Carmarthen Town 0
CARMARTHEN’S outstanding start to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme, along with their six-match unbeaten run, were brought to an abrupt halt on Saturday, February 18, with this narrow defeat against a strong Bala side who lie in second place in the league and are themselves enjoying a sequence of just one defeat in 17 games.
The Old Gold were far from disgraced and the outcome of this match could have been so different if they had not made such an awful start, conceding a poor goal in the opening stages – after that shock they soon recovered and for the remaining 75-80 minutes the play was far more evenly balanced, with both sides enjoying spells of pressure.
From the outset the visitors swarmed forward, putting immediate and sustained pressure on the Town defence which looked uncharacteristically hesitant and disorganised.
After only two minutes Bala took the lead when David Thompson’s huge throw-in caused confusion in the crowded penalty area where Kieran Smith took advantage to fire the ball crisply past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the net.
The Lakesiders again went close on 4 minutes – Anthony Stephens’ corner was met by Stuart Jones who saw his firm header deflected just wide of the post. But from thereon Town gradually began to find their customary rhythm, spirit and discipline.
The defence, and in particular the formidable central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, increasingly showed greater composure and resilience, while in midfield key players Kieran Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Declan Carroll were using their energy and vision both to disrupt the visitors’ attacking momentum and create opportunities for lively strikers Liam Thomas and Liam Griffiths to exploit with their pace and movement.
Throughout the rest of the first-half the game was more open and evenly balanced with the play shifting briskly from end to end – but with both defences performing soundly there were very few clear scoring chances.
However on 25 minutes the hosts narrowly avoided conceding again when a low cross from Ryan Wade took a huge deflection off a defender that sent the ball dangerously high towards the goal, only for Idzi to produce a stunning reflex save, clawing the ball onto the top of the bar and safely behind.
The Old Gold’s first notable effort arose in the 31st minute when Carroll slid a fine pass through to Griffiths who raced forward to the edge of the penalty area and turned smartly past his marker before hitting a fierce drive that flew marginally wide of the post.
Then on 35 minutes Carroll’s corner-kick into a packed goalmouth reached Thomas who, from 8 yards, cleverly chipped the ball over several defenders but ‘keeper Ashley Morris stretched high to claim it just under the bar.
After the interval the same pattern of play quickly emerged but for a long period the game was fairly uneventful and rather scrappy.
Then midway through the second-half manager Mark Aizlewood made his intentions clear when, in a 10 minute spell, he brought on three attack-minded substitutes Luke Cummings, Kyle Bassett and Matthew Thomas to inject more pace and flair into Town’s search for an equaliser.
In the 79th minute that was almost achieved – Cummings launched a long throw into the penalty area to find Morgan who from 10 yards drilled the ball through a crowd of players only for Morris to react instinctively and kick it off the goal-line to safety.
With the Old Gold pressing forward so enthusiastically, Bala were now looking more of a threat on the counter-attack and on 85 minutes they went close to extending their fragile lead – Wade cut inside from the right flank and drove the ball across the face of the goal but saw Bassett, alert to the danger, race back into the goalmouth and make a timely clearance.
Then after 91 minutes Town’s flying winger demonstrated his searing pace at the other end of the pitch when he burst through the Bala defence and into the penalty area only for Morris to rescue his side once more by quickly coming out of his goal and diving down to block Bassett’s 15 yard angled drive.
But deep into added time the visitors again threatened when, with the Old Gold defence stretched, Wade raced clear to the edge of the penalty area and as Idzi, who had clearly been hampered by a leg injury for some time, struggled to come out to challenge him the striker fired towards the unguarded goal only for the ball to drift just wide of the far post.
While this result was disappointing, Town’s performance (after the initial disastrous lapse) was certainly not – and to have secured six points in their opening second-phase fixtures against unquestionably the three strongest teams in the WPL was both highly commendable and unexpected.
Carmarthen, currently occupying fifth place in the league, next have an important away fixture against sixth-placed Cardiff Met on Saturday, March 4, (k/o 2.30pm).
A repeat of their stunning victory there on New Year’s Eve would be both very welcome and a big step towards securing that League position at the end of the season.
Saunders stars as Llangennech beat Gowerton
LLANGENNECH remain unbeaten in League 1 West after they won 33-16 away at Gowerton on Saturday (Jan 15).
Liam Hutchings put the visitors ahead with the first try of the game and Tom Neale added the extras.
Gowerton then got themselves on the scoreboard with a penalty but Llangennech were soon back on the attack.
Jordan Saunders was next to go over and Neale again added the extras.
Gowerton reduced the arrears once more with another penalty and the visitors held a 14-6 lead when the half time whistle went.
Gowerton scored another penalty early in the second half to keep themselves in the game.
However, Llangennech kept applying the pressure and they soon had their third try with Saunders going over for his second and Neale adding his third conversion to make it 21-9.
Saunders then completed his hat trick to also earn his side a bonus point.
Gowerton responded with a converted try to bring the score back to 16-26 but it was the visitors who had the last word.
Greg George scored their fifth try of the game and Neale converted to complete the scoring.
Saunders was named man of the match for his try hat trick and the win sees them move on to 25 points, six points above second placed Newcastle Emlyn.
The sides are next in action on Saturday, January 29, when Llangennech host third placed Felinfoel while Gowerton travel to Aberystwyth.
Llanelli Town announce triple signing
LLANELLI TOWN has announced the signings of three new players as they continue to make preparations for the return of football in February.
Football across Wales has been suspended as a result of Welsh Government restrictions but new Reds manager Lee John has wasted little time in making additions to his squad.
Their first sining announced on Wednesday, January 12, was that of former Swansea City U23s defender Jake Thomas who joins from Cambrian & Clydach.
Manager Lee John said: “A 6’2 Centre Back that is very comfortable in possession and a strong defender. Jake picked up a wealth of experience playing for Swansea City FC and played very well against us a few weeks ago for Cambrian.
“Jake has a big future ahead of him and I’m delighted he’s chosen to sign for us.”
Another ex-Swansea player who has put pen to paper on a deal at Stebonheath Park is James Murphy.
Lee said: “James is a very talented forward with bags of potential, he’s also a local product from Llanelli who was very eager to sign and commit to his home town club.
“We want players who want to wear the shirt with pride, James was clear in his determination to commit to the club and help us achieve our future ambitions.”
Llanelli’s final signing of the day is central midfielder Ryan Bevan who joins from Trefelin.
“Ryan is also a former Swansea City product, a busy midfielder who can make a team tick, he possesses a range of passing qualities and is very comfortable in possession. Another ambitious player who wants to play at the highest level possible.
“Three excellent signings to strengthen the squad for the final 12 games of the season”, concluded John.
Scarlets v Dragons postponed
THE United Rugby Championship (URC) game between Scarlets and Dragons has been postponed.
It had been due to take place at Parc Y Scarlets on Saturday, January 8, but a number of covid-19 cases have been reported in the Dragons’ squad.
The URC Medical Advisory Group has liaised with the region and having considered all the facts have deemed that the fixture cannot go ahead as scheduled.
The United Rugby Championship will now consider available dates to reschedule the game.
Scarlets’ next game is scheduled for Sunday, January 16, when they travel to France Union Bourdeaux-Begles in the Heinken Champions Cup.
The Dragons’ next game is set to take place on Saturday, January 15, when they take on Bennetton in the European Champions Cup.
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