CARMARTHEN, despite having to endure significant spells of pressure from Airbus throughout this match, produced a thoroughly workmanlike performance full of energy and commitment to secure a hard-earned draw – remarkably, this was the first time in 18 games over six seasons that these clubs have shared the points.
The opening period of this game was essentially uninspiring, uneventful and best forgotten. In fact it was not until the 18th minute that Airbus enlivened the proceedings when a long cross-field pass reached James Murphy who struck a 25 yard shot which took a deflection off Kieran Lewis that required ‘keeper Lee Idzi to adjust instinctively and turn the ball over the bar with an impressive flying save.
Moments later Tony Gray raced deep into the penalty area then from the by-line played the ball neatly back to Ryan Edwards who saw his close-range effort blocked in front of goal by Dave Vincent. And on 25 minutes smart footwork by Ashley Williams inside the penalty area gave him the space to release a promising angled strike that Idzi forced away with another fine reflex save.
Midway through the first-half Town’s squad, already depleted by the absence of several key players due to injuries and suspension, were further weakened by the departure of central defender Dwaine Bailey with an injury. Yet after 34 minutes they at last managed their first notable scoring opportunity when Lewis won possession just beyond the half-way line and moved forward before threading the ball across to Liam Thomas who from 25 yards dispatched a fierce shot that was beaten safely away by ‘keeper Ryan Neild.
Then, with the Old Gold continuing to show rather more adventure and promise than hitherto, they went close again on 40 minutes when the lively Thomas intercepted a poor back-pass close to the by-line and from a difficult angle fired a smart drive that flew past Neild but finished in the side netting.
However straightaway Airbus struck back with an incisive counter-attack which secured for them the goal they had been threatening for some time – Gray slid the ball through to Jamie Menagh who was clear inside the penalty area and he made no mistake by rifling it beyond Idzi’s reach and into the far corner of the net.
After the interval the hosts continued to put Town’s defence under pressure and perhaps should have increased their lead in the 54th minute when Menagh won the ball in a midfield challenge with Craig Hanford then raced away to the edge of the penalty area but, with Idzi advancing swiftly from his goal, he wastefully fired wide of the target. Next, following a corner, Gray’s close-range effort was cleared safely away from in front of goal by Jordan Knott.
Yet the Old Gold were still breaking forward with occasional encouraging counter-attacks and soon afterwards a break down the right-wing finished with Lewis sending an inviting pass across to Carroll just outside the penalty area but he saw his crisp drive fly narrowly wide of the post.
As the pace of the game continued to escalate, another rapid break on 66 minutes, started by Vincent playing a long ball upfield from inside his own penalty area, finished with a neat exchange of passes between Kyle Bassett and Thomas who set up a decent chance for Mark Jones but his 20 yard angled strike slid marginally wide of the far post.
The Wingmakers responded again with Menagh bursting forward from the half-way line beyond Town’s defence and into the penalty area – yet Idzi, once more, frustrated the striker who saw his rasping drive defeated by the experienced ‘keeper’s marvellous reflex save.
And the Old Gold fully capitalised on that escape by equalising within 60 seconds, albeit with significant help from their opponents. From the start Airbus had spent considerable time in defence casually passing the ball sideways, or else backwards to Neild, without achieving any apparent advantage other than simply retaining possession. Yet on this occasion Paul Connolly woefully misjudged his pass across the penalty area which Carroll, alert to the prospect, gratefully intercepted and instantly drilled the ball past Neild and into the back of the net.
The home side renewed their attacking momentum but, despite constant probing, were unable to make any telling impression on Town’s defence which, well marshalled by the influential and accomplished Vincent, remained stubbornly resilient – and behind them Idzi, yet again, demonstrated his customary assured and safe handling whenever necessary.
At the close of the week-end’s Welsh Premier League programme Carmarthen remain in 8th position but only two points behind 4th placed Bala who they entertain at Richmond Park in their next League fixture on Saturday (29th October k/o 2.30pm).
Team: Lee Idzi; Dan Sheehan; Dwaine Bailey (sub Craig Hanford 26); Dave Vincent; Jordan Knott; Kyle Bassett (sub Danny Thomas 68); Kieran Lewis;Ceri Morgan; Declan Carroll; Liam Thomas; Mark Jones.
Unused Subs: Neil Smothers; Iwan Roberts; Rhodri Cole.
Goal: Declan Carroll (70).