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Old Gold boost survival hopes

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CARMARTHEN continued their promising opening to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme with a valuable 3-2 victory over Newtown on Saturday (Feb 10) in a match that genuinely was the proverbial ‘game of two halves’.

With the accumulation of League points an essential requirement at this stage of the season the Old Gold, under the guidance of new interim Manager Neil Smothers for the first time, made a positive start with several incisive attacks that tested the visitors’ defence.

The only notable scoring chance in a fairly uneventful opening spell arose at the other end of the pitch – on 9 minutes, following a Ryan Kershaw free-kick, the ball rebounded off Town’s defensive ‘wall’ and fell nicely for Alex Fletcher who struck a 25 yard effort just wide of the far post.

However that heralded a thrilling and productive period of attacking football from the Old Gold which, as in last week’s Prestatyn match, heavily featured their recently-assembled triple strike-force.

In the 16th minute Luke Cummings, from the right flank, delivered a searching cross into the crowded goalmouth where Mark Jones set up the chance for Town’s all-time top goalscorer Liam Thomas to fire the ball home from close-range.

Then on 23 minutes a Cummings’ corner-kick was claimed by Jones who released a crisp drive that was blocked by ‘keeper Jack Perry – the loose ball was quickly played back to Aidan O’Kelly who from 20 yards struck a stunning volley that flew through a pack of defenders and into the back of the net.

Moments later, following a swift break out of defence the ball was sent upfield to Jones who took it forward to the edge of the penalty area then released a fierce drive that went just narrowly wide of the post.

During this spell Newtown had their fair share of possession but, with the Old Gold defence performing soundly, they were unable to create any serious goal threat from open play – their best opportunity arose after 33 minutes when Jay Denny hit a 30 yard free-kick that ‘keeper Lewis Thomas was forced to block before the ball was cleared safely away.

Then in the 39th minute Carmarthen’s refreshing attacking play was further rewarded – Cummings sent a fine pass through to Luke Bowen who, from close to the by-line, sent an inviting cross into the goalmouth where Liam Thomas, rising high above his marker, produced a firm header that went beyond  Perry’s reach and into the roof of the net.

This concluded what had undoubtedly been Town’s best 45 minutes of football this season.

After the interval Newtown, unsurprisingly, were straightaway totally committed to attack as they monopolised possession and kept the home defence under sustained pressure. As before, the Old Gold were defending with composure and discipline and it was not until the 61st minute that any meaningful scoring opportunity arose – Kershaw moved forward to the edge of the penalty area before releasing a fierce strike that Lewis Thomas denied, turning the ball aside with an impressive full-length save.

Shortly afterwards Kershaw again suffered as he watched his long-range drive defeated by another spectacular flying save from Town’s on-loan ‘keeper.

Eventually on 68 minutes Carmarthen’s resistance was broken when Ethan Jones broke into the penalty area and fired a sharp cross into the goalmouth where Nick Rushton stabbed the ball home from close-range.

This inspired the visitors to swarm forward with even greater intensity and after 79 minutes Rushton, from the by-line, fired a dangerous in-swinging free-kick into the goalmouth where Thomas, surrounded by a number of players, managed to punch the ball safely away.

That was just one of several instances, with the Old Gold under serious pressure in their own penalty area, where the young ‘keeper bravely dived down amongst opponents’ feet to claim or clear the ball.

Ahead of him Town were fully committed to defending their lead, often with only Jones operating upfield as an isolated attacking force – and they were successful up until the 90th minute when Kieran Mills-Evans, with a close-range header, converted Rushton’s right-wing cross.

Even more anxious moments followed for Carmarthen supporters as they endured several minutes of added time before the referee blew the final whistle to confirm that three precious League points were secure and another step towards WPL survival had been achieved.

The Old Gold must now make the long journey up to Llandudno for their next League fixture on Saturday, February 17, (k/o 2.30pm).

With the Seasiders having gained just two points from their last four matches, Town have reason to hope that another decent performance will further boost those survival prospects.

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Sport

Reds stunned by Nomads

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Report by Alan Evans

A SOBERING welcome back to the JD Welsh Premier League for the Reds resulted in a crushing home defeat at the hands of opponents who are one of the favourites for the league title this season, and in an efficient demolition job, boasted their credentials.

The Nomads, packed with players having a wealth of ex-football league experience displayed a ruthless streak from the off, and the home side were hard put to live with the almost constant pressure, finding themselves three goals down after just 25 minutes.

The Reds were well contained as an attacking force, and John Danby in the visitors` goal was barely tested throughout, the nearest threat coming early on when Jordan Follows was brought down outside the box, with the subsequent free kick by James Loveridge being cleared by the defensive wall.

Nomads almost snatched the lead when former TNS striker, Michael Wilde, was played through the middle before directing his finish beyond the onrushing Oliver Davies in the home goal, but James Parry came to the rescue by clearing out of the goalmouth.

Photo by Darren Harries

This turned out to be a brief respite and a foretaste of things to come, as the visitors opened their account in the 8th minute when some poor home defending allowed Wilde to meet a cross from the left and head past Davies.

Seven minutes later, the lead was doubled following another ball by Ryan Wignall lofted to the far post which was headed home by Michael Bakare.

Even at this early stage in proceedings, it was obvious the Reds had their hands full to prevent a humiliating outcome, with damage limitation seemingly the order of the day, but again they were exposed with another through ball which Wilde picked up, but this time Carlos Indja did just enough to shepherd it over for a goal kick.

