Could have won it – could have lost it. An uninspiring Reds` performance ultimately ended with them earning a point, but they were well below their best, perhaps summed up by a missed Lee Trundle penalty – a rare event in his book. Their opponents, as with most visiting sides, arrived with a game plan – play one lone striker and flood the midfield and defence, making it almost impossible to find a way through on goal.
However, the home side also seem particularly vulnerable to set pieces whether they be corners or free kicks, and both the Croesy goals came from their inability to deals with such situations. The visitors also spurned a couple of other gilt-edged opportunities which, if taken, could well have seen them claim a famous win, with an early chance coming the way of Rhys Williams from a Ryan Hayward assist, but with the target in his sights, he took too long over his shot and was eventually closed down by the covering defence.
This proved to be his last involvement in proceedings as an injury forced him off to be replaced by Lewis Clare after 19 minutes, but despite the change,Croesy continued to match the Reds for effort and were well in the contest. Sam Ward saw his strike deflect for a corner when Trundle found him, before Craig Morris was forced off his line to just beat Nick McGrath to a ball over the top of the home rearguard.
Somewhat against the run of play, the home side took the lead on 33 minutes after Jordan Davies played a pass into the feet of Trundle, who with minimal back lift found the bottom corner past goalkeeper Nick Church. The Reds` euphoria lasted barely two minutes with their opponents drawing level when a driven low delivery by McGrath across the goalmouth led to Dan Pritchard tapping it into the net from close range.
Buoyed by this success, the visitors pushed forward and created a glorious chance of taking the lead when McGrath was put though on a one-to-one with Morris, but the keeper blocked his effort, and when the rebound fell to Clare, a timely tackle by Davies prevented any further alarm.
Having survived this scare, the Reds came close themselves when another inspired piece of skill by Trundle saw him turn his marker and send a chip over Church, but it clipped the post and went over for a goal kick.
The Swansea City legend was again involved when a further attempt deflected for a corner taken by Davies and delivered into the goalmouth, where it bobbled about on the line before being cleared with the Reds appealing that it had gone over, but without success. Three minutes into the second half, the home lead was restored following an initial effort by Liam Samuel which rebounded off the crossbar but was met by Joe Clarke who struck it low into the net.
But just as in the first period, the Reds` joy was short-lived as within three minutes following a Matthew Sainsbury free kick swung into the goalmouth which led to an almighty scramble in front of the net, Tom Doidge was accredited with the final touch to send the ball over the line. As the half progressed, the Reds were enjoying plenty of possession but were wasteful in their distribution, gifting it back to their opponents, but they were thrown a lifeline when Trundle was brought down in the area, and on the advice of his assistant, referee Paul Hitchcott eventually pointed to the spot.
Trundle himself took the kick, but for once failed to find the net, his attempt rebounding off a post before being hacked away. The Reds then made a couple of changes with Luke Jones and Ross Jones replacing James Loveridge and Wade respectively, and both sides went close to another goal, with a further Sainsbury free kick from distance just off target, while a shot on the turn by Trundle suffered a similar fate. With the contest in stoppage time, the hosts were awarded a free kick just outside the box which Trundle drilled low into the goalmouth, but somehow Church managed to keep it out with a foot, although he knew little about it. This proved to be the last telling incident of a game the home side will not look back on with any particular satisfaction, the only consolation being they could well have come unstuck.
LLANELLI TOWN; Morris; Graves; March; Clarke; C. Thomas; Bevan ©; Samuel; Davies; Wade (R. Jones, 76); Trundle; Loveridge (L.Jones, 71);
Subs. not used; Jones; R. Thomas; Morgan.
CROESYCEILIOG; Church; Sainsbury; Edmonds; Morris ©; Doidge; Harris; Williams (Clare, 19); Pritchard (Hill, 88); Hayward; Lygo (Hall, 83); McGrath;
Sub. not used; McKraclan.
SCORERS; Llanelli Town – Trundle, 33; Clarke, 48.
Croesyceiliog – Pritchard, 35; Doidge, 51.
YELLOW CARDS; Llanelli Town – Clarke; Davies; Samuel Croesyceiliog – Hayward; Doidge.
REFEREE; Paul Hitchcott (Ammanford).
The Reds make the short journey to meet Garden Village next Friday evening, kick off 7.30 p.m.
