Haverfordwest County were narrowly defeated 1-0 by champions and current JD Cymru Premier leaders The New Saints at the Ogi Bridge Meadow yesterday.
In a competitive encounter, the Bluebirds were able to keep the free-scoring Saints quiet, while also showing a threat on the counter-attack.
Neither goalkeeper was forced into making too many saves, with the game often proving to be scrappy and lacking in quality in the final third.
Substitute Ash Baker’s goal with 10 minutes of normal time remaining proved to be the decisive moment in a game of fine margins.
County will look to respond in just two days time when we welcome Barry Town United to the Ogi Bridge Meadow for a contest which could play an important part in our quest to achieve a top six finish.
Manager Tony Pennock made one change to the side that defeated Caernarfon Town 1-0 away last Saturday, with Harri John coming in for Martell Taylor-Crossdale. Rio Dyer led the line alongside Dan Hawkins, while fellow forward Ben Fawcett returned to the squad after missing the win in north Wales through suspension.
Haverfordwest County: Jones, Wilson (Williams-Lowe 75′), Jenkins, Tabone, Borg, Abbruzzese, Watts (C, Jazz 46′), H. John, Whitmore, Hawkins, Dyer (Fawcett 60′)
Substitutes not used: Knott, Humphreys, J. Owen, Taylor-Crossdale
The game’s first opportunity of note fell the way of the visitors, as Tom Jones’ tame effort from inside the area was gathered by Zac Jones, before Ben Clark headed wide from a similar range.
Two yellow cards were brandished inside the opening quarter of an hour, with Ricky Watts booked for a late tackle on Jordan Williams before Brad Young saw yellow for a late and reckless aerial challenge on Harri John. From the resulting free-kick, Dan Hawkins’ ball was headed goalwards by Lee Jenkins and gathered by Connor Roberts.
The Haverfordwest County gameplan was working very well in the first half, with the Town regularly winning back possession and forming counter-attacks as they looked to open the scoring while frustrating the visitors.
Pennock’s side did have the ball in the back of the net five minutes before half time, however Jenkins was adjudged to have been in an offside position while diverting home.
Saints captain Chris Marriott was booked just before the break as the teams headed into the changing rooms still goalless, with everything still to play for after the interval.
Pennock made a change during the break, with Jazz Richards coming on to replace Watts for the second half.
The first real chance after the restart was one for the Bluebirds, as we countered at speed and found our way inside the area, however the ball just wouldn’t sit kindly for us to get a shot away.
Fawcett replaced Dyer on the hour mark as Pennock looked to freshen things up in the knowledge that The New Saints would be coming hard in the final 30 minutes.
Craig Harrison introduced Baker and main marksman Declan McManus from the bench three minutes later, as the Saints boss made the rare move to play with two strikers as he searched for an opening goal.
To County’s credit, they were holding firm and limiting their opponents – who score on average over three goals a game in the league – to half chances and fleeting moments.
It was therefore frustrating that, with 10 minutes to go, they managed to hit the front when a ball from a corner was sent into the area and not dealt with in the first instance, allowing it to fall kindly to Baker who was on hand to divert it home from point-blank range and eventually break the Bluebirds’ resistance.
The game was, of course, not over quite yet, and the Town still had something to fight for in the closing stages. A point would have been deserved for their efforts, application and sheer will, and they could well have found an equaliser on a different day as a free-kick to the far post was directed goalwards by defender Luke Tabone, with Danny Davies just able to clear it before it crossed the line.