Haverfordwest County’s Welsh League title challenge took another big blow as they fell to a second successive defeat, well-beaten at a wet and windy Lakeside Academy by Cambrian & Clydach Vale BGC.
Both sides went into the game desperate for a win. For County, last week’s defeat at home to Briton Ferry Llansawel was a serious setback to their title pursuit. Cambrian, meanwhile, had taken just one point from the last two games and were beaten in their previous home game against Penybont.
Richard French’s double either side of a Liam Reed goal in a dominant second-half performance gave the Rhondda Valley club all three points. The result in no way flattered Cambrian who move up to 5th, while Haverfordwest County remain top of the Welsh League, one point ahead of Llanelli Town, having played two games more.
There was little in the way of fluency in the opening exchanges but the visitors provided the first threat on goal. A loose ball behind the Cambrian defence in the second minute gave Gregory Walters something to chase and he had too much pace for Cambrian captain Mark Crutch, who was forced to bring the County midfielder down. Crutch was booked for his challenge and from the resulting free-kick Walters thundered his strike against the crossbar.
Steffan Williams had a headed chance from a Dan Williams cross but couldn’t direct his effort on target and Joe Leahy’s speculative effort from 35 yards had the beating of Cambrian goalkeeper Dan Bradley but was a yard or two too high.
Having got through that period unscathed, Cambrian settled into the game with Corey Shepherd influential in midfield and centre-forward Richard French’s effective hold-up play providing a good platform for their attacks. On the other side Haverfordwest – playing with five at the back – lacked any real continuity, preferring to play high balls towards Leahy who struggled throughout against the aerial strength of Cambrian defenders Crutch and Kieran Coles.
With a lack of incisive football in open play, Shepherd’s set-plays looked the most likely source of a goal. A quickly taken free kick which caught the Haverfordwest defence napping was just too high for Josh Maxsimovic, who soon after put a free header over the bar from six yards.
Successive corners from Shepherd produced two near misses. First Mark Crutch’s goalbound drive was headed away for a corner, from which French’s near post flick drifted just wide of the opposite post.
Sam Jones produced one of several darting runs in off the left wing in the 32nd minute and created space to shoot from 25 yards, his effort crashing against the bar. That was as close as the home side came to a first-half goal and the stalemate at the interval was entirely reflective of the half’s quality.
The second half began in similarly scrappy fashion but sprung into life around a couple of refereeing decisions. From another Shepherd corner in the 54th minute a scramble for the ball led to appeals from the Cambrian players for handball against Haverfordwest defender Tim Hicks. Referee Lewys Thomas agreed and awarded the home side a penalty, which Richard French converted to the right of Conah McFenton’s dive.
If Haverfordwest were aggrieved by the decision they didn’t let it show and could have levelled the score a couple of minutes later, but Kristian Speake fired his shot wide from just inside the penalty area after good build-up play involving Dan Williams and Leahy. On the hour came the second decision the visitors felt went against them. A robust challenge by Sam Jones and Gregory Walters was judged to be clean and a corner, rather than a free-kick, was awarded.
The longer the game went the more Cambrian began to control matters, especially with their midfield three Shepherd, David Thomas and Jacob Matthews enjoying superiority on the day.
Another dazzling run by Sam Jones, beating several Haverfordwest players, was brought to an abrupt end by Sean Pemberton’s cynical foul. A superb long pass by Shepherd seemed to have put French in one goal, but the striker’s first touch deserted him. Liam Reed also stung the palms of McFenton with an angled drive. However, Reed didn’t have to wait long for another goal in what has been a very productive season.
As the game entered the final twenty minutes Reed, firing on the turn at the near post, saw his effort slip through the legs of McFenton and squirm over the line to double Cambrian’s lead.
A raft of substitutions from both sides disrupted the pattern of play in the final 15 minutes but Haverfordwest lacked the energy and belief to make a comeback. Walters did force a good save from Bradley, but that was as close as the league leaders came to getting back into the game.
In fact, there was worse to come for the Pembrokeshire club when in added time Richard French added more gloss to the Cambrian scoreline with a calm finish from substitute Gareth Welsh’s cross.