MERLINS Bridge won the West Wales Cup on Tuesday night (May 7) as they beat Carew 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea in an exciting clash.
It was the first time both sides had reached the final and the first ever all-Pembrokeshire final and both were keen to put on a show for the good crowd in attendance.
Both have had excellent runs to the final with Merlins Bridge earning a narrow win against last season’s runners up Penlan Club while Carew have come from behind in two separate games.
Anticipation grew ahead of the match as Carew and Merlins Bridge named strong sides.
For many of the Carew side it was a first taste of the West Wales Cup Final while three members of the Merlins Bridge squad won the cup with Johnston a few years ago.
Merlins Bridge came from behind to beat Carew in the Senior Cup Final in April while their two league encounters finished in a draw and a 3-1 win for the Wizards.
There was a scare for the Rooks with only a minute on the clock as Scott Richards overcooked his back pass and keeper Tom Davies could only kick the ball out of play.
It was Carew who had the first chance as Iwan Izzard won the ball in midfield and passed to Jordan Richards on the edge of the box who wriggled his way past a couple of defenders before shooting just wide of the goal.
Merlins Bridge’s Dai Davies was shown the first yellow of the evening as he brought down Shaun Whitfield but the free kick came to nothing.
Carew again came close as Sam Christopher found Pembrokeshire League top scorer Jordan Richards in the box but he took a touch before seeing his shot saved. He then poked the rebound towards goal but the ball was cleared off the line by a combination of Bridge defenders.
With ten minutes gone, Shaun Whitfield took a throw which came back to him and he crossed into the box but Richards saw his header saved by Gary Thomas.
Carew would have been regretting those missed chances two minutes later as, from a Carew corner, the ball was cleared to Adam Hawkins who found Laurie Haworth on the right and he crossed to the back post for Hawkins to half volley in.
The Rooks were given a free kick just inside the D moments after but Jack Christopher saw his effort hit the wall and his follow up go over the bar.
Joe Leahy then saw a shot saved while Lloyd Hughes saw a shot go wide for Carew.
Alex Bayley then played in Lloyd Hughes and he fired low into the net for a deserved goal to bring the Rooks level.
Hughes then crossed into the box towards the back post but keeper Thomas fumbled the ball, allowing Richards a shot but he was equal to it to keep the scores level.
The Wizards were then given a free kick near the half way line which Leahy sent towards goal and his cross had to be turned over by the Carew keeper.
With just over half an hour gone, Carew’s Jack Christopher was shown a yellow for a foul on Leahy, giving the Wizards a free kick on the edge of the box. Leahy stood over it but saw his effort blocked over the bar.
There was a blow for Carew shortly before half time as Lloyd Hughes had to go off injured and he was replaced by Scott Ferney.
With two minutes to go until half time Sam Christopher crossed into the box for Richards but his shot was blocked with claims of handball waved away.
The half time whistle went with the sides still locked at 1-1 with everything still to play for in the second half.
At the start of the second half Sam Christopher flashed a cross towards goal which bounced out off the angle of post and crossbar.
Zac Rowell then made his way into the box but after he went down he was shown a yellow card for diving.
Nathan Greene then came close for the Wizards but his strong shot was turned over the bar.
Jack Christopher then crossed into the box for Richards but his header was straight at Gary Thomas.
Matthew Divry then crossed from the right for Joe Leahy just inside the box but he flashed a shot just over the bar.
With just over an hour gone Adam Hawkins won the ball back from Jack Christopher and he went on to slot the ball into the bottom left corner to give the Wizards the lead again.
Insult was added to injury for Christopher as he had to go off to be replaced by Max Brindley.
Iwan Izzard then came close to bringing Carew level again but his curling effort was saved by Gary Thomas.
Hawkins was denied the chance of a hat trick as he was then replaced by Will Haworth with fifteen minutes to go.
With nine minutes to go the Bridge made it 3-1 as Ashley Beck played a nice one-two with Nathan Greene and the former finished in similar fashion to team mate Hawkins with the ball going in off the boot of the Carew keeper.
With four minutes to go Carew won a corner which fell to Tom Grover but he fired over the bar.
Both sides made a number of substitutions with Joe Leahy seeing yellow for his slow walk off late on.
The Wizards saw the game out to seal their first ever West Wales Cup win.
After the match, two goal hero Adam Hawkins said: “It’s amazing, it’s my second time winning it, we’ve got an amazing group of lads here.
“We were unlucky with the league but to come away with the Senior Cup and the West Wales Cup this season, you couldn’t ask for much more really.
“They are a quality side and we knew it would be a close game but on the balance of play I think we deserved it.”
Merlins Bridge manager Matthew D’Ivry added: “I am delighted, this group of players deserve it for the hard work and commitment they have shown. We’ve had tough draws in the cup this season but that hard work has paid off.
“Carew are a really good side and we knew they were going to have a good spell in the game. Gary Thomas made a few good saves and towards the end of the first half we started playing our football.
“At half time we were confident that if we came out and started well we would get the right result.”
The two sides also drew praise from Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb who tweeted: “Congratulations to Merlins Bridge for winning the West Wales Cup at the Liberty Stadium. Comiserations to Carew but great to have two Pembrokeshire teams in the final.”