Match Report – Carmarthen Town v Llandudno (14 April 2018)

Carmarthen Town (3)  Llandudno (2)

 

Carmarthen, with only three Welsh Premier League fixtures remaining, went into this match knowing that they needed a victory to keep alive their prospects of finishing outside the relegation zone and, thereby, securing their League place for next season.  

And, after a pulsating contest against a very competitive Llandudno side during which both teams held the lead, Town, with a highly spirited and determined performance, deservedly achieved exactly that result.

Indeed, they made the best possible start with the fastest goal seen at Richmond Park for very many seasons.  Moments after the kick-off they won a free-kick which Luke Cummings fired invitingly into the goalmouth where Luke Bowen, reacting quicker than any defender, sent his close-range header past ‘keeper Patrik Rutter and into the roof of the net – just 45 seconds of the game had passed and remarkably no Llandudno player had yet touched the ball!

But the visitors responded immediately, pouring forward strongly in search of an equaliser – and in the 3rdminute they restored parity when a slick exchange of passes between Tom Dix and Marc Williams finished with Lee Thomas, from 10 yards, dispatching a crisp drive beyond the reach of ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the top corner of the net.

The game soon developed into an entertaining, fast-paced, end-to-end affair – yet while Llandudno enjoyed the greater share of possession, helped often by the hosts’ apparent willingness to give the ball away all too easily, it was Carmarthen who fashioned the better scoring opportunities with some lively counter-attacking usually prompted by the midfield inventiveness of Kieran Lewis, Clayton Green, Cummings and Aidan O’Kelly.

However the next notable chance, on 14 minutes, stemmed from a short pass by Mark Jones that found Liam Thomas close to the by-line and he sent a searching cross to the far side of the goalmouth where Bowen produced a smart looping header that Rutter, at full-stretch, just managed to turn over the bar.

Generally though, during the remainder of the first-half both defences continued to deal quite comfortably with the intermittent pressure they faced and neither goalkeeper was again seriously tested.  And it was not until the 39thminute that another distinct opportunity arose – Cummings, from the half-way line, delivered another trademark free-kick deep into the penalty area and while the ball was cleared, it fell nicely for Bowen who instantly released a fierce 20 yard strike that flew narrowly beyond the far post.

After the interval remarkably, as before, there was another explosive start to the proceedings – but this time, the other way round.  Within 2 minutes Llandudno had taken the lead when Wes Baynes directed a corner into the packed goalmouth and from the ensuing scramble Danny Shaw emerged to stab the ball over the line from close-range.

Stung by that setback the Old Gold straightaway swept upfield and 90 seconds later they were back on level terms.  A right-wing cross from Cummings reached Dan Sheehan on the far side of the penalty area – he lifted the ball back to the goalmouth leading to a weak clearance which was pounced on by O’Kelly who struck a stunning 25 yard volley that left Rutter floundering and the net bulging.

Carmarthen, clearly inspired by that success, began pressing forward with far more pace and purpose, and abandon, than at any earlier stage of the match.  But that left them vulnerable to occasional counter-attacks which the visitors’ lively striker Williams, in particular, was keen to exploit.

And on 61 minutes he went close to regaining the lead when he broke through completely clear from the half-way line – as Idzi advanced to the edge of the penalty area Williams sweetly curled the ball around him but, agonisingly, saw it strike the base of the post before the ‘keeper was able to recover and claim possession. 

Shortly afterwards a long cross-field pass out of the visitors’ defence reached Lee Thomas who raced free towards the edge of the penalty area then released a promising drive that Idzi, demonstrating impressive reactions and agility, resisted superbly leaving Jordan Knott to clear the ball safely away. 

During this spell Town’s constant probing had failed to make any serious impression on the visitors’ defence – but all that changed in the 68thminute.  Midfielder Ceri Morgan, who had only just been brought on as a substitute, made an immediate impact when from the centre-circle he threaded an excellent pass through the opposition defence and set Bowen free inside the penalty area where he was brought down by the last defender James Joyce. Inevitably the referee awarded a penalty which top scorer Liam Thomas converted with his customary composure and accuracy for his 15thgoal of the season.

