Photo supplied by Gareth Hughes
CARMARTHEN produced easily their best performance for a long time to secure their first ever victory on Richmond Park’s new 3G surface on Boxing Day (Dec 26).
Indeed, it was their first home success since that memorable win against Welsh Premier League Champions TNS last February. As in that game, the result was settled by an outstanding goal from Town’s all-time leading scorer Liam Thomas.
After a quiet opening spell with the play switching briskly from end to end but with no glimmer of a scoring opportunity emerging, the game sprang to life in the 10th minute when Thomas received the ball on the right flank and swiftly cut inside to the edge of the penalty area then released a crisp angled drive that ‘keeper Chris Mullock, with a smart full-length save, turned around the post.
Shortly afterwards Jordan Knott, from the centre-circle, launched a long free-kick deep into the penalty area where Kyle Bassett saw his close-range shot cleared high over the bar by a defender – from the ensuing corner-kick Dave Vincent headed the ball narrowly too high.
Those incidents heralded a period of intensive and exciting Old Gold attacking activity – a most welcome and refreshing sight for their supporters in the large Boxing Day crowd, given how Carmarthen’s season has gone until now.
Aberystwyth, during this spell, managed a few promising counter-attacks but their only notable scoring effort arose on 18 minutes when Ashley Young sent a free-kick from the right touchline into the crowded penalty area only for John McKenna to volley the ball over the bar.
But largely the visitors were comfortably contained by the Town defence in which the central partnership of Vincent and Knott were in particularly commanding form, while they received impressive support from Luke Cummings and Dan Sheehan on the flanks – additionally, immediately ahead of them experienced defender Craig Hanford provided a valuable layer of support.
Behind those defenders ‘keeper Lee Idzi once more looked confident and secure, demonstrating his customary assured and safe handling whenever necessary.
With that security behind them Carmarthen’s midfield unit comprising Kieran Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Liam Walsh enjoyed the freedom to show greater urgency and conviction going forward and through their energy and vision, they created further opportunities for lively frontmen Thomas and Bassett to exploit.
The Old Gold were dominating this period of the game, monopolising possession and launching a series of rapid penetrating attacks – yet, disappointingly, while they forced countless corner-kicks, no significant goal threat that tested Mullock emerged.
All that changed in the 35th minute – as Morgan, on the edge of the penalty area, in typical committed fashion won a challenge for the ball it ran loose to Thomas who from 20 yards dispatched a stunning drive that flew beyond Mullock’s reach and into the far corner of the net.
Encouraged by that success the hosts poured forward again with another series of attacks spearheaded by Thomas who, with his pace and movement, was a constant threat to the Aberystwyth defenders.
On 43 minutes he went close to snatching a second goal. After Walsh had played a fine short pass through to him just inside the penalty area Town’s top scorer slipped neatly past two bewildered defenders but, as Mullock advanced from the goal, he slid the ball narrowly wide of the post.
After the interval the Seasiders began positively and put the home defence under significant pressure as they sought an early goal to restore parity.
In the 53rd minute they were denied only by a moment of excellence from Idzi. Young moved forward from the centre-circle then struck a powerful 30 yard drive only to see the experienced ‘keeper produce a remarkable flying save to turn the ball over the bar.
Despite now enjoying the greater share of possession and territorial advantage, Aberystwyth were struggling to penetrate the Old Gold defence, in which Vincent and Knott continued to excel, in any meaningful way.
However around 61 minutes they were grateful to see striker Craig Hobson, twice in quick succession, fire the ball high over the bar from decent positions inside the penalty area.
Gradually Carmarthen regained their earlier attacking momentum and on 64 minutes it seemed certain they would increase their lead.
Dazzling work by Walsh and Morgan along the right flank finished with a dangerous cross into the penalty area – the ball reached Lewis who, with Mullock now out of position at the near post, struck a 15 yard shot towards a seemingly empty net but, with a late and crucial intervention defender Declan Walker cleared the danger.
The play, now quite evenly balanced, continued at a frantic pace but neither side was able to create a significant scoring opportunity during these high-tension closing minutes and the Old Gold were delighted and relieved to finish with three valuable points.
However, the contest between these old rivals now continues, this time at Aberystwyth’s Park Avenue ground on New Year’s Day (k/o 2.30pm).