Match Report – Merthyr Town v Carmarthen Town (16 July 2018)
Merthyr Town (1) Carmarthen Town (3)
Carmarthen’s third fixture of their pre-season programme, against Merthyr who operate in the Southern Premier League (the third tier of the English Non-League system), proved to be the most entertaining so far with the Old Gold overturning a one goal deficit and scoring three times inside fifteen astonishing second-half minutes.
The match, on an accommodating 3G surface, quickly developed into a swiftly-flowing, end-to-end affair but with both defences coping quite well under the intermittent pressure no serious goal threat emerged from the initial exchanges.
It was not until the 8thminute that the first chance arose when Merthyr’s Tom Meechan made good progress along the right flank before bursting into the penalty area and firing a sharp angled drive which ‘keeper Lee Idzi resisted, diving smartly down to claim the ball.
Scoring opportunities remained scarce – the earliest threat from the Old Gold arrived after 12 minutes when from their first corner of the match Tyrrell Webbe sent a curling delivery into the packed goalmouth which somehow evaded all players and flew just marginally beyond the far post.
While the home side had initially enjoyed a greater share of possession, from the mid-point of the first-half Carmarthen gradually began building pressure with industrious midfielders Ceri Morgan, Greg Walters and Luke Cummings noticeably influential at the heart of their attacking progress.
On 21 minutes Cummings, on the right-wing, played the ball inside to Walters who raced forward then from 25 yards struck a fierce shot that ‘keeper Kevin Webb spilled – while Luke Bowen was quick to reach the loose ball, from close-range he stabbed it narrowly wide of the goal.
Then in the 31stminute Cummings, again from the right-wing, fired a deep searching cross into the goalmouth where Bowen headed the ball back to Liam Thomas who turned neatly past his marker then hit a crisp, low shot that Webb, at full length, forced around the post.
Merthyr, having survived that spell of pressure struck back in the later stages of the first-half. On 36 minutes Lee Price, from wide on the right flank, drove a dangerous low cross into the goalmouth but Idzi, alert to the danger as several forwards closed in, dived bravely down to punch the ball clear.
And in the 45thminute the Old Gold’s experienced ‘keeper, who had a spell at Merthyr several years ago, denied his former club once again when Kerry Morgan released a stunning 30 yard strike only to see Idzi turn it around the post with a spectacular flying save.
After the interval the visitors began brightly and fashioned an early scoring chance on 50 minutes when Jordan Vickers lifted a long pass forward to Bowen who shrugged off a defender before dispatching a rasping 20 yard drive that substitute ‘keeper Ed Hewitson claimed on the goal-line.
Moments later Thomas embarked on a determined run infield from the left touchline then played the ball across to Vickers who saw his smart angled volley resisted by Hewitson with another full-length save.
By now, what had easily been Carmarthen’s most fiercely ‘competitive’ encounter of this pre-season had become increasingly confrontational – what might be regarded as useful experience for the season ahead for both teams. And Ceri Morgan, at the heart of the visitors’ midfield, was in his element!!
Yet in the face of some frequent bursts of attacking play by the hosts the Old Gold defence was, for the most part, performing with confidence and composure – but all that changed in the 59thminute. Some collective misjudgement and weak passing from several defenders in and around the penalty area allowed Ian Traylor to take possession and slide a 10 yard angled shot past Idzi and into the far side of the net.
However this galvanised Carmarthen into a remarkable resurgence that ended with a comfortable victory. On 68 minutes Webbe delivered another dangerous corner-kick into the packed goalmouth – the ball rebounded amongst several players before Bowen pounced to smash a close-range volley into the back of the net.
Then after 75 minutes Vickers, from wide on the left flank, slid the ball inside to Bowen who turned smartly past his marker then set up a fine chance for Morgan who from 12 yards released a powerful strike that flew beyond Hewitson’s reach and into the far corner of the goal.
