LLANELLI TOWN 5 CWMBRAN CELTIC 3
Whenever the sides clash, the Reds struggle to impose themselves on opponents they have invariably found difficult to break down, and the latest contest followed a well-worn path, with the home side conceding a two goal advantage prior to the interval.
This was despite the visitors having to utilise their three substitutes before the half hour mark, with goalkeeper Lewis Watkins stretchered off with a damaged kneecap following a collision with his own central defender, Andrew Larcombe, who was also forced off, while captain Rhys Williams had also been earlier replaced through injury.
The home side were without Jordan Davies who was serving the first of a three match suspension following his dismissal in the previous game against Goytre, with Kurtis March taking his place in midfield.
A couple of early sorties by the Reds led to a hurried clearance when James Loveridge was found by a ball over the top by Lee Trundle, while the same two combined with Loveridge turning provider for Trundle to fire across the face of the goal before the Celtic defence cleared the danger.
However, it took only 6 minutes for the opening goal following a searching cross which found Joe Clarke wide on the right, and he looped his header over Watkins to put the hosts ahead.
Four minutes later, Celtic were forced into their first change with the exit of Williams, while Loveridge delayed a shooting chance when put clear and was eventually crowded out.
The visitors` then suffered a double blow with the injuries to Watkins and Larcombe, with Jordan Dibble and King Junior Mwedzo respectively coming on as replacements.
The stand-in keeper was soon called into action, grasping safely a shot on target by Trundle, but he was beaten on 39 minutes when Loveridge was put through after a delightful Chris Jones ball, and he rounded Dibble before slotting home.
Seemingly well in control and with their opponents not offering too much in the way of attacking options, the Reds were then hit with a double whammy in a five minute spell at the close of the half.
Some serious questions need to be asked of the home defence for the way both goals were conceded, with the first on 40 minutes stemming from Chris Ham being afforded far too much room when he was found in space on the edge of the box, before despatching a great chipped finish over Craig Morris into the vacant net.
If this setback was not bad enough, some more inept defending led to Callum Wakeham arriving at the far post to bundle in a cross by Mwedzo on the stroke of half time, to really ask questions of the hosts during the interval.
Mwzedo would prove to be a real handful to the Reds throughout his tenure, and came close to giving his side the lead with a well struck effort from distance which was turned around with difficulty by Morris, and from the resulting corner, Morris was forced into action again, this time keeping out with his legs another goal-bound attempt.
After the resumption, Celtic proved to be a far more potent threat than in the first period, and the home goal survived some close calls in the opening stages, and with their opponents not playing with any great confidence, the contest could have gone either way.
With the Reds guilty of some careless passing and conceding possession far too easily, it came as something of a surprise when they edged ahead again on 65 minutes, with the ball just being kept in play on the byline before it was circulated back into the middle for Trundle to unleash a strike which rebounded off the bar but was met by Clarke who rifled his finish into the roof of the net.
Boosted by this, Jones then struck the base of the post with his shot, but within five minutes of the Clarke effort he notched up his hat-trick, when an initial chance for Trundle led to him finding Clarke at the back post, and he rolled the ball over the line.
Despite restoring their two goal cushion, the Reds found their opponents were in no mood to lie down and accept the inevitable, and home nerves were on edge again when Celtic notched up a third in the 81st minute, when a free kick found Owen Cook unmarked, before sending his header over Morris to set up a grandstand finish.
To their credit, the home side responded in the best possible manner by netting a fifth just two minutes later, although it took a fabulous 30 yard volley by March to put the result beyond doubt, when he met a rebound off an initial Trundle effort before unleashing a screamer past Dibble to finally put the game to bed.
Morris; Graves (Vickers, 77); Facciuto; R. Thomas; C. Thomas; Bevan; C. Jones; March (Samuel, 84); Clarke ©; Trundle; Loveridge (Follows, 71);
Subs. not Used : Morgan; R. Jones.
Watkins (Dibble, 26); Kinsella; Crees; Williams © (Connor, 10); Larcombe, (Mwezdo, 28); Prangley; Wakeham; Cook; Illes; Young; Ham;
Sub. not used; Baugh.
Llanelli Town – Clarke, 6, 65, 70; Loveridge, 39; March, 83.
Cwmbran Celtic – Ham, 40; Wakeham, 45; Cook, 81.
Llanelli Town – Clarke.
Cwmbran Celtic – Williams; Mwedzo.
REFEREE; Kim Fisher (Cardiff).
The Reds are without a game this weekend, but on Wednesday, 4th April, travel to meet Cwmamman United, kick off 6.30 p.m.
On Saturday, 7th April, Monmouth Town are the visitors to Stebonheath in the Reds` final home league game of the season, kick off 2.30 p.m
As current holders of the League Cup, they then face Cwmbran Celtic again in the semi-final of the competition on Tuesday, 10th April, at Afan Lido`s ground.