CARMARTHEN produced a highly spirited display to emerge with three invaluable points from this battle of the two clubs that were beforehand occupying the basement places in the Welsh Premier League – and while lively striker Liam Thomas looked to be back to his best with two clinically taken goals, Town were greatly indebted to experienced goalkeeper Lee Idzi who defied Newtown with a series of outstanding saves.
In the early stages the game was fairly open as the play switched quickly from end to end but with both defences initially appearing sound and untroubled no notable scoring chances emerged.
Yet the Old Gold eventually broke the deadlock after 13 minutes when Declan Carroll won possession on the half-way line and raced forward before sending a sublime pass through to Liam Thomas who held off a defender as he took the ball into the penalty area and then calmly slid it beyond the reach of ’keeper David Jones and into the corner of the net.
Newtown were quick to respond with Craig Williams, on 15 minutes, dispatching a 30 yard free-kick which Idzi carefully watched sail just over the bar. Soon afterwards Luke Boundford released a long throw-in towards the packed goalmouth and the ball fell nicely for Alex Fletcher who saw his sharp goal-bound effort turned aside by Idzi with a spectacular flying save.
But in the 23rd minute the visitors got back on level terms – Joe Newton sent a right-wing cross deep into the penalty area to reach Boundford, unmarked at the far post, for a simple close-range conversion.
The earlier pattern of play continued with both sides enjoying spells of attacking momentum. On 33 minutes Carroll launched a huge throw-in that found Ceri Morgan just inside the penalty area and he struck a crisp angled drive that flew narrowly outside the post.
Then after 42 minutes a flowing move by Newtown finished with Mitchell delivering a searching cross into the goalmouth where Boundford headed the ball across the face of the goal but beyond the far post.
And at the other end, in added time, from a Kieran Lewis free-kick Mark Jones emerged from a crowded goalmouth to direct his header marginally wide of the post.
After the interval the visitors began a period of sustained pressure, winning a series of corner-kicks one of which, from Williams on 49 minutes, reached Kieran Mills-Evans who produced a sharp close-range header that Idzi denied with another marvellous full-length save.
But in the 60th minute the Old Gold abruptly terminated their opponents’ spell of dominance in the most decisive fashion – Lewis sent an inviting corner into the congested goalmouth where Dave Vincent rose highest to plant his close-range header firmly into the roof of the net.
Stung by that setback Newtown pressed forward once more and following another Williams corner, on 66 minutes, the ball was pounced on by Shane Sutton who struck a promising 10 yard shot through a crowd of players only for Idzi to block it expertly in front of goal with a remarkable reflex save.
Moments later Town’s star ‘keeper again came to their rescue – Boundford’s long throw into the penalty area found Tom Goodwin who struck an instant 15 yard volley that was deflected upwards off a defender requiring Idzi to react instinctively and palm the ball over the bar.
Yet the hosts were still managing to stretch the Newtown defence with frequent counter-attacks and in the 67th minute Lewis, from near the right touchline, sent a dangerous free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Dwaine Bailey headed the ball downwards but David Jones did well to dive across and claw it safely away from the foot of the post.
Increasingly the Old Gold took more control of the game and in the 80th minute they extended their lead, effectively settling the result. Morgan, with a delightful through ball, set Kyle Bassett surging upfield along the right-wing to reach the by-line – he then fired a low cross into the penalty area and after a neat exchange of passes between Lewis and Mark Jones the ball reached Thomas who spun sharply and from 15 yards confidently drove it beyond the ‘keeper’s reach and into the top corner of the net.
Bassett, with his lightning pace and strength on the ball, continued to stretch the visitors’ defence and on 90 minutes he burst forward on a 50 yard run from well inside his own half then played the ball nicely through to Jones who, from the edge of the penalty area, deftly slid it past the ‘keeper as he advanced from his goal but saw it drift narrowly outside the post.
Given the nature of the WPL at this stage of the season (half-way through the first phase programme), with so many clubs within just a few points reach of each other, this much needed result immediately lifted Town out of the relegation places and into mid-table. They have yet to win successive games but they need to do exactly that if they are to make their place in this League secure – a good time to start would be in their next fixture at Airbus UK on Saturday (22nd October k/o 2.30pm).
Team: Lee Idzi; Jordan Knott, Dwaine Bailey, Dave Vincent, Dan Sheehan, Kyle Bassett, Kieran Lewis (Danny Thomas 90+4), Ceri Morgan, Declan Carroll (Craig Hanford 81), Liam Thomas, Mark Jones.
Unused Subs: Neil Smothers. Luke James-Raymond, Rhodri Cole.
Cards: (Y) Kieran Lewis (1), Declan Carroll (31).
Goals: Liam Thomas (13, 80), Dave Vincent (60).