With the Old Gold now ahead again and close to securing those vital three League points, they found themselves forced back on defence by a Llandudno side anxious once more to draw level, at least.  However Town’s formidable central defensive partnership of Lee Surman and Knott, ably supported by Sheehan and substitute Dave Vincent, performed with immense discipline and determination – while behind them experienced ‘keeper Idzi again produced a masterful display of safe handling in dealing with a series of crosses, corners and free-kicks.  Consequently the visitors never managed another serious scoring chance.

This has concluded Carmarthen’s home League programme and they now face a particularly crucial away trip to Aberystwyth next Friday 20thApril (k/o 8.00pm) before their season finishes with a visit to Barry Town United the following Friday 27thApril (k/o 7.30pm).  To secure 10thposition in the WPL (and safeguard their place in the League next season) the Old Gold must win both matches and hope that Aberystwyth lose their final fixture at home to Newtown.

Otherwise, Carmarthen’s survival might yet depend on off-the-field considerations relating to the Licensing regulations in respect of certain other clubs who have yet to be awarded their Licences for next season.    

   

Team:

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings (sub Craig Hanford 90+1);  Lee Surman; Jordan Knott;  Dan Sheehan;  Kieran Lewis; Clayton Green (sub Ceri Morgan 66); Aidan O’Kelly;  Luke Bowen (Dave Vincent 73);  Mark Jones;  Liam Thomas;    

Unused subs:  Lewis Thomas; Danny Thomas;  

Cards: (Y)   Luke Bowen (72);  

Goals:  Luke Bowen (1);  Aidan O’Kelly (49);  Liam Thomas (69 pen);  

Please follow the below link to view the match photos taken by Alan Fitzpatrick.

 

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1990153584636481.1073741848.1703398323312010&type=1&l=26c77036fd

Match Report – Prestatyn v Carmarthen Town (24 March 2018)

Prestatyn (0)  Carmarthen Town (1) 

There’s still hope!  Carmarthen enhanced their slender chances of Welsh Premier League survival with this narrow, but highly valuable, victory over fellow relegation candidates Prestatyn thanks to a clinically dispatched penalty from top goal-scorer Liam Thomas.

However there was little to excite the crowd during the opening stages as both sides, no doubt anxious to avoid conceding an early goal given their dire circumstances, played with caution – preferring possession rather than progress.

It was not until the 9th minute that the Old Gold managed the first notable scoring effort – Dan Sheehan, from the left touchline, fired a deep cross into the crowded penalty area and while the ball was cleared, it fell nicely for Jordan Knott who struck a fierce 30 yard drive that ‘keeper Carl Jones was well-placed to claim.

While the pace of the game improved, the ensuing end-to-end pattern of play resulted in very little in terms of goalmouth incident as both defences dealt with the intermittent pressure quite comfortably.  Yet on 20 minutes the Seasiders went close to taking the lead – Ross Stephens, from the half-way line, sent a free-kick deep into the penalty area to find Zebb Edwards but from a good position he put his smart angled shot into the side-netting.

Then another fairly uneventful spell of midfield attrition was thankfully interrupted after 30 minutes when Clayton Green sent a long ball upfield where Mark Jones won possession off defender Reece Fairhurst and from the edge of the penalty area he hit a crisp strike that sadly failed to seriously test the home ‘keeper.

But for the remainder of the first-half Town were looking more of a threat going forward as they sought to exploit the pace and movement of  experienced strikers Thomas, Jones and Luke Bowen.  Then on 39 minutes a Luke Cummings free-kick was cleared from the packed goalmouth but only as far as Kieran Lewis who from 20 yards instantly returned a rasping drive that Carl Jones resisted with a sharp reflex save.

However in the 43rd minute Prestatyn suffered a setback entirely of their own making when defender Zebb Edwards contrived to collect his second yellow card in the space of just a few minutes leading to his automatic dismissal.

And only moments later another well-flighted Cummings’ free-kick into the penalty area was met by Thomas, arriving with perfect timing, but he saw his promising close-range header turned aside by Carl Jones with a fine flying save.

After the interval the home side began brightly, launching a series of spirited attacks which tested, but failed to penetrate the Old Gold defence in which the central partnership of Knott and Lee Surman performed capably under pressure, while being well supported on the flanks by Cummings and Sheehan.  And behind them experienced ‘keeper Lee Idzi, making a welcome return to the side  after eight weeks out of action with a serious hand injury, looked comfortable and assured – as always.

