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Sunday, 15 January 2017 09:34

Carno's Clifftop Catastrophe

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SATURDAY 14th JANUARY: Swanbridge Road, sunshine and showers.
SULLY SPORTS 4 CARNO 1 (FAW Trophy Round 5)
The last sixteen of the FAW Trophy always produces some interesting fixtures - by this stage there are no easy games - and, although it's still regionalised, inter-region ties do crop up. Like today's game, a South Wales v Central Wales encounter - with the visitors lumped into the southern half of the draw. They're the last club standing from their region, but are a form team lying third in the Spar Mid Wales League, unbeaten in fifteen, and with Huws Gray Alliance aspirations. It's only an easy local choice today - I ruled out north Wales with snow and ice up there likely to bring postponements - but the forecast down here is encouraging - a sunny afternoon in prospect.

So I set off for the coast expecting a close game. Re-visits to Sully are always enjoyable, the ground sitting on the cliffs with views across the Bristol Channel. When time and weather allow, I always think a pre-match stroll is in order here, and with an icy morning giving way to a fine sunny afternoon, I leave time for this 'tradition'. It's cold, but there's only the lightest of breezes as I walk out past the Captain's Wife inn and Swanbridge Farm on the coastal path - and then back again, finding time for a quick pint of ale in the pub.

As I enter the Sports Ground there's a spot of rain and the skies darken. So much for the forecast. Before making for cover, I linger at the gate as Sully officials weigh up their prospects - Carno's position three levels higher in the pyramid invites caution despite their strong cup record. I'm less sure - the Mid Wales League's record in the Trophy is modest and it's arguably the weakest Tier 3 league.

However, the opening minutes belong to Carno. Barely two minutes have passed before they go ahead, Ollie Lewis with a free-kick that trundles through bodies in the box and creeps in at the far post without anyone getting a foot on it. A setback for Sully, who seem distracted in the minutes that follow, passes going astray and hesitancy in defence. Then another setback, a long injury stoppage and an enforced early substitution.

But after allowing Carno to dominate the opening 20 minutes, Sully spring into life with a 'route one' equaliser - long ball, Joe Briscombe running clear and scoring with a cool finish. The game changes, Sully suddenly have a spring in their step, and in the 35th minute they take the lead. Strangely, it's another one from a free-kick, Alex Long with a delivery into the box that may have taken a deflection before going in at the far post.

For the second half, the rain has relented, umbrellas are refurled in the crowd - must be around 60 or 70 here - and as the sun is breaking through, I can change my viewpoint. It's hard to know where the best action will be, as both sides will be chasing a crucial next goal. I opt for the western end, that Sully are attacking, and I choose right. Although it's end-to-end action, the vital next goal goes to Sully, Alex Long finishing off a nice move down the right with a close-range volley.

Sully have the upper hand now, especially on the right flank where Will Gale - his head swathed in bandage from a first-half clash of heads - has the measure of the Carno defence. It's from the right wing that the next goal comes too - a move ends with a trip in the box and Briscombe adds his second from the spot.

Even though there's half an hour left, to recover from 4-1 down is surely too much to ask of Carno and the match now dies a little. The men in green have a chance to reduce the deficit - and even rekindle hopes? - with a penalty of their own, but it's blasted out of the ground and onto the adjacent rugby pitch. There's little action after this - I find myself observing the late afternoon changes of light in the Channel, and noting that the temperature has started to drop a tad now the sun has gone again. The final whistle comes soon enough and for me it's time to head back to Cardiff on a nice warm bus. For Sully there'sthe quarter-final draw to look forward to, while for Carno - who are staying down in Cardiff for the night - it's not going to be the night of celebrations in the big city that they had anticipated.

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