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Spirited Bluebirds go down fighting to reigning champions TNS

Report by Haverfordwest County

Haverfordwest County were left to rue a poor 10-minute spell in an otherwise competitive display against The New Saints, as the reigning JD Cymru Premier champions ran out 3-1 winners at the Ogi Bridge Meadow.

Ryan Brobbel scored twice in six first-half minutes before substitute Declan McManus found the net at the start of the second half to guide the Saints to victory in Pembrokeshire.

The Bluebirds were rewarded for sticking to their task in stoppage time when Rhys Abbruzzese scored his first JD Cymru Premier goal for the club to ensure a respectable final scoreline.

Manager Tony Pennock made just one change to the starting lineup from the game against Bala Town, with goalkeeper Zac Jones returning after taking a knock against Aberystwyth Town. There was a place on the bench for academy goalkeeper John Chesters, who appeared in a JD Cymru Premier matchday squad for the first time.

Both teams showed a willingness to play in the opening exchanges despite the difficult conditions at the Ogi Bridge Meadow, and the first effort on goal fell to County when the Saints gave the ball away and Ben Fawcett had a chance to shoot with Connor Roberts off his line, however the striker’s effort was straight at the goalkeeper.

Pennock’s side were contending well with the reigning champions, and they had the next opportunity when a ball upfield landed in the path of Jordan Davies, with the striker volleying over the crossbar on the angle.

Less than five minutes later, the Bluebirds broke into the TNS area but were unable to bring the ball under their spell, however they eventually worked it to Jamie Veale who saw his shot from just outside the area deflected narrowly wide.

Despite having not threatened the Bluebirds goal in the opening half-hour, the visitors took the lead when Brobbel’s corner went directly in at the far post to leave everyone bemused, with the windy conditions causing confusion.

County were keen to find an equaliser, and they came close to doing so when man of the match Dylan Rees’ ball into the area almost picked out Fawcett, but the forward couldn’t get on the end of it despite his diving effort.

And just two minutes later the Bluebirds were punished when Brobbel found space inside the area and powered a shot into the bottom right corner for his second goal of the afternoon to make it 2-0 at half-time.

Looking to keep themselves in the contest for as long as possible, Haverfordwest County were dealt a killer blow when McManus broke free and slotted past Jones inside the first minute of the second half to open up a three-goal advantage for the Saints.

The Bluebirds refused to give in, though, and Pennock made an attacking move when he brought striker Elliott Dugan off the bench, and less than 10 minutes after coming on he had a great chance to score when he was played in by Abbruzzese, but Roberts came off his line to deny him.

A minute later, County had another chance when a lofted ball into the area found Jack Wilson unmarked, but his first-time effort was straight at Roberts.

The final half-hour was very much a back and forth affair, with the Bluebirds keen to find a consolation goal and the Saints wanting to extend their lead.

It didn’t look as if County were going to get a reward for their efforts and endeavour, with their attacks often breaking down inside the final third. However, with almost the last play of the game, the ball fell to Abbruzzese and he unleashed a powerful volley which took a deflection on its path to goal and beat Roberts to give the home faithful something to cheer about.