After our League Cup disappointment, we head to The Gnoll as Evens favourites to take on six-placed Neath. The Gnoll has a capacity of 12,000, so the 85 in attendance must be feeling quite lonely. Joseph Oastler returns for Danny Holmes, Jeff Whitley makes way Darren Otten, Paul Robson comes back in at Jay Young’s expense and Matty Williams replaces Bagsan Graham. Lee Evans is the referee and he gets to work immediately, booking John for a foul on Marco Pelosi in the third minute. Jan Sebek saves well in the fifth minute, pushing a shot away for a corner. It then returns to being the Mr Evans show as David Nixon enters the book in the sixth minute for a foul and Darren Otten joins him six minutes later following a shirt pull. The game goes quiet then for a while until Wayne Carlisle plays in David Mooney in the 34th minute, but the shot from 20 yards goes wide. Trundle has a chance for Neath in the 39th minute, but he chips over from 20 yards before being added to the book in the 43rd minute. The game remains quiet after half time, with the first incident of note coming in the 72nd minute when David Mooney enters the growing list in Mr Evans’ book. An inswinging corner from Marco Pelosi is cleared back to him in the 78th minute and he passes to Darren Otten, who takes a shot from 20 yards that is going wide until Steve Evans at the far post heads the ball goalwards; his header hits a defender, rolls along the face of the goal and reaches Mooney, who is on hand to tap home from 2 yards out for his 13th goal of the season. The lead doesn’t last long as a corner from John finds an unmarked Trundle at the far post and he makes no mistake from 6 yards out with a header. We almost nick a winner in the 85th minute, but Mooney’s shot skims the bar. In truth, it was a poor game and a victory would probably have been undeserved. Marco Pelosi claims Man of the Match with an assist and a rating of 7.9.
The draw sees us overtaken at the top, with Bangor City going top by a point. Joseph Oastler is named the second best Player of the Month, but it’s not good enough to make November’s Team of the Month. Marco Pelosi and David Mooney do make the cut for the Team of the Month. We haven’t been playing well and have been struggling in front of goal and in training, David Mooney picks up a strained neck in training, putting him out for two or three weeks; it never rains, but it pours.
Actually, it snows. Or at least it does for our visit to Stebonheath Park when we take on sixth-placed Llanelli. They were joint favourites for the title with us, so it’s safe to say they’re underperforming and the bookies agree; we’re 13/8 to win. The game is on TV, so more than the 240 inside will get to witness the action during Marco Pelosi’s 75th league appearance for the club. I make one change, with Lucas Akins coming in for the injured David Mooney. Llanelli get off to a flyer as Knight scores in the 3rd minute from just inside the area after having been played in by Griffiths. Just what a team struggling to score and without their leading scorer need – to be one down away from home inside three minutes. Fortunately, it seems to inspire the lads on the park and we’re level within two minutes following Marco Pelosi passing to Paudie Quinn from the left and Quinn fires in from 20 yards to score his first ever goal for the club. Things improve further in the 11th minute when McArdle brings down Lucas Akins in the area; Darren Otten steps up and fires low to the keeper’s left for his third of the season. Howland enters the book in the 31st minute following a foul on Quinn. Llanelli are able to level in the 40th minute as Griffiths scores from 18 yards after picking up a loose ball after a tackle by Joseph Oastler. Matty Williams tries to restore our lead in the 42nd minute, but his shot is deflected; the deflection does find Wayne Carlisle, but he can only shoot wide. Llanelli almost take the lead in the 52nd minute through Griffiths, but Jan Sebek saves well. A minute later, Otten joins Howland in the book and Steve Evans is added two minutes later after fouling Griffiths. Steve Evans puts this behind him and in the 59th minute he wins the ball on the halfway line and gives the ball to Matty Williams, who slides in Lucas Akins and he applies the finish from 18 yards for his 3rd goal of the season. There’s not a long wait for Akins to register his fourth of the season as 12 minutes later, he gets on the end of a Darren Otten inswinging corner and converts from 8 yards. McArdle had picked up a booking between the goals and in the 78th minute, Darren Otten picks up a second yellow card and takes the long and lonely walk back to the changing room for an early bath. It’s Otten’s second red card of the season and card-happy Lee Evans has been the referee both times. There’s still time for another goal in the game and it comes in the 85th minute; Danny Holmes switches play from right back and finds Paul Robson, who gets his second of the season from just inside the area to give us a remarkable 5-2 victory. Mr Evans also finds time to issue another card, with Knight picking up a yellow card in the 87th minute. Lucas Akins is named Man of the Match following his 2 goals and an assist, giving him a rating of 8.8.
The victory puts us top by a point and there’s more good news as Ibrahim Farah is rumoured to amongst the front-runners for Welsh Young Player of the Season; to date, he’s made 5 appearances (2 of them have been as a substitute) and has a goal to his name and an average rating of 6.88. It’s not all good news, as Steve Evans’ booking in our victory at Llanelli is his fifth of the season, so he’ll be suspended for our next match.
Once again, we board the bus and set the sat-nav for Brewery Field to take on rock-bottom Bridgend, who have yet to record a victory. The bookies believe in us and make us 1/3 favourites as we travel towards to the 12,000 capacity of Brewery Field, although we don’t receive the most hostile welcome as only 44 people turn up. Joe Jones makes his league debut for us, coming in for the suspended Steve Evans, whilst the fit-again Conor Hourihane returns, taking the place of the suspended Darren Otten. We make a good start and in the 10th minute, Matty Williams squares to Paudie Quinn, who fires his second of the season into the top left of the goal for his second of the season. Unfortunately, the lead doesn’t last long as Pugh skips past Joseph Oastler and his cross from the left is met by White, who slides in and scores from 6 yards. Matty Williams goes close in the 18th minute to restoring our lead from 20 yards and also in the 39th minute, when he shoots over from 12 yards; between these two efforts, there’s a yellow card apiece as Griffiths and Hourihane enter the book and French joins them in the 41st minute. Just before half time, a long ball finds Lucas Akins in the area and although he collects it well, he shoots wide. The second half begins with Pugh being booked and in the 54th minute, Joe Jones looks to mark his league debut with a 30 yarder, but only succeeds in skimming the bar. A minute later, Matty Williams slides in Lucas Akins, but he can only find the bar from 18 yards. Three minutes later and it’s the turn of Bridgend to hit the bar via a header from 8 yards out by an unmarked White. The 64th minute sees a diagonal Marco Pelosi free kick find Wayne Carlisle unmarked 8 yards out and he coolly slots in a half volley for his 3rd goal of the season. The lead nearly extends three minutes later when the keeper spills a cross from the left by Paul Robson, but Akins can only find the post from two yards out. In the 74th minute, Pelosi passes from the left and Williams is fouled, with the referee pointing to the spot. Our usual penalty takers (McBride, Mooney and Otten) are all either injured or suspended, so captain Williams picks himself up, dusts himself off and places the ball on the spot. A real confidence booster for him as he’s been suffering a goal drought and he confidently fires low to the keeper’s right. Unfortunately, it goes wide, summing up our performance in front of goal in this game and Williams’ season; the drought continues. Williams sets up Carlisle in the 86th minute, but Bridgend get a tackle in and clear before Carlisle can shoot and Ibrahim Farah picks up a booking in the 90th minute as we record a nervy 2-1 victory. Marco Pelosi picks up another Man of the Match award following his assist and rating of 7.8.
The victory sees us remain top and we’ll finally be playing at Park Hall again, although it will be against Airbus UK Broughton who are in the chasing pack.