CARMARTHEN continued their impressive start to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme with another remarkably spirited and committed display in which they deservedly held the lead for most of the last hour only to be robbed of a precious victory deep into added time just seconds before the final whistle when Cardiff Met snatched a scrambled equaliser.
The opening stages of this game were fairly uninspiring and uneventful with the play largely confined to midfield exchanges and neither side looking able to penetrate the opposition defence. It was not until the 15th minute that Town managed the first notable scoring chance when Kyle Bassett sent a corner deep into the crowded goalmouth where Lee Surman rose high above surrounding defenders only to see his firm close-range header punched away off the goal-line by ‘keeper Will Fuller.
Increasingly the Old Gold were enjoying more possession and creating greater pressure with their attacking momentum – but clear-cut opportunities remained elusive as the well-drilled Met defence continued to perform soundly.
Yet on 32 minutes the visitors were rewarded for their enterprise and determination – from the half-way line Kieran Lewis dispatched a long free-kick into the penalty area to reach Liam Thomas who from a wide position hooked the ball high towards the goalmouth where Surman, this time, headed it past Fuller and into the roof of the net.
While the home side responded, continuing as before making decent progress upfield, they were again unable to make any impression on Town’s well-organised and resilient defence in which the now familiar central partnership of Surman and Dave Vincent, on this occasion supported by the towering Dwaine Bailey just ahead of them, were again in commanding form.
In fact, so complete was their influence that the Met failed to produce a single serious scoring effort during the entire first-half – ‘keeper Lee Idzi’s primary involvement was confined to handling, with his customary competence, a number of occasional crosses and corners.
Then in the closing minutes the Old Gold went close to increasing their lead when from another threatening break from midfield the ball was played forward to marauding full-back Dan Sheehan who from 30 yards unleashed a fierce drive that drew a smart save from Fuller.
After the interval Cardiff began positively and they soon got back on level terms when in the 49th minute Adam Roscrow, from the corner of the penalty area, drove the ball low into the goalmouth where it bounced around dangerously amongst a crowd of players before Chris Baker eventually fired it home from 10 yards.
Stung by that setback Town immediately pressed forward with Bassett and Thomas in particular using their explosive pace and mobility to stretch the home defence. And on 57 minutes they restored their lead – Lewis, from well inside his own half, launched a huge free-kick to the edge of the penalty area where Vincent leapt high to deftly head the ball onwards and saw Thomas react instinctively, pouncing on it and crisply hitting an angled drive beyond Fuller’s reach and into the far corner of the net for his tenth goal of the season.
In contrast to the first-half, this match was becoming a much more open and faster paced affair as the play swung quickly from end to end. Yet strangely, despite a fair amount of goalmouth activity, clear scoring chances remained a rarity as the defences continued to dominate the proceedings.
After 83 minutes substitute Declan Carroll finished a strong run down the right flank by sliding a fine pass through to Sheehan who instantly delivered a searching cross into the goalmouth where Thomas arrived with great anticipation and perfect timing only to see his looping header claimed by Fuller directly under the bar.
As the match went into added time with the Met, despite increasing pressure, still looking no nearer to scoring another goal, the referee punished Bailey with his second yellow card of the game and inevitably sent him off. This proved to be a pivotal moment.
The loss of such a key defender immediately upset the balance and effectiveness of Town’s hitherto well-organised defensive formation and, naturally, handed the home side a numerical advantage at this crucial stage of the match.
Moments after that incident Jordan Lam sent a free-kick into the packed goalmouth where Harry Owen failed to take advantage of his opponents’ disarray by planting his close-range header over the bar.
But in the 5th minute of added time Emlyn Lewis fully profited from the chaos of a goalmouth scramble by stabbing the ball home, shortly after which the referee ended the match leaving the Old Gold’s players and supporters hugely disappointed at having been denied success so late and in such circumstances. The only (modest) comfort is that Town still remain in fifth place in the WPL three points above Cardiff Met.
Carmarthen will be wishing for better fortune in their next fixture on Saturday 11th March (k/o 2.30pm) when they entertain Bangor City at Richmond Park.
>Team: Lee Idzi, Luke Cummings, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Dan Sheehan, Dwaine Bailey; Kyle Bassett (Matthew Thomas 69), Ceri Morgan, Kieran Lewis, Liam Griffiths (Declan Carroll 76), Liam Thomas (Craig Hanford 90+3).
Unused subs: Lewis Harling, Danny Thomas.
Cards: (R) Dwaine Bailey 90+1 (2 x Y – 65 and 90+1); (Y) Lee Surman (44).
Goals: Lee Surman (32), Liam Thomas (57).