First Team
Cymru Premier Sun 21 April The SDM Glass Stadium
  • Venables (6')
Haverfordwest County

Manager Tony Pennock admitted his Haverfordwest County side were disappointed to have missed out on the end-of-season European play-offs, but is certain that his young group will be better for the experience as the 2023-24 campaign draws to a close.

The Bluebirds were edged out 1-0 by Penybont at the SDM Glass Stadium on Sunday, with Chris Venables’ fifth-minute goal enough to secure victory and a play-off berth for the Bridgend outfit.

County were cheered on by a fantastic away following, but were just unable to make the most of their positive play as a roller coaster campaign came to an end.

Here’s what the manager had to say in full after the game:

On the result

“We knew today was going to be tough. It’s been a tough season. We’ve had a lot to deal with. A squad of 19 outfield players started the season, 195 of them have been unavailable in 32 games. So for the youngsters to have done what they’ve done this year, it’s a massive credit to them, a massive credit to the academy to produce the players, and the boys have certainly learnt a lot this season.

“Yes, we’re disappointed. Really disappointed that we haven’t got something we deserved today. I thought we deserved a point. But listen, you don’t always get what you deserve in football. Penybont are a very good side, and we wish them all the best in the play-offs now. I could see Penybont going all the way. I think the winner of their semi-final with Newtown goes through [to Europe].”

On the 2024-25 season

“But as for us, planning for next season is well under way. We have 15 players already signed, a few others to speak to this week. A few decisions to be made, and we will come back next season stronger than this season on and off the pitch, and it’s something we all need to look forward to.

“We’ve had a great year. We tasted Europe, we’ve had spells of really good form in the year. We’ve conceded less than we did last season. We’ve been a lot better at the back, but we’ve still had some soft goals that we shouldn’t have let in.”

On the areas for improvement

“I can’t remember Zac making a save today, but we have to learn that Chris Venables is a top forward and has been for a long, long time. He gets one chance, it’s in the back of the net. More often than not, we get one chance and we don’t get anything from it. We all have to improve at, defensively, trying to score goals as defenders and our forward players. We have to score more goals than we have this season, and when we start doing that we will get ourselves up the table.

“To miss out on goal difference is doubly tough, but the table doesn’t lie, Penybont finished above us and we wish them all the best in the play-offs, but like you said the boys will have a decent break this year, and the staff, because it’s been a really tough season.”

On the summer break

“We can all have a break this summer, not that we wanted it, and rebuild for next season because – let’s be honest – finishing eighth, four years ago this club wasn’t in the division. So to finish eighth this year after last year’s exploits, I think people see that as disappointing, but I see it as our youngsters have gained so much experience this year. It will benefit the club for many years to come.

“I look forward to the break myself, but during that break we’ll be extremely busy making us even stronger again. Like I said, we have 15 already signed, I’m hoping we’ll have a bigger squad than this year because we can’t carry 195 unavailable players – no team in this league can – especially when you’re a young team with an average age of 21, we are the youngest team in the league, but like I said, the experience those boys have gained this year is priceless for them and I’m really looking forward to working with the group again next season.”

On the Development team winning the league

“I’m so chuffed for Bats [Steve Batty] Dan [Evans] and Ceri [Phillips] and the whole club really, the whole academy, for the 19s to win the league just shows the work that’s gone on for many years. Not only with our teams, but all the grassroots teams in Pembrokeshire to produce the players that we have.

“We know there’s a lot of good players in Pembrokeshire. There’s a good chance our squad will have more Pembrokeshire players next season hopefully, and it’s fantastic for the club. Look at the support we’ve had here today. I can’t thank the fans enough. They travel in their numbers now, to Europe, and then our games in Cardiff.”

On the reasons for positivity

“Our attendances are nearly 20 per cent higher, which suggests we’re doing something right on and off the pitch. Rob and the board will keep pushing us forward. We as a football staff will keep doing everything we can to improve our performances on the pitch, and our results, and together as a group¬† we can only get better and better, and that’s something to look forward to for everybody.”