Match Report – Cinderford Town v Carmarthen Town (3 August 2019)
Cinderford Town (0) Carmarthen Town (1)
Carmarthen concluded their pre-season programme with a visit to Cinderford Townwho operatein the Southern League Division One South (the fourth tier) of the English Non-League Football pyramid – and after a keenly contested match the Old Gold secured a narrow victory thanks to a smartly-taken goal from Luke Bowen.
The opening stages of this game were fairly uneventful with the play largely confined to unproductive midfield exchanges and neither defence was subjected to any noticeable pressure – yet with players on both sides enthusiastically showing a refreshing commitment to this contest, there was certainly a welcome competitive ‘edge’ to enliven these proceedings.
It was not until the 18thminute that the first scoring opportunity arose when Lewis Harling won a free-kick just outside the penalty area – however while Chris Jones neatly drove the ball around the defensive ‘wall’, he saw it fly narrowly past the far post.
Cinderford eventually went close to taking the lead on 28 minutes when Logan Bowkett struck a free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Ethan Moore connected with a close-range shot that ‘keeper Lee Idzi, with a smart reaction save, claimed at the foot of the post.
Yet moments later the Old Gold took the lead. Josh Bull sprinted forward along the left flank then from near the corner flag he fired an inviting cross into the goalmouth where Bowen arrived with perfect timing and cleverly diverted the ball beyond the reach of ‘keeper Andy Hannah and into the far corner of the net.
At last the game had become more open with both sides showing welcome attacking flair.
After 38 minutes Lee Surman, from deep inside his own half, launched a huge clearance upfield which Bull eagerly chased to the corner of the penalty area before dispatching a rasping strike that flew across the face of the goal but went just outside the post.
Then on 41 minutes Bull, continuing his impressive pre-season form, produced a delightful back-heel that set Bowen racing free along the left-wing – the experienced striker, from the wide edge of the penalty area, then struck a fine shot that slid narrowly beyond the far post.
After the interval Carmarthen produced an early chance in the 53rdminute when Harling received the ball from Greg Walters’ quick throw-in then released a stunning 30 yard drive that substitute ‘keeper Jordan Dibble turned aside with a superb flying save.
On 64 minutes Jones won the ball off a defender then played it forward to Bull who from just inside the penalty area instantly fired a crisp shot that went marginally wide of the post.
Even though the hosts were enjoying their fair share of possession during that period they failed to create any notable scoring chances, often due to wayward passing/crossing or indecision at critical moments.
But in the 77thminute they eventually broke through the visitors’ defence – Moore chased after a fine through-ball into the penalty area only to be denied by Idzi who sprinted quickly out of his goal and bravely claimed the ball at the striker’s feet.
Then shortly afterwards Josh Hunt produced a spectacular long-range drive that drew an equally impressive full-length save from Idzi.
Yet the Old Gold again went close in the later stages of this match. On 82 minutes Declan Carroll raced forward to the edge of the penalty area before releasing a crisp strike that went just wide of the post. Then moments later Ceri Morgan enjoyed a smart interchange of passes with Carroll before he fired a close-range shot that Dibble superbly turned aside.
So Carmarthen’s pre-season campaign, while having begun with a disappointing display against Haverfordwest, soon progressed satisfactorily with particularly impressive performances against Swansea City U23s (in terms of the quality of the football they played against skilful, well-drilled opponents) and Llanelli (in terms of the clinical fashion in which they created and scored goals, albeit against weaker opposition).
Town’s next fixture is on Saturday 10thAugust at Richmond Park (k/o 2.30pm) when they entertain Cymru South side Cwmamman United in the Nathanial MG Cup (Round 2).
Lee Idzi; Greg Walters; Dave Vincent (sub Jordan Vickers 63); Lee Surman; Jordan Knott; Chris Jones; Ceri Morgan; Lewis Harling; Jay Woodford (sub Declan Carroll 73); Luke Bowen (sub Gwion Howell 75); Josh Bull;
Goal: Luke Bowen (27);
Match Report – Carmarthen Town v Swansea City U23s (20 July 2019)
Carmarthen Town (1) Swansea City U23s (1)
Carmarthen continued their pre-season programme with this attractive fixture against Swansea City’s Under 23 team and produced an impressive performance against the Championship club’s talented youngsters, having held the lead until just the closing seconds of the match.
