Haverfordwest County continued to build momentum in the push for a European playoff spot as a mature display earned the Bluebirds a 2-0 victory over Flint Town United at the Essity Stadium.
First-half goals from Corey Shephard and Jordan Davies were enough to give the Town all three points in north Wales, handing them back-to-back away wins for the first time this season and extending their unbeaten run to four matches in the process.
While a clinical attacking display was ultimately the difference between the sides, the Bluebirds will take great pleasure from keeping a clean sheet for the third time in their last four league outings.
The result means County preserve their four-point lead at the top of the JD Cymru Premier Playoff Conference with three games remaining, with two home games against Pontypridd United and Aberystwyth Town next up.
Manager Tony Pennock made three changes to the team that drew with Caernarfon Town, with Kyle Patten and Ioan Evans returning to the fold alongside Shephard – who was handed the captain’s armband in the absence of Dylan Rees.
And it took just five minutes for the stand-in skipper to make his mark when a ball into the area from Rhys Abbruzzese was missed by Jack Wilson, but the home defence could only clear it to Shephard, who controlled the ball before sweeping it past Harry Allen – who was unsighted by his defenders – into the left-hand corner to make it 1-0 with his first goal of the season.
Searching for a swift equaliser, the Silkmen had the next two chances, with striker Zack Clarke seeing his effort from the edge of the area go wide of the right post, before Okera Simmonds’ free-kick from just outside the area curl narrowly wide of the opposite post.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro then had a backheel effort from a few yards out roll wide of the left post, but seven minutes later the Bluebirds were two to the good. After a ball upfield picked out Davies, the forward advanced to the right edge of the area before opening up space to shoot on his left foot and unleashing a curling effort which beat Allen to find the left corner.
Now desperate to find a way back into the contest, the hosts had a good chance to pull a goal back with the half-hour mark approaching when Clarke broke through one-on-one, but Zac Jones was on hand to deny the forward and preserve the Town’s two-goal buffer.
Pennock’s men were able to negotiate the remainder of the first half with little trouble to head into the break with a handy lead.
The opening stages of the second-half were fairly uneventful, with the Bluebirds happy to sit on their lead and make their hosts do all of the work. That said, Haverfordwest County could have made it 3-0 a minute before the hour-mark when Shephard – who was having an impressive afternoon in midfield – picked out Dan Hawkins with a ball to the back post, but the attacker’s effort was saved by Allen.
Pennock’s side were managing the game expertly and displaying a level of maturity they probably hadn’t shown up to this point in the season, ensuring a frustrating afternoon for Lee Fowler’s side, who lacked a clinical touch in the final third.
There could have been some trouble for the Town with 20 minutes remaining when a corner to the back post caused some concern, but the Bluebirds were able to clear it to safety with Flint players waiting for it to land at their feet.
The game was put beyond any real doubt with seven minutes remaining when defender Harry Owen was shown a second yellow card for preventing Davies running through on goal, meaning the Silkmen had to play out the remainder of the game with 10 men.
County were keen to score a third goal and add extra gloss to the scoreline, and with one minute of normal time remaining they came very close to doing so when Davies did well to evade a challenge and break through on goal before unleashing a shot which crept under Allen and headed goalwards, but Bobby Beaumont recovered just in time to prevent it from crossing the line.
This was to be the final major moment of the game, as the Bluebirds picked up a valuable three points away from home. The Bluebirds will look to extend their unbeaten run and take another step in the right direction when they host Pontypridd United at the Ogi Bridge Meadow on Good Friday (April 7). Kick-off is at 2.30pm.
Flint Town United: Allen, Carroll (Hughes 45′), H. Owen, Harrison (Ibrahim 45′), J. Owen (C), Clarke, Simmonds (Mudimu 73′), Diau, Beaumont, Garratt, Akpa Akpro
Substitutes not used: Szczepaniak, Huxley, Drazdauskas, Roberts
Yellow cards: Simmonds 48′, H. Owen 80′
Red card: H. Owen 85′
Haverfordwest County: Z. Jones, Wilson, Patten, Jenkins, Borg, Abbruzzese, Shephard (C), Veale, Evans, J. Davies, Hawkins
Substitutes not used: Idzi, L. Davies, Humphreys, H. John, H. Jones, Leahy, Dugan
Yellow cards: Evans 48′, Patten 52′, Veale 72′, Shephard 90+6′