CARMARTHEN Town eventually beat rivals Llanelli Town 3-1 on Saturday (Apr 13) after dominating for large parts of the first half.
Relegated Llanelli did take the lead but the Old Gold came from behind to lead but it wasn’t until late on that they secured the three points.
As last week, a much less impressive second-half performance allowed the opposition to maintain a serious interest in the match until a late third goal ensured victory for the Old Gold.
Town completely dominated the opening stages with frequent fast incisive raids through the midfield which the visitors’ overworked defence struggled to resist – yet despite forcing a series of early corner-kicks, it was not until the 9th minute that a genuine scoring opportunity arose.
Greg Walters sent a long pass down the left touchline to find Jordan Knott who neatly slipped the ball inside to Lewis Harling on the edge of the penalty area – he instantly released a delightful curling shot that went beyond the reach of ‘keeper Scott Coughlan but drifted just wide of the far post.
Shortly afterwards the ball was played through to Liam Thomas who, from 30 yards out, sprinted effortlessly past two defenders to reach the penalty area then dispatched a stunning angled drive that defeated Coughlan but flew just narrowly over the bar.
During this opening spell Llanelli had barely managed to make any meaningful progress going forward and the home defence had been put under no real pressure – but in the 15th minute all that changed.
An Old Gold attack broke down well inside the visitors’ half and the ball was quickly played forward beyond the half-way line where Town central defenders Lee Surman and Dave Vincent found themselves outnumbered by three Reds forwards – Joe Clarke sent the ball forward to Tristan Jenkins who raced clear towards the edge of the penalty area then fired a crisp strike past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the far corner of the net.
Stung by that setback Carmarthen straightaway swarmed upfield with even greater intensity than before – yet still they were unable to produce a shot on target or test Coughlan in any significant way.
Then on 23 minutes they deservedly got back on level terms. Knott sent a throw-in to Thomas on the corner of the penalty area and he swiftly lifted a high cross to the far side of the goalmouth where Luke Bowen stabbed the ball past Coughlan and into the back of the net.
Town continued their dominance of the play and went close to taking the lead after 28 minutes – Mael Davies, from the centre-circle, sent a neat pass through to Walters who took the ball forward then released a powerful 30 yard drive that defeated Coughlan but slid marginally wide of the post.
They achieved their aim just moments later – Bowen slipped a smart pass on to Knott who raced into the penalty area then ‘squared’ the ball across to Thomas and, with typical confidence and precision, Town’s top scorer fired it past Coughlan and into the back of the net.
The Old Gold kept up the pressure and on 38 minutes Jordan Vickers launched a long pass down the right touchline that found Bowen who sprinted past Joe Hunt then sent an inviting cross into the penalty area where Ceri Morgan arrived with perfect timing but, under pressure from two defenders, he drove the ball straight at Coughlan.
In the closing stages of the first-half Vincent fired a long clearance upfield which Bowen, again, collected – he took the ball forward to the by-line then crossed it into the penalty area but saw Davies, from 15 yards, wastefully fire his shot wide of the goal.
The initial period after the interval was a decidedly scrappy affair with neither side seemingly able to keep possession of the ball long enough to make any meaningful progress, let alone create a decent scoring opportunity.
However eventually on 61 minutes the match livened up when Davies’ corner-kick was headed away but only as far as Harling who from 20 yards struck a fierce volley that Coughlan, at full length, spectacularly turned around the post.
Straightaway the game became more evenly-balanced as it opened up with some lively end-to-end play.
The Old Gold defence dealt capably with the intermittent pressure due principally to another sound performance from experienced defenders Surman, Vincent and Knott, while Idzi once more looked sound and secure whenever his involvement was necessary.
By contrast the visitors’ defence seemed more vulnerable and Coughlan was certainly the busier ‘keeper, particularly in the closing stages of the match when Town were once again attacking with more pace and purpose.
After 80 minutes Declan Carroll sent the ball across to Thomas who moved swiftly forward into the penalty area then neatly slipped past a defender before dispatching a rasping drive that Coughlan, with an impressive reflex save, turned around the post.
In the 87th minute he was powerless to prevent the Old Gold from increasing their lead and settling the result. Luke Cummings finished a surging run along the right flank with a smart cross into the penalty area where Thomas, with a neat touch, sent the ball further on to Bowen who from 15 yards struck a sharp volley beyond Coughlan’s reach and into the back of the net.
This was Luke’s 11th WPL goal of the season – he and Liam Thomas have now scored 31 League goals between them out of Town’s current total of 42 which, remarkably, represents close to 75% of that figure. The next highest scorers are Mael Davies, Greg Walters and Declan Carroll all with just 2 WPL goals each. All of which graphically demonstrates the value of these two experienced strikers to the team throughout this season.
Then in added time Coughlan denied Town a fourth goal – Davies, from the right touchline slid a fine pass through to Thomas who outpaced a defender to reach the edge of the penalty area then released a fierce angled shot that the overworked ‘keeper just managed to block.
The three points gained from this victory have lifted Carmarthen closer to the 9th placed team in the WPL table, Cefn Druids, and with just two more matches to play there remains the possibility of overtaking them.
But to preserve this chance Town must win their penultimate match, at Cefn, next Saturday, April 20, (k/o 2.30pm) and then hope for favourable results in the final round of fixtures the following week.