And remarkably this was achieved with a relatively weakened squad since key experienced players Lee Idzi, Lewis Harling, Luke Bowen and Jordan Knott were all absent.
Yet during the opening stages of this match that outcome seemed highly unlikely since City proceeded to monopolise possession and dominate the play as they launched a series of spirited attacks that kept the Town defence under notable pressure.
Even so, it was not until the 7thminute that the first significant scoring opportunity arose when Kieran Evans played the ball forward along the right flank to Liam Cullen who instantly crossed it into the penalty area where an unnamed trialist struck a fierce 15 yard drive that Jordan Vickers blocked in front of goal before the ball was cleared safely away.
But gradually the Old Gold began competing more effectively in midfield and showing some welcome signs of attacking intent – and on 9 minutes, with their first scoring effort, they went close to taking the lead. Vickers made progress along the right-wing before sending a long pass through to Josh Bull near the corner of the penalty area – he slid the ball out to Chris Jones who hit a promising angled strike that ‘keeper Steven Benda palmed against the underside of the bar then recovered to claim the ball on the goal-line.
The visitors responded immediately – Evans, close to the by-line, played the ball back to Cullen who dispatched a rasping shot that Greg Walters, well placed near the post, guided to safety.
Shortly afterwards the industrious midfielder, once again very effectively deployed in a defensive role, was instrumental in Town’s next scoring effort on 17 minutes. He fired a long free-kick to the far side of the penalty area to reach Jay Woodford who neatly set the ball up for Liam Thomas only for the all-time top goal-scorer to see his crisp 15 yard drive blocked on the goal-line.
City, however, continued to enjoy the greater share of possession and territorial advantage but without, by this stage, managing to seriously breach the home defence or stretch Carmarthen’s stand-in ‘keeper Josh Gould (curiously, ‘loaned’ from Swansea U23s for the first 60 minutes of the match!) – whenever called on, his handling and positioning was exemplary.
Yet the Old Gold once more went close after 24 minutes when Jones, from the half-way line, produced a superb pass that set Thomas racing clear into the penalty area but he was denied when Benda came quickly out of his goal to smother the striker’s scoring effort.
However they were soon rewarded for their spirited recovery having withstood the visitors’ early domination. On 28 minutes Elliott Scotcher, in the centre-circle, threaded a delightful pass through to Bull who burst free into the penalty area and, as Benda advanced from his goal, the lively striker calmly and confidently drove the ball past the stranded keeper and into the empty net.
A further spell of City pressure was successfully resisted by the home defence, well marshalled by the experienced central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, before Town launched another promising attack in the closing moments of the first-half. In the 42ndminute they fashioned a stunning five-man passing move, initiated by Ceri Morgan in the centre-circle and finishing with Woodford firing a right-wing cross deep into the penalty area where from 12 yards Bull headed the ball over Benda’s outstretched arms but saw the ball clip the bar and bounce safely behind.
After the interval the pattern of play developed in much the same way as in the first-half with the visitors methodically building pressure and probing the Carmarthen defence but with no tangible success.
The first notable threat arose on 64 minutes when Ollie Cooper sent a fine pass into the penalty area for Simon Paulet to pursue only to be denied by Town’s substitute ‘keeper Thomas Windsor who was quickly off his goal-line to claim the ball.
Moments later Cooper, on the edge of the penalty area, rolled the ball back to Jacob Jones who struck a promising curling shot which Windsor carefully watched fly narrowly outside the far post.
Yet in the 73rdminute the Old Gold interrupted this early spell of City pressure when Scotcher, from just outside the penalty area, dispatched a stunning free-kick that cleared the defensive ‘wall’ but was turned against the post by substitute ‘keeper Josh Hutchings and bounced safely behind.
Shortly afterwards Vincent, with a smart pass, set Walters racing along the left-wing before sliding the ball across to Woodford who dispatched a fierce angled drive that Hutchings, with an impressive flying save, turned aside.
As the match went into the closing stages City pressed forward with even greater intent and were close to drawing level on 89 minutes when their trialist burst infield from the left-wing before hitting a crisp volley towards the goalmouth – Surman, in attempting to head the ball clear, managed only to divert on to the near post but thankfully it bounced safely away.
