We welcome Airbus UK Broughton to Park Hall for the quarter final of the League Cup. The bookmakers have us as 1/4 favourites, but evidently they haven’t seen my team selection as I make 10 changes from the weekend, with only Ibrahim Farah remaining in the side. Notable inclusions are centre back Joe Jones, who makes his debut for us and left back Andy Scarlett, who I bring up from the Under-19s to make his debut. The crowd of 233 includes Northwich Victoria manager Paul Higgins, who is reported to be interested in Joe Jones. Thankfully, Andy Scarlett is not over-awed and in the 18th minute he passes into the area and Lucas Akins applies the finishing touch into the top corner at the near post from 12 yards to register his first goal of the season. The lead comes close to being doubled a minute later when Ibrahim Farah lifts a ball over the defence, but Kofi Poyser can only shoot wide. The lead does double in the 31st minute when Lucas Akins passes to Poyser, who rifles home from 18 yards for his second of the season. We take out two goal lead in at the break, but it comes close to being halved two minutes after half-time when McManus shoots wide when only 8 yards out. Chances then start to dry up for both sides, with Akins probably having the most notable effort in the 72nd minute (even that is well wide though). Four minutes later, Akins picks the ball up on the halfway line, beats 3, powers into the area and… blazes well over the bar from 12 yards out. So good until the finish. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter and we see the game out. Lucas Akins claims Man of the Match with a rating of 8.2 following his goal and assist.
Team of the Month is announced and Marco Pelosi and David Mooney are included, but there is no Manager of the Month award (I don’t even make the top three). The semi-final draw for the League Cup pairs us with Bala Town, with the first leg being played at Park Hall.
Our next league game is a journey to Farrar Road, where we will take on Bangor City who are fourth going into the game. We’re 4/5 favourites and the team is as it was for the last league match, with the exceptions of Paul Robson replacing the injured Scott McBride and Paudie Quinn coming in for his debut after coming back from injury at the expense of Ibrahim Farah. As well as Quinn making his debut, there are also notable milestones for Joseph Oastler and Matty Williams, both of whom are making their 50th league appearance for us. Paudie Quinn is soon in the action, picking up a yellow card in the 8th minute as the referee (Lee Evans) clamps down early – he’s given plenty of cards already this season, so more can be expected during the game. Matty Williams has a chance to mark his milestone in style in the 10th minute, but fires across the face of the goal from 12 yards out. A poor clearance from Jan Sebek in the 17th minute is picked up by Bradley around the halfway line and he runs into our box, where is run is curtailed by Steve Evans who gives away a penalty. Gibson steps up for our hosts and shoots to the right of Sebek, but watches it go past the post. Matty Williams shoots wide in the 20th minute when 8 yards out, whilst Reed heads over from 6 yards out 5 minutes later. The 37th minute sees Hewitt-Fisher find his way into Mr Evans’ book and we create a chance in stoppage time with Wayne Carlisle playing in David Mooney, who shoots straight at the keeper. Matty Williams looks certain to open the scoring in the 47th minute with a wonderful effort from 20 yards, but an equally wonderful diving save from the keeper keeps the scores level; the agony is further compounded a minute later when Mooney hits the post from a tight angle a minute later. It’s starting to look like it’s not going to be our day, especially in front of goal. Darren Otten joins a growing list for Mr Evans in the 49th minute and in the 51st minute, an inswinging corner by Gibson is met by the head of Long 6 yards out and Bangor take the lead. An inswinging corner from Otten in the 58th minute is met by David Mooney running in and his half volley is pushed away well by the Bangor keeper. Walsh and Johnston bring Mr Evans’ total for the match up to 5 and in the 88th minute, Jan Sebek keeps us in the game by tipping over a header from Wilson from 6 yards out. Wilson atones a minute later when he puts the ball into the corner of the net from 6 yards out after a scramble and secures the victory for Bangor to the delight of the 232 in attendance. Long is named Man of the Match for his goal and has a rating of 7.8, but I think the Bangor goalkeeper is hard done by after a couple of exceptional saves. With Airbus losing as well, we remain top by two points, but this doesn’t placate me in any way and I declare my anger to the team, which Marco Pelosi reveals to the media.
We welcome second place Carmarthen Town to Park Hall four days after our loss at Bangor and I name an unchanged side and tell them I expect a victory (odds of 4/7 favourites suggest we really should be winning). We start with some early pressure, but no real chances of note; the first real chance of the game goes the way of Hicks who has a one-on-one with Jan Sebek, who tips the ball over the bar. The good save from Sebek evidently wakes us up and in the 26th minute, Darren Otten slides in David Mooney, who fires into the roof of the net for his 9th goal of the season. Three minutes later, Quinn shoots from 20 yards, but it’s straight at the keeper. An inswinging corner from Otten in the 36th minute finds David Nixon at the near post, but the ball goes loose; Mooney reacts quickest and slides in to stab home his second of the game and 10th of the season from 2 yards out. We go in at half-time with a 2-0 lead and I tell the lads I expect that their performance will not drop. Paul Robson was evidently listening and in the 47th minute he picks up a loose ball, cuts in from the left and unleashes a missile from 20 yards that flies into the net for his first goal of the season. We increase our lead in the 61st minute when David Mooney wins a foot race from a long ball and completes his hat-trick (and grabs his 11th of the season) by placing the ball between the keeper and the near post from inside the area. Mooney comes close to adding his fourth of the game in the 85th minute after being played in by Matty Williams, but can only shoot across the face of the goal. Carmarthen’s best chance comes in the 88th minute when Frater picks up a loose ball, but shoots wide with only Sebek to beat. I substitute David Mooney in the final minute so the fans can acknowledge his role and he deservedly receives a standing ovation from the 191 in attendance; he is also unsurprisingly Man of the Match with his three goals and has a rating of 9.6.
A victory for Airbus sees them reclaim second and keep our lead at the top to two points. After having played each team once, we’ve dropped eight points, which is a reasonable start. It’s 10 days until our next league game, but before then we’ve got Caerleon in the Welsh Cup and the first leg of our League Cup semi-final against Bala Town.