And in the 83rdminute victory was assured. From deep inside his own half Morgan launched a superb long pass upfield to set Thomas racing forward along the right-wing – he then fired a searching cross into the goalmouth where Bowen arrived with perfect timing to convert a marvellous close-range header before Hewitson could react.
In the remaining time up to the final whistle Carmarthen comfortably protected their advantage.
This was decent performance against quite a strong side and, perhaps tellingly, it was achieved for the most part with just 12 players – a few absentees, due to injury, will hopefully soon return to strengthen the playing unit for the remaining pre-season fixtures by which time Town supporters will have a good idea of the likely WPL matchday squad and its potential.
Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Dave Vincent (sub Lee Surman 46); Jordan Knott; Tyrrell Webbe; Greg Walters (sub Ryan Foschi 88); Ceri Morgan; Aidan O’Kelly; Jordan Vickers; Luke Bowen; Liam Thomas;
Goals: Luke Bowen 68, 83; Ceri Morgan 75;
Match Report – Carmarthen Town v Pontypridd (14 July 2018)
Carmarthen Town (1) Pontypridd (2)
After the relatively comfortable victory which Carmarthen enjoyed in their opening pre-season friendly against Cwmbran, they faced a much sterner challenge from Welsh League Division One side Pontypridd who demonstrated the value, particularly in the second-half, of converting chances whenever they arise. And in the end the Old Gold were left to reflect on all the decent scoring opportunities they squandered, while the visitors will surely have applauded the outstanding performance of goalkeeper Dave Burnett.
Manager Neil Smothers was able to select from the majority of the squad that appeared at Cwmbran with, in addition, striker Luke Bowen who had made such a significant impact in last season’s WPL second-phase following his January transfer from Port Talbot.
The opening stages of the match were fairly quiet and uneventful with the play confined largely to midfield exchanges. Carmarthen eventually fashioned the first scoring opportunity on 5 minutes when Aidan O’Kelly threaded the ball through to Jordan Vickers but his optimistic 30 yard strike was comfortably gathered by Burnett.
The visitors responded after 8 minutes, forcing a corner that Danny Hooper delivered into the packed penalty area where Luke Gullick saw his smart close-range header fly just wide of the near post. Moments later Vickers, from the right flank, sent a dangerous cross into the goalmouth but with Tyrrell Webbe racing in for a simple tap-in opportunity Burnett just managed to punch the ball safely away.
The roles were then reversed in the 16thminute when Webbe finished a determined run along the left wing with a deep cross to the far side of the goalmouth only for Vickers, though well-placed, to blaze the ball high over the bar.
Although during the rest of this half the play generally remained quite evenly-balanced with the teams largely cancelling each other out in midfield, the Old Gold were enjoying slightly more possession and territorial advantage – and they were looking the more likely side to score.
On 36 minutes Luke Cummings orchestrated a fine attack down the right flank which finished with Ceri Morgan’s astute pass setting up a chance for O'Kelly but from 25 yards he fired the ball wastefully high.
Then in the 42nd minute Jordan Knott, from inside his own half, began a delightful sweeping move involving Cummings, Greg Walters and eventually Liam Thomas who struck a rasping 20 yard drive that Burnett, at full length, turned around the post. Webbe sent the resultant corner into the crowded goalmouth only for Morgan to direct his close-range header narrowly wide.
And in the final minute of the first-half Cummings made another typically storming run along the right-wing before firing a searching cross into the congested penalty area where Thomas, from 12 yards, leapt high above defenders only to direct a fine glancing header beyond Burnett’s reach but just over the bar.
After the interval, however, the pattern of the game changed with Pontypridd quickly getting into their stride and putting early pressure on the home defence with a series of penetrating attacks.
And they soon found success when on 55 minutes Aidan Lewis sent a corner deep into the packed goalmouth where Gullick rose above several defenders to plant his firm close-range header past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the back of the net.
Shortly afterwards the visitors’ lively striker went close again when he burst forward and struck a fine 20 yard drive that Idzi resisted with an impressive full-length save.
