Early goal is the key as sharper visitors secure three points
AFTER an enforced three-week absence from competitive action, Carmarthen Town belatedly began their Welsh Premier League second phase with a spirited performance against a strong Bangor side.
The visitors, benefiting from playing regularly during that period, took the early initiative with a series of flowing moves which immediately put the Old Gold under pressure.
And it was not too surprising that after just 11 minutes, Bangor's Les Davies rose to meet Chris Jones's fine cross and head the ball firmly past keeper Steve Cann.
However, Town reacted positively and they pressed further forward, using the pace and penetration of strikers Liam Thomas and Geoff Kellaway to good effect.
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On 18 minutes, Ian Hillier's long throw was only partially cleared and he was quickly onto the loose ball. From 20 yards his drive went narrowly wide of the post.
Shortly afterwards, Hillier floated a free-kick deep into the goalmouth where Paul Fowler headed marginally too high.
By now the game had become more even as play switched rapidly from end to end, but with both defences looking solid and dependable very few scoring opportunities arose.
Town defenders Carl Evans, Tim Hicks and Craig Hanford were clearly under instructions to man-mark the Bangor strikers, while just behind them Hillier provided excellent cover.
They performed with such discipline and skill that Cann was never seriously troubled for the remainder of the game.
In the 34th minute Carmarthen fashioned another chance when Christian Doidge, who continually caused problems with his height and strength, won the ball in the air but from 25 yards his volley went just wide.
At the other end, Jones finished a strong run from the halfway line with a fierce long-range drive which took a deflection and flew harmlessly over.
Shortly after the interval Cann again launched a free-kick deep into the Bangor half to reach Doidge on the edge of the area but, cramped by defenders, he once more struck his shot wide of the post.
A rare chance opened up for the visitors on 69 minutes when Davies got beyond Town's back line, but his strike from 15 yards was well held by Cann.
Carmarthen, prompted by the energy and creativity of midfielders Corey Thomas, Nicky Palmer and Fowler, continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and in the 79th minute were gifted a golden opportunity when Bangor keeper Lee Idzi handled a back-pass on his six-yard line.
The indirect free-kick was played to Fowler whose powerful shot was blocked by the mass of defenders on the goal-line. Although Liam Thomas was quickly to the rebound, his effort was cleared to safety.
As the match reached its final stages, Evans, who had moved forward as an auxiliary striker, rose highest in the goalmouth to meet Hanford's corner only to see his header comfortably gathered by Idzi.
And in added time Evans, on the edge of the area, set up a good chance for Kellaway but his drive went straight to Idzi.
Town will be disappointed to have got nothing from this match, but they can take encouragement from their performance against one of the stronger sides in the Welsh Premier League Championship and now look forward to their Welsh Cup quarter-final with Prestatyn Town on Saturday at Richmond Park (2.30pm).
Team: Steve Cann; Tim Hicks; Carl Evans; Ian Hillier (Matthew Rees sub 83); Craig Hanford; Corey Thomas (Liam McCreesh sub 83); Paul Fowler; Nicky Palmer; Liam Thomas; Christian Doidge (Casey Thomas sub 67); Geoff Kellaway. Unused subs: Neil Smothers; Luke Cummings.