CARMARTHEN produced a remarkable performance to take a richly-deserved point off a Bala side that finished worthy runners-up in last season’s Welsh Premier League and have, since then, strengthened their squad heavily during the summer. In fact, with a little bit of better luck in front of goal the Old Gold might easily have been rewarded with a memorable well-earned victory.
In the opening stages of the match the play switched quickly from end to end but with both defences looking sound under pressure neither side was able to create a scoring opportunity from open play. While Bala managed to force a series of corners, only once did they threaten Town’s goal when on 4 minutes Chris Venables directed a close-range header just over the bar.
Yet the visitors soon began to increase their hold on the midfield exchanges, forcing the Lakesiders further back on defence. In the 20th minute Lewis Harling received the ball near the right touchline and sent a searching cross into the goalmouth where Kieran Lewis, from 10 yards, struck a delicate volley that cleared ‘keeper Alex Lynch but finished on the roof of the net.
Moments later a long cross-field pass from Lee Surman reached Kyle Bassett and he burst forward down the right-wing, comfortably outpacing his marker, before firing the ball across the face of the goal and only just evading Mark Jones as he arrived at the far post.
After 33 minutes Jones cut inside from the left-wing then played the ball across to Harling who, from the edge of the penalty area, released a crisp drive that flew just wide of the post.
The Old Gold continued to hold the initiative – with their boundless energy and enthusiasm, totally committed tackling and dominance in aerial challenges, they never allowed the opposition to settle into any sort of rhythm. Demonstrating extreme fitness levels and an immense work ethic every outfield player contributed to Town’s performance. And behind them, ‘keeper Lee Idzi could be relied on to produce his customary display of assured and safe handling whenever necessary.
Then twice in the closing minutes of the first-half Carmarthen went close to taking the lead. First, Lewis finished a powerful run through the midfield with an excellent cross deep into the penalty area which a defender misjudged to allow Jones a difficult scoring opportunity – he was forced to stretch out to reach the ball but while he managed to stab it over Lynch, it flew narrowly too high.
And in added time another surging run down the right-wing by Bassett ended with a dangerous cross into the goalmouth where Liam Thomas struck a close-range volley just over the bar.
Directly after the interval the Old Gold again pressed forward and on 47 minutes Jordan Knott, from near the left touchline, sent a free-kick deep into the penalty area to find Surman who instantly played the ball back to Lewis but he saw his scorching 20 yard drive well held by Lynch.
In the 52nd minute Dan Sheehan raced forward down the right-wing before delivering an inviting cross into the goalmouth where Lewis cleverly took the ball past his marker only to fire it marginally too high. And Town’s industrious midfielder featured in yet another opportunity after 66 minutes – Harling sent a sublime through ball to Lewis who connected with a smart 20 yard strike that went narrowly over the bar.
Then soon afterwards Lewis (as if he needed to further demonstrate his pivotal role in Carmarthen’s game-strategy) struck a delightful 30 yard free-kick that cleared the defensive ‘wall’ and defeated Lynch’s despairing dive, only for the ball to drift just outside the post.
Gradually, however, Bala were becoming more of an attacking force with the play more evenly-balanced and on 74 minutes defender Start Jones strode forward then released a powerful long-range shot that flew a fraction too wide.
Yet while the Old Gold were by now defending heroically under pressure, they remained a threat on the counter-attack and almost immediately they went close again when Lewis threaded a fine pass through to Jones on the left-wing and he cut inside then dispatched a crisp angled drive that Lynch resisted, diving smartly down to gather the ball at the foot of the post.
And Town continued to withstand the Lakesiders’ best efforts to claim a late winning goal – in fact the visitors almost snatched victory in the 83rd minute when from Sheehan’s long free-kick into the crowded penalty area the ball eventually reached Lewis who lifted it back towards the goal where Jones, under pressure from defenders, headed it agonisingly just over the bar.
While the season is in only its earliest stages, in their four games Carmarthen have produced impressive performances against three of the stronger teams in the Welsh Premier League – if this form continues there is perhaps good reason for cautious optimism regarding Town’s prospects.
CARMARTHEN TEAM Lee Idzi, Dan Sheehan, Lee Surman, Dave Vincent, Jordan Knott, Kieran Lewis, Ceri Morgan, Lewis Harling, Kyle Bassett, Liam Thomas (sub Matthew Thomas 81), Mark Jones.
Unused subs Danny Thomas, Neil Smothers.
Cards (Y) Lewis Harling (30), Kieran Lewis 57, Lee Surman 59, Jordan Knott 63.
John Collyer | Naomi Jones.