobson set Jon Owen bursting clear to reach the corner of the penalty area before he produced a crisp angled drive that defeated Idzi but was headed off the goal-line by Lewis who, with astute anticipation, had raced urgently back to provide valuable extra cover. Then well into added time Ryan Wade broke forward to the edge of the penalty area and fired a promising shot that Idzi resisted, once more, in spectacular fashion.
So after this result, and with just one match of their League programme remaining, the Old Gold are condemned to finish in eleventh place and now face relegation to the Welsh League thereby ending their 22 year participation in the WPL (formerly the League of Wales).
But this desperately disappointing outcome has not, of course, arisen just because of the failure to win this game at Aberystwyth – it directly stems from the generally miserable performances over the first 20 weeks of the season during which Town, from 18 matches, gathered only a pitiful 6 points which left them firmly rooted at the foot of the League.
To have recovered from that dire positon and performed so creditably since then (particularly during the second-phase programme), sufficiently enough to keep alive their chances of WPL survival until the penultimate round of fixtures, is highly commendable - and it is testimony to the remarkable commitment and resilience of the playing squad and coaching staff.
Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Lee Surman; Jordan Knott; Dan Sheehan; Kieran Lewis; Ceri Morgan; Clayton Green (sub Dave Vincent 81); Luke Bowen; Mark Jones; Liam Thomas;
Unused subs: Craig Hanford; Aidan O’Kelly; Danny Thomas;
Cards: (Y) Ceri Morgan (2); Clayton Green (76); Jordan Knott (79); Luke Cummings (85);
Goal: Ceri Morgan (57);