Yet cruelly the Old Gold were not so fortunate moments later – just 60 seconds from the final whistle they conceded an equaliser when Jacob Jones, on the left flank, fired the ball across the face of the goal and saw Cullen stab it home at the far post to the great dismay of the Town players and supporters. However, despite that disappointment, on the overall balance of play a draw was certainly a fair result after this entertaining encounter.
Josh Gould (sub Tom Windsor 60); Jordan Vickers; Dave Vincent; Lee Surman; Greg Walters; Chris Jones (sub Lewis Rocke 86); Ceri Morgan; Elliott Scotcher; Jay Woodford; Liam Thomas; Josh Bull (sub Gwion Howell 46):
Goal: Josh Bull (28);
Match Report – Briton Ferry v Carmarthen Town (17 July 2019)
Briton Ferry (3) Carmarthen Town (7)
Carmarthen travelled to Welsh League side Briton Ferry as they continued their pre-season programme with this thoroughly entertaining match which provided not only a feast of goals but also a continuous stream of fast attacking and counter-attacking and plenty of goalmouth action.
And while on the balance of play Town’s impressive haul of seven goals was entirely merited, indeed there could easily have been more, worryingly their defending was far from convincing. All too often defenders were guilty of indecision, poor marking (particularly at ‘set pieces’) and lack of pace at crucial times.
Town largely dominated the early stages with experienced midfielders Ceri Morgan, Lewis Harling and Chris Jones, well supported by newcomer Elliott Scotcher, enjoying a lot of possession and driving the play forward looking to exploit the pace and movement of strikers Liam Thomas and Josh Bull.
And it was no surprise that the Old Gold took the lead on 10 minutes – Jordan Knott, on the left flank, sent a long pass upfield where Bull cleverly capitalised on the hesitancy of two defenders and took possession then raced into the penalty area only to be brought down by a clumsy challenge from ‘keeper Conor McFenton. Thomas, unsurprisingly after his successes from 12 yards last season, comfortably converted the spot-kick.
Moments later Jones moved forward along the right-wing before firing the ball across the edge of the penalty area to find Scotcher who struck a rasping 15 yard drive that defeated McFenton but crashed against the foot of the post and bounced safely away.
Then, in the 17thminute, Town increased their lead with a lightning move that covered the entire length of the field. From a Briton Ferry free-kick ‘keeper Lee Idzi claimed the ball in his goalmouth and quickly threw it upfield to Thomas just inside the centre-circle – he sped beyond the half-way line then threaded an excellent pass through to Bull who took the ball into the penalty area, slipped smoothly around McFenton and fired it into the empty net.
Carmarthen, maintaining the fast tempo of their early play, continued to press the home defence and on 20 minutes Jones again, from wide on the right flank, delivered an inviting cross into the penalty area where Scotcher arrived with perfect timing to send a firm header beyond the reach of McFenton but, sadly, marginally wide of the post.
Yet that disappointment was soon remedied in the 27thminute when the experienced midfielder fired a corner-kick deep into the penalty area and saw Greg Walters instantly strike a rasping drive that flew into the far corner of the goal.
However the Welsh League side, who from the start had shown some keen counter-attacking play, were soon rewarded for their persistence albeit with a fair amount of assistance from a strangely static Town defence. On 29 minutes a corner-kick was directed into the crowded goalmouth – Mark Jones made a strong, purposeful run to meet the ball and from close-range headed it powerfully past Idzi and into the roof of the net while several defenders stood still, seemingly discussing who should have been marking the former Carmarthen striker.
Thankfully that set-back was soon remedied. In the 37thminute Bull, yet again demonstrating his remarkable speed and mobility, burst forward along the left flank and into the penalty area where with some stunning footwork he effortlessly went past two bewildered defenders before being brought down by a third – the resultant spot-kick was, as usual, summarily dispatched by Thomas.
Four first-half goals were clearly not enough for Town and they went close to snatching another on 44 minutes when Jordan Vickers made a strong run along the right-wing before crossing the ball into the penalty area where Thomas held off a defender then struck a fierce drive that McFenton, at full length, turned past the post. And moments later Morgan released an impressive long-range strike that the overworked ‘keeper resisted with another flying save.
