Haverfordwest County 1
Carmarthen Town 2
CARMARTHEN completed their pre-season programme with a narrow victory over old rivals Haverfordwest after a competitive and often feisty encounter, which presented a suitably stern test for the Old Gold ahead of their opening match of the Welsh Premier League season.
From the outset, Town took the initiative with a series of brisk raids that put the home defence under early pressure. However, it was not until the eighth minute that they fashioned a serious scoring opportunity when Kyle Bassett made ground down the right flank and played the ball across the edge of the penalty area, where Lewis Harling slipped neatly past his marker and struck a crisp drive that was denied by keeper Wyn Walters with a smart full-length save.
During this spell, County were limited to only occasional counter-attacks, none of which made any real impression on the visitors’ defence, in which the towering central pairing of Dwaine Bailey and Lee Surman were, throughout the match, a particularly commanding presence.
In fact, the hosts had to wait 22 minutes before they managed to get into the Carmarthen penalty area and create a scoring chance; a long cross-field pass from Luke Harris reached Kristian Speake near the far post but he directed his header wide of the goal.
The Old Gold continued to enjoy the greater share of possession and territorial advantage, yet, all too often, they spoilt promising approach play with an indecisive ‘final pass’.
However, they went close to taking the lead on 29 minutes when Bassett sent a well-flighted corner into the packed goalmouth to find Liam Thomas, whose deft glancing header from 10 yards flew past Walters but also, sadly, went narrowly wide of the post.
By now, Haverfordwest were looking much more of a threat on the counter-attack and after 31 minutes, rather against the run of play, they opened the score. Following Chris O’Sullivan’s corner, Ashley Bevan emerged from a crowd of players to send his close-range header beyond the reach of keeper Lee Idzi and into the back of the net.
Stung by that setback, Town again pressed forward, now with even greater urgency, driven by the midfield industry and invention of Harling, Ceri Morgan, Kieran Lewis and Declan Carroll.
Faced by a resilient County defence and with Walters demonstrating assured and safe handling under pressure, the visitors were unable to create any notable goal threat until the 47th minute when Lewis fired a diagonal free-kick deep into the penalty area where Matthew Thomas, from a sharp angle, struck a fierce volley fractionally wide of the post.
After the interval, the Old Gold renewed their assault on the home defence and on 50 minutes, they went close to equalising when Harling’s astute pass put Carroll in clear space and from 20 yards he dispatched a rasping drive that Walters was well placed to claim.
Just moments later, Town produced a sparkling 90 second spell which turned the game around. In the 53rd minute, Lewis played an excellent through balla to Matthew Thomas who quickly moved forward to the corner of the penalty area and released a stunning angled shot that flew past Walters and into the back of the net.
Shortly after the re-start, Carroll, clearly relishing this opportunity to compete against his former County teammates, showed keen anticipation to race into the penalty area and dart between two less alert defenders to reach a long cross from the right flank then plant his firm close-range header beyond the keeper’s reach.
While the visitors continued to hold the initiative, Haverfordwest remained a threat on the counter-attack and after 62 minutes, Tom Wellington sent a searching free-kick into the packed goalmouth only to see Bevan fire the ball just wide from close range.
On 65 minutes, Liam Thomas collected a long clearance from Dave Vincent then raced forward down the right flank before driving a dangerous cross into the goalmouth where Mark Jones, under pressure from a defender, stabbed the ball narrowly wide.
During the second-half, the Carmarthen defence was so relatively secure that Idzi was rarely tested. However, in the 68th minute, Rhys Dalling took advantage of some hesitancy in the back-line to break through to the edge of the penalty area and drill a low shot that drew an impressive reflex save from Town’s experienced keeper.
Then Carroll again went close after 72 minutes when, having won a free-kick some 25 yards from goal, he stepped up to power the ball just fractionally over the bar.
In the 83rd minute, a slick exchange of passes between Carroll and Jones on the edge of the penalty area opened up the County defence and allowed the lively midfielder to hit a smart close-range effort that was blocked on the line by substitute keeper Sam Franklin.
Errors prove costly for Raiders
West Wales Raiders 16
North Wales Crusaders 56
By Ian Golden at Stebonheath Park
NORTH Wales Crusaders’ play-off hopes took a boost on Saturday after taking advantage of West Wales Raiders’ many errors to earn to a large win.
The Wrexham-based side will go into their last two games full of confidence but know they’ll have a tougher outing at Newcastle Thunder in a fortnight.
Their first try came on 11 minutes when Ben Stead forced his way through, and the lead was soon doubled after Dave Eccleston dived through a gaping hole in Raiders’ back-line. Stead converted to put the score on 10-0.
West Wales were close to getting a try back midway through the first half after winning a repeat set near to the North Wales line. Ash Bateman was close following a good run from Archie Snook, but the ball was forced off him when diving for the line.
Crusaders made them pay. From the resulting scrum, a 90-metre set culminated in Warren Thompson scoring under the sticks and Stead converting.
