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Carmarthenshire Llanelli West Wales

Reds close the gap to second place

MATCHES between sides either riding high or struggling always have the potential of providing a banana-skin outcome with the potential for a shock result.

Fortunately for Llanelli Town, their visit to Parc Ynysderw on Saturday (Mar 18), did not fall into that category and a workmanlike overall display earned them another win, and more importantly closes the gap between themselves and second-placed Briton Ferry Llansawel to two points with a game in hand.

When the two sides meet at Stebonheath next Friday evening, the eventual outcome will go a long way to deciding the runner-up position to title favourites Barry Town United.

Goals by Adam Robbins, Sean Cronin and Brandon Griffiths saw the Reds safely home, although Ponty belied their lowly league position by putting their goal under pressure at times, and Scott Coughlan was called on to make a number of saves.

With Tim Parker suspended following his red card at Ammanford, Eli Phipps was included in the starting line-up and was almost immediately involved, just failing to direct his header on target from a Thomas Hillman cross.

Louis Gerrard fired over the home crossbar from a free kick, and when Miles John made a run up the right his final ball was too strong and ran out of play.

Another Gerrard set-piece directed into the goalmouth was pushed out by Steven Reeve in the home goal, and he was called into action again, this time diverting away a dangerous delivery by Hillman.

Although the visitors were enjoying most of the possession, they were exposed when a long defensive clearance caught them square, forcing Coughlan off his line in an attempt to clear the threat, but he only succeeded in sending it against Joshua Dorward who then found the vacant net, but referee Gavin Townsend disallowed the effort for a handball against the Ponty striker, much to the Reds’ relief.

Perhaps slightly fortunate to have survived this scare, the visitors hit back with Phipps meeting a delivery by John but unable to get any power into his finish which was comfortably dealt with by Reeve.

With play even on both sides and with few clear-cut chances being created, the deadlock was finally broken on 32 minutes when a corner by Joe Hopkins to the near post led to a great surging run by Robbins who powered his header into the net.

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Spurred by this success, they visitors pressed forward with Phipps having another effort kept out by Reeve, and they went in at the break with their slender one goal advantage intact only for it to be cancelled out within three minutes of the restart.

When the hosts were awarded a corner on the right, it was swung into the goalmouth by Harri Lawson and ended up in the net, although it might have taken a deflection off a Reds defender, and it was all to play for again.

Following this, both sides continued to press forward in an effort to gain the upper hand, coping well with the conditions underfoot with chances being offered up with a Gerrard free kick into the box being deflected for a corner, and when Lawson lofted a high ball into the Reds area it was met by Gabriel Kircough who might have done better with his finish from a promising position.

The visitors then made a tactical switch, pushing Cronin up front to add bite to the attack, and the ploy paid off in spades after 72 minutes with Gerrard instrumental in somehow digging out a cross deep on the byline which found the central defender who headed emphatically past Reeve and restore the Reds lead.

Home hopes were briefly raised when they got the ball into the net only to be denied by an offside flag, while Coughlan was then forced to punch clear when another well-directed corner was swung into a crowded penalty box.

With the contest in its closing stages, the result was finally sealed on the stroke of full time when Robbins sent Griffiths clear on a run into the Ponty area, and he finished well, rifling his shot past the goalkeeper and his near post.

A satisfactory outcome to what could have been a tricky encounter, but another even greater test awaits on Friday with the visit of Ferry, kick off 7.30pm.