CARMARTHEN continue to struggle in their opening matches of the season - having suffered a disappointing defeat at Llandudno last week, they remain pointless at the bottom of the Welsh Premier League table.
After this not too surprising loss at Connah's Quay who finished runners-up last season and, having considerably strengthened their squad during the summer, are widely expected to be challenging again for the title this time.
But if the Old Gold had not waited until the final 20 minutes to begin playing with some flair and cohesion undoubtedly they would have presented the home side with a far sterner test.
Yet Town began the match quite positively, forcing two corners in the opening minutes following an early burst down the right flank from Kyle Bassett, recently returned after a (remarkably) brief spell with Afan Lido.
However the Nomads were quick to respond with a brief spell of pressure that led to their first decent scoring chance on seven minutes – Ryan Wignall cut inside from the left-wing then from the corner of the penalty area he struck an angled drive beyond the reach of ‘keeper Lee Idzi but Town were rescued by Lee Surman who was well-placed on the goal-line to head the ball clear.
The Old Gold were still managing a few occasional breaks as the play initially swung rapidly from end-to-end but they were unable to test John Danby in the home goal – yet increasingly, as the pace of the game began to quicken, Connah's Quay began to monopolise possession and stretch the visitors’ defence with several piercing raids.
Initially Town successfully withstood that pressure – the now familiar central defensive pairing of Surman and Dave Vincent were looking assured and secure as usual, while versatile full-backs Dan Sheehan and Jordan Knott gave them valuable support on the flanks. And directly ahead of them, industrious midfielders Luke Cummings, Ceri Morgan and Lewis Harling eagerly provided a further beneficial layer of defensive support whenever necessary.
But eventually, in the 39th minute, the Nomads made the almost inevitable breakthrough – a long cross into the crowded penalty area was, for once, not adequately dealt with by the visitors’ defence allowing Callum Morris to slip through unchallenged and from close-range he stabbed the ball past Idzi and into the back of the net.
Stung by that setback the Old Gold soon swept upfield with Cummings, on 41 minutes, racing along the right flank before crossing the ball invitingly into the packed goalmouth where from 6 yards Liam Griffiths executed an acrobatic shot that Danby just managed to claw away from the goal-line.
After the interval a similar pattern to the game soon emerged with Connah's Quay largely dominating the play, most of which was conducted in Carmarthen’s half of the pitch – the visitors simply seemed unable to retain possession for long enough to allow them to make any meaningful progress upfield, less still to fashion any notable scoring chances.
On 52 minutes Matty Owen made a determined run down the left flank then sent an inviting cross into the goalmouth only to see Michael Wilde direct his close-range header just wide of the post. However, shortly afterwards the experienced striker was more successful. Mike Pearson made ground down the left flank then played the ball forward into the penalty area and, sadly, once again Town’s defenders failed to clear the danger – while Idzi instinctively managed to block Matthew Williams’ initial close-range shot, he was powerless to prevent Wilde from firing home the loose ball.
The Nomads continued to pour forward, keeping the Old Gold rooted deep inside their own half. After 68 minutes they went close to increasing their lead when Owen, close to the left touchline, delivered a free-kick into the packed goalmouth where George Horan planted his close-range header narrowly over the bar.
However in the 72nd minute Town began an unexpected resurgence and reduced the deficit with a goal that was started and finished by Lewis Harling. Receiving the ball inside the centre-circle, the influential midfielder swept effortlessly past Owen before threading a fine pass between two opponents to reach Liam Thomas – he took the ball forward then returned it with perfect timing to Harling who, having continued his run, dispatched a stunning 20 yard drive that flew into the net leaving Danby well beaten.
This heralded a welcome spell of pressure by Carmarthen as they went in search of a hitherto unlikely equaliser. And on 76 minutes they should have achieved exactly that aim. Sheehan lifted a long free-kick over the Nomads’ defensive line on the edge of the penalty area to find Vincent, in clear space having beaten the ‘offside trap’, but from just 8 yards, with only Danby to beat, he wastefully volleyed the ball over the bar.
Yet this commitment to attack enabled the hosts to respond with some swift breaks out of defence and on 83 minutes they went close to claiming a third goal. Kai Edwards made a surging run down the right flank to reach the corner of the penalty area then released a fierce angled strike which drew an impressive full-length save from Idzi to turn the ball beyond the far post.
The Old Gold continued to abandon caution in their pursuit of another goal, even resorting to pushing central defender Vincent forward to bolster the strike-force. But this made them more vulnerable to the hosts’ counter-attacks and in the 90th minute they conceded a third, decisive, goal. A long free-kick from Edwards reached Owen just inside the penalty area – after a slick exchange of passes he slid the ball towards the goalmouth where Williams fired it home from close-range.
With the match well into added time Harling attempted an audacious 35 yard drive that flew narrowly over the bar but this was too little, too late and Carmarthen finished deservedly beaten by a stronger, better side on the day.
They should, hopefully, stand a better chance of securing their first WPL point(s) of the season in their next match on Saturday 26th August (k/o 2.30pm) when they visit Newtown who currently lie just one place above them with one point from their two opening games.
Team: Lee Idzi, Dan Sheehan, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Jordan Knott, Luke Cummings (Kyle Williams 60), Ceri Morgan, Lewis Harling, Kyle Bassett (Kostya Georgievsky 71), Liam Griffiths (Tyler Brock 65), Liam Thomas.
Unused subs: Craig Hanford, Stephen Hall (GK).
Cards: (Y) Lee Surman (50).
Goal: Lewis Harling (72).