CARMARTHEN completed a very welcome and well-deserved festive double over old rivals Aberystwyth with a narrow victory that stemmed from a sensational opening goal from the most unlikely source – goalkeeper Lee Idzi.
So in the space of just two matches Town have doubled their previous points tally for the season and significantly reduced the gap up to the two teams directly above them, Prestatyn and Aberystwyth.
The match began in very difficult weather conditions with a fierce swirling wind blowing down the length of the pitch – and with these elements behind them from the start Aberystwyth, not surprisingly, were able to apply all the early pressure forcing the visitors to defend in depth.
And after just 2 minutes they managed their first scoring chance when Declan Walker moved forward from the half-way line before dispatching a 25 yard drive that Idzi, with a smart full-length save, turned around the post.
The Seasiders continued to swarm forward repeatedly and much of the play was conducted inside and just around the opposition penalty area. But the Old Gold were defending with commendable discipline and commitment ensuring that no serious goal threat emerged – and behind them Idzi, whenever necessary, displayed his customary assured and safe handling, while on several occasions he was simply content to carefully watch Aberystwyth’s scoring efforts fly, helpfully, over or wide of his goal. Indeed his greatest problem was finding distance with his goal-kicks and clearances, the ball barely reaching the half-way line before being blown back towards him by the wind.
Yet the home side too were struggling to adapt to the conditions, with passes and crosses being carried uncontrollably by the wind. It was spoiling the match all round.
Only rarely were Town able to make any notable impression on the Aberystwyth defence. But in the 30th minute, after a short spell of possession upfield, they managed their best chance when Luke Cummings fired a long cross into the penalty area towards Liam Thomas who was closing in on goal only for ‘keeper Chris Mullock to race well off his line and clear the danger.
After the interval the home side, now facing the continuing wind, initially produced a spell of incisive attacking activity and on 56 minutes they went close to opening the score – an Ashley Young corner-kick led to a scramble in the goalmouth that finished with Cummings making a crucial intervention to clear the ball off the goal-line and away to safety.
However gradually the Old Gold, by now reinforced as an attacking unit by the appearance of substitute Liam Griffiths, began to pose more of a threat going forward. And after 65 minutes a throw-in from Dan Sheehan reached the tall striker on the edge of the penalty area – he instantly struck a rasping shot that Mullock was well-placed to claim.
But then, in the 68th minute, Idzi produced his remarkable moment of glory. From just inside his own penalty area he launched a huge clearance which sailed high over all the outfield players and landed in the Aberystwyth penalty area where Mullock, badly misjudging the bounce of the ball, watched it fly over his outstretched arms and into the roof of the net.
Town’s experienced ‘keeper was immediately engulfed by his elated team-mates, while the sizeable crowd of Carmarthen supporters demonstrated both delight and astonishment over what they had witnessed.
[This was Lee Idzi’s first ever goal in his long and distinguished playing career.]
The Old Gold, spurred by that success, continued to press forward but without any further immediate scoring opportunities emerging – and gradually the Seasiders began to regain the initiative leading to a late spell of pressure that once again tested, but failed to penetrate, the resolute Town defence.
Then as the match moved into added time it seemed that Carmarthen had put the result beyond doubt when from a spirited counter-attack Kieran Lewis threaded a fine pass through to Griffiths on the edge of the penalty area and he coolly slotted the ball beyond Mullock’s reach and into the corner of the net.
But any belief amongst Town’s supporters that the result was now completely secure was soon dispelled when moments later Aberystwyth poured forward once more and from Ryan Wade’s right-wing cross into the packed goalmouth Matthew Jones stabbed the ball home from close-range. However that proved to be a mere consolation for the hosts as shortly afterwards the final whistle was heard.
These two victories over Aberystwyth, coupled with the passion and character displayed by all the players involved, have given supporters renewed hope for even better performances in the matches ahead along with a points return that will lift the Old Gold safely away from the relegation places that they have occupied since the start of the season.
Just two fixtures remain to be completed in the Welsh Premier League first-phase programme and both are at Richmond Park – next Saturday (6th January k/o 2.30pm) Cefn Druids are the visitors, while the following Saturday (13th January k/o 5.15pm) Cardiff Met provide the opposition).
Team: Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Dave Vincent; Jordan Knott; Dan Sheehan; Craig Hanford (sub Lee Surman 89); Liam Walsh; Kieran Lewis; Kostya Georgievsky; Kyle Bassett (sub Liam Griffiths 57); Liam Thomas;
Unused subs: Tyler Brock; Danny Thomas; Neil Smothers;
Cards: (Y) Dave Vincent (74);
Goals: Lee Idzi (68); Liam Griffiths (90+1);