A valiant display from 10-man Haverfordwest County was not enough to earn them anything from their meeting with Connah’s Quay Nomads yesterday, as the north Walians ran out 3-1 winners at the Ogi Bridge Meadow.
In a game of few clear-cut opportunities, the Bluebirds were in the fight for the majority of the contest, but will have been disappointed by the manner of the first two goals they conceded, as Ben Nash’s close-range effort found its way between a couple of bodies before Harry Franklin forced the ball over the line after a goalmouth scramble.
After going down to 10 men following the dismissal of striker Martell Taylor-Crossdale, County continued to battle away admirably, before substitute Ryan Stratulis scored the visitors’ third goal with a looping effort from inside the centre circle. Substitute Jack Wilson gave the home supporters something to cheer about when he found the net in the first minute of added time, but it was ultimately another frustrating afternoon for the Town.
The result sees County drop down a place to 11th for the time being, with our focus now turning towards Tuesday’s visit to the capital to take on Cardiff Metropolitan.
Manager Tony Pennock made three changes to the team from last Saturday, with Ifan Knott, Kayden Williams-Lowe and Ricky Watts coming in for Zac Jones, Jack Wilson and Kai Whitmore, who was serving a one-match suspension after picking up five yellow cards. Goalkeeper Knott was making his first start in the JD Cymru Premier, while Williams-Lowe was starting at the Ogi Bridge Meadow for the first time, with Watts taking the captain’s armband.
Haverfordwest County: Knott, Williams-Lowe (Humphreys 76′), Tabone, Jenkins, Borg (H. John 76′), Abbruzzese, T. Owen, Watts (C), Hawkins, Fawcett (Wilson 45′), Taylor-Crossdale
Substitutes not used: Jones, Davies, D. John, J. Owen
It was County who had the first opportunity of note when, after 12 minutes, Oscar Borg regained possession inside his own half before advancing upfield and laying the ball off to Dan Hawkins, who shot wide from just outside the area.
With the half-hour mark approaching, the Bluebirds sprung a sharp counter-attack which ended with Taylor-Crossdale finding Borg inside the area, as the defender saw his effort saved low down at the near post by Jon Rushton. From the resulting corner, the ball found its way to Williams-Lowe on the right side of the area, allowing him to unleash a well-struck effort which was blocked on its path to goal.
The Bluebirds were looking the likelier team to open the scoring, and they crafted another opportunity just after the half-hour mark when the ball was worked to Taylor-Crossdale on the edge of the area, but his effort was deflected behind. County kept the threat alive from the corner as the ball found its way to Lee Jenkins at the far post, with his goal-bound header blocked.
The Town continued to search for an opener, and another chance fell their way with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half when Ben Fawcett was dispossessed inside the area and the ball rolled into the path of Taylor-Crossdale, whose shot was just the wrong side of the right post.
Then, just three minutes before the interval, Haverfordwest County were dealt a sucker punch when a ball into the area from the left side by Ryan Harrington picked out Nash, who diverted it goalwards and saw it creep past three bodies and into the net to make it 1-0.
With the wind against them in the second half, Pennock’s side knew they had a challenging 45 minutes ahead of the them as the Nomads began to grow as an attacking force. Knott was forced into a save 10 minutes after the restart when he denied Callum Bratley’s shot from inside the area.
With all three results still very much possible as the game passed the hour mark, the task of the Bluebirds suddenly became all the more difficult when, after attempting the regain possession, Taylor-Crossdale caught the leg of Franklin and referee Rob Jenkins brandished a red card.
The Town continued to battle away gamely and were able to keep the deficit at one until the 80th minute when, following a goalmouth scramble from a corner, Franklin was able to force the ball over the line and all but end any faint Bluebirds hopes. The visitors managed to find a third goal in the final minute of normal time when Stratulis collected the ball just inside the Bluebirds’ half and sent a long-range effort goalwards which found its way in.
On a difficult afternoon, County were able to end on a positive as Hawkins played Wilson in and the winger broke into the area before creating space to shoot and finding the left-hand corner for his first goal of the season.