LLANELLI Town’s winless five game run came to an end on Saturday (Oct 6) as they beat Llandudno 2-1 in the first ever meeting between the two sides.
A James Loveridge goal in the first half – his sixth in nine matches – and a vintage Jordan Follows finish in the second, ensured the three points and kept the visitors in touch with the other clubs at the wrong end of the table.
Once again, however, manager Andy Hill was down to the bare bones in terms of team selection, due to injuries, suspension and work commitments, with only two academy players on the bench.
In addition, even more problems occurred during the course of the game, with both Joe Clarke and Ross Jones sustaining injuries – the latter necessitating a visit to Bangor hospital for a suspected broken collarbone.
As if these setbacks were not bad enough, Hill must also do without the services of Kurtis March in the immediate future, with him being shown a red card three minutes from time to add to the one for Anthony Finselbach in the previous match versus Newtown.
These lapses are not helping the Reds` cause with such a small squad at the manager`s disposal, but hopefully they can bring in a few new faces during the January transfer window.
On a more positive note, both Chris Thomas and Carlos Indja played a full part at Llandudno, with the latter impressing, particularly as he has not been involved to a great degree so far, and it is to be hope he will become a regular in the side for the duration of the season.
Goalkeeper Oliver Davies is also proving his worth, and he brought off a number of crucial saves to keep out the home attackers.
He was called into early action when saving at the feet of Alan Webb who was played in by Mark Connolly, before brilliantly turning around at full stretch a strike from Alfons Fosu-Mensah following a neat build-up.
A Toby Jones inswinging corner was fisted away by Davies, and when Jones returned the loose ball into the goalmouth, it was scrambled over for another flag kick.
Having survived these early home sorties, the visitors gradually came more into the game, and when Chris Jones picked out Follows in the area, his finish lacked power and Shaun Pearson in the Llandudno goal gathered easily.
Loveridge was then guilty of the same lack of a positive finish when Follows provided the opportunity, before an offside flag cancelled out a John Owen finish into the Reds` net from a George Harry assist.
Probably against the run of play, the Reds then stunned their opponents by going ahead on 27 minutes, when Loveridge intercepted a loose pass across the box before gratefully accepting the chance to take it in his stride and slotting low past Pearson.
Stung by this unexpected reverse, Llandudno continued to press and Davies was kept busy, turning over an effort from distance by Owen, while denying both Jones and Zyaac Edwards.
With half time approaching, it appeared as if the Reds would just about hang on to their slender lead, but as so often has happened during the season, they conceded an equaliser in stoppage time following a cross into the middle by Jones which was not dealt with effectively with the ball bobbling about, before eventually reaching Mike Pearson at the far post who lashed it past Davies.
With Clarke having suffered a blow to the face in the first half, his place at the start of the second period was taken by Anthony Nelson, but again the home side were setting the pace in the opening stages, with Davies being forced into another fine save to push over a further Webb effort.
Ross Jones then suffered his injury when he went down in a heap on the byline following a challenge, and it was obvious from the outset that he had taken a severe blow, and after lengthy treatment by the physios on both sides, he was forced to leave the field with Tristan Jenkins coming on as his replacement in the 59th minute.
Despite these setbacks, and having used their only two substitutes, the Reds began to look the more dangerous of the sides, and Loveridge should have done better when Follows set up a great chance, but again his finish was wayward.
A deflection for Llandudno into the box was seized upon by Harry, but Davies threw himself at his feet to smother the ball and prevent any serious damage.
Then came the game-changing moment on 77 minutes when Follows gained possession on halfway where his run took him past a couple of defenders, and he left Pearson grasping thin air with a superb finish high into the net from just outside the box.
With the contest seemingly slipping out of their grasp, the hosts laid siege to their opponents` goal, but despite all their huffing and puffing, their finishing left a lot to be desired, whilst they came up against a resolute defence which was determined not to concede, while Davies also played his part, turning around a far post attempt from Owen.
With just three minutes of normal time left, but a substantial amount of stoppage time to be added due to the Jones injury, the visitors` cause became even more difficult when March was red-carded for a high challenge on Mike Pearson.
With eight minutes of additional time to be played and at a numerical disadvantage, the Reds endured a number of heart-stopping moments up to the final whistle as their opponents attempted desperately to salvage something out of the contest, but they held firm to secure three precious points, and make the long journey home seem all the sweeter.
If they can replicate that effort on Friday evening (Oct 12) at Stebonheath with the visit of Cardiff MU, then a rise up the table could be on the cards. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.
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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