Carmarthen’s recently twice-postponed fixture against Airbus eventually got under way but, undoubtedly due to its hastily rearranged nature, the game was played in front of just 167 spectators, the lowest attendance for a league match at Richmond Park in Town’s 17 seasons of top-flight Welsh football.
During the early stages of this match neither side seemed able to make any meaningful progress with misplaced passes a conspicuous feature of the play. However the first genuine scoring opportunity was fashioned by E H Factors & Clothing sponsored Town after 8 minutes when Craig Hanford, from the half-way line, played an obviously well-rehearsed free-kick to Matthew Rees whose precise header across the penalty area found Liam McCreesh as he raced quickly into the goalmouth but from a good position he headed the ball straight at Airbus ‘keeper Jamie Stephens.
Both teams continued to relinquish possession all too easily with each adopting a primarily aerial approach which caused the opposing defences few problems. But in the 22nd minute a strong run down the left wing by Geoff Kellaway led to the Old Gold taking the lead. As he cut inside past his marker he was brought down and from the resultant free-kick Corey Thomas, some 25 yards out, drove the ball into the corner of the net leaving Stephens well beaten
Airbus soon responded with their first serious scoring chance but Wayne Riley’s effort was comfortably dealt with by ‘keeper Steve Cann and then, in quick succession, Ian Kearney and Sam Hart wasted good opportunities. But as the first-half drew to a close the visitors pressed forward even more and on 45 minutes Kearney rose highest in a crowded goalmouth to meet a corner-kick but saw his firm header crash against the bar. Yet there was still time for Town to launch another attack from which Kellaway’s intended cross drifted over Stephens but clipped the bar before going safely behind.
After the interval Airbus created two early openings but neither Ryan Wade nor Riley gave Cann any cause for concern. However following a free-kick on 59 minutes Riley, despite the strong challenge of Town defender Tim Hicks, must have thought he had secured his team’s much sought-after equaliser as his downward header from close range looked destined for the net only for Cann to bring off a quite spectacular save, clawing the ball away from the goal-line at full stretch.
For the rest of the game, although Airbus enjoyed the greater share of possession, the Old Gold comfortably protected their lead. The defensive rearguard of Ian Hillier, Hicks, Rees and Hanford, supplemented later on by substitute Carl Evans, performed with determination and discipline, rarely allowing the visitors to break through, while in front of them the midfield trio of McCreesh, Thomas and Nicky Palmer gave unflagging protection with their industry and commitment. And strikers Craig Hughes, Christian Doidge and Kellaway also made a valuable contribution, showing a commendable willingness to exploit any breakaway opportunity that arose thus ensuring the opposing defence was kept fully occupied.
The visitors have justifiably been close to the top of the Welsh Premier League all season and currently hold second place. But Carmarthen’s hard-won victory on this occasion, after having already beaten Airbus in both games during the first phase of this season, demonstrates that they are more than able to compete with the best in this League.