Carmarthen Town boss Mark Aizlewood's delight as heroes keep calm to claim silverware
MARK Aizlewood hailed his Carmarthen Town players after they defied the odds to lift the Word Cup last Saturday.
The Old Gold edged a tense final on penalties when Steve Cann saved from opposite number Paul Harrison, while Corey Thomas, Liam Thomas and Craig Hanford scored for Carmarthen.
Town were underdogs against their full-time opponents who are clear at the top of the Welsh Premier League.
And afterwards Aizlewood could not hide his delight that his team had turned the tables on the Saints.
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"Wonderful. Fantastic. Brilliant. Unbelievable," said Aizlewood.
"These would be my four adjectives to describe the performance of the players.
"Along with coach Neil Smothers, we work constantly with these players but even now we can still be surprised by the resilience, character and levels of fitness they can achieve.
"Things like dogged determination and spirit is innate — you are unable to train this into players. But if you add things such as a game plan, fitness, organisation and tactics which you can train into them, you may be surprised how far you can go.
"The football public should not underestimate the enormity of what the players did last Saturday.
"For instance, with The New Saints being a full-time professional club, they were able to work on their game plan for seven consecutive days before the final. We had just two hours on Wednesday evening."
Carmarthen were six minutes away from winning the game in normal time.
Craig Hughes and Corey Thomas cancelled out efforts by Steve Evans and Sam Finely before Thomas put Town in front. But Michael Wilde levelled for The Saints in the closing stages.
There were no more goals in extra time, meaning the clash was decided from the spot.
"We had a sloppy start by conceding an early goal," said Aizlewood.
"This would have put many teams on the back foot. It is commonly known that once Saints get a lead they are unlikely to give it up easily.
"Then, in the 22nd minute, I was faced with the dilemma that Paul Fowler was feeling unwell.
"This was clearly due to an illness which had not been evident in the build-up to the game or at training.
"After a discussion with Neil, we made the change, and put on Corey Thomas as a substitute. He subsequently went on to score two goals which completely changed the game. This was a risky decision but one which had to be made."
Aizlewood believes Town could have clinched the cup before penalties.
"I knew the strength of character that we have within our squad and was confident of winning in extra time which we so very nearly did when a Casey Thomas shot went agonisingly just wide of an upright," he said.
"So the game went to penalties. I instructed the players not to be clever and, if you miss, make sure the goalkeeper has to save it.
"Wonderful, fantastic, brilliant, unbelievable is how it feels to bring a trophy back to Richmond Park for the band of fantastic volunteers which run the club and for all of those loyal supporters of the Old Gold."
To celebrate the cup win, all under-16s will be admitted free for Saturday's match against Newtown with students at half-price.