Subs: ???, Matty Hughes, Gareth Jones, Joe Dyer, Carl Shaw
Report by Jordan Forster of Y Clwb Pel Droed.
Two goals in two minutes shortly before half time was enough to give Cambrian & Clydach consecutive home league wins for the first time in over a year as they beat Briton Ferry Llansawel in the Welsh Football League Division One this weekend.
Joe Evans and Richard French were the Cambrian goalscorers in a frenetic couple of minutes towards the end of a scrappy and largely chance-less first half, while the visitors wouldn’t have been out of order feeling a little bit sorry for themselves having arguably shaded the first half at King George V New Field.
In the build-up to the contest, Cambrian boss Craig Hughes spoke of his determination to improve the Rhondda-based club’s home form this season; the visit of Briton Ferry – winless on the road in the league this season and finding life in Division One ‘tough’ according to manager Carl Shaw – presented a good opportunity for the Cambrian to build on their win over Goytre in their last home match.
However, the visitors were marginally the better side in a scrappy start to the match. Neither side exerted any real control of the play in the opening 20 minutes, but Briton Ferry enjoyed the more promising positions with Ian Hillier’s long throws causing a few moments of uncertainty and there was more than one near miss as the right foot crossing of Stephen Davey from the left flank threatened to creep inside the far post.
At the other end Cambrian’s approach was unabashedly direct, quick to play the ball over the top and into the channels and challenge the lack of pace in the Briton Ferry back line. It was this tactic that led to the game’s first genuine chance as a long ball over the top wasn’t dealt with adequately and the ball bounced up for Leon Anstee, whose side foot half volley was straight at Briton Ferry goalkeeper Steve Cann.
Shortly after, the visitor’s hit back with a chance of their own: Matty Harris showed great technique to send a left foot half volley flying toward the top corner but Morgan Davies in the Cambrian was equal to it, flying across his goal to tip the shot over the bar.
With half an hour of the contest played, Briton Ferry’s better control of possession and territory started yield more half chances. Cann’s found Sam Baker with a long clearance; a one-two to enabled the winger to play himself infield, but his through ball behind the Cambrian back line was a touch too strong and allowed Morgan Davies to gather the ball safely ahead of the attacking runner.
A minute later, Davey found some space just off his left wing, pinged a wonderful ball to David Brown, who held the ball up strongly and played the perfect return pass to Davey, but the latter’s curled effort drifted wide.
The failure to build-up any sustained attacking play seemed to take its toll on some of the Cambrian players and a number of petulant fouls were lucky not to receive further punishment than a free-kick, but they dug in and as the game drifted towards half time they began to find some continuity and worked their way into some promising positions, especially through Gareth Welsh’s marauding runs down the left.
It was Welsh’s endeavour that led to opening goal, his run from left back winning a corner that Liam Hutchinson delivered and found the head of centre back Evans; his powerful header 12 yards out beat Cann and found the corner of the net. There was delight and relief for the home players, while the visitors were no doubt left ruing their failure to make the most of their early superiority.
A minute later it got even worse for Briton Ferry. A speculative long ball from the back wasn’t dealt with by Ian Hillier, who had two chances to clear. Richard French’s desire to chase it down earned his reward as he outpaced and out muscled the Briton Ferry defender before poking the ball past the onrushing Cann.
Briton Ferry were out early for the second half, but Cambrian continued to show more incisiveness in the final third. Good play the right by Liam Reed created a couple of chances for Anstee in the middle; twice he tumbled to the ground under defensive challenges, both times the referee turned away the home side’s penalty appeals. Then Reed himself had a go from range, but his curled effort from just outside the box was off target.
Despite no shortage of endeavor Briton Ferry were simply unable to fashion enough clear cut chances to give them a way back into the game. The one opportunity that did arrive came in the 69th minute. Having worked an attacking position inside the Cambrian penalty area Dyer, Davey and Brown all had bites at the cherry but Cambrian somehow managed to keep their clean sheet intact through two Davies saves and block on the line from Brown’s effort.
With that chance going begging so did Briton Ferry’s hopes of getting into the match; Cambrian’s young side was spared an examination under pressure and saw out the final stages of the match in relative comfort.
The two-goal cushion allowed Craig Hughes the luxury of bringing on 16-year old Cory Morgan for a fifteen minute cameo and the Cambrian academy trainee wasted no time showcasing what a bright prospect he is: darting in off the right wing a couple of times to get a withered Ferry defence backtracking, he was unlucky not to get a goal too when a close range effort produced a good save from Cann.
It would have been the cherry on the cake for a fantastic afternoon for Cambrian’s young side and their manager Craig Hughes, who got his tactics perfect on the day: utilising direct play to get Briton Ferry’s defence running back to goal and making the most of some obviously well-practiced set-plays.
For Briton Ferry Llansawel, the trip home would no doubt be full of pensive ‘what ifs’; they had their moments in the match and on another day they would have won, but the madness of those couple of minutes before half time left too big a mountain to climb in the second half.