Haverfordwest County went down to a frustrating 1-0 defeat to Aberystwyth Town in the opening game of Phase Two on Friday night.
Iwan Lewis’ goal five minutes before half time was enough to earn the Seasiders the victory on a night when the Bluebirds were unable to hit their straps in what was a poor spectacle under the Park Avenue lights.
The second half was one-way traffic as the Town tried everything to find an equaliser, with the Black and Greens content to sit on their one-goal lead, but Tony Pennock’s side lacked quality in the final third and were ultimately unable to get something for their efforts.
The result saw County remain in seventh place on the night, however Penybont’s 2-1 victory away at Colwyn Bay on Saturday means we drop down to eighth for the time being, with both teams tied on 28 points but the Bridgend side having a superior goal difference.
Manager Pennock made two changes to the team from our final game of Phase One, with the returning Corey Shephard handed a start after recently signing for the club from Pontypridd United, while Ricky Watts was named alongside him in midfield and took the captain’s armband. On the bench, there was a return for Aidan MacNamara, who had missed our recent matches through injury, while goalkeeper Zac Jones made his 50th appearance in all competitions for the club.
Haverfordwest County: Jones, Hawkins (Wilson 77′), Jazz, Jenkins, Tabone (MacNamara 46′), Abbruzzese, Watts (C), Shephard, Whitmore (H. John 46′), Fawcett, Taylor-Crossdale
Substitutes not used: Knott, Humphreys, J. Owen, T. Owen
After a relatively low-key start to the game, it was the hosts who created the first opening when John Owen’s cross from the left managed to evade everyone on its path across the face of goal, with full-back Zac Hartley waiting at the far post.
There was very little to report for the vast majority of the first half, with the two teams going toe to toe in an even contest. The Seasiders had started the better of the two sides and were probably edging the game on points, but the Bluebirds grew into the half and had their best spell not long before the break.
However, with the interval approaching, the hosts struck the first blow when a free-kick from the left side found Lewis inside the area, and his first-time left-footed effort took a telling deflection off Watts which directed it past Jones and into the right-hand corner to make it 1-0.
Pennock turned to his bench during the half-time interval as he made two alterations along with a change of system, as Harri John and MacNamara came on for Kai Whitmore and Luke Tabone, with County switching to a 4-3-3 formation as we searched for a way back into the match.
Although the Town were seeing the majority of the ball and were posing the greater threat, we weren’t able to craft out any clear-cut opportunities until shortly after the hour mark when we regained possession in midfield to allow Shephard to break upfield, with the midfielder sliding a pass through to Martell Taylor-Crossdale who saw his left-footed effort roll agonisingly wide of the right post from what was an unfavourable angle.
The Bluebirds continued to control proceedings as we entered the latter stages of the game, but it continued to be a story of frustration as a well-drilled Black and Greens outfit kept us at bay.
Rhys Abbruzzese, who earlier in the day had signed a new one-year deal with the club, saw his free-kick from just outside the area deflected behind for a corner as time ticked away.
Then, with just one minute of normal time remaining, we appealed for a goal following a scramble inside the area, with Taylor-Crossdale claiming the ball had crossed the line, however the officials ruled otherwise and this proved to be the final action of note as the hosts held on to claim the spoils.