Haverfordwest County ended a run of three consecutive defeats with a dominant win at Afan Lido.
The victory means the Pembrokeshire side retain realistic hopes of challenging Llanelli Town for the Welsh League title and promotion to the Welsh Premier League. The defeat means Afan Lido’s challenge for this season has probably ended.
First-half goals from Greg Walters and Danny Williams secured the points for Haverfordwest County against one of the division’s forms sides. Liam McCreesh struck a late consolation and Afan Lido had a penalty appeal denied at the death, but on the day only profligacy in front of goal prevented Haverfordwest County leaving Aberafan with a bigger margin of victory.
The fixture brought together sides positioned 3rd and 4th. Afan Lido on 44 points – seven adrift of Division One leaders Llanelli Town – having lost just once in their last ten matches, including eight wins. Haverfordwest started two points further back, but Sean Cresser’s side had dropped from the top of the league after three defeats on the spin.
In blustery conditions at the Marston’s Stadium, the early exchanges provided an equal to and fro as both sides tried to establish some authority on the match. There was little in the way of goalmouth action and the opening goal came out of the blue in the seventh minute. Pouncing on the loose, bouncing ball, Haverfordwest County midfielder Greg Walters spotted Afan Lido goalkeeper Steve Cann off his line and tried his luck from halfway. The wind seemed to catch the ball and Cann certainly lost sight of the ball as it dropped under the crossbar and into his net.
The home side seemed shaken by that early goal and despite having good bouts of possession, their build-up play lacked the precision and penetration to trouble a well-organised Haverfordwest. The early frustration seemed to boil over when captain Liam McCreesh was booked for a petulant and unnecessary hack at Alaric Jones.
It took Afan Lido until the 28th minute to muster their first real opening when Elliott Thomas and Shane Williams combined down the left, but the latter’s miscued cross with team-mates well-positioned in the middle summed up the lack of end product in their play.
At the other end, there was one than one near miss. From a Danny Williams corner, Tim Hicks and Walters both failed to double the lead. When the ball was cleared wide to Williams, his angled drive beat Cann but bounced off the crossbar.
Afan Lido’s best chance to level arrived in the 33rd minute. A free-flowing move down the right presented a chance for Andre Griffiths inside the penalty area, but he couldn’t control his effort at goal and it sailed over the bar. That miss would be punished four minutes later through blistering Haverfordwest corner attack from defending a corner. Greg Walters burst through the middle of the field and his exquisite through ball for Danny Williams was perfectly timed. The winger out-paced Carlos Indjai and calmly finished across Cann to double the County lead.
The start of the second-half saw a shake-up in the Afan Lido line-up. Andre Griffiths was replaced by Ben Thomas, which also saw Carlos Indjai move up front to try and provide Lido with a physical presence. There was some early evidence of improvement in this respect, but Indjai was largely well-shackled by Haverfordwest captain Sean Pemberton.
Afan Lido did have chances to get back in the game early in the second half. A long diagonal from McCreesh found Sean Hanbury free inside the box. The young forward tried a Van Basten-esque volley, but his wild finish was a long way over the bar. There was a clearer chance for Hanbury minutes later when Indjai flicked on a long throw at the near post but Hanbury failed to get a clean connection from inside the six-yard box and the ball rolled across goal.
As Afan Lido pressed further forward in search of goals, Haverfordwest’s counter-attacking threat through Danny Williams and Greg Walters became more prevalent. Between them, they had several clear openings to put the game beyond doubt, but a combination of poor finishing or poor decision making meant the lead stayed at two goals.
Despite the succession of misses, it appeared Haverfordwest were going to see out the game comfortably. Especially when Afan Lido substitute Ben Thomas was sent off for violent conduct with fifteen minutes remaining.
However, goals change games and Liam McCreesh curling home a 25-yard free kick in the second minute of injury time turned County’s comfortable lead into a precarious one. There was even time for one more assault from Afan Lido and when substitute Kieran Parsons fell to the floor following a challenge from a Haverfordwest defender inside the penalty area, there were loud appeals for a penalty. Referee Leigh Jones wasn’t interested though.
The final whistle brought with it a sense of relief for the visitors. A much-needed and well-earned win at a fellow title rival that should mean they are back on track in their pursuit of Llanelli Town.