CARMARTHEN'S season slipped away to an all too familiar disappointing conclusion as they failed yet again, for the fourth time of contesting a play-off tie in the past five years, to emerge as winners. And worse still, to add to the despair of Town supporters, the Met’s winning goal was not scored until deep into additional time at the end of the match.
But the visitors had made a lively start to this encounter – within the opening 30 seconds Will Evans sent a fine pass through to Rhys Thomas who, with the Old Gold defence slow to react, found space just inside the penalty area yet thankfully produced a weak shot that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was able to gather comfortably.
However from thereon the match quickly developed into a fairly attritional contest, evenly-balanced and, for a spell, largely uneventful as both defences looked sound and composed when under any sort of pressure. But in the 17th minute Town, with their first notable effort on goal, went close to taking the lead when Declan Carroll launched a trademark long throw into the packed goalmouth where Lee Surman nodded the ball on to Liam Griffiths who rose high above defenders only to see his firm close-range header denied by ‘keeper Will Fuller’s smart reflex save.
A further barren period of play ensued with the sides regularly exchanging possession but managing very little in terms of goalmouth activity – then Cardiff, on 29 minutes, threatened when Matt Taylor slid the ball through to Eliot Evans who struck a crisp 20 yard drive which Idzi, with an impressive full-length save, turned around the post.
More keenly-contested but generally unproductive midfield activity ensued before a welcome burst of excitement arose in the 45th minute. Dan Sheehan lost possession on the touchline under a challenge by Adam Roscrow who, with a measured pass, sent Charlie Corsby surging clear to the edge of the penalty area – as Idzi raced out to challenge him, the Met striker slid the ball across the goalmouth where Eliot Evans was arriving with an empty net beckoning only to be robbed by midfielder Lewis Harling who finished a powerful run from the half-way line with a superbly-timed intervention to stab the ball away to safety.
After the interval the Old Gold put the visitors’ defence under some early pressure and on 48 minutes they went ahead. Another Carroll long throw into the crowded penalty area reached Harling and he instantly threaded the ball through to Griffiths who turned sharply past his marker and fired home for his first goal in the Old Gold colours.
Then moments later Town once more went close when Liam Thomas played a neat pass across to Harling who released a fierce 25 yard drive that drew a fine save from Fuller, diving smartly down to claim the ball at the foot of the post.
But the Met soon began to press forward with greater intensity in search of an equaliser. And after 60 minutes they achieved just that, albeit with significant help from an unlikely source. Carmarthen central defender Dwaine Bailey, well outside his own penalty area and under no real pressure, misjudged his header back to Idzi – Roscrow easily intercepted it and from 20 yards cleverly lobbed the ball over the stranded ‘keeper and into the unguarded net.
The Old Gold, stung by that setback, responded quickly and went close to restoring their lead on 64 minutes when Luke Cummings, from the left touchline, sent a long free-kick deep into the packed goalmouth where Dave Vincent, beyond the far post, saw his close-range header fly just over the bar.
By now the game had opened up with swift flowing, end-to-end football. Yet the visitors were enjoying a marginally greater share of possession and attacking with more pace and purpose as their strike-force of Roscrow, Corsby and Thomas posed continual problems for Town’s defenders. Even so, this familiar defensive unit, which consistently throughout the season has been the reliable foundation for Carmarthen’s better performances, remained disciplined and resilient and gave Idzi such excellent protection that his main involvement was in dealing with a number of crosses, corners and free-kicks, all safely accomplished with his usual high competence.
But as the match appeared to be moving inexorably towards a period of extra-time, the Met snatched a winning goal in the final seconds of three minutes of added time. Josh Barnett, from near the corner flag, drove a free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Corsby reacted quickest at the near post to steer a smart diving header into the net – a cruel blow for the Old Gold after such stern resistance.
So, Town’s season ends with disappointment – yet overall it must, realistically, be regarded as relatively successful. At the start of this campaign the primary aim, given the strength of the playing squads of so many other clubs, will have been to steer clear of the Welsh Premier League relegation zone – and that was accomplished quite early by securing a top-six finish by the end of the first-phase of the League programme. In addition to that achievement, during the season they managed memorable victories over TNS and Connah's Quay and took valuable points off the other two big-spending top clubs, Bala and Bangor. And this was all accomplished with one of the smallest squads in the WPL, one which was further seriously depleted by long-term injuries to several key players.
Team: Lee Idzi, Luke Cummings, Dave Vincent, Dwaine Bailey (Craig Hanford 70), Lee Surman, Dan Sheehan, Declan Carroll, Lewis Harling, Ceri Morgan, Liam Griffiths, Liam Thomas.
Unused subs: Matthew Thomas, Jordan Ellis, Danny Thomas, Iwan Roberts.
Cards: Dan Sheehan (67).
Goal: Liam Griffiths (48).