Raiders hit back on the half-hour. Regaining the ball on halfway after Snook bravely collected a kick from close range, Phil Cowburn sneakily slipped the ball back to Mitch Shaw who dived under the sticks. Cowburn converted.
Crusaders struck back when Steven Roper couldn’t believe his luck and even hesitated when he saw a gap he could easily run through to score a try. He added the extras himself.
There was controversy with the next score. The referee initially awarded a scrum to Crusaders but after consultation, he gave Crusaders a penalty and Matthew Reid scored from that set.
And it went from bad to ridiculous on the half-time hooter after Sam Baker spilled the ball inside his own goal area allowing Alex Eckley to touch down easily. Roper missed both kicks but Crusaders were 30-6 up.
They added to their lead on 47 minutes in a try they had to work hard for. Raiders were defending well but Joe Ryan finally managed to break through before Lewis Fairhurst converted.
Raiders were unlucky not to a try back on the hour when Baker was pushed into touch when diving for the line. Crusaders went straight back up-field and after winning a penalty, Dante Monte-Samuels crashed over. Fairhurst’s kick just made it through the posts despite the wind taking it wide and Crusaders were 42-6 up.
There were five full Wales internationals in the game, two of them with Crusaders, but it took until the 68th minute before one got on the scoresheet. Rob Massam, the North Wales winger was sent over in the corner. Fairhurst missed the kick.
Then, after regaining the ball from kick-off, one of the West Wales trio scored and it was typically Steve Parry, diving low from dummy half. Cowburn sliced the kick wide.
In the set after that was a rare Crusaders error. Snook did well to beat his marker to score, much to the delight of his mother on the PA system! Cowburn converted.
But it was Crusaders who ended on a high as Massam crossed for two more in the left corner. Shaw did cross for Raiders in the last move of the game but it was chalked off for a forward pass.
Town too good for Dafen
DAFEN Seconds suffered defeat on Saturday (Aug 17) as they were beaten by Briton Ferry Town.
The game was reduced to 40-overs a side because of earlier rain and when Dafen won the toss they elected to field.
However, Briton Ferry racked up an impressive score of 225-4 in those 40 overs.
Amar Waseem and Neil Baggridge shared 146 runs for the first wicket as both reached their half centuries.
Waseem fell for a score of 68 and Baggridge for 63 as Dafen looked to hit back and keep the runs down.
Adeel Khan made a score of 22 while Aman Tasnem made 25 from 14 balls with a four and two sixes before he was run out.
Adrian Mainwaring then finished not out on 27 as Dafen were set 226 to win the game.
Dafen lost Oliver Evans early on to the bowling of Nabel Iqbal and he also claimed the wickets of Harvey Jones (12) and Jonathan Griffiths (14).
He then claimed a fourth with the wicket of Luke Dunning as Dafen’s reply faltered.
Rhys Marchant made a score of 14 before being bowled by Mumtaz Hussain and he also claimed a further three wickets.
Aadil Mukhtar hit three fours and a six in his score of 22 but he was then bowled by Adeel Khan.
Andrew Herbert finished unbeaten on 15 but it wasn’t enough as Dafen were bowled out for 133.
Llanelli close the gap
LLANELLI closed the gap to second placed Tata Steel on Saturday (Aug 17) as they beat them by eight wickets.
Llanelli elected to field on winning the toss and they were able to bowl Tata out for 117.
Chris Thomas trapped Kelvin Bartle leg before early on and Steven Devonald did the same to Rohan Herbert to leave the visitors on 13-2.
Morgan Jones and Martin Lewis then made a good partnership worth 57 runs.
That was brought to and end though as Lewis was caught by Rhidian Morgan off the bowling of Iwan Rees.
Jones had made a score of 38 but he was then bowled by Jac Rees as Tata slipped to 72-4.
That became 78-5 when Phillip Taylor was trapped leg before by Iwan Rees.
The same bowler then had Joseph Crocket caught by Morgan as wickets continued to fall.
The score soon read 94-7 as David Richards caught and bowled Sean Holley.
Nathan Ferrell made a late score of 10 but then saw himself caught by Morgan off the bowling of Richards who then also had Adam Jardine caught by Devonald.
Richards then claimed his fourth as he had Damien Williams stumped by Morgan to finish with figures of 4-13.
That left Llanelli needing 118 for victory and although they lost Ioan Phillips early on in their reply they were never really troubled.
Iwan Rees and Craig Howells shared 87 runs for the second wicket to all but give the home side victory.
Howells hit eight fours and a six as he scored 50 but he was then caught by Morgan Jones off the bowling of Damien Williams.
Rees and Ryan Nicholas then saw their side to victory with Nicholas finishing unbeaten on 19 with two fours and a six from his 14 balls faced.
Rees finished not out on 33 as Llanelli reached their target with plenty of time to spare.
The win moves them to within 14 points of second placed Tata Steel with two games remaining.
The first of those games takes place on Saturday (Aug 24) when Llanelli travel to Bronwydd. They then finish the season at home to third placed Maesteg Celtic.
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