First Team
JD Cymru Premier European Play-Offs Sat 6 May Cyncoed Campus
Cardiff Met Uni
0 (3)
Haverfordwest County
0 (4)
0-0 (3-4 pens)
First Team
JD Cymru Premier European Play-Offs Final Sat 13 May Latham Park
  • Williams (38')
1 (3)
Haverfordwest County
  • Own Goal (24')
1 (4)
1-1 (3-4 pens)

At 2pm this afternoon, Haverfordwest County AFC will appear in a European qualifying draw for the first time since 2004.

It caps a remarkable few years for the Bluebirds, who have gone from playing in the JD Cymru South in the 2019-20 season to being on the cusp of appearing on the European stage.

Such an achievement appeared barely believeable for large parts of the 2022-23 campaign, with the Town having spent the majority of the season in the bottom half of the Welsh top-flight. However, under the leadership of manager Tony Pennock in his first season in charge, County timed their run to perfection, with an impressive Phase Two display seeing them finish top of the Play-Off Conference – booking their place in the end-of-season European play-offs.

Being the lowest-ranked side, the Bluebirds knew they would have to do it the hard way with two away games, however they rose to the occasion and held their nerve to see off Cardiff Metropolitan and Newtown and create a little piece of club history.

JD Cymru Premier European Play-off semi-final: Cardiff Metropolitan 0-0 Haverfordwest County (3-4 pens)

The Town knew they would have to improve on their most recent visit to Cyncoed Campus (a 2-0 defeat in December) if they were to overcome the Archers, who had had a fantastic season which resulted in an impressive fourth-placed finish in the league.

In truth, the game was one that lacked attacking quality, with neither side wanting to make any costly errors in their own defensive third. There were a couple of nearly moments for both teams, with Bluebirds goalkeeper Zac Jones looking unbeatable between the posts. Having made a couple of stops earlier in the contest, the Kiwi stopper saved Eliot Evans’ penalty in normal time, before denying Sam Jones in a one-on-one situation deep into extra time.

These heroics gave Pennock and his side plenty of confidence heading into the penalty shoot-out, and once again Jones came up trumps, saving spot-kicks from Kyle McCarthy and Lewis Rees as the Bluebirds went on to triumph and spark fantastic scenes from their away following in the capital.

JD Cymru Premier European Play-off final: Newtown 1-1 Haverfordwest County (3-4 pens)

Standing just one game away from Europe, the Bluebirds and the Robins could almost touch the trophy. Chris Hughes’ side, who, along with champions The New Saints, were one of only two teams to do the double over County in 2022-23, came into the game with confidence after a 4-2 victory away at Bala Town in the semi-finals, along with having home advantage. The Town had history within their grasp, and were cheered on by a strong away following who had made their way to Powys from Pembrokeshire in anticipation of a famous afternoon.

Pennock’s side settled the better of the two, and after 24 minutes their positive start was rewarded when Jordan Davies capitalised on an error from Robins captain Craig Williams to steal in and divert the ball past Dave Jones to make it 1-0. However, 14 minutes later, Newtown were level when a ball in from the right was headed home by marksman Aaron Williams.

Both teams had a couple of notable opportunities in the remainder of the game, but for a second week running County headed into extra time. As expected, there was very little in the way of clear-cut chances in the added 30 minutes, and so penalties were needed to decide a winner on a warm evening in mid Wales.

The Town got off to the dream start when Aaron Williams’ spot-kick was straight at Jones, before captain Dylan Rees made it 1-0. Craig Williams then got the Robins on the board, with Jack Leahy on target to put the Bluebirds 2-1 ahead. Callum Roberts drew Newtown level, but Davies made no mistake to preserve County’s lead. Then came another decisive moment as Henry Cowans dragged his penalty wide of the left post. This gave Ben Fawcett the chance to seal victory, but his effort was saved by Jones. Nigel Aris then ensured that Haverfordwest County would have to serve for the match, and – in what would prove to be his final kick for the Bluebirds – Corey Shephard beat Jones to end the Town’s long-awaited return to Europe.