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Sunday, 30 October 2016 09:04

The Trundle Effect

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SATURDAY 29th OCTOBER - University Playing Fields, drizzle.
STM SPORTS 1 LLANELLI TOWN 4 (Nathaniel Cars welsh League Cup)
After weeks of long-distance outings, time for a change: the cheap train fares are over and the weather's deteriorating. Besides, this weekend provides two very attractive options without having to leave the city of Cardiff. First up is a Welsh League Cup tie that brings Llanelli Town to Llanrumney. I've been waiting for an opportunity to watch Town, and their inspired signing Lee Trundle, and now a couple come along in a week (The Reds are at Taff's Well in the Welsh Cup on Friday too).

The two-bus journey across to the east of the city takes its time and I find myself running later than planned and arriving ten minutes before kick-off. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it turns out I've arrived ahead of the visitors, who are stuck in traffic on the M4. The planned 2.30 kick-off is put back, and the STM team, in green, carry on with a much-extended warm-up. The rest of us wait in the light drizzle for something to happen. The red-shirted visitors start to appear on the 3G pitch at about a quarter to three, followed a few minutes later by the three officials. At 2.55, we finally have a game.

Some might have expected second division leaders Llanelli to dominate their third division hosts, but the first half is an entertaining, end-to-end contest. There are chances for both sides - STM having the marginally closer efforts in the first half hour. Llanelli clearly represent a real threat up front, with Trundle leading the line. The Swansea legend, wearing his trademark 10 shirt, is more mobile and pacey than most players of his age -he turned 40 earlier this month - and of course all the ball skills are there too. In the first half, this is shown mostly in flashes - clever touches. Nothing quite opens up for him, but he is involved in the opening goal just before the break. A short corner, a cross, and when Trundle and the home keeper both challenge, the ball bounces into the goalmouth. Hard to tell if it goes in, but Chris Thomas is waiting by a post to make sure.

In the closing minutes of the half, Llanelli have another effort disallowed for offside, and a strong penalty appeal for handball waved away, but STM trail by just the one goal at the interval and are still in the game. That changes, however, in the opening seven or eight minutes of the second half, which becomes the Lee Trundle show. First, he gets goal-side of the home defence to receive a through-ball, turn and score from inside the area. Then, from distance, a moment of magic: a curling, dropping shot which lands comfortably in the STM net. And, to complete the rapid hat-trick, a free kick over 25 yards out, driven low past the defensive wall. 0-4 and Llanelli suddenly in total control.

For a while, it looks as though they'll add more goals: Trundle almost walks the ball in for his fourth, but a last-ditch tackle denies him. Then he turns his man on the right wing and must have confused the linesman as much as the defender, because he gets nothing when tripped. Substitutions also seem to reduce Llanelli's potency. Lee Trundle remains, patrolling the first third of the STM half, ready to spring into action. He's still just as involved - physically and mentally - as he was in the first minute. There doesn't appear to be any thought of taking him off - I think he just enjoys playing too much for that.

STM briefly rally: Lamin Conteh scores a peach of a goal - a mazy run and fine finish - and shortly afterwards a dangerous free kick could have added a second and create belief in a comeback, but it's well saved. Llanelli see out the rest of the game comfortably enough, but the match ends bizarrely with the referee blowing for time just as a fight breaks out in the centre circle. In the ensuing confusion, it appears that a red card is shown to STM's Conteh. An odd conclusion to a game that was more noted for skill than attrition.

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