Christian Doidge scored his first WPL goals
With both teams anxious to win this their final match of the Welsh Premier League first phase in order to enhance their prospects of a top six finish it was Carmarthen who, having twice fought back from being a goal down, claimed the crucial 3 points after a highly competitive and spirited performance.
However from the outset Newtown took the initiative with a series of well-crafted 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 soon rewarded when on 15 minutes Luke Boundford leapt high in the crowded goalmouth to reach a fine left-wing cross and planted a firm header beyond ‘keeper Steve Cann and into the back of the net. Moments later Williams raced dangerously into the penalty area but his close-range shot was well 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 from15 yards when well placed. However gradually E H Factors & Clothing sponsored Town were becoming more assured in defence and purposeful in attack and a pivotal moment occurred on 32 minutes when a weak defensive clearance went straight to new signing Geoff Kellaway who from the edge of the penalty 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 first-half they dictated the proceedings.
After 39 minutes Craig Hughes threaded a fine pass through to Liam Thomas whose fierce strike from 20 yards drew an excellent save from Roberts. The resultant corner-kick from Thomas reached Ian Hillier at the back post but his strong downward header was smothered on the goal-line by the increasingly busy Roberts.
Following the interval Town resumed with positive attacking intent and an early opportunity arose on 53 minutes when a deep cross from Liam McCreesh landed in a crowded goalmouth and a flurry of activity ended with the ball being cleared off the goal-line. Immediately Newtown struck back with Andy Jones finishing a determined run to the edge of the penalty area with a powerful shot which Cann did well to punch safely away.
The end-to-end pattern of play continued as moments later Paul Fowler, only minutes after coming on as substitute, rose to glance a long clearance out of defence on to Kellaway who raced into the penalty area before slotting the ball under Roberts for a well-deserved goal on his Carmarthen debut. Then on 64 minutes Kellaway was agonisingly denied by the woodwork for a second time when he broke free from the half-way line and from 20 yards unleashed a stunning shot which rattled the bar leaving Roberts as a mere spectator.
Yet Newtown’s instant response was more successful as defensive lapses by Town at a corner-kick allowed Shane Sutton time and space to stab the ball home from close range. Manager Mark Aizlewood reacted to this disappointment by bolstering his attacking options, bringing on striker Christian Doidge to replace central defender Hillier - a decision which would pay immediate dividends. On 72 minutes Cann launched a long goal-kick upfield where Doidge, with virtually his first touch of the ball, nodded it on to Kellaway who weaved through the visitors’ defence and from the edge of the penalty area fired home his second equaliser.
Carmarthen, now showing more strength and determination than their opponents, pressed forward once more and they went ahead in the 76th minute when Corey Thomas, from near the right touchline, 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 early January signing. However, stung by that setback Newtown rallied again and moments later they were denied an equaliser when, from a corner, Ward beat Cann with his header only to see McCreesh, perfectly positioned on the goal-line, clear the ball to safety.
The final stages of this thrilling encounter were a frenzy of all-out attacking from both teams with scoring chances inevitably arising 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 by-line and slide it across the face of the goal where the unmarked Doidge was handily placed to stab it home. There was just time for Cann to demonstrate his undoubted class with two more brilliant saves before the final whistle signalled the conclusion of yet another exhilarating performance by the Old Gold.