On Wednesday, 5th April, they face first divison side Caerau Ely in the semi-final of the League Cup at Afan Lido`s Marston Stadium, also with a 7.30 p.m. start.
A brace of goals apiece by James Loveridge and Jordan Follows ensured the visitors returned from Ystrad Mynach and the artificial surface with maximum points to maintain their six point lead from Briton Ferry Llansawel at the head of the table. In truth, the final tally could well have been doubled, with Gavin Hegarty performing heroics in the Buds goal, while their opponents were guilty if failing to convert a glut of chances.
The Reds introduced new signing Kurtis March from Aberystwyth Town at right back, and on this showing he is going to be an undoubted asset, making strong runs at every opportunity down the flanks and generally contributing to another impressive display by the visitors. It was also pleasing to see Luke Jones being named on the bench after his injury lay-off, and he came on for the closing quarter or so and brought his usual enthusiasm to proceedings.
The opening goal took just 7 minutes to arrive with Loveridge making tracks down the left before delivering a ball into the goalmouth which eluded Hegarty before nestling in the net. When the Buds countered, a ball by Ryan Bolter into the box saw Scott Armitage narrowly fail to make contact, before Jordan Davies set up Joe Clarke whose shot from distance whistled just wide of the home goal.
On 20 minutes, the lead was doubled following a delightful chip by Liam Samuel over Jake Forsyth which sent Follows clear, and he finished with a well struck shot into the bottom corner. The Buds, despite these setbacks, were posing the occasional threat, with Armitage meeting a cross into the area before being closed down before he could unleash a shot, while at the other end, Hegarty saved at his near post to keep out a Loveridge effort when Robert Thomas created the chance.
There then came an incredible miss by the Reds when an initial Samuel drive rebounded off the crossbar and fell to the feet of Follows a couple of yards out, but he somehow failed to convert the chance with the goal at his mercy. Craig Morris was called into a rare piece of action, doing well to keep out with an outstretched leg a shot by Levi Rees when he was put through on goal, while Samuel was denied by Hegarty who saved his goal bound attempt, and when Davies homed in on the rebound, he too was unable to take advantage with the keeper and a defender able to snuff out the danger.
An early second half chance fell to the home side when a misdirected kick out by Morris only found Armitage whose ball into the goalmouth was meant for Tom Ganson, but he was slow to react and the Reds` goal survived.
As the half progressed, the visitors were now running their opponents ragged, and the game became akin to a training session with the Buds being starved of possession, and Follows should have added to the tally when he met a Samuel cross but sent his finish too close to Hegarty who was able to divert it around the post. The ceaseless pressure was inevitably going to pay off, and a third goal duly arrived in the 68th minute when a good build-up involving March and Davies culminated in them setting up Loveridge who drilled his finish past Hegarty.
The Reds made their first change with Sam Wade coming on for Adam Jones, and within three minutes of this the lead was extended further with Loveridge turning provider by sending Follows clear, and this time he made no mistake, smashing his shot powerfully past the home keeper after 73 minutes.
Loveridge, who had another fine game, was replaced by Luke Jones, and the visitors continued to dominate proceedings up to the final whistle, with several potential scoring chances being created. Follows directed a long distance shot inches off target, and when March made a surging run through the middle before picking out Follows who took too long over his attempt, and Hegarty again was able to just about keep it out. The overworked Buds keeper was called into action again just before the close, denying both Jones and Follows in quick succession to keep the final scoreline down to a reasonable figure.
ABERBARGOED BUDS; Hegarty; Vaughan; Bolter (Evans, 59); Forsyth (M. Jones, 71); S. Jones; Thomas ©; Armitage; Morgan (Eedy, 46); Ganson; Maisy; Rees; Sub. not used; James.
LLANELLI TOWN; Morris; March; A. Jones (Wade, 70); Clarke; C. Thomas; Bevan ©; Samuel; Davies (Finselbach, 80); R. Thomas; Follows; Loveridge (L. Jones, 74); Subs. not used; Morgan; McFenton (GK).
SCORERS; Llanelli Town – Loveridge, 7, 68. Follows, 20, 73.
YELLOW CARD; Aberbargoed Buds - S. Jones.
REFEREE; Andrew Wilkins (Pontllanfraith).
The Reds will be hoping to keep their winning sequence going when Dinas Powys are the visitors to Stebonheath next Saturday. Kick off 2.30 p.m.