Welsh Premier League blog: Attacking-minded Lido punished by rivals Port Talbot; Griffiths on hot streak; selection worries for Carmarthen

downloadHaving amassed ten points out of a possible 12, Port Talbot end 2013 in good form after failing to live up to their potential for much of the first half of the Welsh Premier League season.

They dismantled Afan Lido at the GenQuip Stadium on Boxing Day, winning 5-1, to leave their neighbours firmly rooted to the bottom of the table.

Successive wins against Connah’s Quay and Aberystwyth hinted of a turnaround in form from Lido but they end the year on a run of three-straight defeats.

Speaking post-match, Port Talbot boss Scott Young explained that he didn’t believe his side necessarily deserved their 2-0 half-time lead. Though Young rightly pointed out that his team have so often fallen behind in games from which they deserved to take something from, Afan Lido’s overly-adventurous approach played right into the hands of Port Talbot.

Afan Lido manager Paul Evans named an unchanged side to the one which were narrowly beaten 1-0 by a last-gasp Les Davies goal at Bangor City last weekend, but having observed them yesterday, I am surprised that Lido held out for so long at Nantporth.

Afan Lido defended in true festive fashion gifting Port Talbot both of their opening goals, with Martin Rose and Gethin Jones heading the hosts into the lead. But it was Lido’s gung-ho approach that saw them being completely overrun in midfield, resulting in the balance of the game tipping so dramatically into Port Talbot’s favour.

Lido’s offensive4-2-3-1 gameplan backfired when the attacking-minded trio of Chris Hartland, Keyon Reffel and Casey Thomas – briefed with getting forward to support and supply lone-forward Alex Chrysanthou – were unable to provide assistance to central midfielders Alex Gammond and Kieran Howard, who were left exposed and outnumbered throughout.

Lee John, David Brooks and later Sacha Walters were able to find space out wide to probe the Afan Lido defence and experienced, battling midfielder Gareth Phillips was sorely missed against his former club. The late dismissals of Scott McCoubrey and Casey Thomas only added to Lido’s woes.

Paul Evans evaded the press post-match, no doubt with his pride dented from suffering such a heavy defeat on his neighbours’ patch – it will be interesting to see how he sets his side up for the return fixture at the Marston Stadium on New Year’s Day.

One of the most pleasing aspects of Port Talbot’s mini-revival has been the return to form of striker Rhys Griffiths.

The marksman has been troubled with niggly injuries and found himself in and out of the side as Scott Young searched for the right balance in his team, but Griffiths’ figures in recent games have been most impressive – he has now scored five in his last four and a glance at the top-scorer list – confirming he is joint second with eight goals, will tell you Rhys Griffiths is well and truly back.

Carmarthen have plenty to play for as the first stage of the Welsh Premier League season winds itself up.

Currently fifth in the table, they are just ahead of the chasing pack for a top-six place and although they have two games in hand over most teams, a worrying run of four games without a win, cumulating in a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Rhyl, will be a worry to Mark Aizlewood.

In Saturday’s televised encounter against Aberystwyth, Aizlewood has added worries with up to three key defenders unavailable.

Cortez Belle is not expected to be fit, whilst his central defensive partner and captain Carl Evans misses out through suspension, along with full-back Craig Hanford.

Aberystwyth, themselves, have gone off the boil in recent weeks but the Old Gold can expect to tough encounter at Park Avenue and a stern test to the depth of their squad.

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