Haverfordwest County ended their three-game losing run with a 1-1 draw away at Cardiff Metropolitan last night, as a frantic ending saw all three results possible right up to the final whistle.
The Bluebirds had taken the lead through Kai Whitmore’s second-half penalty, and were a matter of minutes away from taking all three points back home, but Lewis Rees drew the Students level late on. Then, in added time, the hosts were awarded a penalty, but much to the relief of the visitors, goalkeeper Ifan Knott denied Rees to ensure the game ended level at Cyncoed Campus.
Tony Pennock’s men had battled hard throughout the night against an Archers team who don’t often lose at home, but will ultimately look back with a sense of frustration at not quite being able to see the job through.
The result sees the Town climb one place to 10th after Barry Town United went down 1-0 at Pen-y-Bont, with the Bluebirds’ focus now shifting to a significant game on Saturday when we host Aberystwyth Town at the Ogi Bridge Meadow.
Manager Pennock made three changes to the team from last Saturday, with Aidan MacNamara, who recently joined on a deal until the end of the season, coming straight in for his full debut, while Jack Wilson was handed a start and Whitmore returned after serving a one-game suspension. Meanwhile, there was a welcome return to the squad for Rio Dyer, who had not featured for the first team since the Nathaniel MG Cup meeting with Cardiff City under-21s at the start of August.
Striker Martell Taylor-Crossdale was serving the first of his three-game suspension after the straight red card he was shown against Connah’s Quay Nomads, while fellow forward Ben Fawcett was unavailable after sustaining an injury in the same game.
Haverfordwest County: Knott, MacNamara, Tabone, Jenkins, Borg (Williams-Lowe 45′), Abbruzzese, Watts (C), T. Owen, Whitmore, Hawkins, Wilson (Dyer 81′)
Substitutes not used: Jones, Humphreys, J. Owen, H. John, D. John
The opening stages of the game were keenly-contested, as both sides seeked to find their feet and get into a rhythm. The first opportunity of note fell the way of Cardiff Metropolitan when a shot from inside the area was deflected into the side netting.
It wasn’t until eight minutes before the break that the Bluebirds fashioned a goal-scoring opportunity, and it proved to be the best chance of the half as the ball was kept alive from Wilson’s long throw and Luke Tabone was able to head it into the path of Dan Hawkins, but his shot on the turn flew just wide.
County ended the first half the stronger, and were beginning to grow in confidence from an attacking perspective. Two minutes before the interval, they had a second opportunity to take the lead when Rhys Abbruzzese won a free-kick just outside the area, which Wilson stepped up to take and directed agonisingly wide of the left post.
In truth, Pennock’s men didn’t want the half-time whistle to come, however they came back out for the second half with the same intent, and were able to fashion the first opportunity after the restart when Lee Jenkins rose highest to meet Hawkins’ corner, with his header going just wide of the right post.
On the hour mark, Wilson fashioned some space to shoot from 25 yards out, with his low effort rolling wide of the right post as the Bluebirds continued to press for the opening goal.
Then, just a minute later, they were handed a golden opportunity to take the lead when referee Richard Wright awarded County a penalty when Abbruzzese was adjudged to have been pushed in the back by defender Joe Evans as he attempted to meet a cross from the right side.
Whitmore was given the responsibility from 12 yards and, just as he had done in our shoot-out victory over KF Shkëndija, he slotted cooly past Alex Lang to make it 1-0. This was the first time in the league this season that the Bluebirds have taken the lead.
As expected, Ryan Jenkins’ side began to step up the tempo as they searched for an equaliser, and they had an opportunity to draw level with 20 minutes remaining when they won a free-kick just outside the area, however Harry Owen’s effort was blocked by the Haverfordwest County wall.
The Town weren’t resting on their one-goal advantage, and five minutes later they had a chance to double their lead when the ball was kept alive from a free-kick into the area, before falling into the path of Whitmore, however there was just enough pressure from the nearby defenders to ensure that his goal-bound effort could be gathered by Lang.
With just under 10 minutes to go in normal time, Dyer was introduced from the bench to replace Wilson and make his JD Cymru Premier debut for the Bluebirds, and shortly after he nearly saw his team make it 2-0 when Jenkins headed Hawkins’ free-kick into the path of Tabone, however the ball wouldn’t sit down in time for the defender and he sent his looping effort from close range over the crossbar.
Despite having withstood plenty of Archers pressure in the closing stages, County were looking relatively comfortable, however with just two minutes of normal time remaining they found themselves level when a ball into the area was headed into the ground by substitute Finley Skiverton before looping over Tabone and kindly into the path of Rees, who had the simple task of directing it home from a matter of yards.
The task for Pennock’s men had quickly shifted to ensuring they took something home for their efforts, however just three minutes later that appeared to be in real jeopardy as the Archers were awarded a spot kick when MacNamara – who had performed well on his first start – was adjudged to have brought Matt Chubb down inside the area. With the travelling Bluebirds supporters unable to watch, Rees stepped up and sent his spot-kick towards the left corner, but he was denied by a fantastic save from Knott, one which provoked memories of Zac Jones’ penalty heroics in last season’s European play-off semi-final.
A point was the least the Bluebirds deserved for their overall performance, which saw them create the better opportunities on the night, and they will now be hoping to replicate those levels on Saturday afternoon when we host the Seasiders (2.30pm kick-off).