The closest that Prestatyn went to scoring during that spell was on 65 minutes when a quickly taken free-kick caught the Town defence unprepared and led to Noah Edwards sending a dangerous cross into the crowded penalty area where twice the ball was scrambled away from the goal before eventually being cleared to safety.

But Town, having endured that moment under serious pressure, instantly responded in the best possible way.  In the 67th minute Cummings sent a corner-kick to the far side of the goalmouth to reach Jones who was immediately tripped by Fairhurst – the referee inevitably awarded a penalty which Liam Thomas, calm and confident, easily converted.

The visitors seemed energised by that success and surged forward in search of another goal which, after 74 minutes, they were close to securing – Thomas broke clear and raced forward into the edge of the penalty area before releasing a stunning angled drive that defeated Carl Jones only for Fairhurst to make a timely intervention and clear the ball off the goal-line.

Yet straightaway the Seasiders once more threatened when Edwards made a surging run down the left-wing then crossed the ball dangerously into the goalmouth where Damian Ketley put his close-range shot just wide of the near post.

This spurred the Old Gold into even greater effort to consolidate their lead with a further goal and this they almost achieved on 76 minutes – Cummings, so often the inventive source of scoring opportunities, received the ball near to the by-line and crossed it deep to beyond the far post where Thomas produced a smart header that flew narrowly over the bar.

And Town continued their late spell of pressure when in the 82nd minute Jones, fresh from his goal-scoring appearance for the Wales C national side in midweek, dispatched a powerful 25 yard strike that drew an impressive full-length save from the home ‘keeper.

After that, Carmarthen played out the closing stages comfortably in control of the vital three points that have taken them further ahead of their vanquished opponents to consolidate their current 11th place in the League table.  And this may prove to be vital since in four of the previous seven seasons since the advent of the WPL 12 team set-up the 11th placed side has not, for differing reasons, been relegated.

And, in any event, it is still mathematically possible (although realistically unlikely) for the Old Gold to finish ahead of Aberystwyth and Llandudno, the two teams currently above them.   

All that Town can do now is strive to win as many of their four remaining fixtures as possible, starting with their match at Newtown next Saturday 31st March (k/o 2.30pm).    

Team:

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Jordan Knott;  Lee Surman;  Dan Sheehan;  Kieran Lewis;  Clayton Green;  Aidan O’Kelly;  Luke Bowen (sub Craig Hanford 78);  Mark Jones;  Liam Thomas; 

Unused subs:  Dave Vincent;  Lewis Thomas;  Ceri Morgan;  Danny Thomas; 

Goal:  Liam Thomas (68 pen); 

Match Report – Newtown v Carmarthen Town (31 March 2018)

Newtown (2)  Carmarthen Town (3) 

Carmarthen produced a highly disciplined and determined performance against Newtown to deservedly capture three vital points which, with results elsewhere working in their favour, provide a significant boost to their prospects of finishing the Welsh Premier League season outside the relegation places.

Yet it took some time for this game to spring to life – during a fairly quiet opening spell both sides were guilty of giving the ball away all too easily and no significant scoring chances emerged.  Certainly, neither goalkeeper was seriously tested.

But all that changed after 13 minutes when Newtown took an unexpected lead.  Alex Fletcher played a fine pass forward to Ethan Jones who, with worrying ease, slipped between two defenders on the edge of the penalty area before neatly slotting the ball around ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the back of the net.

Spurred by that success, the Robins began to enjoy a greater share of possession and went close to scoring again on 18 minutes – Craig Williams, from the right-wing, crossed the ball deep into the packed goalmouth where Luke Boundford sent his glancing header just wide of the post.

However that brief period of Newtown pressure was abruptly terminated in the 20th minute when Luke Bowen embarked on a dazzling burst along the right flank, powerfully shrugging off the attention of several defenders, before dispatching an immaculate cross to the edge of the penalty area where Liam Thomas arrived with perfect timing and sweetly drove the ball beyond the reach of ‘keeper David Jones and into the top corner of the net.