After the interval, and several substitutions, Town took some time to settle – and the hosts capitalised on this with their first notable spell of pressure. On 50 minutes Idzi did well to turn a long-range shot over the bar in spectacular fashion. Soon afterwards Luke Jones broke clear from the half-way line and raced into the penalty area before side-stepping the on-rushing Idzi and then dispatching an angled drive that hit the post and bounced safely away.
Yet shortly afterwards Briton Ferry were deservedly rewarded for their efforts. Carmarthen defenders again failed to deal with a routine right-wing cross, allowing it to reach Mark Jones at the far side of the goalmouth and he capitalised fully by directing a firm header past Idzi.
Perhaps stung by that set-back the Old Gold began to counter-attack with more purpose and penetration and on 64 minutes they extended their lead. Knott fired a long searching pass along the left flank which Luke Bowen, outpacing defenders, eagerly pursued – he reached the edge of the penalty area then cleverly went round substitute ‘keeper Ryan Fleming before slotting the ball into the empty net.
After 70 minutes they went further ahead when Gwion Howell raced along the left touchline then drove the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Jay Woodford struck a smart drive that Fleming was powerless to resist.
Yet the hosts were still causing Town’s defence problems and they snatched another goal on 76 minutes – after a swift break along the left-wing a deep cross into the crowded goalmouth was, worryingly, allowed to reach Mark Jones who stabbed the ball home at the far post.
The Old Gold responded immediately – Woodford’s corner-kick was met by Lee Surman, amongst a pack of players, but his powerful close-range header rattled the bar and the ball bounced safely away.
But the final significant action in this ten-goal feast arose in the 81stminute when after good approach work by Thomas the ball reached Walters on the right flank – he sent a cross deep to the far post where Bowen stabbed the ball home from close-range.
Even at this early stage of the pre-season programme it seems likely that Jones, Scotcher and Bull will prove to be worthy additions to Town’s WPL squad. It seems that both of the new signings yet to appear are defenders and, given the defensive frailties that have appeared in the two matches, it has to be hoped that they too will be similarly valuable.
Lee Idzi; Jordan Vickers; Greg Walters (sub Lee Surman 46); Dave Vincent (sub Greg Walters 68); Jordan Knott; Chris Jones (sub Liam Thomas 68); Ceri Morgan (sub Gwion Howell 46); Lewis Harling; Elliott Scotcher (sub Ceri Morgan 68); Liam Thomas (sub Luke Bowen 46); Josh Bull (sub Jay Woodford 46);
Goals: Liam Thomas (10, 37 both pens); Josh Bull (17); Greg Walters (27); Luke Bowen (64, 81); Jay Woodford (70);
Match Report – Carmarthen Town v Haverfordwest County (13 July 2019)
Carmarthen Town (1) Haverfordwest County (3)
Carmarthen opened their pre-season programme with an attractive fixture against near neighbours Haverfordwest who currently operate in the Welsh League after a long period as local rivals in the Welsh Premier League.
Town’s squad comprised most of the regulars that appeared during the relatively successful WPL second-phase programme last season while there were first appearances for new signings Chris Jones (from Llanelli), Elliott Scotcher (from Haverfordwest) and Josh Bull (from Blaenavon) – in addition several players from the Club’s Academy took part. Notable absentees from last season’s regular match-day squad were Luke Bowen and Ceri Morgan (both unavailable) while Mael Davies and Luke Cummings have transferred to Cardiff Met and Barry Town respectively.
The opening stages of this game were fairly uninspiring and uneventful with the play largely confined to unproductive midfield exchanges and neither defence was subjected to any noticeable pressure – during this spell this “contest” resembled little more than an opportunity for some welcome passing practice after the players’ summer break.
However on 16 minutes County took the lead with their first serious scoring effort. From close to the right touchline Ben Fawcett sent an inviting free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Sean Pemberton found space amongst a fairly static Old Gold defence to plant his firm close-range header past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the back of the net.
It took some time before Town reacted positively to that set-back and it was not until the 29thminute that they managed a shot of any significance on target. Academy player Sam Phillips produced some smart footwork on the left flank before sending the ball across to Chris Jones who from 20 yards struck a fierce shot that, unfortunately, went too straight and gave ‘keeper Stephan Hall a comfortable save.
