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Old Gold open pre-season with win

CARMARTHEN Town opened their pre-season programme with a 4-0 win against Cwmbran on Monday night (Jul 9).

Town’s squad for this fixture comprised almost all the regulars that appeared during the relatively successful second-phase programme last season (only Luke Bowen was absent while Lewis Harling was unavailable due to the continuing injury problems that have plagued him for much of the past two seasons – and of course Kieran Lewis, Dan Sheehan, Clayton Green and Mark Jones have now left the Club.

In addition there were first appearances for new signings Declan Carroll, Greg Walters, Tyrrell Webbe and Jordan Vickers (Sean Hanbury and Lewis Baldwin were absent) – two triallists, Ben Jones (from Newport) and Jay Woodford (from AFC Llwdcoed), were given starts along with Ryan Foschi from Town’s development squad.

The opening stages of this game were fairly uninspiring and uneventful with the play largely confined to midfield exchanges and though the Old Gold were immediately looking the more positive side, they were initially unable to penetrate the opposition defence.  During this spell this resembled little more than an opportunity for some welcome passing practice after the players’ summer break.

But gradually Carmarthen began showing more promise and adventure going forward and on 13 minutes they fashioned the first notable chance of the match when, from one of a series of corners, Luke Cummings’ searching delivery was met by Liam Thomas who saw his smart glancing header slide narrowly wide of the far post.

Then after 20 minutes Tyrrell Webbe, who had already on several occasions demonstrated impressive pace and strength on the ball, produced a speculative long-range shot that ‘keeper Luca Bullock just managed, at full-stretch, to claim at the top corner of his goal.

Shortly afterwards, much less commendably, Bullock raced out of his penalty area and recklessly brought down Thomas who had broken clear through the home defence – on any occasion other than a pre-season friendly this would surely have merited a ‘red card’ but in the event the ‘keeper, after lengthy treatment for an injury sustained in that challenge, had to be substituted.

Perhaps justice was done when substitute ‘keeper Namir Queni’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of his net after Declan Carroll had converted the free-kick with an impressive fiercely-driven strike.

Up until this stage the Old Gold had looked sound and secure in dealing with Cwmbran’s occasional attacking bursts, ensuring that ‘keeper Lee Idzi was never seriously tested. In particular the familiar central pairing of Jordan Knott and Lee Surman were performing with confidence and composure, while on the flanks Ben Jones and Webbe coupled sound defensive work with a willingness to burst forward with good effect at every opportunity.

Directly after conceding that goal the hosts managed their first genuine scoring chance when on 30 minutes Kofi Rowe raced unmarked into the penalty area only to fire a weak shot from 15 yards that Idzi comfortably gathered.

Then in the closing stages of the first-half Town increased the tempo of their game still more, driven by the energy and vision of midfielders Ceri Morgan, Cummings, Carroll and Greg Walters. In the 42nd minute they went close to extending their lead when Carroll fired the ball into the penalty area where Aidan O’Kelly turned smartly past two defenders before releasing a sharp drive that defeated Queni but slid narrowly outside the post.

After the interval manager Neil Smothers made multiple changes to the line-up yet the same pattern of play, with the Old Gold largely dominating proceedings, soon emerged.

Almost inevitably, on 62 minutes they secured a well-deserved second goal – O’Kelly, from wide on the right flank, delivered a searching cross deep to the far post where Jay Woodford rose high above his marker and directed a firm header over Queni and into the top corner of the net.

More Town pressure led to further scoring opportunities.  After 66 minutes Webbe embarked on another surging run to the edge of the penalty area before playing the ball neatly across to O’Kelly who dispatched a crisp 20 yard strike that flew just marginally too high.

Then on 75 minutes, following another raft of substitutions, Carroll again found the net when from 25 yards he produced a delightful curling shot that sailed into the top corner leaving Queni well beaten.

Commendably, the Old Gold continued to press forward in the face of some fairly resolute Cwmbran defending until they managed a further late goal – in the 87th minute Jordan Vickers made a determined run along the left wing, outpacing defenders, then cleverly sent the ball across the edge of the penalty area where Thomas was arriving with perfect timing to hit a stunning drive that left Queni floundering and the net bulging – Town’s all-time record goal scorer is straight back to doing what he does best.

While this was hardly the sternest of challenges for the Old Gold, it served to ease the players back into the routine and discipline of match play while giving their faithful band of travelling supporters a taste of things to come in the season ahead.

Carmarthen’s next pre-season match is against Pontypridd Town at Richmond Park on Saturday, July 14, (k/o 2.30pm).