CARMARTHEN continued their pre-season programme with this attractive fixture against Swansea City’s Under 23 team on Saturday (Jul 20).
They produced an impressive performance against the Championship club’s talented youngsters, having held the lead until just the closing seconds of the match.
Remarkably this was achieved with a relatively weakened squad since key experienced players Lee Idzi, Lewis Harling, Luke Bowen and Jordan Knott were all absent.
During the opening stages of this match that outcome seemed highly unlikely since City proceeded to monopolise possession and dominate the play as they launched a series of spirited attacks that kept the Town defence under notable pressure.
Even so, it was not until the 7th minute that the first significant scoring opportunity arose when Kieran Evans played the ball forward along the right flank to Liam Cullen who instantly crossed it into the penalty area where an unnamed trialist struck a fierce 15 yard drive that Jordan Vickers blocked in front of goal before the ball was cleared safely away.
Gradually the Old Gold began competing more effectively in midfield and showing some welcome signs of attacking intent – and on 9 minutes, with their first scoring effort, they went close to taking the lead.
Vickers made progress along the right-wing before sending a long pass through to Josh Bull near the corner of the penalty area – he slid the ball out to Chris Jones who hit a promising angled strike that ‘keeper Steven Benda palmed against the underside of the bar then recovered to claim the ball on the goal-line.
The visitors responded immediately – Evans, close to the by-line, played the ball back to Cullen who dispatched a rasping shot that Greg Walters, well placed near the post, guided to safety.
Shortly afterwards the industrious midfielder, once again very effectively deployed in a defensive role, was instrumental in Town’s next scoring effort on 17 minutes.
He fired a long free-kick to the far side of the penalty area to reach Jay Woodford who neatly set the ball up for Liam Thomas only for the all-time top goal-scorer to see his crisp 15 yard drive blocked on the goal-line.
City, however, continued to enjoy the greater share of possession and territorial advantage but without, by this stage, managing to seriously breach the home defence or stretch Carmarthen’s stand-in ‘keeper Josh Gould (curiously, ‘loaned’ from Swansea U23s for the first 60 minutes of the match!) – whenever called on, his handling and positioning was exemplary.
The Old Gold once more went close after 24 minutes when Jones, from the half-way line, produced a superb pass that set Thomas racing clear into the penalty area but he was denied when Benda came quickly out of his goal to smother the striker’s scoring effort.
However they were soon rewarded for their spirited recovery having withstood the visitors’ early domination.
On 28 minutes Elliott Scotcher, in the centre-circle, threaded a delightful pass through to Bull who burst free into the penalty area and, as Benda advanced from his goal, the lively striker calmly and confidently drove the ball past the stranded keeper and into the empty net.
A further spell of City pressure was successfully resisted by the home defence, well marshalled by the experienced central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, before Town launched another promising attack in the closing moments of the first-half.
In the 42nd minute they fashioned a stunning five-man passing move, initiated by Ceri Morgan in the centre-circle and finishing with Woodford firing a right-wing cross deep into the penalty area where from 12 yards Bull headed the ball over Benda’s outstretched arms but saw the ball clip the bar and bounce safely behind.
After the interval the pattern of play developed in much the same way as in the first-half with the visitors methodically building pressure and probing the Carmarthen defence but with no tangible success.
The first notable threat arose on 64 minutes when Ollie Cooper sent a fine pass into the penalty area for Simon Paulet to pursue only to be denied by Town’s substitute ‘keeper Thomas Windsor who was quickly off his goal-line to claim the ball.
Moments later Cooper, on the edge of the penalty area, rolled the ball back to Jacob Jones who struck a promising curling shot which Windsor carefully watched fly narrowly outside the far post.
In the 73rd minute the Old Gold interrupted this early spell of City pressure when Scotcher, from just outside the penalty area, dispatched a stunning free-kick that cleared the defensive ‘wall’ but was turned against the post by substitute ‘keeper Josh Hutchings and bounced safely behind.
Shortly afterwards Vincent, with a smart pass, set Walters racing along the left-wing before sliding the ball across to Woodford who dispatched a fierce angled drive that Hutchings, with an impressive flying save, turned aside.
As the match went into the closing stages City pressed forward with even greater intent and were close to drawing level on 89 minutes when their trialist burst infield from the left-wing before hitting a crisp volley towards the goalmouth – Surman, in attempting to head the ball clear, managed only to divert on to the near post but thankfully it bounced safely away.
Cruelly the Old Gold were not so fortunate moments later – just 60 seconds from the final whistle they conceded an equaliser when Jacob Jones, on the left flank, fired the ball across the face of the goal and saw Cullen stab it home at the far post to the great dismay of the Town players and supporters.
However, despite that disappointment, on the overall balance of play a draw was certainly a fair result after this entertaining encounter.