Craig Whitfield scored the winner
For Newtown substitute Craig Whitfield, it was better late than never, with the Robins loudly chirping as they snatched three points from their final goal scoring opportunity, against out of sorts Llanelli at Stebonheath Park. (reports Robert Clement).
With Whitfield being a 61st minute replacement for Matthew Hearsey, it was the Oswestry born striker who applied that all-important finishing, denying the Red’s a share of the points.
However, Llanelli dominated the game for long periods and created numerous goalscoring openings, but it was crucial disappointing finishing that was absent from their strike force.
With Craig Moses serving a three match suspension following his recent red card incident at lowly placed Afan Lido, Nicky Holland undertook his attacking role.
Meanwhile, Newtown made two positional changes, following the abandoned fixture at the Marston Stadium, with Nicky Ward and Iain Edmunds starting in place of Whitfield and Max Penk.
It was Llanelli who threatened to move ahead after fifteen minutes when Jack McKenna released Adam Davies, the young defender then flighted a by-line cross into the goal area, only for it to fly over the top of hastily advancing Jeff White.
Holland was then the quicker to react on the far side, delivering the ball back into the eighteen yard area, which was met by Shane Sutton, but his attempted headed clearance was seized upon by Craig Williams, and his left footed execution was gathered by Dave Roberts on the Newtown goal-line.
The mid-Wales visitors responded mid-way into the half with Ward picking out Zac Evans, and he was a little unfortunate, with his twenty five yard shot zipping inches wide of the upright.
With the first half ending with both teams having failed to achieve a breakthrough, Llanelli were the first to threaten following the restart, with Craig Williams making progress down the right side, his cross was snapped onto by Jordan Smith with the fluent attacking threat being maintained by McKenna, but unfortunately he blazed over the top from a promising position.
Just after the hour, a Sutton clearance was intercepted by White, he then found himself clear on goal, but the ball trickled agonisingly close to the vacant net, only to be stopped from going over the line by the combined effort of Sutton and Andy Jones.
Llanelli moved the momentum up a gear during the 68th minute with Smith making an inspired attacking route forward, his cross allowed Ryan Batley to send a chance goal bound, only for Edmunds to apply a headed goal-line clearance; Batley then swiftly reappeared to apply an overhead kick from six yards which Roberts hastily gathered.
Smith was once again displaying his attacking determination with the help of McKenna, but unfortunately White was unable to connect onto the opening created by his colleague.
With a minute remaining, Newtown made a last gasp attempt to end the deadlock, and it was Craig Williams who had the support of Luke Boundford on the edge of the penalty area. Whitfield was available to his left, and having avoided the attention of Davies, he swivelled before directing a shot beyond the wrong footed Craig Morris, and just inside the upright.
With the Robins having picked up another three important points on their travels, manager Bernard McNally spoke with Welsh Premier League reporter Robert Clement in the Stebonheath Park Media Suite, replying to the situation of being pleased to secure a second successive win, especially following the recent postponement against Bala Town, along with the abandoned match at Afan Lido.
“We just had to get over that finishing line, and for us, to be honest, it was a smash and grab situation. We created our own problems at times, particularly in the second period when Andy Jones and Shane Sutton didn’t see out one ball, but thankfully they managed to retrieve it on the goal-line”.
“I didn’t think that we played as I would have loved us to, and neither did the players with them agreeing with me, but sometimes you have to grind out results, and today was such a game like that”.
“McNally added, “I’ve just said in the dressing room, good teams win 1-0, and we’re certainly getting better and better as we play together”.
With plenty of games in hand, and ample points to play for, McNally was asked what was his target for the remainder of the season.
“I’ve just said to the players, today let’s go for the 8th spot if we can, I think that the 7th spot is sealed, but you never know, but for us it’s a case of really pulling ourselves together, with us taking a big step forward today”.
“We’ve got Afan Lido on Monday now, and we’ve created a platform to build upon; we have to take this feeling from that 89th minute success into the next game in south Wales, and put them under pressure”.
“We’ll travel there with optimism and confidence, and finger’s crossed we can do that; we know that we’ve been under pressure at times here, and Llanelli played some good football”.
“I thought that it was two teams that wanted to put on an entertaining display in all honesty, and we know that we’ve been very fortunate, and I’m delighted with that because at the end of the day it’s points on the board that makes such a difference”.
McNally commented on the situation of his defence rising to the occasion when being put under pressure.
“We’re a much stronger side than what we were twelve months ago, when relegation threatened us, and we had too many kids playing to be honest. I know fans like to say “put the kid’s in”, it doesn’t work; you’ve got to get the blend”.
“I’ve got experience, along with a group of players that want to work hard and grind out results, like today, but still want to play good football, and you can see that in how we’re progressing, and I’m absolutely delighted with the players individually and collectively”.
Llanelli manager Bob Jeffrey then provided his thoughts of the game, with his player’s rueing missed chances, and losing concentration towards the end.
“Yes, exactly, at halftime with neither team having scored, I would have liked to have kept a clean sheet in the second half, regrettably we missed a hatful of chances, too many to talk about really, but the boy’s are young, and maybe a little bit of inexperience cost us in the last minute”.
“We had Craig Moses missing, with him having been sent off at Afan Lido last week; he’s one of our better strikers, but apart from that it was probably unfortunate that our lack concentrating which allowed Newtown to take advantage of”.
The Scotsman was then asked to comment on the financial situation at the club.
“There’s a meeting in the club on Tuesday night, in an attempt to rally support. Whether it’s too late or not I don’t know, I can’t really tell you. I’m hoping to speak to the Chairman this evening or tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll have some more news at the beginning of next week”.
Jeffrey was asked if the club’s financial problems was affecting the player’s performance.
“I hope not”, he quickly replied. “You’ve seen their positive determination this afternoon, we played some great football at times, and probably the best we’ve done this season really, and maybe with a bit more luck in front of goal we would have won the game”.
With Llanelli labouring at one time to struggle to get the ball over the line, the rare chance was cleared by Newtown.
“I think the ball took a bobble”, said Jeffrey. “In fairness to Jeff White he’s in the right place at the right time. Nine times out of ten he goes around the goalkeeper and puts it in the net, unfortunately it didn’t happen today”.
“There appeared to be nervousness on occasions with the players unable to stamp their authority on the game, with the ball flying over the top, and it really was one of those games where you create lots of chances at times, and you just don’t get your rewards, and with us being a little inexperienced sometimes it comes back to bite you, like it has today”.