CARMARTHEN opened their Welsh Premier League programme with a disappointing defeat at Llandudno although two goals in the final few minutes rather exaggerated the difference between the sides.
But equally depressing for the loyal group of fans who had made the long trip to North Wales was the re-emergence of Town’s disciplinary problems with five players receiving cautions and culminating with manager Mark Aizlewood being sent off from the dug-out by the referee shortly before the end of the game.
In this first competitive match for both sides this season they each made a hesitant start – during the early stages the play was largely confined to midfield exchanges and while both enjoyed their fair share of possession, neither was able to make any significant forward progress nor, in particular, seriously trouble the opposing defence.
In fact, it was not until the 19th minute that Llandudno fashioned the first scoring opportunity when Toby Jones threaded a fine pass through to James Joyce, in clear space just inside the penalty area, but Town ‘keeper Lee Idzi, alert to the danger, raced out of his goal and bravely dived forward to claim the ball at the winger’s feet.
The Old Gold responded immediately, pouring upfield in support of Luke Cummings’ surging run from his own half which he finished with a fierce 25 yard strike that was denied by a smart save from ‘keeper Dave Roberts.
Then gradually, as the pace of the game began to quicken, the home side became more of a threat as they pressed forward with more intensity and purpose. After 29 minutes Jones pounced on a poor goal-kick by Idzi then took the ball to the edge of the penalty area before hitting a smart drive that Town’s experienced ‘keeper, atoning for his error, claimed with an impressive save.
However, again the visitors swiftly struck back – on 31 minutes Cummings, prominent and industrious in midfield, collected a weak clearance out of the Llandudno defence and instantly dispatched a stunning 25 yard volley only for Roberts to respond with a diving full-length save.
And in the closing minutes of the first-half Carmarthen’s goal survived another scare. In the 42nd minute Danny Shaw, from his own half, launched a huge free-kick that reached Sam Hart on the corner of the penalty area – he then headed the ball across the packed goalmouth yet saw it, remarkably, somehow evade forwards and defenders alike before going safely behind.
After the interval Llandudno began brightly and on 52 minutes they went close to taking the lead. A long clearance out of defence set Jones racing forward to the corner of the penalty area – from there he slid the ball through to Ryan Edwards who was unmarked just 8 yards from goal and seemingly certain to score only for Jordan Knott to intervene with a perfectly-judged tackle and clear the danger.
But the home side continued to hold the initiative and were repeatedly forcing the Old Gold back on defence, leaving the beleaguered visitors struggling to make any meaningful progress beyond the half-way line.
And eventually, in the 73rd minute, Llandudno secured the goal which their inventive play had justified – but this was not achieved without controversy. Marc Williams broke forward along the left-wing then fired the ball across the penalty area where Lee Surman, racing back to provide cover, was deemed by the referee to have handled the ball – despite the visitors’ strong protestations, naturally the decision stood. Sam Hart stepped up and drove the spot-kick past Idzi and into the back of the net.
Spurred by that success the hosts pressed forward with even greater intent and despite some determined, sometimes desperate, defending Town were unable to prevent them from increasing their lead on 88 minutes. From the centre-circle Shaw lifted a long pass over those defenders to find Shaun Cavanagh on the edge of the penalty area and he rifled a crisp shot beyond Idzi’s reach and into the corner of the goal.
However the Old Gold, to their credit, continued to search for a way back into the game even at this late stage and well into added time they managed their best chance of the match – Knott, from inside his own half, fired the ball towards the edge of the penalty area to find substitute Kyle Williams, still keenly pursuing any scoring opportunity, and he dispatched a fierce angled drive that Roberts just managed to beat away to safety.
Yet only moments later Llandudno scored again from another hotly-disputed penalty. At the conclusion of another attack Dave Vincent tangled with Cavanagh as they challenged for the ball just inside the penalty area. The referee, well-placed to observe the incident, clearly waved play on and ushered the fallen striker to get up. Yet he then went across to speak to his assistant on the touchline, the outcome being that another penalty was awarded which, as before, Hart drilled home.
Sadly Carmarthen are making a habit of losing their first away fixture of the season – they have now lost four in the last five seasons. The only exception being in 2014/15 when they drew at Connah's Quay where, by a curious coincidence, they play their next fixture on Saturday August 19th k/o 2.30pm – securing another point there, against last season’s WPL runners-up who have since strengthened their squad significantly, would have to be regarded as a decent achievement.
Team: Lee Idzi, Dan Sheehan, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Jordan Knott, Luke Cummings (Craig Hanford 72), Ceri Morgan, Lewis Harling, Kostya Georgievsky (Kyle Williams 76), Liam Griffiths (Tyler Brock 67), Liam Thomas.
Unused sub: Neil Smothers.
Cards: (Y) Lewis Harling (30), Lee Surman (36), Kostya Georgievsky (43), Ceri Morgan (61), Luke Cummings (70).