CARMARTHEN'S faltering start to their Welsh Premier League season received a welcome lift with an impressive display of high-energy, determination and commitment which brought them a well-earned victory over a very competitive Airbus side.
From the outset the game quickly developed into a lively, open, end-to-end affair on an accommodating pitch that looked in perfect condition. Town suffered an early scare when after only 3 minutes Ryan Fraughan sent his corner-kick into the crowded penalty area where Jonny Spittle connected with a crisp 12 yard volley that sailed just over the bar.
The Old Gold then went close on 6 minutes – Mark Jones won the ball off a defender near the centre-circle and slid it forward to Lewis Harling who from 30 yards released a fierce drive that flew narrowly past the post.
But in the 13th minute, following a swift counter-attack, they took the lead. Jones was brought down by defender Paul Connelly as they tussled deep inside the penalty area attempting to reach Dan Sheehan’s dangerous right-wing cross – the referee immediately awarded a spot-kick which Jones confidently drilled past ‘keeper Ryan Neild and into the corner of the net.
However, sadly it was not long before Airbus snatched an equaliser. On 21 minutes Tom Mathews, from the right touchline, sent the ball deep into the goalmouth where a moment of misjudgement and indecision by Dwaine Bailey and Lee Surman allowed Tony Gray to stab it home past ‘keeper Lee Idzi from close-range.
At this point, undoubtedly, Carmarthen supporters will have feared a recurrence of the defensive instability which led to the disappointing defeat at Newtown last week but thankfully that did not materialise – the Old Gold’s towering central defenders, along with full-backs Sheehan and Jordan Knott, went on to produce a sound and confident performance which largely blunted and contained the visitors’ attacking threat.
While the play continued to switch rapidly from end to end for the remainder of the first-half, there were few notable scoring chances. In the 29th minute Kyle Bassett floated a free-kick invitingly into the packed penalty area where Surman rose high above his marker to direct a firm header only fractionally too high. Then on 41 minutes Bassett sent another corner deep beyond the far post to find Liam Thomas who, under pressure from defenders, headed just wide of the goal.
After the interval the earlier pattern of play resumed but for a long spell the match remained uneventful with neither side able to fashion any significant goal threat.
Yet eventually, on 66 minutes, Airbus went close when Connelly lifted a long cross into the goalmouth where Gray, racing in quickly, produced a smart, close-range diving header that Idzi resisted with a superb reflex save.
Town soon responded with a series of rapid counter-attacks often featuring Bassett who, with his strength and explosive running, persistently stretched the visitors’ defence. And in the 72nd minute he fired a corner-kick into the goalmouth and saw Jones connect with a fine glancing header that was cleared off the goal-line by a defender.
Moments later the roles were reversed – Jones executed a sublime cross-field pass that split the Airbus defence and Bassett darted forward to reach the ball just on the edge of the penalty area then neatly stabbed it beyond Neild’s reach and into the corner of the net.
From thereon the Old Gold comfortably protected their slender lead. Predictably, Airbus swarmed forward in search of a late equaliser but they were met with stubborn defiance from Town’s defence and Idzi was never again seriously tested.
CARMARTHEN TEAM Lee Idzi, Dan Sheehan, Lee Surman, Dwaine Bailey, Jordan Knott, Kieran Lewis, Ceri Morgan (Dave Vincent 75), Lewis Harling, Kyle Bassett, Liam Thomas (Declan Carroll 55), Mark Jones (Matthew Thomas 79).
Unused subs Iwan Roberts, Rhodri Cole.
Cards (Y) Dan Sheehan (82), Dwaine Bailey (90+2).
Goals Mark Jones, pen (13), Kyle Bassett (73).
John Collyer | S4C.