Haverfordwest County returned south empty-handed after a 2-0 defeat to Caernarfon Town in the opening game of Phase Two yesterday.
Goals from Laurie Bell and Darren Thomas in the second half were enough to hand the Canaries all three points.
The Bluebirds had their opportunities, particularly in the first half, but were unable to make the most of their good play and were ultimately punished by the hosts after the break.
The result means the Town drop to eighth place for the time being, with Caernarfon reclaiming seventh after hard-fought victory.
Manager Tony Pennock made three changes to the side which beat Connah’s Quay Nomads 2-1 last week, with Jazz Richards and Ben Fawcett returning to the starting lineup, where they were joined by Jack Leahy who made his Haverfordwest County debut. In the absence of Dylan Rees, Jazz took the captain’s armband for the match.
The first opportunity of the game fell the way of the hosts, with Zac Jones needing to be alert to tip Iwan Cartwright’s header from a corner over the crossbar.
The Bluebirds tested Josh Tibbetts for the first time a couple of minutes later when Henry Jones’ cross was flicked goalwards by Elliott Dugan, with the Canaries stopper reacting to push the ball to safety.
Pennock’s side were showing plenty of attacking intent in the early stages, and just a minute later Leahy had a chance to open his account when he was played in by a through ball from Fawcett, however the defence recovered in time to block his shot from inside the area.
Huw Griffiths’ side were also looking threatening going forward, and they came close to opening the scoring when Lloyd Marsh-Hughes’ overhead kick from the edge of the area was tipped over the bar by Jones.
County’s promising attacking play continued throughout the first half, and after 20 minutes their best opportunity arrived when Henry Jones’ clipped ball into the area was nodded into the path of Fawcett by Lee Jenkins, but the striker had his effort from close range blocked by Tibbetts. Fawcett then saw his header at the back post loop over the bar from Jack Wilson’s cross in the last real chance of the first half.
The visitors knew that a similar performance in the second half give them a great chance to leave The Oval with all three points, however an improved display from the hosts along with a slight drop off from the Town saw the match swing in Caernarfon’s favour.
Following a quiet quarter of an hour after the restart, Jordan Davies and Ioan Evans were introduced from the bench to add more energy as the Bluebirds searched for the opening goal. However, just after the hour mark, the hosts went ahead when the ball landed at the feet of Bell from a corner and the defender powerfully hooked it home from close range to make it 1-0.
Chances were much harder to come by in the second half, and a rare sight on goal nearly saw Haverfordwest County equalise when Evans’ corner was headed on goal by Kyle Patten, but Tibbetts was there to push it away.
Then, with 18 minutes remaining, Griffiths’ side doubled their advantage when a mix up at the back allowed Rhys Alun Williams to advance inside the area, before laying it off to Thomas who poked the ball in at the near post to make it 2-0 and leave the Bluebirds with a mountain to climb.
This proved to be the final big moment of a disappointing afternoon for County, who were left to rue not taking their opportunities in the first half. The Town will look to put things right when they return to action with a home game against Flint Town United at the Ogi Bridge Meadow next Saturday, February 18 (Kick-off: 2.30pm).
Caernarfon Town: Tibbetts, Cartwright, Williams, Bell, Bradley, Gosset, Thomas, Marsh-Hughes, Edwards (C), Wynne, Powell-Roberts
Substitutes not used: Woods, Simpson, Anderson-Ogbomo
Yellow card: Edwards 36′
Haverfordwest County: Z. Jones, Wilson, Jazz, Patten, Jenkins, Abbruzzese, Veale, Leahy, H. Jones, Fawcett, Dugan
Substitutes not used: Idzi, Humphreys, Borg
Yellow cards: Jenkins 37′, H. Jones 38′