A FLURRY of late withdrawals and worries about the condition of the pitch after recent heavy rain both proved to be unfounded after an excellent game full of good football resulted in an extra time 3-2 win for Newport Saints over Mardy in the County Motors Cup, reports CLIVE HARRY.
The game was played at pace from the first whistle and the first to go close was Mardy’s Kieran Dobbs with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area that whistled just over.
Saints came even closer a minute later when an attacker was worked clear but was foiled by an excellent save from keeper Logan Hamer who spread himself well to block the goal-bound shot.
The home side then took the lead after 23 minutes when a measured pass from Dobbs put Nathan Price through on goal and he beat keeper Nathan Florence with a neat finish into the corner.
The lead wasn’t to last until the interval, however, with a spell of pressure from the Saints resulting in a penalty for hand ball which was converted by Dale Roche.
Nevertheless, the lead could well have been regained before the break when a shot on the run from Dan Wait beat Florence but agonisingly bent inches wide.
And the same player suffered the same fate minutes later when his shot from a tight angle went across goal and just missed the far post with no attackers on hand able to get the finishing touch.
An excellent first half ended honours even, but Mardy were unlucky not to take the lead again three minutes after the break when an Aaron Norman free-kick sailed over a crowded area at pace and cannoned back to safety off the crossbar with the keeper beaten.
The game was still being played at a frantic pace and Hamer came to the home team’s rescue with several excellent saves.
But with 12 minutes remaining, Mardy took a 2-1 lead with a well worked goal, after the ball was won in midfield by Musap Hussain and passed on to Wait who put Dobbs through on goal.
The Mardy winger kept his head and drew Florence before slotting a left-foot shot past him which found the back of the net despite a despairing lunge by a defender which helped the ball on its way.
Cue celebrations and no doubt thoughts of the next round with the minutes ticking away. But any such thoughts were dispelled when Saints’ substitute Neil Sims scored with a close range header with only three minutes remaining to trigger extra-time.
The visitors emptied their bench and brought on several substitutes who could well have featured in South Africa’s ‘bomb squad’ later in the evening.
Their height was a danger for Mardy at set pieces on several occasions although play remained end-to-end despite the fact that some players must have been almost out on their feet.
Sadly for Mardy, with a penalty shootout only minutes away, they conceded a third goal when another set piece caused them problems, and David De Almeida netted the winner from close range after several shots had been blocked to make the final score 3-2.
Both teams can be proud of their efforts and as the only teams still undefeated in the Gwent Premier Division One, two more epic encounters could well be on the cards this season.
Both teams joined together after the game to Show Racism the Red Card.
An even tougher task faces Mardy this Saturday with a home game in the FAW Trophy against high flying Penrhiwceiber Rangers from the Ardal South West league, two divisions above Mardy.
The 2nds also have a tough game away to Tranch FC.