THE opening month of the Reds` return to the Welsh Premier League could be summed up as akin to the curate`s egg – good in parts.
After being crushed at home 7-0 on the opening day by Connahs`s Quay Nomads, they then produced a great comeback at Cefn Druids, clawing back a 2-0 half-time deficit to eventually win 3-2, before a creditable 1-1 draw with visitors Barry Town United.
But this latest loss at Park Avenue must be the one that sticks in the craw, as having dominated matters in the opening forty five minutes, they only had a solitary James Loveridge goal to show for their efforts, and would eventually pay the penalty for missed chances, which if taken, would probably have sealed the win.
Not having done so, their opponents were a far different proposition in the second half, and the tactical changes made by them certainly paid off, as the visitors were a pale shadow of the team which had begun the contest, and were run ragged by the Seasiders who, at the close, fully deserved the three points.
There are no easy games in this league, and hopefully the Reds have taken something positive away with them from Park Avenue to ensure they do not capitulate quite so badly as the season progresses.
They began brightly enough with the first chance falling to Loveridge when a long kick out by Oliver Davies fell to home player, Lee Jenkins, who attempted to find goalkeeper Terry McCormick but underhit his pass, allowing the Reds` striker to close him down, and he was forced to keep out his effort with his legs.
As the half progressed, the visitors continued to stroke the ball around to good effect, keeping the home side quiet, and deservedly took the lead on 17 minutes after Kurtis March picked out Loveridge wide on the right, and he made inroads into the box before firing low past McCormick into the far corner.
This pattern of play continued throughout the first half, with the Reds well in control and limiting the hosts to the occasional breakaway, without any real threat to their goal.
Despite their dominance, they just could not find a second success to establish something of a cushion, with Mark Jones having the best chance when Jordan Davies sent him clear, and despite rounding the oncoming goalkeeper and getting into a scoring position in front of the net, he took too long, and McCormick was able to make back his ground and smother the ball on the line.
The home keeper was being kept fully occupied, just beating Loveridge to the ball on the edge of the box and kicking it clear, while about the only chance for the Seasiders` came from Alan Goodall whose strike from distance was touched over by Davies.
A Chris Thomas run down the left culminated in some desperate defending in the home area before the danger was hacked over for a corner, but despite all their pressure, the visitors were still only the solitary goal to the good at the break.
This factor was to prove to be crucial as the second period got underway, and the major cause of the home revival was the introduction at half time of Porya Ahmadi for Paulo Mendes, as he proved to be a thorn in the side of the visitors from the off, forcing Thomas to concede a corner from his dangerous cross early on.
An injury to Anthony Finselbach forced the Reds into a change, with Jordan Follows coming on in his place, but by this stage the game had changed dramatically with the Seasiders` now in the box seat and their opponents being forced back to defend their slender advantage.
But two goals in as many minutes changed the whole complexion of the contest, with Ahmadi meeting a deep cross from Wes Baynes to find the top corner with a great header in the 62nd minute, before Geoff Kellaway controlled a ball on 64 minutes to volley it past Davies and put the hosts ahead.
Now well in control of their own destiny, the Seasiders` kept up the pressure, not allowing the Reds many opportunities in an attacking sense, although Loveridge did force McCormick into to a good save to keep out his fiercely struck shot on target.
However, any faint hopes of a comeback were well and truly put to bed when the home side struck again on 77 minutes, when a ball played into the goalmouth led to a melee before being forced home by Joe Phillips.
When Loveridge was fouled just outside the box, Follows could only drive the free kick into the wall, before Davies did well to deny Ahmadi by keeping out his finish with an outstretched leg, before being called into action again, this time pushing clear an Ashley Ruane effort when he was played through the middle.
A chastening experience for the Reds, who must have thought they were favourites for the three points following their first half display, but the game is not over until it`s over, and hopefully some valuable lessons will have been learned from the defeat.
The Reds make the long journey to Bala Town on Saturday (Sept 8), with a coach leaving Stebonheath at 8am.