LAST season in the equivalent Welsh Premier League first-phase match Carmarthen deservedly came away from the Cyncoed Stadium with three valuable points that effectively ensured their place in the League top-six, meaning certain safety from any prospect of relegation.
Now, ten months later, the form and fortunes of these two Clubs have moved dramatically in opposite directions. While Cardiff Met have occupied a top-three League place virtually all season, in stark contrast Town have languished in the relegation zone – and their respective performances in this match graphically demonstrated how this has arisen. At almost no stage did it look likely that the Old Gold would be able to claim even one point, especially once they had conceded the opening goal after which, for the most part, they were largely outplayed by the Met who often dominated possession for long spells.
In the early stages the game was fairly open and evenly-balanced as the play switched quickly from end to end but with both defences initially appearing sound and untroubled no notable scoring chances emerged.
Yet all that changed on 15 minutes when, following a Carmarthen corner-kick, the home side broke rapidly out of defence with Eliot Evans embarking on a determined run upfield before playing the ball out to Kyle McCarthy who sent a searching cross into the penalty area where Adam Roscrow, alarmingly having been allowed to run free towards the goalmouth, from 8 yards wastefully fired the ball over the bar.
But soon afterwards McCarthy was instrumental in Cardiff’s opening goal in the 17th minute when he again fired a dangerous cross into the goalmouth where Evans, Dave Vincent, Lee Surman and ‘keeper lee Idzi all challenged for possession only for the luckless Vincent to get the final touch as the ball slid into the net.
And that set the tone for much of the remainder of the match with the Met, often featuring McCarthy, bursting forward and slicing open the Old Gold defence with worrying ease.
Yet there were isolated occasions when the visitors broke out of defence to fashion a scoring opportunity at the other end of the field – and on 32 minutes they at last managed to test ‘keeper Will Fuller. Lee Idzi’s huge clearance reached Liam Thomas and he neatly slipped the ball across to Luke Cummings who continued his run into the penalty area then released a fierce angled drive only for Fuller, with a smart save, to turn it around the post.
But the Met were quick to respond – after 34 minutes McCarthy once more surged forward then dispatched another inviting cross into the penalty area where Evans, free of any hindrance from Town defenders, produced a crisp strike that Idzi resisted with an impressive reflex save.
However Carmarthen’s experienced ‘keeper was unable to stop Cardiff from increasing their lead in the 38th minute. McCarthy struck an immaculate 20 yard free-kick over the defensive ‘wall’ and into the top corner of the net leaving Idzi powerless to intervene.
After the interval there was little to choose between the sides initially with both defences coping well with some fairly lacklustre counter-attacking although half-time substitute Liam Griffiths certainly added a welcome measure of height, strength and aggression to Town’s striking options. And with just a two-goal deficit there was still a glimmer of hope that they might get back into the game.
But then five minutes of calamitous Old Gold defending, during which time they ‘gifted’ the opposition two goals, settled the outcome in the Met’s favour.
On 57 minutes Roscrow made a strong run along the left touchline before sending a fairly weak cross into the goalmouth where Dan Sheehan, having only been on the pitch for 10 minutes, completely missed his intended clearance allowing the ball to reach Evans who had no trouble in converting what had become a straightforward close-range scoring opportunity.
Yet worse was soon to follow. In the 61st minute as Town were pressing forward Craig Hanford, from just inside the opposition’s half, woefully under-hit an intended back-pass to Idzi which the lively Roscrow easily intercepted – he was then free to race towards the edge of the penalty area before clinically driving the ball past the isolated ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
To their credit Carmarthen responded spiritedly to that further setback – on 74 minutes, having forced the play deep into the home defence, Griffiths did well to rob Emlyn Lewis of possession on the by-line then hooked the ball back to Thomas who struck a crisp volley that Fuller blocked with a smart save before the ball was cleared to safety,
But, as in the earlier stages of the game, the Met were still a serious threat on the counter-attack and after 81 minutes they sealed a comprehensive victory with a fifth goal. With another rapid break out of defence Harry Owen sprinted clear from the half-way line and into the penalty area then hit a promising shot that Idzi resisted with an impressive reflex save – sadly, Evans was first to reach the loose ball and promptly fired it into the unguarded net.
With Aberystwyth now having hauled themselves out of the relegation places with two consecutive victories, the Old Gold are in danger of losing touch with the teams immediately ahead of them in the League table. Crucially their next two fixtures, both at Richmond Park, are against the two teams (Newtown and Prestatyn) currently placed above them – anything less than six points from those games will surely be seriously damaging to Town’s prospects.
The Newtown match is on Saturday November 11th (k/o 2.30pm).
Team: Lee Idzi Luke Cummings Dave Vincent Lee Surman Jordan Knott (Dan Sheehan 46) Craig Hanford Kyle Bassett (Kyle Williams 74) Ceri Morgan Kieran Lewis Kostya Georgievsky (sub Liam Griffiths 46) Liam Thomas.
Unused sub: Danny Thomas.
Cards: (Y) Liam Griffiths (56) Dave Vincent (85).