Carmarthen Town (3) Connah’s Quay Nomads (2)
Carmarthen turned the “form book” upside down with this sensational victory over a strong Connah’s Quay side that went into this match at the top of the Welsh Premier League, having won five of their last six matches and scoring 22 goals in the process – after this result they drop to third place.
And the Old Gold achieved this success the hard way, having twice come back from being a goal down and then scoring the winning goal in the 4thminute of added time at the end of the match.
Yet in the opening stages of the match the Nomads looked like a team that had spent all season at or close to the League summit as they largely monopolised possession and continually probed the Town defence with a series of well-crafted attacks. However manager Neil Smothers had clearly planned for this eventuality by setting up a formidable five-man defence which, with frequent support from industrious midfielders Greg Walters and Ceri Morgan, initially dealt comfortably with that pressure.
Indeed it was not until the 7thminute that the visitors managed a scoring effort of any significance – following a corner-kick the ball reached Callum Morris who, from the edge of the penalty area, struck an angled drive that ‘keeper Lee Idzi carefully watched fly just wide of the near post.
Gradually the Old Gold began showing a little more adventure with some occasional counter-attacks but all too often striker Luke Bowen was an isolated figure upfield and unable to make any real impression on the visitors’ defence – certainly no notable scoring opportunities emerged.
Meanwhile Town’s defence was coming under increasing pressure as Connah’s Quay continued with a series of penetrating attacks. And, at last, in the 19thminute they took the lead when Michael Bakare, from wide on the right flank, fired a free-kick low into the packed goalmouth where Idzi and several defenders seemed slow to react to the danger and allowed the ball to slip into the goal at the near post.
Then on 23 minutes the Nomads went close to increasing their lead when Rob Hughes, on the left-wing, sent an inviting cross into the crowded penalty area only for George Horan to direct his close-range header narrowly over the bar.
But shortly afterwards Carmarthen at long last managed a meaningful attack when a slick series of passes along the left flank finished with Aidan O’Kelly sprinting dangerously into the opposition penalty area and while that move eventually broke down, it heralded a spell of more positive attacking play from the hosts.
After 35 minutes Luke Cummings, from near the right touchline, delivered a free-kick into the goalmouth and although the ball was cleared by a defender, it went straight to Walters who instantly dispatched a smart 20 yard volley that ‘keeper John Danby was well-placed to claim.
Then on 41 minutes Cummings himself went close to scoring a remarkable goal – from deep inside his own half he burst forward beyond the half-way line then, noticing that Danby was standing well out of his goal area, Town’s adventurous defender launched an audacious 40 yard shot that sailed over the ‘keeper as he anxiously raced back towards his goal only for the ball to land on the roof of the net.
After the interval Connah’s Quay once more took the early initiative and kept the home defence under pressure with a stream of rapid attacks – but on 54 minutes the Old Gold produced a delightful sweeping counter-attack that ended with an equalising goal. The ball was cleared from the Town penalty area and reached Morgan who threaded a sublime pass through to Walters – he sprinted forward from the half-way line to reach the edge of the penalty area before finishing in clinical fashion with a rasping drive that flew past Danby and into the back of the net.
Yet, sadly, that recovery was fairly short-lived. After 70 minutes Bakare, who throughout the match had been a constant threat with his strong running and smart footwork, raced powerfully along the left-wing then sent a searching cross into the into the goalmouth where Callum Morris stabbed the ball beyond Idzi’s reach and into the home goal.
But Carmarthen reacted positively to this crushing setback and once again counter-attacked with urgency and a refreshing freedom as they sought to get back on level terms. Initially there was an evenly-balanced period of fast end-to-end play – but gradually, and for the first time in the match, the Nomads defence came under noticeable pressure as Town intensified their efforts.
And in the 83rdminute they deservedly achieved their aim. Having won a free-kick just outside the penalty area, Cummings demonstrated impressive accuracy in firing the ball over the defensive ‘wall’ and into the corner of the net to leave Danby well beaten.
Connah’s Quay, stung by that setback, immediately swarmed upfield in search of the goal that would preserve their place at the top of the WPL. Now the Old Gold defence was again under considerable pressure and their prospects of resisting that outcome were seriously weakened on 87 minutes when central defender Lewis Baldwin was sent-off after having been shown two yellow cards in the space of just 2 minutes.
Shortly after that incident the 4thOfficial indicated that 5 minutes of added time would be played – the home crowd almost certainly regarded that as a further setback to Town’s prospects of safeguarding the precious point they had worked hard to secure.
Their players, however, evidently held a different view – they saw it more as an opportunity.
In the 4thminute of added time, having been forced to defend deep inside their penalty area, Lee Surman’s headed clearance was claimed by Liam Thomas who sprinted forward to the half-way line, passing two opponents in the process, then played the ball on to Dwayne Coultress – he raced further onwards before sliding a delightful pass across the face of the penalty area where Thomas, typically alert to the unfolding scoring opportunity, had continued his run to make a timely arrival. He then moved into the penalty area and was promptly brought down by defender George Horan.
Town’s all-time top goal-scorer, almost certainly the only calm and confident person at Richmond Park at that particular moment, stepped up and with his usual accuracy drove the spot-kick past Danby and into the back of the net to secure a stunning victory over the WPL leaders. Additionally, these vital three points take the Old Gold a little further away from the clubs currently occupying the relegation places.
This concludes the WPL first-phase programme. The second-phase fixtures commence on the first week-end of February but in the meantime Carmarthen’s next fixture is a Welsh Cup tie at Richmond Park on Saturday January 26th(k/o 2.30pm) against Connah’s Quay! Town have no match next week-end.
Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Lewis Baldwin; Dave Vincent (sub Jay Woodford 68); Lee Surman; Aidan O’Kelly (sub Craig Hanford 76); Greg Walters; Ceri Morgan; Jordan Vickers (sub Dwayne Coultress 74); Luke Bowen; Liam Thomas;
Unused Subs: Sean Hanbury; Danny Thomas;
Goals: Greg Walters (54); Luke Cummings (83); Liam Thomas (pen) (90+4);
Cards: (R) Lewis Baldwin (87);
(Y) Greg Walters (45+1); Dave Vincent (49); Ceri Morgan (72);
Liam Thomas (90+5); Lee Idzi (90+6)