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Sunday, 20 April 2014 16:55

FOUR INTO THREE....

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Cardiff Mets go 2-1 up Cardiff Mets go 2-1 up

SATURDAY 19TH APRIL: Old Road, sunny.
BRITON FERRY LLANSAWEL 1 CARDIFF METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY 3 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Div 2)
Easter Saturday, and not a day for attempting long trips by rail or road, so a game of significance in south Wales is needed: and Division 2 of the Welsh League obliges, with a head-to-head encounter between two of the four sides chasing three promotion places. Four into three definitely won't go - something has to give.

Today's destination, the Old Road ground in Briton Ferry, just a short stroll from Briton Ferry station, where few trains stop, or a long one from Neath. Fortunately, on the outward journey, there's a convenient service that does call at Briton Ferry, and so with the minimum of effort I'm approaching the wrought iron gates of the Old Road ground's imposing entrance twenty minutes before kick off. On a sunny spring afternoon like this, it's a pleasant place to be despite a chilly east wind. I've always liked Old Road, a quirky ground with a half-rural feel, accentuated today by a white horse gambolling on the steep hillside beyond the far goal. In fact, in their League of Wales days I had a soft spot for the Ferry, though I've never forgiven them for ditching the best kit in Wales, those red and green quartered shirts; these days they wear a boring all red strip.

Briton Ferry Llansawel, as they are now known, have enjoyed a good season and looked certainties for promotion for most of it. They were unbeaten until February, but four recent defeats mean they're now well and truly scrapping on equal terms with the other three promotion contenders. One of those, Cardiff Met University, provides the opposition today in the first part of a double-header, the sides due to meet back at Cyncoed on Tuesday. The Division Two run-in is full of these 'six pointers' with Ferry's last home game being against Garden Village, who also have to visit Cyncoed. The fourth contender, Chepstow Town, has an easier run-in but a couple of games fewer left to play.

The opening few minutes of action are lively: the students are penalised for a few heavy challenges, and Charlie Corsby is booked in the fourth minute for a two-footed tackle. A minute later, another infringement on the edge of their box is even more costly, as Steve Davey chips the free-kick towards the top corner of Will Fuller's goal. He seems to have it covered but the ball ends up in the back of the net.

As the first half proceeds - albeit interrupted every time the neighbouring rugby club converts a try by the ball landing on the football pitch - Ferry continue to look the more settled and the more effective side: their defensive line employs a no-nonsense, safety first approach which snuffs out the Mets' higher through balls. They try to get the ball to their wings, but what Ferry full-back Ross Hudson doesn't deal with the linesman does. One particularly well-judged run by Lyall Hickman comes to nought when he's (wrongly) called offside. Overall, as a neutral I feel Ferry are getting the rub of the green with the officials' decisions, but they remain good value for their lead until the break, the students' football full of technique but lacking penetration. Coaching manual football.

But after the break the Mets seem to have more purpose and pressure begins to build. The search for an equaliser brings one desperate goal-line clearance, and a couple of good positions wasted, including one occasion when Corsby is set up perfectly only to shoot wide. But with Ferry increasingly having to play in their own half, they can't hold out indefinitely, and in the 68th minute the tricky Tim Nixon latches onto a cross from the left and scrambles it into the net. 1-1 and a game-changing moment.

Ferry now have to come out of their shell again, and a period of end-to-end football follows. But the students are not settling for an away point and remain on top, maybe youth and fitness being a factor. It's not a big surprise when a long throw is received and cut back into the path of their number 14 (subs' names not provided!), and he converts it clinically before wheeling away in celebration (pictured above).

Ferry now desperately need something from the final ten minutes and have to push forward. This leaves them stretched, and while they attempt to put the students' goal under siege, they're undone late on, leaving another Mets' sub (15) plenty of time to compose himself and shoot past Luke Probert.

In stoppage time, Ferry have a valid penalty shout for handball ignored, but it wouldn't have been enough to save the game. With Garden Village winning and Chepstow drawing, this result pushes Ferry out of the promotion places into fourth, for the first time in six months. The remaining weeks of this campaign are going to be tense - and after this very entertaining game, Tuesday night's return at Cyncoed should be worth watching.

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