CARMARTHEN'S hopes of achieving a third League Cup final appearance in five seasons were shattered by a moment of brilliance from Barry’s Jordan Cotterill which gave the Welsh League side a narrow victory after the Old Gold had failed to capitalise on a host of decent scoring chances during a compelling first-half display.
The match began at a frantic pace on the accommodating 3G surface with the play switching quickly from end to end as both sides sought to make an early impression. But with neither defence looking particularly troubled under intermittent pressure there was no early goalmouth action.
Then on 7 minutes United fashioned the first chance when Drew Fahiya made a swift break down the right-wing before firing a low cross into the penalty area where the ball took a sharp deflection off a defender forcing ‘keeper Lee Idzi to dive smartly down and claw it to safety past the post.
Town reacted positively and began to take the initiative with a series of piercing raids driven by the energy and creativity of midfielders Keiran Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Lewis Harling who, due to injury, was starting a game for the first time since mid-September.
And in the 11th minute the visitors went close to opening the score following a poor goal-kick by Barry ‘keeper Mike Lewis – the ball barely reached the centre-circle and was eagerly claimed by Keiran Lewis who took it forward then delivered a searching cross into the penalty area where Liam Thomas directed a firm header only narrowly over the bar.
Moments later the lively Thomas surged upfield along the left-wing then cut inside to the corner of the penalty area before dispatching a fierce angled drive that Mike Lewis was well placed to claim.
While the play continued to ebb and flow, the Old Gold were more penetrative as they swept forward with pace and purpose – Barry in contrast were often more laboured and rarely able to unsettle the visitors’ experienced defence or test Idzi in any meaningful way.
On 23 minutes Lewis, having won possession just beyond the half-way line, moved forward and from 35 yards released a glorious dipping volley that went marginally too high.In immediate response the home side at last forced Idzi into action when Louis Gerrard struck a crisp long-range shot that the talented ‘keeper, diving low at full length, comfortably gathered.
After 31 minutes Lewis was again involved as he sent a dangerous free-kick deep into the penalty area where Mark Jones emerged from a crowd of players to plant a strong header just over the bar.And shortly afterwards Lewis fired a corner low into the goalmouth and saw Thomas produce a smart diving header that hit the inside of the far post and somehow rebounded safely away.
Luke Cooper offered a late reply for United, on 43 minutes, when he strode forward and rifled a long-range effort which Idzi carefully watched slide outside the post.
After the interval the Welsh League side began with more positive intent than earlier, forcing the visitors back on defence.In the 50th minute Cotterill embarked on a determined run from the centre-circle to the edge of the penalty area only to fire the ball wide of the target.
But on 61 minutes he won the game for Barry by striking a stunning 30 yard free-kick into the top corner of the net with such precision that Idzi had no chance of reaching it.
From then on, as the Old Gold pressed forward in search of an equaliser, the game became more open and flowing, and combative – however with the teams generally managing to cancel each other out in midfield neither was able to create any serious goal threat from open play, while both defences remained largely untroubled dealing with set-piece situations.
Though the failure to reach the League Cup final is undoubtedly a big disappointment, Carmarthen must now turn to the, perhaps, more important business of securing Welsh Premier League points in their quest to achieve a top-six position by the close of the first-phase programme.Their next opportunity is on Sunday (13th November k/o 4.30pm) when they entertain strugglers Cefn Druids at Richmond Park, while five days later they have the daunting task of facing runaway League leaders TNS on Friday (17th November k/o 7.30pm) again at Richmond Park.
Team: Lee Idzi, Dan Sheehan, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Craig Hanford, Keiran Lewis, Ceri Morgan, Lewis Harling (Matthew Thomas 62), Declan Carroll (Danny Thomas 79), Mark Jones, Liam Thomas (Rhodri Cole 87).
Unused Subs:Neil Smothers, Iwan Roberts.
Cards: Dave Vincent (68), Declan Carroll (77), Dan Sheehan (90).