Yet their persistence was eventually rewarded in the 62ndminute when they again exploited Carmarthen’s apparent vulnerability defending corners with Lee Hartshaw finding space inside the crowded goalmouth and forcing the ball into the net.
Stung by that further setback the Old Gold, commendably, were quick to retaliate – moments later Thomas played a sublime through-ball to Bowen who from 20 yards hit a stunning shot that Burnett, with a fine save, turned around the post. Moments later Vickers sent a right-wing cross deep into the goalmouth where Bowen saw his promising close-range header forced aside by Burnett’s excellent reflex save.
The match had by now opened up and developed into an enthralling end-to-end affair.
On 74 minutes Webbe, after a quickly-taken corner, received a smart pass from O'Kelly and fired an angled drive that flew just marginally too high. And the hosts went on to force numerous corners none of which, sadly, were used to good effect.
But from another set-piece they did threaten the visitors’ goal – twice. O'Kelly struck a fierce 25 yard free-kick which was beaten out by Burnett but the ball went straight to Walters who immediately sent it back into the goalmouth where Thomas produced a smart header which the increasingly busy ‘keeper managed to turn around the post.
Moments later Thomas won possession in midfield and instantly played the ball out to Bowen on the right-wing – he burst forward then sent an inviting cross into the penalty area where Thomas had continued his run and, arriving with perfect timing, he dispatched a crisp drive that narrowly skimmed the bar.
Yet eventually, in the 89thminute Town were rewarded for their effort and persistence. After a strong run by Knott along the left-wing he slid the ball across to O'Kelly on the edge of the penalty area who instantly sent it over to Thomas on the far side of the goalmouth – he in turn headed it back to Bowen who clinically powered the ball past Burnett and into the corner of the net.
But this was too little, too late and the Old Gold slumped to a disappointing defeat. While results in pre-season fixtures are of no real importance, performances certainly are – and with the start of the WPL season just four weeks away some evidence of progressive improvement during in the forthcoming PSF matches would be very welcome.
Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings (sub Jordan Knott 70); Dave Vincent; Lee Surman; Jordan Knott (sub Luke Bowen 46); Greg Walters (sub Ben Jones 57); Ceri Morgan (sub Ryan Foschi 84); Aidan O’Kelly; Jordan Vickers (sub Greg Walters 79); Liam Thomas; Tyrrell Webbe (sub Craig Hanford 82);
Goal: Luke Bowen 89;
Match Report – Cwmbran v Carmarthen Town (9 July 2018)
Cwmbran (0) Carmarthen Town (4)
Carmarthen opened their pre-season programme against Cwmbran, a club that for many years performed with distinction in the League of Wales and the formative years of the Welsh Premier League (notably, among their former players are Carmarthen Town managers past and present!!). The club were eventually relegated from the top tier at the end of the 2006/7 season and they now operate in the Gwent County League Division One.
Town’s squad for this fixture comprised almost all the regulars that appeared during the relatively successful second-phase programme last season (only Luke Bowen was absent while Lewis Harling was unavailable due to the continuing injury problems that have plagued him for much of the past two seasons – and of course Kieran Lewis, Dan Sheehan, Clayton Green and Mark Jones have now left the Club.
In addition there were first appearances for new signings Declan Carroll, Greg Walters, Tyrrell Webbe and Jordan Vickers (Sean Hanbury and Lewis Baldwin were absent) – two triallists, Ben Jones (from Newport) and Jay Woodford (from AFC Llwdcoed), were given starts along with Ryan Foschi from Town’s development squad.
The opening stages of this game were fairly uninspiring and uneventful with the play largely confined to midfield exchanges and though the Old Gold were immediately looking the more positive side, they were initially unable to penetrate the opposition defence. During this spell this resembled little more than an opportunity for some welcome passing practice after the players’ summer break.