After a flurry of substitutions on 31 minutes the Old Gold at last began to look more competitive and almost immediately they went close to snatching an equaliser. Lewis Harling received the ball deep inside the visitors’ half then moved forward to the edge of the penalty area before releasing a stunning strike that slid just wide of the post.
They continued to probe the County defence but few scoring opportunities arose, too often due to a poor ‘final pass’. Yet after 45 minutes triallist Brad Flay produced a fine pass to set Harling racing towards the corner of the penalty area – the stylish midfielder finished the move with a rasping angled drive that, sadly, flew narrowly wide of the goal.
Yet despite Town’s welcome improvement they conceded another goal in the 48thminute. Haverfordwest defender Miles John burst forward into the penalty area only to be brought down by a poorly-judged tackle from Declan Carroll – Tyler Brock comfortably converted the spot-kick.
However the Old Gold were quick to reduce the deficit. New signing Elliott Scotcher, since coming on as a substitute, was performing impressively in midfield – always looking comfortable in possession and demonstrating very effective distribution. And, on 52 minutes, from the wide edge of the penalty area his searching free-kick to the far side of the crowded goalmouth was met by Harling who planted his firm header beyond the reach of substitute ‘keeper Kyle Stuart and into the roof of the net.
Town continued to press forward and went near to restoring parity after 63 minutes when Jordan Knott on the left flank lifted a high cross towards the far post where Liam Thomas, closely marked by a defender, hooked the ball just narrowly wide and into the side netting.
Yet with the Old Gold now attacking with greater intent, County began to present more of a threat on the counter-attack. On 66 minutes Pemberton broke clear to chase a long ball played forward into the penalty area only to be denied by Town’s substitute Academy ‘keeper Tom Windsor who rushed way out of his goal to clear the danger.
Soon afterwards Windsor was beaten by a fierce 20 yard drive from Alfie Stotter but thankfully Craig Hanford was well placed to block the ball on the goal-line.
However as Town continued to pour upfield in search of an equaliser the threat of conceding a breakaway goal remained – and, almost inevitably, in the 85thminute the Welsh League side were not to be denied. Marcus Griffiths made a strong run along the left-wing before cutting inside and passing Jordan Vickers all too easily before releasing a powerful drive that went beyond Windsor’s reach and into the roof of the net.
And in the closing moments of the match the Old Gold almost conceded another – Griffiths outpaced Hanford along the left flank to reach a long pass then sent a perfect cross to the edge of the penalty area where Fawcett released a promising shot that defeated Windsor but hit the underside of the bar and the ball bounced straight down and into the arms of the grateful young ‘keeper.
On the admittedly very limited evidence of this single match it would seem that in the forthcoming season either Town might again struggle in the WPL or County will enjoy a very successful WL programme since for long periods there was little to separate the two teams.
And while results in pre-season fixtures are of no real importance, performances certainly are – and with the start of the WPL season just five weeks away some evidence of progressive improvement during the forthcoming PSF matches would be very welcome.
Carmarthen’s next PSF is on Wednesday July 17th(k/o 7.30pm) when they visit Welsh League side Briton Ferry – then on the following Saturday July 20ththey have a very attractive fixture against Swansea Town (under 23s) at Richmond Park (k/o 2.30pm).
[Note: Curiously, the coaching staff in the two dug-outs for this match have all been respected long-serving Carmarthen Town players. Neil Smothers and Craig Hanford (replacing Danny Thomas for the day) have made a combined total of 289 WPL appearances but Wayne Jones and Tim Hicks (now both coaching Haverfordwest)“hold the bragging rights” with the greater combined number of 303 appearances!]
Lee Idzi (sub Tom Windsor 61); Jordan Vickers; Dave Vincent (sub Elliott Scotcher 31); Lee Surman (sub Craig Hanford 61); Jordan Knott (sub Greg Walters 76); Chris Jones (sub Lewis Harling 31); Greg Walters (sub Chris Jones 61); Declan Carroll (sub Liam Thomas 53); Brad Flay (sub Dave Vincent 61); Liam Thomas (sub Gwion Howell 31, sub Sam Phillips 85); Sam Phillips (sub Josh Bull 31):
Goal: Lewis Harling (52);