CARMARTHEN produced another remarkable display of determined, high-energy football against a stylish Llandudno side but slipped to a narrow defeat after having been forced to play 70 minutes with just ten men once Kyle Bassett had been red-carded for a moment of mindless indiscipline.

The Old Gold began the match in a positive fashion, putting pressure on the visitors’ defence with a series of quick raids.  And they created an early chance on 3 minutes when Lewis Harling raced forward down the right flank then cut into the penalty area, slipping neatly past two defenders, before releasing a crisp, angled drive that ‘keeper Dave Roberts blocked with a smart save.

During this spell Llandudno were limited to occasional counter-attacks but with the home defence looking comfortable no serious goal threat emerged.

Yet then in the 19th minute came the incident that would change the whole complexion of the game.  After a fairly unexceptional midfield challenge for the ball between the two players, Bassett inexcusably kicked out at defender James Joyce and, predictably, was immediately dismissed by the referee.  

The visitors were soon making good use of their numerical advantage, swarming forward at every opportunity and completely reversing the earlier momentum of the play.  Town were forced to defend in depth with, noticeably, midfielder Ceri Morgan virtually abandoning any attacking instincts and operating effectively as an extra defender while strikers Mark Jones and Liam Thomas were spending more time in their own penalty area than the opposition’s as they willingly tracked back to provide further defensive cover. 

Surprisingly however, the Old Gold managed the next notable scoring chance when, after 24 minutes, Kieran Lewis finished a rare counter-attack with a long right-wing cross to the edge of the penalty area where Thomas won the ball in an aerial challenge with Roberts then turned sharply before firing goal-wards only to see defender Danny Taylor recover quickly and clear the danger.

But, effectively, for the rest of this half Town were under pressure.  Yet they countered this with an impressive defensive performance founded on commitment and discipline.  A key feature of their resistance was the central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, both strong in the tackle and dominant in the air. Alongside them on the flanks Jordan Knott and Dan Sheehan coupled their exemplary rearguard contribution with an eager enthusiasm to surge forward and support counter-attacks when opportunities arose.  And behind them ‘keeper Lee Idzi once more looked untroubled and secure, demonstrating his customary assured and safe handling whenever tested.  

Ahead of that group, industrious midfielders Harling and Lewis provided another valuable protective shield, while through their extraordinary energy and vision they were generally the architects of the hosts’ limited attacking progress.

Surprisingly it was not until the 46th minute that Llandudno posed a genuine threat to the home goal – Joyce surged forward down the left wing then switched inside to the penalty area and from the by-line he delivered a dangerous cross into the goalmouth where Liam Dawson, from close-range and under no real pressure, wastefully headed the ball over the bar.

After the interval the visitors immediately again took the initiative and launched a wave of attacks that forced the Old Gold to defend in depth once more.  On 49 minutes Dawson’s corner-kick was met by Mike Williams who saw his close-range glancing header drift just wide of the far post.  Moments later another Dawson corner reached Marc Williams in the packed goalmouth but his header was safely claimed by Idzi.

Then in the 53rd minute a slick exchange of passes finished with John Owen bursting clear into the penalty area and he dispatched a promising 10 yard strike that was defied by Idzi’s marvellous reflex save.

Town only produced a brief response during this spell.  On 56 minutes Jones raced forward from the centre-circle then threaded the ball through to Thomas whose 20 yard effort was well held by Roberts.  Shortly afterwards Knott made a powerful run down the left flank before playing a neat pass across to Harling who from the edge of the penalty area struck a fierce angled drive narrowly wide of the far post.

However the visitors soon resumed their assault on the home goal but they were once more frustrated by an unyielding Carmarthen team which, given they had endured a match against Bala in similar energy-sapping conditions only four days ago, demonstrated outstanding commitment and fitness levels.

But just as it seemed the Old Gold might manage to claim a share of the points, Llandudno went closer than ever to snatching a goal – in the 78th minute substitute Lee Thomas sent a searching cross into the goalmouth where Marc Williams produced a close-range looping header which went over Idzi but hit the inside of the post and as the ball bounced along the goal-line Town’s experienced ‘keeper recovered quickly to smother it.

Yet within 60 seconds the visitors were successful.  Joyce, who had tormented the home defence several times before with his strong running, embarked on another dazzling run towards the penalty area then dispatched a long-range shot which, cruelly for the Old Gold, took a deflection off a defender to send the ball beyond Idzi’s reach and into the corner of the net.

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 (sub Declan Carroll 81).
Unused subs Dwaine Bailey, Danny Thomas, Neil Smothers, Rhodri Cole, Iwan Roberts.
Cards (R) Kyle Bassett 19, (Y) Lewis Harling (62), Liam Thomas (70), Ceri Morgan (89).

John Collyer

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