HAVERFORDWEST COUNTY moved out of the JD Cymru Premier relegation zone after a spirited performance earned them a point from a 1-1 draw with Newtown at Latham Park.
After a month’s break which was brought about by COVID-19, top-flight action returned with an entertaining encounter in mid Wales, with both sides showing a willingness to play an attractive brand of football.
The Bluebirds took the lead after just nine minutes through Danny Williams, however Robins skipper Aaron Williams equalised from the penalty spot with just 15 minutes remaining to earn his team a point.
County made four changes to the team which took to the field against Connnah’s Quay Nomads on December 18, with Ryan George and Jordan Davies making their full debuts for the club, while Kurtis Rees and Kieran Lewis came in for Alaric Jones and Ricky Watts – who both missed out through injury.
After an intriguing opening to the game, with both teams looking to impose their styles, the Bluebirds struck first when Jack Wilson’s incisive pass picked out Williams inside the area, and he did well to fire the ball past Robins keeper Dave Jones from an acute angle.
Having made the perfect start to the game, County suffered a setback shortly after when defender Kyle Patten was forced off through injury, with Ben Fawcett coming on in his place.
10 minutes later, a pinpoint ball over the top from Elliot Scotcher picked out Wilson, but his dinked effort was gathered by Jones.
Bluebirds goalkeeper Lee Idzi had a hugely impressive afternoon between the sticks, and was called into action on a couple of occasions with half-time approaching as the Bluebirds went into the interval a goal to the good.
New manager Nicky Hayen, who is unable to take charge until he receives a work permit, was in attendance to watch his team and will have been pleased with their first-half display, which forced the Robins to make changes at the interval.
The visitors lost midfielder Lewis to injury 13 minutes into the second-half, as Alhagi Touray Sisay came on to replace him.
In an entertaining final half an hour, the Bluebirds had a series of opportunities to double their advantage on the counter-attack. Firstly, Fawcett broke forward and squared the ball to Touray Sisay, but the striker was unable to reach it, claiming he felt contact from a Robins defender behind him.
Just minutes later, a ball forward picked out Touray Sisay to create a one-on-one situation, but Jones got himself in the way of the shot. County’s third opportunity in five minutes came when Williams slid Touray Sisay in, but his shot from the left side of the area was saved again by Jones.
The Bluebirds were made to rue their missed opportunities when the hosts were awarded a penalty after referee Dean John adjudged that George had fouled Nick Rushton inside the area. Williams made no mistake from 12 yards to level the game at 1-1 and set up a fascinating finale.
The only clear-cut opportunity in the closing stages fell to Newtown substitute James Davies, who found himself free inside the penalty area, but he was denied by Idzi who made the decision to rush off his line and save the shot to deny the Robins a winner.
After Aberystwyth Town’s 4-0 defeat to Pen-y-Bont on Friday evening, the Bluebirds knew a point would be enough to leapfrog the Seasiders by virtue of goals scored, with the teams tied on goal difference.
County are next in action on Friday evening, when they host Pen-y-Bont at the Ogi Bridge Meadow (Kick-off: 19:45). Ticket prices have been reduced to £5 for adults and £3 for concessions, with under-16s free.