[This continues Liam’s rich vein of scoring form, being his ninth goal in his last nine matches and his 14th overall this season, thus already equalling his total for the whole of last season – indeed, demonstrating remarkable consistency, this is a total which he has achieved in three of his last four seasons with the Old Gold but he is unlikely to surpass his best total of 21 which he reached in his debut season 2012-13]

While the Robins continued to enjoy the greater share of possession, they were unable to make any significant use of it in the face of some resolute Town defending – the back-four, comprising the central partnership of Lee Surman and Jordan Knott flanked by Luke Cummings and Dan Sheehan, showed commendable strength and composure while, directly ahead of them, industrious midfielders Kieran Lewis, Clayton Green and early substitute Ceri Morgan eagerly provided a further valuable layer of defensive support whenever necessary. 

Additionally, further upfield strikers Thomas, Mark Jones and Bowen (until injury forced him off the field, worryingly for the second successive match) were always an available outlet, willingly using their pace and mobility to mount frequent counter-attacks that kept the home defenders fully occupied.

And from one of these raids, on 38 minutes, the Old Gold went ahead having won a corner-kick – from this Cummings produced a searching delivery into the crowded penalty area which Jones, reacting far quicker than any defender, met with a delightful glancing header  that sent the ball past the helpless ‘keeper and into the roof of the net.

Then after the interval Carmarthen made the perfect start by extending their lead through a startling breakaway goal within the first 90 seconds.  A clearance out of defence along the left touchline was keenly pursued beyond the half-way line by Jones who held off Williams before playing a sublime pass across to Lewis who had raced forward through the centre in support – he took the ball on towards the penalty area then, as David Jones came out of his goal to challenge him, he confidently fired a crisp drive into the back of the net.

While unsurprisingly the Robins urgently pressed forward in an effort to at least restore parity, once again they were unable to penetrate the visitors’ formidable, well-organised defence – and, as in the first-half, the Old Gold were managing to retaliate with a number of incisive counter-attacks from one of which, on 66 minutes, Mark Jones went close to further extending their lead. 

Sheehan finished a strong run along the left flank with an inviting cross deep into the goalmouth where Town’s lively striker turned sharply and struck an angled close-range shot just narrowly wide of the post.  Newtown responded moments later with Nick Rushton dispatching a 20 yard free-kick that Idzi was well-placed to claim. 

But generally Carmarthen were content to drop back, defend in depth and pack their own penalty area – and this proved to be a highly-effective strategy which ensured that Idzi’s primary involvement was confined to dealing with a series of crosses, corners and free-kicks all of which he successfully accomplished, usually under extreme pressure from a crowd of nearby players, with his customary assurance and safe handling.   

Indeed, the hosts managed very few further scoring opportunities late in the game.     

After 83 minutes Williams’ corner-kick was met by Tom Goodwin who saw his close-range looping header land on the roof of the net, while shortly afterwards he was again off-target when from a good position he contrived to fire the ball over the bar.

Yet at last, in the sixth minute of added time, Newtown broke the visitors’ stubborn resistance when a corner from Williams led to a mass scramble in the goalmouth that finished with Callum Roberts prodding the ball into the net.  But, thankfully, immediately after the restart the final whistle was blown to the immense relief of Carmarthen fans.

And while conceding that late goal was a disappointment, it certainly did not detract from Town’s highly-commendable performance to which every player, demonstrating extreme fitness levels and an immense work ethic, contributed.

The Old Gold, from being in a seemingly hopeless position in the League a couple of weeks ago, have now reduced the gap up to tenth-placed Aberystwyth to five points with just three more fixtures remaining.  The forthcoming match between these two old rivals on 20th April could well be pivotal to both clubs’ prospects of WPL survival – but in the meantime Carmarthen next entertain Llandudno at Richmond Park on Saturday 14th April (k/o 3.30pm).

Team:

Lee Idzi;  Luke Cummings;  Lee Surman;  Jordan Knott;  Dan Sheehan;  Kieran Lewis;  Clayton Green;  Aidan O’Kelly (Dave Vincent 77);  Luke Bowen (sub Ceri Morgan 31);  Mark Jones;  Liam Thomas (sub Craig Hanford 88);   

Unused subs:  Lewis Thomas;  Danny Thomas; 

Cards: (Y)  Aidan O’Kelly (24); 

Goals:  Liam Thomas (20);  Mark Jones (38);  Kieran Lewis (47); 

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