THE opening month of the Reds` return to the Welsh Premier League could be summed up as akin to the curate`s egg – good in parts.
After being crushed at home 7-0 on the opening day by Connahs`s Quay Nomads, they then produced a great comeback at Cefn Druids, clawing back a 2-0 half-time deficit to eventually win 3-2, before a creditable 1-1 draw with visitors Barry Town United.
But this latest loss at Park Avenue must be the one that sticks in the craw, as having dominated matters in the opening forty five minutes, they only had a solitary James Loveridge goal to show for their efforts, and would eventually pay the penalty for missed chances, which if taken, would probably have sealed the win.
Not having done so, their opponents were a far different proposition in the second half, and the tactical changes made by them certainly paid off, as the visitors were a pale shadow of the team which had begun the contest, and were run ragged by the Seasiders who, at the close, fully deserved the three points.
There are no easy games in this league, and hopefully the Reds have taken something positive away with them from Park Avenue to ensure they do not capitulate quite so badly as the season progresses.
They began brightly enough with the first chance falling to Loveridge when a long kick out by Oliver Davies fell to home player, Lee Jenkins, who attempted to find goalkeeper Terry McCormick but underhit his pass, allowing the Reds` striker to close him down, and he was forced to keep out his effort with his legs.
As the half progressed, the visitors continued to stroke the ball around to good effect, keeping the home side quiet, and deservedly took the lead on 17 minutes after Kurtis March picked out Loveridge wide on the right, and he made inroads into the box before firing low past McCormick into the far corner.
This pattern of play continued throughout the first half, with the Reds well in control and limiting the hosts to the occasional breakaway, without any real threat to their goal.
Despite their dominance, they just could not find a second success to establish something of a cushion, with Mark Jones having the best chance when Jordan Davies sent him clear, and despite rounding the oncoming goalkeeper and getting into a scoring position in front of the net, he took too long, and McCormick was able to make back his ground and smother the ball on the line.
The home keeper was being kept fully occupied, just beating Loveridge to the ball on the edge of the box and kicking it clear, while about the only chance for the Seasiders` came from Alan Goodall whose strike from distance was touched over by Davies.
A Chris Thomas run down the left culminated in some desperate defending in the home area before the danger was hacked over for a corner, but despite all their pressure, the visitors were still only the solitary goal to the good at the break.
This factor was to prove to be crucial as the second period got underway, and the major cause of the home revival was the introduction at half time of Porya Ahmadi for Paulo Mendes, as he proved to be a thorn in the side of the visitors from the off, forcing Thomas to concede a corner from his dangerous cross early on.
An injury to Anthony Finselbach forced the Reds into a change, with Jordan Follows coming on in his place, but by this stage the game had changed dramatically with the Seasiders` now in the box seat and their opponents being forced back to defend their slender advantage.
But two goals in as many minutes changed the whole complexion of the contest, with Ahmadi meeting a deep cross from Wes Baynes to find the top corner with a great header in the 62nd minute, before Geoff Kellaway controlled a ball on 64 minutes to volley it past Davies and put the hosts ahead.
Now well in control of their own destiny, the Seasiders` kept up the pressure, not allowing the Reds many opportunities in an attacking sense, although Loveridge did force McCormick into to a good save to keep out his fiercely struck shot on target.
However, any faint hopes of a comeback were well and truly put to bed when the home side struck again on 77 minutes, when a ball played into the goalmouth led to a melee before being forced home by Joe Phillips.
When Loveridge was fouled just outside the box, Follows could only drive the free kick into the wall, before Davies did well to deny Ahmadi by keeping out his finish with an outstretched leg, before being called into action again, this time pushing clear an Ashley Ruane effort when he was played through the middle.
A chastening experience for the Reds, who must have thought they were favourites for the three points following their first half display, but the game is not over until it`s over, and hopefully some valuable lessons will have been learned from the defeat.
The Reds make the long journey to Bala Town on Saturday (Sept 8), with a coach leaving Stebonheath at 8am.
Hendy hit back in second half
HENDY secured their fourth win of the season on Saturday (Oct 13) as they beat second placed Gowerton 26-15 after a fine second half.
The win moves Hendy up to third and they now sit just a point behind Gowerton.
Hendy’s Rhydian Morris got the home side on the board with a try but he couldn’t add the conversion.
Morris did add a penalty but Gowerton hit back with a converted try and a penalty to lead 10-8 at the break.
Hendy stepped up in the second half and Jake Newman put Hendy back in front with a good try.
Steffan Howells then grabbed Hendy’s third while Morris was successful with one of his three conversion attempts.
Morris also added two further penalties to all but seal the win for the home side.
Gowerton hit back with a late try but it wasn’t enough to affect the outcome of the game and Hendy saw it out.
On Saturday (Oct 20), Hendy are away as they take on fourth placed Llanelli Wanderers in what promises to be an exciting game.
Scarlets beaten at the death
A LAST gasp penalty try for last season’s Heineken Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 condemned Scarlets to a single point defeat in their opening game of this season’s competition.
Storm Callum played his part in the pre-match preparations with rain and gale force winds keeping people away from the Parc.