But gradually Carmarthen began showing more promise and adventure going forward and
on 13 minutes they fashioned the first notable chance of the match when, from one of a series of corners, Luke Cummings’ searching delivery was met by Liam Thomas who saw his smart glancing header slide narrowly wide of the far post.
Then after 20 minutes Tyrrell Webbe, who had already on several occasions demonstrated impressive pace and strength on the ball, produced a speculative long-range shot that ‘keeper Luca Bullock just managed, at full-stretch, to claim at the top corner of his goal.
Shortly afterwards, much less commendably, Bullock raced out of his penalty area and recklessly brought down Thomas who had broken clear through the home defence – on any occasion other than a pre-season friendly this would surely have merited a ‘red card’ but in the event the ‘keeper, after lengthy treatment for an injury sustained in that challenge, had to be substituted.
And perhaps justice was done when substitute ‘keeper Namir Queni’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of his net after Declan Carroll had converted the free-kick with an impressive fiercely-driven strike.
Up until this stage the Old Gold had looked sound and secure in dealing with Cwmbran’s occasional attacking bursts, ensuring that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was never seriously tested. In particular the familiar central pairing of Jordan Knott and Lee Surman were performing with confidence and composure, while on the flanks Ben Jones and Webbe coupled sound defensive work with a willingness to burst forward with good effect at every opportunity.
Yet directly after conceding that goal the hosts managed their first genuine scoring chance when on 30 minutes Kofi Rowe raced unmarked into the penalty area only to fire a weak shot from 15 yards that Idzi comfortably gathered.
Then in the closing stages of the first-half Town increased the tempo of their game still more, driven by the energy and vision of midfielders Ceri Morgan, Cummings, Carroll and Greg Walters. And in the 42ndminute they went close to extending their lead when Carroll fired the ball into the penalty area where Aidan O’Kelly turned smartly past two defenders before releasing a sharp drive that defeated Queni but slid narrowly outside the post.
After the intervalmanager Neil Smothers made multiple changes to the line-up yet the same pattern of play, with the Old Gold largely dominating proceedings, soon emerged.
And, almost inevitably, on 62 minutes they secured a well-deserved second goal – O'Kelly, from wide on the right flank, delivered a searching cross deep to the far post where Jay Woodford rose high above his marker and directed a firm header over Queni and into the top corner of the net.
More Town pressure led to further scoring opportunities. After 66 minutes Webbe embarked on another surging run to the edge of the penalty area before playing the ball neatly across to O'Kelly who dispatched a crisp 20 yard strike that flew just marginally too high.
Then on 75 minutes, following another raft of substitutions, Carroll again found the net when from 25 yards he produced a delightful curling shot that sailed into the top corner leaving Queni well beaten.
And, commendably, the Old Gold continued to press forward in the face of some fairly resolute Cwmbran defending until they managed a further late goal – in the 87thminute Jordan Vickers made a determined run along the left wing, outpacing defenders, then cleverly sent the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Thomas was arriving with perfect timing to hit a stunning drive that left Queni floundering and the net bulging - Town’s all-time record goalscorer is straight back to doing what he does best!
While this was hardly the sternest of challenges for the Old Gold, it served to ease the players back into the routine and discipline of match play while giving their faithful band of travelling supporters a taste of things to come in the season ahead.
Carmarthen’s next pre-season match is against Pontypridd Town at Richmond Park on Saturday 14thJuly (k/o 2.30pm).
Lee Idzi; Ben Jones (sub Craig Hanford 46); Jordan Knott (sub Lee Surman 68); Lee Surman (sub Dave Vincent 46); Tyrrell Webbe (sub Ryan Foschi 68); Luke Cummings (sub Ben Jones 73); Ceri Morgan (sub Declan Carroll 68); Greg Walters (sub Jay Woodford 46); Declan Carroll (sub Jordan Vickers 46); Liam Thomas; Aidan O’Kelly (sub Greg Walters 68);
Goals: Declan Carroll 29, 75; Jay Woodford 62; Liam Thomas 87;