A rare home attack saw Follows meeting a Loveridge driven cross and directing it towards the far post, but it was hacked clear by a Nomads defender.

On 25 minutes, events took an even worse turn for the home side after Declan Poole was found in space on the edge of the area, although his final finish took a wicked deflection off Scott Tancock before beating Davies.

Loveridge made ground down the right before his cross into the middle was pushed clear by Danby, with Laurence Wilson putting the rebound over for a corner.

Three goals down at the break, the Reds found themselves in even deeper trouble on 58 minutes following an effort by Wignall which again deflected off the unfortunate Tancock and into the net.

Five minutes later matters got even worse for the Reds when their opponents racked up a fifth success, when a melee in front of goal following a corner culminated in Michael Parker netting from close range.

Barely four minutes had elapsed before the Nomads turned the screw even further, with Bakare notching up his brace by heading home a Wignall delivery.

Davies pushed away a fiercely struck Nathan Woolfe free kick, and then did well to divert another attempt by the same player for a corner.

However, in stoppage time he was beaten again when the Nomads completed the rout through Laurence Wilson, who drove home his finish low into the bottom corner.

A sobering return to the top flight for the Reds, and they will certainly have to improve on this showing if they are to have any hope of survival in the long months which lie ahead.

On Saturday (Aug 18), the Reds travel to meet Cefn Druids with a coach leaving Stebonheath at 8am.

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Sport

Welsh Premier League season begins

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THE 2018/19 JD Welsh Premier League season kicks off tonight (Aug 10), with three exciting games in prospect.

Carmarthen Town begin their campaign away to Bala in a game that will be streamed live on S4C’s Facebook page.

Aberystwyth Town are also in action as they host Llandudno at Park Avenue. Friday’s other game sees Cardiff Met play Newtown.

Photo by Darren Harries

The 27th season of the JDWPL welcomes back two names synonymous with Welsh football, as Caernarfon Town and Llanelli Town return to the top flight after a number of years out.

Both clubs are rooted into the heart of their respective communities and will be hoping for great support as they kick off their campaigns at home to Cefn Druids and Connah’s Quay Nomads respectively.

Llanelli Town begin their season on Sunday (Aug 12) with a home game against Connahs Quay Nomads (KO 14:30).

The league has been recognised a number of times through the BBC Price of Football Survey as being the most affordable top-flight league in the UK, a validation of clubs’ commitment to keeping the live football experience open to everyone within their local areas. With the most expensive ticket price once again, being no more than £10, that commitment will continue into this season and beyond.

The League launched digitally this year on all JD Welsh Premier League social media platforms, and was accompanied by music from Cardiff band Himalayas, as part of the FAW’s partnership with the BBC Cymru Wales Horizons project.

Gwyn Derfel, JD Welsh Premier League Secretary, encouraged people to give the league a go, saying: “It is important that people give the JD Welsh Premier League a chance as, when people do come, they do tend to come back, which shows that we have a good, authentic, family-friendly product which is affordable to all.”

So, whether the football experience you’re looking for is affordable, family-friendly, authentic, good quality or all of the above, you’ll find it in your local community, at a JD Welsh Premier League club.

It begins. Get involved!

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Sport

Llangennech seal promotion

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LLANGENNECH secured promotion back to Division 1 of the South Wales Cricket Association as they beat Morriston by six wickets on Saturday (Aug 4).

Morriston won the toss and chose to bat first but Llangennech showed their qualities as they restricted their opponents to 166-9 in their 50 overs.

Openers Peter Lynn and Jay Wittram had earlier shared 42 runs for the opening wicket but that was broken when Lynn was caught by David Williams off the bowling of Simon Clement.

Wittram scored 36 but he was then trapped leg before by Matthew Jones and Stuart Jones scored 14 before he was also trapped leg before by Stuart Goddard.

Wickets were falling at regular intervals and Andrew Norton was also trapped leg before by Goddard.

Meilyr Powel was then stumped by Williams off the bowling of Bav Patel for a score of 1 and Morriston had slipped to 81-5.

Matthew Dardecker then fell in the same fashion as Powel on a score of 6 before a stand of 49 boosted Morriston’s position.

Photo by Darren Harries

Greg Handley scored 27 with two sixes but he was then run out and soon after Mark Whittaker was bowled by Matthew Jones on a score of 39.

Huw Knudson made a late score of 10 but he was then caught by Hedd-Wyn Jones off the bowling of Patel before Morriston limped to their total of 166-9.

Morriston struck early on as Llangennech began their reply when Hedd-Wyn Jones was caught by Lewis Francis off the bowling of Stuart Johnson for a third-ball duck.

Scott Lloyd and James Taube then shared 39 runs for the second wicket but that stand was broken when Taube was trapped leg before by Owen Francis on a score of 23.

Lloyd then shared another 61 runs with David Williams before the latter was caught by Huw Knudson off the bowling of Jay Wittram on a score of 43 that included nine fours.

Lloyd and Stuart Goddard then shared another good stand of 64 which took them to within touching distance of victory.

Goddard made 25 with four boundaries before he was bowled by Stuart Johnson.

Lloyd hit three fours as he finished not out on 40 to help his side back into Division 1 with victory.

It has been an excellent season for Llangennech and Saturday’s win was their eleventh of the season from fourteen games.

On Saturday (Aug 11), they will go again as they look to be crowned Division 2 Champions when they host bottom side Briton Ferry Town.

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