Match Report – Bala v Carmarthen Town (10 August 2018)
Bala (2) Carmarthen Town (1)
Carmarthen began the new Welsh Premier League season with a very tough encounter against Bala who only a few weeks ago were playing in the Europa League, having finished fourth in the WPL last season – and, in addition, over the summer they have strengthened their squad by signing several experienced players.
From the outset the match soon developed into a fast-paced, end-to-end affair although, with both defences looking quite secure, no serious early scoring chances arose.
Bala were clearly enjoying the greater share of possession and territorial advantage but the Old Gold were quick to launch a series of counter-attacks, exploiting the pace and mobility of strikers Luke Bowen and Liam Thomas.
And it was the visitors, on 12 minutes, who first went close when Aidan O’Kelly played the ball across to Thomas who sent an inviting cross towards the far side of the goalmouth where Jordan Vickers, from a difficult angle, volleyed into the side-netting.
However the hosts straightaway responded with a spell of sustained pressure and after 19 minutes Henry Jones fired a long free-kick into the crowded penalty area only to see Anthony Miley, from a good position, direct his close-range header over the bar.
But in open play Carmarthen’s defence, and in particular the central pairing of Lee Surman and Greg Walters, presented stern resistance and ensured that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was never seriously tested during this spell.
And once again, they were near to opening the scoring when on 25 minutes, from a swift counter-attack led by Luke Cummings, they won a free-kick by the right touchline – Tyrrell Webbe’s searching delivery reached Thomas, rising high above defenders, but from close-range he sent his glancing header just wide of the post.
The earlier pattern of play continued with Bala, despite their possession and attacking flair, looking unlikely to score – meanwhile Town, with a series of counter-attacks, were sadly not sufficiently clinical when opportunities arose.
It seemed that the game needed a moment of something special to break the deadlock and bring it to life – and in the 36thminute Henry Jones provided just that. He raced into the penalty area, slipped effortlessly past O’Kelly then from close to the by-line produced a remarkable piece of footwork to cross the ball to the far post where Steven Tames arrived, completely unmarked, to send his close-range header into the roof of the net.
The only other notable scoring chance in the first-half arose on 44 minutes when Jones struck a fierce long-range free-kick that Idzi carefully watched slide just outside the post.
After the interval Bala began confidently – but despite enjoying spells of possession, they achieved very little due to the continuing determined resistance of the Old Gold defence.
Town, meanwhile, once more relied on swift, incisive counter-attacking and they went close to snatching an equaliser in the 66thminute when Vickers broke away from the midfield before sending a fine pass through to Bowen who took the ball into the penalty area then struck a rasping angled drive that flew narrowly wide of the post.
Shortly afterwards, the visitors again threatened the Lakesiders’ goal. From the centre-circle Thomas began a delightful, sweeping move when he sent the ball across to Ceri Morgan who in turn slid it out to Webbe as he surged along the left-wing – he then fired a dangerous cross into the goalmouth where Bowen planted his close-range header just beyond the far post.
However that brief spell of Carmarthen pressure was abruptly terminated on 67 minutes when Tames won possession of the ball well outside the penalty area then raced forward and released a smart 20 yard shot that went beyond Idzi’s reach and into the corner of the net.
Stung by that further setback the Old Gold straightaway pressed forward with greater frequency and intensity with influential midfielder Morgan, at his competitive best, always at the heart of the action.
After 69 minutes Bowen surged forward, shrugging off his marker, to reach the penalty area then struck a stunning drive that ‘keeper Ashley Morris resisted with a sharp, reflex save.
Yet with the visitors now pouring upfield more often, their defence began to look more vulnerable – a situation that Bala sought to exploit with occasional counter-attacks. And on 80 minutes they should have gone further ahead. Kieran Smith took possession off Walters near to the by-line then slid the ball invitingly across the face of the goal where Tames, just two yards out and completely alone, contrived to stab it wide.
That seemed to spur the Old Gold into even greater efforts in their search for a goal – and in the 84thminute their persistence was rewarded. Bowen played a wonderful pass through to Thomas who raced forward into the penalty area – then as Morris came out of his goal to challenge him, Town’s top scorer neatly threaded the ball across to Sean Hanbury who had the simple task of tapping it into the back of the empty net.
Now, for the first time in the match, Bala were pinned back on defence in a desperate effort to protect their slender lead as Carmarthen swept forward relentlessly. And on 87 minutes they were close to conceding a second goal. Webbe raced along the left flank then sent the ball forward to Bowen who fired a dangerous cross deep into the packed goalmouth, eventually reaching Thomas who, sadly, saw his close-range effort cleared off the goal-line by a defender.
But that was the final thrilling moment of an entertaining match – and despite this defeat the Old Gold can be satisfied with their overall performance against a strong, experienced side that will surely be again challenging for honours this season, just as they have done over recent seasons.
Town’s next match is at Richmond Park on Saturday 18thAugust (k/o 2.30pm) when Llandudno make the long journey south for a WPL fixture.
Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Greg Walters; Lee Surman; Tyrrell Webbe; Jordan Vickers (sub Sean Hanbury 73); Declan Carroll; Ceri Morgan; Aidan O’Kelly; Luke Bowen; Liam Thomas;
Unused subs: Dave Vincent; Craig Hanford; Jay Woodford;
Cards: (Y) Greg Walters (7);
Goal: Sean Hanbury (84).