Haverfordwest County earned a valuable point from their visit to Latham Park after a battling display saw the Bluebirds settle for a 1-1 draw with high-flying Newtown.
Aaron Williams’ goal after just four minutes gave the hosts the perfect start, but County responded well and levelled the scores when Robins goalkeeper Andy Wycherley fumbled Rhys Abbruzzese’s long-range effort, with the assistant ruling that the ball had crossed the goal line.
A keenly-contested game saw both sides have opportunities to find a second goal, but aside from Louis Robles’ effort, which came back off the post, neither team were able to create anything clear-cut and a share of the spoils was probably a fair result.
The result sees the Town remain eighth in the standings, although Tony Pennock’s side did gain a point on sixth place Bala Town after their defeat at leaders The New Saints on Saturday evening.
Manager Pennock made two changes to his starting 11, with Kayden Williams-Lowe and Rio Dyer coming in for Jack Wilson and Ricky Watts, who both started from the bench. Meanwhile, academy product Dan John was among the substitutes alongside fellow prospect Jacob Owen.
Haverfordwest County: Jones, Williams-Lowe, MacNamara (Borg 59′), Jenkins, Tabone, Abbruzzese (Wilson 59′), T. Owen, H. John, Hawkins, Dyer (Humphreys 78′), Taylor-Crossdale
Substitutes not used: Knott, J. Owen, Watts, D. John
As is the case with any away game in the JD Cymru Premier, staying in the contest for as long as possible is the primary goal, but the Bluebirds will have feared the worst when Williams – one of the league’s main marksman of the last few seasons – hooked a shot home from inside the area after Shane Sutton had helped the ball on from a cross.
To County’s credit, though, it didn’t take them too long to settle into the contest thereafter, as they began to put a few passes together and build their confidence. That said, on the 10 minute mark it could have got worse when Robles collected the ball and saw his shot on the turn come back off the left post before rolling across the goal line and away to relative safety.
The visitors’ first opening of the game came six minutes later when Tyrese Owen broke free in midfield and advanced towards the edge of the area before laying the ball off to Martell Taylor-Crossdale, who saw his shot clear the crossbar.
The Bluebirds then came agonisingly close to drawing level with the same two protagonists involved, as Owen’s cross from the byline picked out Taylor-Crossdale who saw his header pushed onto the bar by Wycherley. Harri John then fired wide from just outside the area as County continued to build attacks.
Jones had to be alert between the posts to keep the score at 1-0 when he did well to get down and make a save from Robles’ left-footed shot inside the area.
This proved to be a big moment as, just four minutes, the Town were level. After Owen had regained possession in midfield and laid it off to the wing-back, he advanced to within 25 yards of the goal and unleashed a cross-cum-shot which was initially gathered by Wycherley, before he fell backwards and carried the ball over the goal line with him.
The final opportunity of the first half fell to Taylor-Crossdale, with the striker’s effort from the right side of the area gathered by Wycherley as the Bluebirds headed into the break buoyed by their response to the early setback.
County were always going to expect a quick start to the second half from the home side, and they encountered just that as Jones was called into action inside the first minute following the restart when he pushed a shot from range away from goal, with Williams firing into the side netting on the rebound.
Pennock’s men had an opportunity of their own just a minute later when John drilled a shot into the area which headed in Taylor-Crossdale’s direction, however he was unable to react in time to divert it goalwards from close range.
The manager turned to his bench for the first time with the hour mark approaching, as Oscar Borg and Jack Wilson came on to replace Aidan MacNamara and Abbruzzese – with the latter unable to continue.
Jones had to be alert with just over 20 minutes remaining when the Robins took a free-kick from the left side quickly, putting a potentially dangerous ball into the area, however the Kiwi stopper reacted in time to get down and smother the threat.
County made their third change with approximately 15 minutes to go, as Iori Humphreys came on for Dyer to provide extra defensive solidity with the hosts beginning to push hard for a potential winner.
Unsurprisingly, it was the home side who were asking more questions in the latter stages, with the onus on them to press for the win, but despite plenty of balls into the area and moments of potential promise, the Bluebirds were holding firm – led mainly by captain Luke Tabone and Lee Jenkins, who both put in strong performances throughout.
Having soaked up plenty of late pressure, the final chance of the game fell to Haverfordwest County as Wilson’s long throw-in into the area was flicked into the path of Jenkins by Tabone, however the centre-back’s headed effort rolled just wide of the left post.
Pennock’s men will be looking to build on this positive performance when we welcome Colwyn Bay to the Ogi Bridge Meadow next Saturday (Kick-off: 14.30), in what will be the first top-flight meeting between the sides in Pembrokeshire.
(Featured image: Matt Shaw)