Kick off:14:30 Saturday, 15 Sept 2012
at Richmond Park, Carmarthen
Fixture Type: Welsh Premier League
Referee: Dean John
Kerry Nicholas kept a clean sheet on debut
After conceding seven goals in a disappointing performance at Prestatyn last weekend Carmarthen manager Mark Aizlewood made multiple changes to his starting line-up for this tough encounter with current League champions The New Saints...
From the outset E H Factors & Clothing sponsored Town took the initiative and launched a series of raids on the visitors’ goal. After just three minutes Jonathan Hood’s corner-kick was met by Matthew Rees who headed the ball across to Tim Hicks but his header from close range was safely held by goalkeeper Paul Harrison. Then on nine minutes a goalmouth scramble finished with Liam Thomas’ sharp drive being deflected off a defender for another corner; and moments later Thomas again featured as he ran at the TNS defence, holding off two challenges, before setting up Paul Fowler who from 25 yards fired his shot just wide. Fowler then became the provider as he took the ball forward from deep inside his own half and delivered a fine pass to Hicks but his effort from the edge of the penalty area was blocked by a defender.
During this period all efforts by TNS to press forward were nullified by the industry and determination of Town’s midfielders backed up by a resolute defence. So effective were the Old Gold that it was not until the 27th minute that the visitors had their first shot at goal, a free-kick which Chris Jones put well over the bar; and during the entire first-half ‘keeper Kerry Nicholas, on his debut, was required to make just one save, easily dealing with a Greg Draper strike from 20 yards.
After the interval the visitors sought to dominate possession and take control of the game but, while enjoying territorial advantage over their hosts, once more their attacks lacked any real penetration. Town’s central midfielders Fowler and new signing Liam McCreesh, along with Corey Thomas and the more defensively-minded Neil Smothers, tirelessly chased and harried their opponents, never allowing them to settle on the ball and suffocating their forward progress. And behind them, at the heart of the defence, Carl Evans and Rees were a formidable partnership, dominating the visitors’ strike-force for long periods.
But a key element of Town’s resistance was the commitment of Craig Hanford who had clearly been instructed to man-mark TNS top scorer Ryan Fraughan; so successful was this tactic that Fraughan failed to manage a single shot from open play during the entire match.
As the second period progressed, play became increasingly compressed into Town’s half of the field yet, like in the first-half, it was not until the 76th minute that TNS got a serious sight of goal when Sam Finley’s shot was comfortably saved by Nicholas. More time elapsed before Nicholas, who throughout his debut performed confidently and efficiently, was called on again as TNS defender Kai Edwards strode forward on 87 minutes to fire in a 40 yard drive which the young ‘keeper gathered safely.
Town’s counter-attacks had by now become few and far between but in added time Liam Thomas, well upfield chasing a long clearance, pounced on a defensive error and, with Old Gold fans excitedly recalling his crucial last-minute goals in recent matches, his shot from 25 yards was fierce and direct; sadly, to the disappointment of home fans and players alike, Harrison was well positioned to deny Thomas another sensational winner.
Carmarthen clearly had a game-plan to contain and frustrate their classy opposition and strike back with swift, incisive counter-attacks. All the players, much to their credit, performed with immense discipline, commitment and energy and were suitably rewarded with a hard-earned point and their goal intact. They can now look forward with renewed confidence to their next match, away to Bala Town on Saturday