IGNORE the score-line – it simply fails to reflect the highly impressive performance that Carmarthen produced and unjustly flatters the multiple Welsh Premier League champions who only made their victory secure with two very late goals in added time.
And commendably, due to injuries and suspension, the Old Gold managed this with a seriously depleted squad of just eleven regular match-day players together with the two first-team coaches on the substitutes’ bench.
Refreshingly, Town showed positive intent right from the start and stunned the Saints with an early goal. Inside the first minute a sweeping move along the right-flank involving Kyle Williams and Kieran Lewis finished with Luke Cummings driving a dangerous cross towards the goalmouth, forcing a defender to concede a corner-kick.
From this, the ball reached Liam Thomas just inside the penalty area and he played it out wide to Cummings who produced another searching cross that Williams clinically converted with a close-range header – what a perfect time and place for him to score his first goal in the Old Gold colours.
TNS swiftly reacted and, in their typical fashion, began to monopolise possession and exert sustained pressure on the visitors’ defence. For a period Town’s rather makeshift defensive line-up capably resisted that pressure – but eventually, on 16 minutes, the hosts got back on level terms when Jamie Mullan raced forward along the right-wing before driving the ball into the penalty area where Greg Draper fired it crisply past ‘keeper Lee Idzi.
Yet Carmarthen responded immediately to that setback and produced a lively spell of counter-attacking but while this led to a series of promising crosses, sadly there was no rewarding end product as principal strikers Liam Thomas and Liam Griffiths were well contained by the home defenders.
And, cruelly, it was a defensive lapse at the other end of the pitch that led to the Saints grasping the lead in the 22nd minute – from a wide position Jon Routledge delivered a cross into the goalmouth which Town failed to clear properly, offering Wes Fletcher the chance from 10 yards to drive the ball into the back of the net.
Then shortly afterwards a fine pass from Simon Spender put Mullen racing clear deep into the penalty area but he saw his close-range strike resisted by Idzi who dropped quickly down to claim the ball.
However on 27 minutes TNS increased their lead when Fletcher fired a low, left-wing cross into the goalmouth where Ryan Leak applied the slightest of touches to send the ball beyond Idzi’s reach and into the back of the net.
The Old Gold’s reply was immediate and highly productive. A smart sequence of cross-field passes started by Williams on the left-wing led eventually to Cummings, on the right flank, driving the ball into the goalmouth to find Liam Walsh who, arriving with perfect timing, instantly swept it home from 6 yards leaving ‘keeper Paul Harrison well-beaten.
Spurred by that success Carmarthen, once again playing with commendable spirit and determination, continued to enjoy their fair share of the game as they searched enthusiastically for the goal that would restore parity in the score-line.
And they went close to achieving that aim in the 41st minute – another marvellous flowing move was instigated by Liam Thomas when from the half-way line he played a fine pass out to Kostya Georgievsky who slipped neatly past his marker then crossed the ball into the penalty area where Griffiths struck a fierce drive that drew an excellent reflex save from Harrison.
After the interval the match continued at a frantic pace with the play switching quickly from end to end – however initially no significant scoring opportunities emerged. But on 60 minutes the Old Gold looked to have created just such a chance when Georgievsky burst into the penalty area only to be pushed to the ground from behind by Leak – astonishingly the referee ignored Town’s appeals for a penalty and simply allowed play to continue, a decision that would heavily influence both the nature of the remaining game and the final result.
The visitors were forced to press forward at every opportunity leaving them inevitably more vulnerable in defence as TNS sought to exploit that situation with a series of probing counter-attacks – and these, as the match reached its closing stages, merged into more sustained pressure that the Old Gold, now seeking to attack almost recklessly with even key defender Lee Surman playing upfield, struggled to resist.
In the 90th minute Ryan Brobbell received a short pass inside the centre-circle and moved forward to the edge of the penalty area before dispatching a crisp shot that Idzi turned aside with a spectacular flying save. But moments later the Saints eventually managed to extend their lead when Routledge broke clear to reach a through pass from Brobbell then, moving into the penalty area, as Idzi advanced towards him he slid the ball across to Mullen who had the simple task of firing it into the empty net.
Then, even deeper into added time, they put a further unjustified gloss on the score-line when Mullen’s attempted cross into the goalmouth appeared to take a deflection off substitute Danny Thomas before the ball nestled in the back of the net.
Carmarthen are now rooted at the bottom of the League table, eleven points adrift of three teams (Prestatyn, Aberystwyth and Newtown) all on 15 points – and with just seven matches to play before the first-phase is completed, it seems most likely that Town’s position will not improve in that short period. The fact that six of those matches are at home is no comfort since their only points this season have been earned away from Richmond Park.
But six points from the forthcoming festive period home/away double fixtures with fellow strugglers Aberystwyth would be a significant boost ahead of the crucial second-phase programme which will determine the Old Gold’s WPL future. And more performances like this one at TNS over the rest of this season would certainly improve their survival prospects.
However Carmarthen take a break from League action next Saturday (December 2nd k/o 1.30pm) when they visit Welsh League Div2 side Ammanford for a Welsh Cup R3 tie.
Team: Lee Idzi, Luke Cummings, Craig Hanford, Lee Surman, Dan Sheehan, Kyle Williams, Kieran Lewis, Liam Walsh, Liam Griffiths, Liam Thomas, Kostya Georgievsky (Danny Thomas 69).
Unused sub: Neil Smothers.
Goals: Kyle Williams (2); Liam Walsh (29).