Town battle back to claim vital success - now the wait begins
BOTH teams went into the game anxious to win in order to stand a chance of finishing in the Welsh Premier League's top six — and it was Carmarthen Town who came out on top.
The outcome has since been shrouded in controversy, with Connah's Quay Nomads believing their victory at Bala Town had ensured a place in the Championship Conference , only to be deducted a point for fielding an ineligible player.
As it stands, Carmarthen will play in the top-half competition, though this story has some legs in it yet.
But at Richmond Park it was the home side who, having twice fought back from a goal down, claimed the crucial three points after a highly competitive and spirited performance.
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From the outset Newtown took the initiative with a series of bursts through the midfield which kept Town's defenders fully engaged.
And after an early effort from Craig Williams went narrowly wide, the visitors were rewarded when Luke Boundford leapt high in a crowded goalmouth to plant a firm header beyond keeper Steve Cann and into the back of the net.
Moments later Williams raced dangerously into the area but his shot was held by Cann.
The visitors continued to show greater urgency and better movement as they pressed forward and another slick passing move ended with Nicky Ward driving wide from 15 yards.
Town were becoming more assured in defence and purposeful in attack and a pivotal moment came on 32 minutes when a weak clearance went straight to new signing Geoff Kellaway, who from the edge of the area drove the ball against the post with goalkeeper Dave Roberts well beaten.
That incident seemed to energise the Old Gold and for the rest of the half they dictated proceedings.
Craig Hughes threaded a fine pass through to Liam Thomas, whose fierce strike from 20 yards drew an excellent save from Roberts.
The corner from Thomas reached Ian Hillier at the back post, but his downward header was smothered on the line by the increasingly busy Roberts.
After the interval Town resumed with positive intent and an early opportunity arose when a deep cross from Liam McCreesh landed in a crowded goalmouth and a flurry of activity ended with the ball cleared off the line.
Immediately Newtown struck back with Andy Jones ending a determined run to the edge of the area with a powerful shot which Cann did well to punch away.
The end-to-end pattern continued as Paul Fowler, only minutes after coming on as a substitute, rose to glance a long clearance out of defence to Kellaway, who raced into the area before slotting the ball under Roberts for a deserved goal on his Carmarthen debut.
Kellaway was agonisingly denied by the woodwork for a second time when he broke free from halfway and unleashed a stunning shot which rattled the bar.
Yet Newtown's response was more successful as defensive lapses by Town at a corner allowed Shane Sutton time and space to stab the ball home from close range.
Manager Mark Aizlewood reacted by bolstering his attacking options, bringing on striker Christian Doidge — a decision which would pay immediate dividends.
On 72 minutes Cann launched a long goal-kick which Doidge, with virtually his first touch of the ball, nodded on to Kellaway. He weaved through the defence and from the edge of the area fired home his second equaliser.
Carmarthen pressed forward once more and they went ahead in the 76th minute when Corey Thomas delivered a superb long cross into the goalmouth where Doidge out-jumped the surrounding defenders to nod the ball into the roof of the net for his first goal since his January signing.
Stung by that setback, Newtown rallied again and moments later were denied an equaliser when Ward beat Cann with a header only to see McCreesh clear the ball to safety.
The final stages were a frenzy of all-out attacking from both teams, with scoring chances at both ends.
But on 89 minutes Town made the game safe when Liam Thomas broke through the tiring Newtown defence and, although Roberts advanced quickly to block his shot, the striker recovered immediately to chase the loose ball to the line and slide it across the face of the goal where the unmarked Doidge was handily placed to stab home.
There was just time for Cann to demonstrate his class with two more brilliant saves before the final whistle signalled the conclusion of yet another exhilarating performance by the Old Gold.
Team: Steve Cann; Matthew Rees; Ian Hillier (Christian Doidge sub 70); Craig Hanford; Tim Hicks; Nicky Palmer (Paul Fowler sub 47); Liam McCreesh; Luke Cummings (Corey Thomas sub 57); Craig Hughes; Liam Thomas; Geoff Kellaway. Unused subs: Carl Evans; Neil Smothers.