Haverfordwest County suffered an agonising 3-2 defeat to third place Bala Town at the Ogi Bridge Meadow on Saturday evening, as a chaotic conclusion saw the Lakesiders leave with the spoils in the final game of Phase One in the JD Cymru Premier.
Martell Taylor-Crossdale’s first-half goal gave the Bluebirds a lead which we would hold onto for nearly an hour, until substitute Josh Ukek drew the Lakesiders level with four minutes of normal time remaining.
This would spark a barely believable ending to the game, as substitute Luke Wall gave the visitors the lead in the sixth minute of stoppage time, before Ben Fawcett drew County level a minute later. However, it was Bala who had the final say as substitute Iwan Roberts found the net in the 99th minute to end the contest.
Cardiff Metropolitan’s 2-2 draw with Caernarfon Town meant that the result in Pembrokeshire was academic when it came to the Town’s quest for a top six finish, however the defeat was still hard to digest after a more than competitive display throughout from Tony Pennock’s side.
The top-flight will now take a break for a fortnight before Phase Two gets under way, although County will be in action next Saturday when we host Cardiff City under-21s in a friendly at the Ogi Bridge Meadow.
Manager Pennock made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Aberystwyth Town last time out, with Rhys Abbruzzese, Tyrese Owen and Fawcett coming into the starting lineup. With Ricky Watts starting from the bench, Jazz Richards took the captain’s armband.
Haverfordwest County: Jones, Hawkins, Jazz (C), Jenkins, Tabone, Abbruzzese, T. Owen (J. Owen 88′), H. John (Wilson 68′), Whitmore, Fawcett, Taylor-Crossdale
Substitutes not used: Knott, Humphreys, Williams-Lowe, Watts, D. John
The Bluebirds made a bright start to proceedings as Fawcett was freed inside the area by a precise through ball from Harri John, but his goalbound effort was blocked by Ross White.
Zac Jones was called into action for the first time on the quarter of an hour mark as he gathered White’s effort from distance.
The first half an hour or so was keenly contested from both teams, with very little to report in terms of clear-cut opportunities as the sides looked to settle into their respective rhythms.
However, shortly after, the Bluebirds were able to take the lead as Fawcett broke down the left flank before seeing his cross pick out Taylor-Crossdale who had his initial effort saved by Kelland Absalom, however the former Bluebirds stopper wasn’t able to gather the ball and the striker recovered in time to poke it home from close range.
The remainder of the first half was safely negotiated by Haverfordwest County, who headed into the break a goal to the good and in a promising position.
The Lakesiders had a presentable opportunity to draw level just three minutes after the restart when Naim Arsan’s free-kick from 25 yards just cleared the crossbar on its way over.
Then, five minutes later, the Bluebirds must have thought momentarily that they had doubled their advantage when Abbruzzese’s free-kick from the edge of the area cannoned back off the crossbar, denying the wing-back a second such goal of the season after his last-gasp effort against Caernarfon back in August.
The visitors appealed for a goal on the hour mark following a scramble on the goal line, however the officials deemed that the ball had not crossed the line and play continued.
Jack Wilson was introduced in place of John with 22 minutes remaining as Pennock looked to add extra energy to try and help his team to get over the line.
With two quick goals in the capital putting County into the driving seat in the race for the top six, they knew that they had to do everything possible to maintain their lead. Pennock’s side continued to attack in search of a second goal, and they came agonisingly close to finding it once more as Owen broke into the penalty area before unleashing a curling effort which came back off the bar.
This would prove to be a key moment as, just two minutes, Bala found an equaliser when Ukek pounced on a loose ball to score from close range.
With a minimum of six minutes added on, there was still time for things to change, and the Town had another opportunity to score when Taylor-Crossdale’s ball to the far post just evaded his strike partner Fawcett, who was waiting to divert it into the net from a matter of yards.
With County committing men forward, there was always going to be space for the Lakesiders to exploit on the counter-attack, and they made the most of this opportunity when Wall sent a low, driven effort from 25 yards into the left-hand corner to make it 2-1.
With the game at Cyncoed Campus having already finished, the chance had gone for Haverfordwest County, however they continued to attack and were able to find an equaliser when Fawcett’s effort from outside the area found the right-hand corner in the seventh minute of time added on.
There was to be one final moment of drama, though, and unfortunately for the Town it fell the way of the visitors as Roberts broke into the area and directed his shot past Jones and into the right side of the net to seal a dramatic victory, with the Bluebirds left to ponder what might have been.