Haverfordwest County 1

Caerau Ely 1

A FIRST-half penalty and red card, a last-minute equaliser and a cloudburst somewhere in the middle made this a match as dramatic as any on the Conygar Bridge Meadow for years, writes Robert Nisbet.

Caerau Ely, who went into the game in 7th place in Welsh League Division One, had held the Blues to a 1-1 draw on their own ground in September and it became clear at once that they would be difficult opposition, with Jamal Roberts roaming dangerously down their left flank. But the Blues shaded the first half-hour about 60-40 on possession and territory, with Declan Carroll, Tim Hicks and Luke Borelli all probing.

Caerau’s most clear-cut chance fell to Roberts who shot over when well-placed, while Carroll’s run from the halfway line looked threatening before his low shot went just wide. Then, just on the half-hour, a Caerau shot was goal-bound and Dale Griffiths handled it on the line. He received the inevitable red card and Gianluca Palladino dispatched the penalty.

The Blues fought back into the game before half-time, but the score stayed 1-0. But they came back after the chance to re-group and played with a solitary Hicks up front being supported by a four-man midfield.

Early in the second half the conditions went from poor to appalling and a combination of sheeting rain, thunder and lightning drove the players off for a five-minute break. For a while after that, Caerau seemed to sense the chance of a second goal and pressed skilfully and well. But slowly but surely the Bluebirds, with all three subs now on, were getting a grip on the game and the last quarter of an hour saw a wave of Blues attacks and the Cardiff side back-pedalling. Several headers went desperately close to the visitors’ goal before, in the final minute, Joey Leahy won a ball out on the left, turned back and inside and curled a wicked right-foot cross into the box where it bobbled wildly for a few seconds before Hicks pounced to slide it in from close range.

Given the conditions and the red card to Griffiths, this really was a fine Bluebirds display. It would not seem right to single out players individually on a day when the whole side played exceptionally well, from Chris Curtis, who had to keep kicking a shooting, greasy ball under strong pressure, through to débutant sub Liam Fawcett who dribbled cleverly and well during his 15-minute appearance.

The programme sponsor was Bisley Munt (Jeweller) and the match ball sponsor was Mike Delaney of Fishguard.

There are no Welsh League matches over the holiday period, and the Blues next play on Saturday 29th December, when they travel to play Tata Steel.

Haverfordwest County: Chris Curtis; Ricky Watts; Matthew Fisher; Sam Rodon; Dale Griffiths; Luke Borrelli (Liam Fawcett, 75); Chris O’Sullivan; Dylan Blain; Declan Carroll (Joey Leahy, 60); Tim Hicks; Richie Lewis (Steffan Williams, 60).