Haverfordwest County recorded their most eye-catching result of the league season to date as the Bluebirds produced an inspired display to defeat high-flying Connah’s Quay Nomads 2-1 at the Essity Stadium on Sunday.
Luke Tabone’s first goal for County and an opportunistic finish from the returning Ben Fawcett, which came either side of Ryan Harrington’s equaliser, gave the Town their first away victory over the Nomads in 20 years, as we recorded a win over a top six side on our travels for the first time under Tony Pennock.
Having gone into the break a goal to the good, the Bluebirds knew that they were going to face a barrage of attacks from the hosts in the second half, but they were able to stand firm thanks to a host of committed and brave displays right across the pitch, with it being almost impossible to single out one player as the man-of-the-match.
The result, which brought an end to the Nomads’ 29-game unbeaten home record and also marked their first defeat since moving to the Essity Stadium for this season, saw the Bluebirds close the gap to the top six to just three points after Caernarfon Town were defeated 3-2 at home by Barry Town United.
There is no game next weekend for Haverfordwest County, with our next outing coming on Tuesday, November 28 when we host Cardiff Metropolitan at the Ogi Bridge Meadow (Kick-off: 19.45).
Manager Pennock made four changes to the team that beat Ammanford 2-0 in the JD Welsh Cup last Saturday, with Zac Jones and Ricky Watts returning to the starting lineup, along with Ben Fawcett who made his first start in the league since the corresponding fixture on September 23, and Jacob Owen – who was handed his full debut in the league after making a couple of cameo appearances from the bench. Meanwhile, there was a return to the squad for midfielder Kai Whitmore, who had been out of action since the game against Pontypridd United on October 7.
Haverfordwest County: Jones, Williams-Lowe, Tabone, Jenkins, Borg, Hawkins (Humphreys 90+5′), Watts (C), H. John (Whitmore 80′), J. Owen, Fawcett (MacNamara 69′), Taylor-Crossdale (Dyer 80′)
Substitutes not used: Knott
It was the hosts who created the first opening of the contest when, after two minutes, Lee Jenkins positioned himself perfectly to direct Jack Kenny’s dangerous cross into the area to safety, with former Bluebirds Jordan Davies waiting to get on the end of it at the back post.
The Bluebirds’ first chance arrived four minutes later when Martell Taylor-Crossdale’s effort from 25 yards went narrowly wide of the left post.
Jones had to be watchful in the County goal when Josh Williams sent a wobbling effort on target which the Kiwi pushed behind for a corner.
— Sgorio ⚽️ (@sgorio) November 19, 2023
After a pretty eventful start to the game, the next 10 minutes or so allowed both teams to settle downs somewhat until the Nomads had a chance to take the lead when a free-kick into the area was headed into the path of Kai Edwards by Ben Nash, however the defender’s close-range effort was scooped over the crossbar.
While the Town’s primary focus was on being difficult to break down, Pennock’s side were carrying a threat on the counter and, after 23 minutes, they managed to take the lead when a free-kick from Dan Hawkins just inside Connah’s Quay’s half picked out Jenkins, who looped the ball over goalkeeper Andy Firth, and fellow defender Tabone was on hand to power home from a matter of yards to make it 1-0 an open his account for the Bluebirds.
This would prove to be the first act of a frantic two-minute period as, shortly after taken the lead, County conceded an equaliser when Harrington’s shot from just outside the area flew through a number of bodies before taking a slight touch on its path to goal which appeared to catch Jones out. Just a minute later, though, Pennock’s men were back in front when Fawcett capitalised on some uncertainty between captain John Disney and Firth to steal in and regain possession before wrong-footing the former and rolling the ball into an empty net from just outside the area to restore the Town’s advantage with his first league goal of the campaign.
Jones was called into action just before the break to ensure that the visitors headed into the changing rooms with a one-goal lead when he produced a strong save to deny Josh Williams’ near post effort.
Dryswch yn y cefn gan Gei Connah a Ben Fawcett yn sgorio i rwyd gwag!
— Sgorio ⚽️ (@sgorio) November 19, 2023
As expected, Connah’s Quay raised their intensity after the restart as they tried to find a way back into the game, and there was a moment of potential danger with the hour mark approaching when a ball in from the left bounced around inside the area, but County were able to clear from close to the goal line with the home team waiting to pounce.
Although the Nomads were seeing the majority of the ball, the Bluebirds were comfortable in their defensive shape, with the hosts finding it difficult to play through and being limited to safe passes which rarely troubled the defence. Kai Edwards’ header was easily gathered by Jones as the final 20 minutes approached.
Pennock turned to his bench for the first time with 21 minutes left on the clock, as goalscorer Fawcett was brought off after running himself into the ground to be replaced by Aidan MacNamara, who provided extra defensive stability.
While the pressure continued to come from the home side, chances were proving to be few and far between as the last 10 minutes approached, with Pennock making two further changes as Whitmore and Rio Dyer were brought on to replace Harri John and Taylor-Crossdale, who had both produced tireless shifts for the Town.
There were to be two final chances for Connah’s Quay to draw level, the first of which arrived with three minutes remaining when a ball into the area from the right side found an unmarked Davies who saw his effort pushed away by Jones.
With a minimum of seven minutes added on, County knew they weren’t over the line quite yet, and their hearts will have been in their mouths in the 97th minute when a poked effort from substitute Jack Burman went just wide of the right post.
The match was eventually brought to an end in the 99th minute as the Bluebirds were able to celebrate what could prove to be a pivotal result in their quest to finish as strongly as they can with six games remaining in Phase One. With back-to-back victories in the league for the first time this season, they’ll be hoping to continue this momentum right up until the split in January.