NEVER has the expression “a game of two halves” been more relevant – while the Old Gold overwhelmed the visitors during the first 45 minutes and should really have secured more than the two-goal advantage which they actually managed, after the interval the Seasiders struck back and virtually dominated the game just as emphatically.
Town made a refreshingly positive start, controlling the midfield and launching a series of rapid, penetrating attacks that kept the visitors’ defence fully occupied. Briefly Aberystwyth withstood that pressure but soon a stream of scoring chances emerged.
On 5 minutes Sean Hanbury, from close to the corner of the penalty area, struck a fierce free-kick that flew narrowly over the bar.
Moments later Liam Thomas threaded a short pass through to Ceri Morgan who raced towards the by-line then fired a deep cross to beyond the far post where Luke Bowen planted a close-range header just wide of the goal.
Then in the 10th minute the Old Gold, with a move begun from deep inside their own half, deservedly took the lead. Morgan fired a long pass forward which Bowen, with defender Lee Jenkin close-by, pursued into the penalty area – the Aber player woefully under-hit an attempted back-pass to his goalkeeper which Town’s experienced striker intercepted and he instantly drilled a smart drive into the back of the net.
Encouraged by that success Carmarthen intensified their attacking momentum, driven to a notable extent by the energy and vision of central midfielders Ceri Morgan and Greg Walters.
On 16 minutes a free-kick from Declan Carroll was punched away by ‘keeper Leigh Jenkins then cleared by a defender but the ball fell nicely for Tyrrell Webbe who struck a stunning 40 yard shot which the surprised ‘keeper, well off his goal-line, just managed to turn over the bar.
After 22 minutes the hosts again went close when Thomas sent a lofted pass through to Bowen who, from deep inside the penalty area, released a crisp strike that was blocked in front of goal by a defender.
Throughout this opening period Aberystwyth had been barely able to get across the half-way line – and it was only when they won two consecutive corner-kicks after 30 minutes that the Old Gold defence suffered any noticeable element of pressure and concern.
Indeed, the only worry for Carmarthen supporters was the failure of their team to convert any more than just a single goal from the many scoring opportunities that they had created – but that was remedied in the 38th minute.
From the centre-circle Walters sent the ball forward to the edge of the penalty area where Bowen played it back to Thomas who from 20 yards clinically converted the chance by firing a smart volley past Jenkins and into the back of the net.
Shortly afterwards the referee blew the whistle to conclude undoubtedly the most exhilarating 45 minutes of attractive attacking football that the Old Gold have produced in a very long time.
After the interval a similar pattern of play soon emerged – but this time it was Aberystwyth, now showing far more urgency and purpose, who took charge of the game with the hosts being forced back on defence as they attempted to protect their lead.
On 50 minutes they went close to reducing the deficit when, following a corner-kick, Wes Baynes drove the ball into the packed penalty area – a defensive clearance went straight to Joe Phillips but he saw his 20 yard strike slide just beyond the far post.
Then moments later Matthew Jones fired a right-wing cross into the goalmouth where Ryan Edwards, with time and space, produced a close-range header that Lee Idzi was well-placed to claim safely.
The Seasiders were enjoying more and more possession, while the Town defence looked increasingly stretched under pressure. A series of crosses from both sides of the pitch flew into the home penalty area but due to some solid, albeit occasionally desperate, defending under the guidance of experienced centre-back Lee Surman, coupled with a few moments of good fortune, Idzi’s goal remained unblemished.
However eventually in the 64th minute the visitors, almost predictably, snatched a goal. After some good approach work Edwards, on the left flank, crossed the ball into the crowded goalmouth where Ashley Ruane forced a close-range header over the goal-line.
While Aber continued to dominate possession and also enjoyed significant territorial advantage, the Old Gold were occasionally managing to relieve the pressure with a few spirited counter-attacks – and after 66 minutes they fashioned a decent scoring chance.
Mael Davies embarked on a powerful run along the right-wing before slipping the ball forward to Walters who fired it into the penalty area where Bowen evaded his marker then hit an angled drive that defeated Jenkins but was diverted outside the far post by a defender.
A further period of pressure from the Seasiders was successfully negotiated by the overworked home defence but eventually, in the 78th minute, they were undone by an excellent strike from Declan Walker – he received the ball just outside the penalty area from Baynes’ free-kick then turned sharply past Webbe before releasing a powerful strike that defeated Idzi and left the back of the net bulging.
Having now got back on level terms, the visitors poured forward with even greater intensity as they sensed the opportunity for snatching a late winning goal while Town, only recently seeming to be cruising towards a comfortable victory, were being forced to anxiously defend in depth in order to safeguard their single point. Despite a couple of late goalmouth scares they achieved that distinctly modest aim.
Carmarthen’s next WPL fixture is on Saturday (Sept 29) (k/o 2.30pm) when they make the long trip up to North Wales to face Connah’s Quay who currently lie second in the League table.