Carmarthen Town (1) Connah’s Quay Nomads (3) – Welsh Cup (R4)
After Carmarthen’s thrilling victory over Connah’s Quayin the Welsh Premier League fixture just two weeks ago this Welsh Cup tie proved to be an altogether different proposition as the visitors dominated the play for significant periods of the match and, eventually, finished worthy winners.
Yet in the opening stages the Old Gold performed with the flair and determination that they had displayed in the League match. While the game flowed swiftly from end-to-end, the first notable scoring effort was produced by the hosts after only 2 minutes – Luke Cummings struck a long free-kick to the far side of the penalty area where Greg Walters and Luke Bowen combined to provide Liam Thomas with a decent opportunity but from close-range, and under pressure from defenders, he planted his header narrowly over the bar.
In response to the visitors’ more measured forward progress, Town continued to produce a series of rapid counter-attacks and in the 8thminute this led to the opening goal of the match. Mael Davies, from inside his own half, raced forward along the right flank then crossed the ball deep into the penalty area – Thomas intercepted a defender’s poor headed back-pass but was promptly brought down by Jay Owen. The referee instantly awarded a penalty.
So for the second time in successive matches Nomads’ ‘keeper John Danby faced Thomas from 12 yards away – and for the second time he was comprehensively beaten as Town’s top goal-scorer, with his customary composure and accuracy, drilled the ball into the back of the net.
In response to that setback Connah’s Quay poured forward with even greater pace and purpose. And on15 minutes they went close to getting back on level terms when Michael Bakare, from near the left touchline, delivered a free-kick into the packed penalty area only for George Horan to send his close-range header just wide of the post.
Moments later they were gifted another opportunity when a poor defensive clearance went straight to Owen who immediately struck a fierce 20 yard drive that ‘keeper Lee Idzi, with an impressive flying save, turned around the post
This heralded a spell of more intense Nomads’ pressure and while the Old Gold defence initially coped well under the guidance of the vastly experienced Lee Surman, they were increasingly becoming more stretched.
The absence of accomplished defenders Dave Vincent and Jordan Knott through suspension and injury was a significant setback, while the similar unavailability of their regular replacements Lewis Baldwin and Craig Hanford meant that manager Neil Smothers was forced to play key midfielder Greg Walters in central defence – and although he performed admirably in such unfamiliar surroundings, the loss of his energy and vision in midfield was a noticeable consequence.
But eventually in the 33rdminute Connah’s Quay drew level, capitalising on some slack defending in the home penalty area – Nathan Woolfe fired a routine corner-kick into the crowded goalmouth where, worryingly, Michael Wilde was allowed the time and space to fire the ball from 6 yards into the back of the net.
And on 43 minutes they were close to taking the lead when Woolfe, from the left touchline, delivered an inviting cross into the penalty area only to see Wilde direct his close-range header narrowly over the bar.
After the interval the Nomads, greatly assisted by a dismal spell of Old Gold defending, made an explosive start and within the opening 4 minutes they had scored twice and effectively secured their place in the next round of the Welsh Cup.
Inside the first sixty seconds Danny Holmes fired a free-kick deep into Carmarthen’s penalty area and while defenders seemed slow to react to the potential danger, the ball was played back into the goalmouth where Andy Owens arrived with perfect timing to plant his close-range header past Idzi and into the back of the net.
And worse was soon to follow. In the 50thminute Bakare’s free-kick reached Owens inside the penalty area but he was well wide of the goal and moving away from it, seemingly posing no immediate threat – yet Surman, with a clumsy challenge, tripped him and the referee for the second time in the match awarded a penalty which Callum Morris converted despite Idzi’s impressive effort to turn the ball aside.
From that point onwards Connah’s Quay effectively controlled the rest of the game by largely monopolising possession and comfortably containing Town’s sporadic attempts to counter-attack – decent scoring opportunities were a rarity. On 72 minutes Cummings, from close to the half-way line, launched a huge free-kick into the visitors’ penalty area – while the ball was cleared, it fell nicely for Ceri Morgan but his 20 yard strike went too straight and was comfortably gathered by Danby.
Then right at the end, as the match drifted into added time, Cummings sent an inviting right-wing cross into the packed goalmouth where Nomads defender Danny Harrison, attempting to clear the danger under pressure from twin strikers Bowen and Thomas, headed the ball just narrowly over his own bar.
The Old Gold’s effort and commitment throughout this match cannot be faulted but that was simply not enough against a very strong Connah’s Quay side that demonstrated why they have spent all this season at or close to the top of the WPL.
So Carmarthen’s interest in the Welsh Cup has been extinguished for another year – but in the final analysis it might well prove to be the case that, of these two successive matches against the Nomads, the three League points secured two weeks ago are of significantly greater importance than any further progression in this Cup competition.
Town’s next fixture is at Richmond Park on Saturday February 2nd (k/o 2.30pm) when they entertain Cardiff Met for the start of their WPL second phase programme.
Lee Idzi; Luke Cummings; Greg Walters; Lee Surman; Aidan O’Kelly; Mael Davies; Ceri Morgan (sub Sean Hanbury 86); Jay Woodford (sub Lewis Harling 66); Dwayne Coultress (sub Jordan Vickers 81); Luke Bowen; Liam Thomas;
Unused Subs: Declan Carroll; Danny Thomas;
Goal: Liam Thomas (pen) (8);
Cards: (Y) Greg Walters (42).