Match Report – Carmarthen Town v Llandudno (14 April 2018)
Carmarthen Town (3) Llandudno (2)
by John Collyer
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.
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)