WHILE Carmarthen suffered their fourth consecutive defeat since the opening day of the Welsh Premier League season, the small band of loyal supporters that made the long trip to North Wales at least on this occasion saw a much more spirited and competitive performance from their team - enough to suggest that better results will come, hopefully soon.
After a quiet opening spell during which neither side was able to make any meaningful progress the first notable scoring opportunity arose on 10 minutes when Kieran Lewis struck a crisp 20 yard free-kick that drew a smart full-length save from ‘keeper Connor Roberts.
City were quick to respond and in the 13th minute Laurence Wilson sent a long free-kick into the crowded goalmouth to reach Anthony Miley who from beyond the far post headed the ball back across the face of the goal only for Gary Taylor-Fletcher to fire wastefully well over the bar.
Yet already the Old Gold were beginning to show some promising attacking movement with the well-established midfield trio of Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Lewis Harling particularly influential in the search for an early goal. And after only 16 minutes they went close to securing that aim – Morgan threaded a fine pass forward to Liam Thomas near the edge of the penalty area and he, in turn, slid the ball on to Kyle Williams but from a very sharp angle the young winger drove his shot marginally outside the post and into the side netting.
Then in the 20th minute Jordan Knott, following a neat interchange of passes with Kostya Georgievsky near to the left touch-line, played the ball inside to Harling who slipped effortlessly past two defenders before dispatching a close-range drive which Roberts just managed to block on the goal-line.
However the home side went on to enjoy the better of the later stages of the first-half. After 27 minutes another long free-kick from Wilson sailed into the packed goalmouth and found Braydon Shaw who from 10 yards produced a looping header but saw ‘keeper Lee Idzi dive quickly down to claim the ball.
Shortly afterwards Luke Wall sent a left-wing cross into the penalty area and from amongst a crowd of players Taylor-Fletcher pounced on the loose ball only to strike it high over the bar. While Bangor continued to press forward for the remainder of this half, they were unable to breach the Old Gold’s formidable back-line behind which Idzi was again demonstrating his customary safe handling whenever necessary.
After the interval, following on from what had undoubtedly been Carmarthen’s most competitive 45 minutes of football this season, they once more fashioned an early scoring opportunity. In the 49th minute Harling embarked on a surging run down the left-wing before playing the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Lewis dispatched a fierce drive that flew narrowly wide of the post.
But City too went close to scoring when on 58 minutes Wilson’s left-wing cross into the crowded penalty area was met by Dean Rittenberg who saw his close-range header crash against the post – and while he was quick to reach the rebound, his instant follow-up shot was denied by Idzi with a remarkable reflex save.
From that point the hosts began to dominate possession and increase their attacking momentum – correspondingly, the Old Gold’s vital competitiveness in midfield was weakened after the loss of Morgan through injury, while both Harling and Lewis, who were shown yellow cards within 60 seconds of each other, necessarily had to continue more cautiously to avoid the risk of dismissal for any further transgression.
And, almost inevitably in those circumstances, Town’s spirited resistance was eventually broken when on 77 minutes Wilson struck a fierce 25 yard free-kick over the defensive ‘wall’, beyond Idzi’s reach and into the top corner of the net – virtually a replica of Newtown’s first goal in Carmarthen’s last match. Is it really that hard to defend free-kicks?
Immediately, tall striker Liam Griffiths came off the substitutes’ bench to strengthen the visitors’ attacking options in the closing minutes – and twice they managed decent scoring opportunities. In the 89th minute Dan Sheehan fired a free-kick into the packed goalmouth only for Dave Vincent to direct his firm header just narrowly wide of the post. Then deep into added time Harling launched a long cross towards the penalty area where Griffiths hooked the ball across to Thomas who saw his ambitious volley fly over the bar.
Yet there was still time for Bangor to exploit the Old Gold’s total commitment to attack with a swift breakaway out of defence that finished with George Harry releasing a stunning 30 yard drive that was resisted by Idzi with a similarly spectacular flying save.
[This narrow defeat interrupts Carmarthen’s quite impressive sequence of results at Bangor, having won three and drawn one of their four matches here in the past two seasons with top striker Liam Thomas scoring in every match and accounting for seven of their nine goals.]
Very soon Town will have concluded their gruelling series of away fixtures since the start of the WPL programme, necessitated by the ongoing completion of their new 3G pitch at Richmond Park. It has to be hoped that the return to familiar surroundings for the majority of their remaining League first-phase matches, coupled with the clear signs of improvement shown at Bangor, will herald a more successful series of results.
Meanwhile, Carmarthen’s next fixture is on Saturday 16th September (k/o 2.30pm) when they travel to Bala Town.
Team: Lee Idzi, Luke Cummings (Dan Sheehan 46), Dave Vincent, Lee Surman, Jordan Knott, Kieran Lewis (Liam Griffiths 78), Ceri Morgan (Craig Hanford 64), Lewis Harling, Kyle Williams, Liam Thomas, Kostya Georgievsky.
Unused subs: Liam Walsh, Danny Thomas.
Cards: (Y) Luke Cummings (27), Kieran Lewis (56), Lewis Harling (57).