The Scarlets, unaffected by the storm, prepared for an opening titanic clash against the French side.
The home side got the first points on the board after Racing were penalised on a couple of occasions leading to a penalty for Leigh Halfpenny to send through the posts.
Racing then began to put pressure on the Scarlets and Finn Russell thought he had scored but play had been called back for a knock on.
Scarlets then came close to scoring a try but a knock on gave possession back to the visitors who then went back on the attack.
The home side lost concentration and that allowed flanker Baptiste Chouzenoux to run in for a try under the posts and Russell then added the extras.
That gave the French side a 3-7 lead at the break but the Scarlets came out for the second half determined to get back into the lead.
Ten minutes in they had a scrum close to the line and it was Gareth Davies who picked the ball before spotting a gap and going through to score. Halfpenny’s conversion was only inches away but Scarlets led 8-7.
Moments later Scarlets were back on the attack and after working through the phases the ball came to Jonathan Davies who kicked ahead for Johnny McNicholl to run onto and touch down. Again the conversion was missed.
The French side looked to respond but some good defending from saw them clear the ball downfield which Steff Evans did his best to retrieve.
Racing were penalised for not rolling away but Scarlets conceded possession with a knock on and the visitors came forward once more.
Scarlets defended well initially but referee Matthew Carley spotted an infringement and went under the posts for a penalty try and also sending Gareth Davies to the sin bin.
The home side had little time to respond and although they went upfield they were unable to add to the score.
Scarlets will be disappointed to have suffered defeat and will need to pick themselves up for Friday’s (Oct 19) game, also in the Heineken Cup, this time away to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Reds made to pay for missed chances
A WET and windy evening (Fri, Oct 12) at Stebonheath ended in yet another loss for the Reds who have now accumulated just a measly point from their five home games to date.
But yet again, as has been the case in earlier matches, they could and should have wrapped up matters prior to the break, but failure to convert a number of gilt-edged chances cost them dearly in the long run.
James Loveridge was the main culprit by failing to finish off a number of moves when through on goal, and these misses were to prove crucial when the visitors struck twice in the second half after being comprehensively outplayed in the first.
Manager Andy Hill has also the additional worry of even more injuries to contend with, with Jordan Davies having to be replaced by Lenny Evans six minutes after the restart following a challenge on halfway, while Chris Thomas also came off with Anton Nelson taking his place.
Just to add to the overall dispiriting picture, the Reds were again reduced to ten men just before the final whistle when Scott Tancock was red-carded – their third dismissal in as many games, and Tancock`s second in just five weeks, following his sending-off at Bala Town.
With resources already stretched to breaking-point, more and more reliance is being placed on academy players to fill the gaps, and to their credit they are shaping up well against far more experienced and physical opponents.
Jamie Owen, Nelson, Evans and Tristan Jenkins were all involved at some stage against the Met. and certainly did not let the occasion get to them, and at least the future of the club seems to be moving in the right direction with these talents available.
The first half was dominated by the home side, with Loveridge having an early chance which was just wide of the near post.
Daniel Alfei, making his home debut, then set up another chance for the striker, but this time goalkeeper Alex Lang brought off a great save to divert Loveridge`s finish around the upright.
Constantly on the front foot, and playing some decent attractive football in atrocious conditions, the Reds had their opponents pinned back for long periods, and they were lucky to survive another attempt from Loveridge which beat Lang and was heading for the net before Dylan Rees somehow contrived a clearance off the line.
The Met keeper was being kept fully occupied, and again brought off another important save from Loveridge when he got clear on goal, but with the number of chances which had come his way, the home striker would know he should have converted at least a couple.
Another Reds` chance came from a Chris Jones corner which was met by Carlos Indja at the far post, but he steered his finish just off target.
Despite their overall dominance, the hosts had still failed to break the deadlock at the interval, and it was still all to play for in the second half.
It was then that the tide began to turn in favour of the visitors who were far more involved than in the opening forty-five minutes, and Oliver Davies in the home goal, who had been a virtual spectator, was at last called into some meaningful action.
A run down the left by Adam Roscrow culminated in a ball across the face of the home goal which failed to pick out a colleague, while Sam Snaith narrowly failed to connect with his header from a Elliot Evans delivery.
When the Reds countered, another Loveridge effort was hacked out of the goalmouth, before almost inevitably the Met opened the scoring on 79 minutes when Harry Owen met a ball into the box close to goal, and despite Davies managing to parry his shot, he could not prevent it squirming from his grasp into the net
He then pulled off a fine save from Roscrow when he was set up by Ben Bowler, but with the final whistle approaching, Tancock was dismissed by referee David Morgan for a foul on the same player just outside the box when homing in on goal.
The subsequent free kick was taken by Evans, who rifled an unstoppable strike into the top corner leaving Davies helpless in the 88th minute to effectively put the contest out of the Reds` reach.
In stoppage time, Davies was again in action, this time turning around another attempt on target by Roscrow.
More heartache for the Reds, who have another difficult game awaiting them at Jenner Park on Friday evening (Oct 19) when they take on Barry Town United. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.
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