CARMARTHEN made the relatively short journey to Welsh League Division 2 side Ammanford knowing that progress in the Welsh Cup would provide a major boost to the Club at a time when Welsh Premier League performances, so far, have generally been so disappointing.
And after a keenly contested match, during which fortunes swung back and forth, Town achieved exactly that aim to the delight and relief of the numerous supporters in attendance who helped generate a truly “local derby” atmosphere.
After a brief opening period of fairly unproductive midfield exchanges between the teams, the game sprang into life on 7 minutes when Luke Cummings made a powerful run along the right flank before firing a cross-field pass to Liam Thomas who cut past a defender then struck a crisp 20 yard shot that ‘keeper James Kirkwood denied with a fine full-length save.
But in the 10th minute the Old Gold, having continued to keep the home defence under pressure, took the lead when Kieran Lewis, from 25 yards, dispatched a promising free-kick that helpfully took a deflection off a defender and finished in the corner of the net.
From then on the match quickly developed into a competitive end-to-end affair with Ammanford, who seemed to be adapting to the heavy, unpredictable surface much better than the visitors who this season have been far more accustomed to playing on 3G pitches, looking especially lively going forward from midfield. Carmarthen, however, were resisting that pressure quite comfortably with the central defensive pairing of Dave Vincent and Jordan Knott, in particular, performing with great awareness and composure.
Indeed, it was only in the 16th minute that the home side forced ‘keeper Lee Idzi into any anxious, meaningful action – Rhys Davies from wide on the right flank fired the ball high into the goalmouth but as it drifted towards the goal Idzi reacted swiftly, stretching high to turn it narrowly over the bar. The rest of his first-half was limited to dealing with a number of crosses and corner-kicks, which Town’s experienced custodian accomplished with his customary confidence and safe handling.
However the Old Gold were still creating more chances and on 33 minutes Lewis, with another smart free-kick, saw the ball crash against the bar then bounce safely away. And moments later he again sent a free-kick deep into the goalmouth where Vincent, rising above a pack of defenders, watched his close-range header fly just too high.
Yet in the 39th minute they stretched their lead when, almost predictably, Lewis delivered a free-kick from wide on the left flank that reached Liam Thomas deep inside the penalty area and he instantly struck a fierce drive that left Kirkwood well-beaten.
[With this goal, his 77th, Liam Thomas becomes the Old Gold’s top all-time goalscorer in all competitions surpassing the previous best, jointly achieved by Tim Hicks and Danny Thomas – Tim scored his final goal on 8th September 2012 in an otherwise best forgotten 7-1 defeat at Prestatyn, while Danny netted his 76th more recently on 29th September 2015 in a League Cup tie against Pontypridd, a match notable also for attracting possibly the lowest attendance (73) at Richmond Park for very many seasons.]
Curiously, only three weeks before Tim’s landmark goal Liam had scored his first goal for Town in his first competitive appearance on 18th August in a 2-0 home victory over Aberystwyth. Unless Danny enjoys a goalscoring resurgence this season, it seems unlikely that Liam’s record will be broken any time soon – of the current regular squad players, Kyle Bassett is the next highest scorer with just 13 goals!]
After the interval the Welsh League side immediately began playing with commendable spirit and determination as they launched a series of penetrating attacks which the Town defence struggled to contain. And within just five minutes of the re-start they were awarded a penalty following what seemed to be a tame infringement by Kyle Bassett – Matthew Fisher stepped forward and drove the spot-kick past Idzi and into the net.
Spurred by that early success Ammanford continued to take the initiative and as the pitch began cutting-up badly they seemed to relish those conditions, while the Old Gold laboured. And, remarkably, after another spell of enterprising attacking play the hosts got back on level terms – in the 61st minute a long cross-field pass reached Fisher and he quickly threaded the ball through to Gavin Jones who raced clear into the penalty area before confidently firing home.
Carmarthen, shaken by having now lost a comfortable two-goal lead within the space of ten minutes, began to strike back and put the home defence under pressure. And in the 72nd minute they regained the lead – Cummings, with a strong run and determined challenge, won possession off a defender near to the corner flag then fired a searching cross towards the goalmouth where Liam Thomas claimed the ball and swiftly struck a rasping drive that flew beyond Kirkwood’s reach and into the corner of the net.
Ammanford had no answer to that as the Old Gold proceeded to protect their lead with some solid defensive work and industrious midfield activity which starved the resolute Welsh League side of further scoring opportunities. In fact Carmarthen produced the only genuine late chance when, on 90 minutes, Bassett burst past three defenders to reach the penalty area then drove the ball into the goalmouth where substitute Tyler Brock hit a crisp close-range shot that was blocked by a defender right in front of the goal.
So, with Town’s continuing interest in the Welsh Cup secured by this hard-earned victory, they now return to the more pressing business of WPL survival next Saturday (December 9th (k/o 2.30pm) when they entertain Llandudno at Richmond Park.
Team: Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Dave Vincent; Jordan Knott; Dan Sheehan; Kyle Bassett; Kieran Lewis, Liam Walsh (Craig Hanford 90); Danny Thomas; Liam Griffiths (Tyler Brock 61); Liam Thomas.
Unused subs: Kostya Georgievsky; Neil Smothers.
Cards: (Y) Liam Griffiths (31); Kyle Bassett (61); Dave Vincent (68).
Goals: Kieran Lewis (10); Liam Thomas (39, 72).