Sam Snaith’s seven-minute hat-trick inspired Llantwit Major to a comeback win in a thrilling encounter with Aberbargoed Buds.
The win means Llantwit are level on points with STM Sports, one point behind Division Two leaders Pontypridd Town, and requiring just four points to secure successive Welsh League promotions. This defeat – the second in three days – all but extinguishes Aberbargoed Buds’ title challenge for this campaign.
Eighteen-year old striker Snaith turned the game on its head midway through the first half after Major found themselves two-nil down early on. It was Snaith’s second hat-trick in eight days and takes his total to ten goals in his last five outings. A second-half Rob Jones sealed the points in the second-half.
Karl Lewis’ Llantwit Major side arrived at the Aberbargoed Recreational Ground on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run. While the Buds were beaten in their last outing at home to Pontypridd Town, they had won seven-league matches on the bounce prior to this.
As a vindication of this recent run of form, Aberbargoed started the game at blistering pace and found themselves with a commanding lead before Major had even got themselves going in the game. In the second-minute Scott Armitage beat the Major offside trap and run onto a flick-on, taking his chance with a cool finish past Jack Lansdown. Three minutes later, Buds captain Tom Davies rose unmarked at the back post and powered his head from a left wing free-kick into the far corner.
It looked like Buds might overrun their opponents at this stage; former Newport County player Armitage, in particular, finding pockets of space and another clean strike may have taken the game out of sight but for a brave block from a Llantwit Major defender.
The visitors slowly worked their way back into the game though and Snaith had already sqaundered one headed chance before he pounced to reduce the deficit in the 22nd minute. Jonathan Butler burst through the lines of the Aberbargoed defence and picked out Snaith at the back stick to head casually into the goal. Anthony Rawlings flashed a drive across goal before Snaith equalised from close range in the 27th minute after Aberbargoed failed, despite several opportunities, to a clear a corner.
A couple of minutes later the turnaround was complete, but it wasn’t without some controversy. A scramble in the Major box led to vociferous penalty appeals from the Buds players, believing a goal-bound effort had been prevented by an arm from a Llantwit defender. The officials awarded only a corner. From the re-start in play Major cleared the ball to Snaith and what followed was pure brilliance. The young striker outpaced two Buds defenders down the left wing before moving inside and calmy steering the ball past Cael Jones into the far corner.
There was no dropping of heads from the home side though and they were unfortunate not have levelled the game before half-time. Ebeneezer Narty dug out a brilliant effort from the edge of the penalty area with the outside of his foot and saw his strike rebound off the crossbar. Then with the final touch of the half Tom Davies was again left unmarked at a corner, but his effort at the back post went the wrong side of the post.
The second-half was as end to end as the first, but with the lead Llantwit Major were able to demonstrate why they have the best defensive record in the league. Sean Williams was a colossus at the back, winning header after header as Aberbergoed’s direct play failed to materialise the same chances as early in the game.
On the counter Llantwit Major provided a threat, especially down the left through Rob Jones and Connor Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy tried and ambitious volley from 30 yards and Jones produced a save out of Jones before the latter effectively sealed the win ten minutes into the second-half.
Dribbling infield off the left wing, Jones was allowed time and space to shoot from 25 yards, his effort bouncing off the hard surface and over the despairing dive of Cael Jones.
There was no shortage of effort from Aberbargoed as they tried to find a way back into the game, but there was no reward and as frustration spilled over Gavin Meacham was sent off in injury time for two bookings during the same stoppage in play for dissent towards referee Mark Gardiner.