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.
Llanelli secure Premiership status
LLANELLI secured their place in the Principality Premiership for next season on Friday night as they beat Championship winners Pontypool 27-16 in the play off at Aberavon.
Pontypool have only lost one game in three seasons but knew they would need to win to go up at the expense of Llanelli.
They started well but saw a couple of opportunities go begging early on and there was still no score with twenty minutes gone.
Six minutes later Pontypool charged down a kick and were given a penalty after Llanelli were deemed guilty of an offside for which saw yellow.
Pooler then sent the resulting kick through the posts to give them the lead.
Soon after, Shaun Evans had a chance for Llanelli when he ran into the Pooler 22 but after he was halted they went right when they perhaps should have gone the other way and the chance soon went.
Pooler then doubled their lead with another penalty as Llanelli were guilty of a number of infringements in the first half.
However, on the stroke of half time, Llanelli took the lead as they initiated a rolling maul and Taylor Davies went over for the try which was converted by Tom Prydie.
That gave the men in red a 7-6 lead at the break but they knew they would face a strong charge from Pooler in the second half.
Early in the second half, Llanelli looked to increase their lead when Ryan Conbeer went on a snaking run but he was halted just before the line by an excellent try-saving tackle from Lloyd Lewis.
Pooler then took the lead again with a penalty but Prydie answered with a penalty of his own to put Llanelli back in front at 10-9.
Soon after, Llanelli began to take control as they pushed a Pooler scrum backwards, earning a penalty, and Prydie kicked them further ahead.
Two minutes later they had another try as Steff Hughes kicked forward and Conbeer kicked on before falling on the ball in the try area. Prydie then added the extras to make it 20-9 with fifteen minutes to go.
They then scored their third try of the game as Lee Rees broke free after an excellent Callum Evans pass and the on-loan Llandovery player ran on to score. Prydie converted again to complete a great man-of-the-match performance.
With three minutes to go Scott Matthews touched the ball down under the posts and after it was confirmed as a try by the TMO it was converted bringing the score to 27-16.
Llanelli continued to play and thought they had scored late on but Callum Evans was called back after referee Nigel Owens, superb in the middle, spotted a forward pass from Prydie.
It left Pooler with little time to respond and Llanelli saw the game out to seal their place in the Premiership for the 2019-20 season.
Spotlight on superstars in South Wales
THE next two days around Cardiff will reverberate to the excited strains of a bowls community poised to experience the best of the best, when the first week of a two-week festival of international competition reaches its climax.
Over the five days the 2019 Atlantic Championships – featuring twenty-five bowling nations from the European, African and South American theatres at four host clubs around the Welsh capital – Barry Athletic, Dinas Powys, Penarth Windsor and Penylan – has gone through the qualifying stanza in women’s singles and fours, along with men’s pairs and triples.
In the short term the rewards are medals for excellence at this event, while qualification for next year’s world championships in Australia enjoys equal status.
Tomorrow and Thursday will be the stuff of which adventure heroes are made as many of the game’s greatest players strut their stuff – tomorrow’s elimination finals are at Barry Athletic and Dinas Powys, then the gold medal play-offs at Penylan on Thursday.
Spectators at Penalyn this morning enjoyed a teaser of what to expect when two superstars went at it in the flat green game’s version of a cat fight. It was a women’s singles encounter featuring a former Commonwealth Games gold medalist England’s Natalie Chestney, who won in Dehli in 2010; up against Scotland’s Caroline Brown, who has three world championship gold medals to her credit – the indoor singles at Potters in 2007, World Cup singles at Warilla in 2014 and the 2012 world fours in Adelaide.
The quality of bowls was exceptional as Chestney demonstrated the class that elevated her to the dizziest heights. After scores were level at 9-9 at eleven ends, the England star restricted Brown to just three scoring ends for the rest of the match, winning 21-14.
At major international events sectional top finishers graduate immediately to the semi finals, while the next two best finishers are sent to the elimination rounds.
Tomorrow at Dinas Powys, Scotland takes on England and Kenya plays Zimbabwe in women’s fours at 9.30am, with winners to play South Africa and Wales respectively at Barry Athletic at 2.30. Similarly, Malta plays Ireland along with Jersey against Guernsey in men’s pairs at Dinas Powys at 9.30am, with the winners heading to Barry Athletic in the afternoon to take on the mighty England and Scotland teams in the semi finals at 2.30pm.
Conversely, Barry Athletic will host England against Malta and Jersey versus Namibia in the morning men’s triples, with winners pitted against Scotland and South Africa respectively at Dinas Powys in the afternoon.
The blue ribbon women’s singles at Barry will see Natalie Chestney (England) v Colleen Piketh (South Africa) and Cindy Royet (France) v Ruti Gilor (Israel) at 9.30am – the winners playing Lucy Beere (Guernsey) and Caroline Brown (Scotland) respectively at Dinas Powys in the afternoon.
Wanderers blow Ynys away
CARMARTHEN Wanderers earned their second win of the season on Saturday (May 11) as they beat Ynystawe by 26 runs.
Ynystawe won the toss and elected to field and they bowled well as they restricted the Wanderers to 142-7.
However, Robbie Crawford took four wickets for the home side to help them to victory.
The Wanderers lost Leighton Walters early on when he was caught off the bowling of Rhys Palmer but Crawford and Stephen Inward then shared 50 runs for the second wicket.
Crawford made a patient 23 with one boundary but he was then trapped leg before by Andrew Beasley.
Inward hit five fours as he scored 34 but he was stumped off the bowling of Tom Morgan and the Wanderers had slipped to 87-3.
Gareth Thomas hit 20 but also fell to the bowling of Morgan while Owain Binding was trapped leg before by Carl Roberts on a score of 14.
Roberts then removed Owain Davies on a score of 12 and Steven Mills was then bowled by Alex Fletcher.
Darrell Griffiths was not out on 12 but it wasn’t enough to help Carmarthen pass 150 runs.
Tom Blake and Morgan Hodges then got the visitors off to a good start in their reply as they shared 30 runs for the opening stand.
Owain Binding made the breakthrough for the Wanderers as he had Blake caught by Ifan Knott on a score of 7.
Andrew Beasley fell for the same score when he was bowled by Gareth Thomas, leaving Ynystawe on 49-2.
Hodges then shared another 37 runs with Carl Roberts and it looked as if they would reach their target but the Wanderers had other ideas.
Steven Mills trapped Roberts leg before on a score of 14 and soon after, Hodges, who hit two fours and two sixes in his knock of 45 from 112 balls, was caught by Darrell Griffiths off the bowling of Thomas.
That left the visitors on 91-4 but they were still in a good position.
Leighton Walters and Robbie Crawford were brought on to bowl and wickets soon started to fall.
Walters had Tom Davies caught by Thomas and Crawford then bowled Dean Price to reduce Ynystawe to 110-6.
Crawford then bowled Alex Fletcher and Rhys Palmer while Walters had Tom Morgan caught by Thomas on a score of 13 and the visitors had collapsed to 112-9.
Crawford then wrapped up the innings with his fourth wicket as Ynystawe were bowled out for 116.
On Saturday (May 18), the Wanderers are away as they take on Panteg.
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