WHAT a difference a New Year makes – after Carmarthen’s deeply disappointing performance at Llanelli on Boxing Day, for this festive holiday reverse fixture (Jan 1) they thrilled their supporters by producing a brand of possession football laced with exhilarating fast attacking play that has rarely been seen in recent seasons.
The Old Gold took the initiative from the start with a series of rapid penetrating bursts from midfield that seriously tested the visitors’ defence. After 3 minutes a sequence of crisp passes across the field finished with Sean Hanbury firing a searching left-wing cross into the goalmouth where Greg Walters’ close-range shot was blocked in front of the goal before the ball was cleared safely away.
Then following a further spell of sustained pressure Town took the lead in the 8th minute with a well-executed set-piece finish – Hanbury delivered a fine corner-kick into the crowded penalty area and saw Luke Bowen, arriving with perfect timing to direct a delightful glancing header into the bottom corner of the net.
Carmarthen continued to dominate the play and remarkably it was only after the 19th minute that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was first called into any meaningful action when he comfortably claimed an over-hit cross.
However his opposite number, Llanelli’s Oliver Davies, was far busier as the Old Gold poured forward relentlessly. On 22 minutes industrious midfielder Ceri Morgan won the ball off a defender near the corner of the penalty area then slid it forward to Walters – he instantly played it across to Bowen who from 15 yards struck a fierce angled drive that Davies resisted with a superb reflex save.
Moments later Luke Cummings, from the corner of the penalty area, curled a dangerous free-kick towards the far corner of the goal only for Davies to claw the ball away just as Dave Vincent seemed likely to tap it into the net.
With the significant business of the match being largely conducted in the visitors’ half, it was not until the 35th minute that they managed to get a shot on target – a cross from Chris Jones into the penalty area was cleared but the ball fell nicely for Jamie Owen who wasted the opportunity by directing a weak 20 yard effort straight at Idzi which he comfortably saved.
Shortly afterwards they forced Idzi into further action. Jordan Follows sent a fine pass through to Michael George who raced free into the penalty area only for Town’s experienced ‘keeper to come quickly out of his goal and clear the danger.
The final notable action of the first-half arose at the other end of the pitch. On 44 minutes Bowen, on the right flank, neatly slid the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Walters dispatched a crisp angled strike that flew beyond Davies’ reach but slid narrowly wide of the far post.
After the interval the Old Gold again took the early initiative and went close to extending their lead on 52 minutes when a slick exchange of passes ended with Hanbury firing a cross into the goalmouth – while the ball was cleared by a defender, it was claimed by Walters who instantly released a stunning drive that defeated Davies only to fly marginally outside the post.
However moments later Town deservedly found success – from close to the half-way line Walters, an increasing influential presence in midfield, produced a remarkable long pass that set Bowen racing clear of defenders and into the penalty area where he cleverly “walked” the ball around the advancing Davies and fired it into the empty net.
Then after 68 minutes Mael Davies robbed a defender of the ball on the corner of the penalty area and swiftly fired it across the goalmouth to find Liam Thomas who struck a sharp close-range volley that drew an excellent point-blank save from Oliver Davies to turn the ball around the post.
On 74 minutes the Old Gold continued their dominance of the proceedings when Vincent, on the half-way line, began a delightful six-man passing move that carved open the visitors’ defence and finished with Mael Davies crossing the ball into the goalmouth only for Thomas, arriving at speed, to narrowly fail to reach it for a simple tap-in chance.
By now, however, Town seemed content to simply keep possession and slow down the pace of the game. Yet in the 82nd minute veteran central defender Lee Surman made a rare excursion upfield in open play when he took the ball forward from the half-way line then played it across to Walters who released a stunning 25 yard strike that drew another excellent flying save from Oliver Davies.
Soon afterwards Aidan O’Kelly, making a welcome return after four months out with a serious injury sustained in only the second match of the season, moved down the left wing then slipped the ball across to Mael Davies who struck a rasping 30 yard drive that Llanelli’s overworked ‘keeper claimed at the foot of the post.
This welcome result not only lifts the Old Gold nine points clear of the relegation places, but also takes them up to eighth position in the Welsh Premier League.
This was a refreshing and thoroughly entertaining performance from the Old Gold – one which hopefully will be often repeated over the rest of this season.
Town’s next fixture is on Saturday, January 5, (k/o 2.30pm) when they travel to Caernarfon for what will undoubtedly be a stern challenge – but they now go there with increased hope.