After the ‘Battle of The Airfield’, we’re grateful for a ten day break between games as it gives David Nixon a chance to recover from his dead leg and for Wayne Carlisle to regain his fitness after limping off. Llanelli take advantage of a break as well and appoint Scott Ramsey as their manager.
After our break, we welcome third-placed Bangor City to Park Hall. We’re 1/3 favourites to win, but I’m a bit concerned as Darren Otten is playing and Lee Evans is refereeing. I make one change, with Kofi Poyser coming in for the injured Lucas Akins. Amongst the 205 in attendance is Mike Newell, the Wycombe Wanderers manager, who is reported to be interested in signing David Mooney. The fifth minute sees some head tennis in the Bangor penalty area, which eventually results in a header out of the area; it falls to Conor Hourihane who thunders in a volley from 20 yards for his second goal of the season and a dream start. Two minutes later, Mooney plays in Poyser, but he can only shoot wide from 30 yards. Poyser has a chance to make amends in the 15th minute when a cross from the left by Otten finds him unmarked on the 6 yard line, but the keeper gets out quickly and smothers the ball. Marco Pelosi puts an inswinging corner from the right into the near post in the 19th minute and Steven Smith goes down – penalty! Darren Otten steps up and fires it low to the keeper’s left for his 8th goal of the season. Mr Evans is involved in the next incident of note, booking Collins in the 24th minute for fouling Scott McBride. Pelosi is involved in the action again in the 25th minute as a diagonal ball finds Wayne Carlisle, who centres for an unmarked Poyser who scores his 4th goal of the season from 10 yards out. 3-0 inside the opening half-hour – brilliant! Conor Hourihane becomes our first booking of the game in the 27th minute. Bangor win a corner in the 42nd minute and an outswinging corner from the right finds Long, who reduces the deficit from 5 yards out with a header. Otten comes close to restoring the three-goal cushion in the 44th minute, but he shoots wide from 18 yards; he shoots just over from 20 yards in stoppage time. In the 52nd minute, Hourihane slides Mooney in and Johnston makes a last ditch tackle; Mooney goes down and Mr Evans blows his whistle – penalty! Johnston picks up a yellow card for his trouble. Otten places the ball on the spot and goes low to the keeper’s left again and hits the post… but it’s the inside of the post – 4-1! It’s Otten’s ninth of the season. Collins is summoned over by the referee in the 56th minute for a foul, but Mr Evans lets him off with a warning. Reed runs unchallenged down the right of the pitch in the 59th minute and beats Aaron McCarey at the near post to cut the gap to two again as I wonder where the defence went. Wilson is added to the book in the 62nd minute. In the 67th minute, Otten gets the ball and shoots from 25 yards – he beats the keeper at his near post for his 10th of the season and his hat-trick. The game peters out after our fifth, but David Nixon picks up a yellow card in the 88th minute. Darren Otten is unsurprisingly named Man of the Match following his hat-trick and a rating of 9.5. Perhaps more surprising that Otten’s hat-trick is that he doesn’t get booked by Mr Evans (I hope no-one from the Welsh FA is reading this!) Even better news is that we’re top by 6 points following our victory, although Carmarthen were not in action and have a game in hand over us.
Cheltenham Town are worried they might lose Mark Yates at the end of the season and my name is in the mix as a possible replacement. Darren Otten claims Player of the Month (3 games, 5 goals, rating of 8.13) and is named in Team of the Month, along with Marco Pelosi, David Nixon, Joseph Oastler, Paul Robson and David Mooney. I get named Manager of the Month. Some of our fans go slightly overboard with their praise of Otten though:
He’s in fine form and young, but leading the line? He’s my ball-winning midfielder!
Three days after our convincing victory over Bangor, we welcome Haverfordwest County to Park Hall for the Welsh Cup quarter final. We’re 2/5 favourites and I make eleven changes. Bagsan Graham scores his first goal for the club in the 9th minute from 25 yards to the delight of the 252 fans in attendance. Little of note happens after the goal, with the exception of Jeff Whitley shooting over from 30 yards in the 31st minute and Matty Williams being played in by Graham in the 41st minute, but the keeper tips it over. The first half lacked excitement and it continued through the second half. Haverfordwest have a chance in the 60th minute when McLaren runs from deep, but he elects to shoot from 25 yards and it goes wide. In the 67th minute, I bring on Paudie Quinn for his return from injury. Richie Partridge has a free kick in the 73rd minute from 20 yards out, but it’s straight at the keeper. Matty Williams plays Graham in on goal in the 78th minutes and he selflessly squares the ball to Paul Robson, who rolls the ball into an unguarded net for his 4th goal of the season. Graham adds the icing on the cake in the 84th minute when Robson picks up a pass from Williams and fires straight at the keeper; Graham picks up the rebound and gets his 2nd of the game and season from 16 yards – an excellent way to end a 454 minute goal drought! Graham is named Man of the Match with his 2 goals and an assist, getting a rating of 9.3. Our semi-final opponents will be Bangor City. Whilst we’ve been in Cup action, Carmarthen have been in league action and record a victory, cutting the gap to three points again and nicely setting up our next league match away to them.