I’m so close yet far away

After our thrilling 3-2 victory over Carmarthen Town, it’s back to being linked with various League 2 and Conference jobs. Lincoln are worried about Mark Venus leaving, Hereford have similar concerns with Ian Butterworth, Port Vale and Paul Simpson, David Holdsworth and Mansfield, Alan Knill and Bury, Andy Hessenthaler and Gillingham, Paul Ince and Colchester, Sammy McIlroy at Morecambe, Mark Yates and Cheltenham, Les Parry at Tranmere and, finally, Kevin Dillon could leave Aldershot. Although being linked with so many jobs, I’m not the favourite for any of them; however, I think there’s likely to be an offer or two over the summer if all those managers were to leave. There’s also good news and bad news through the week. The good news is that Wales U21s call up Darren Otten, whilst Aaron McCarey and Paudie Quinn get called up by the Republic of Ireland U21s. The bad news is that Steven Smith will be out for 2-3 weeks with a virus, whilst David Mooney is out for 4 weeks after fracturing his cheekbone in training after colliding with Steve Evans.

Our next match is a visit to Mid Wales Leisure, Latham Park where we will take on sixth-placed Newtown. The bookies have us 2/5 favourites and I make two changes, both enforced; Steve Evans replaces Steven Smith, whilst David Mooney’s replacement is Bagsan Graham. David Nixon is making his 75th career league appearance and his 25th league appearance for TNS. Scott McBride nearly opens the scoring in the 7th minute with an overhit cross, but it goes just over. Newtown play well and Campbell has chances in the 19th minute (just wide) and the 31st minute (shoots straight at Aaron McCarey). Newtown are knocking at the door and they open it in the 37th minute when Jones plays in Peat and he converts from 16 yards. The action in the first half ends in the 40th minute with Joseph Oastler picking up a booking. Newtown pick up where they left off in the first half and Klein-Davis shoots just over in the 50th minute and five minutes later, Griffiths heads wide from 6 yards. Wayne Carlisle goes close for us in the 72st minute with a lob that goes over and David Nixon celebrates his 25th league appearance for us with a yellow card. In the 80th minute, the net sees some action as Fitzgerald heads, but thankfully for us, it’s the side netting. A minute later, Conor Hourihane bursts into the area but gets tackled. The ball runs loose and Kofi Poyser slides in for his 6th goal of the season to rescue a point for us. Our game in hand over Carmarthen has been an uninspiring draw in front of 266 fans, but it does extend our lead at the top to 7 points. Peat gets named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.5 and a goal.

The managerial situation at Aldershot is incredibly serious as Kris Machala gets sacked. I’m linked with the job, but Shaun Derry takes the job. I also get linked with the Darlington job should Martin Foyle leave them at the end of the season. Darren Ebsworth pulls his hamstring in a reserves match and will be out for 5-6 weeks. The Welsh Premier Player of the Season contest is hotting up and David Mooney, Darren Otten and Paul Robson are all in contention to win it.

We face another away game, this time at Haverfordwest County. We’re 4/7 favourites, but by the time we reach Bridge Meadow Stadium, the game has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch – the game gets rearranged for Wednesday 17th April. Carmarthen play and cut the gap to 4 points. I arrange a friendly against Glasgow University to keep the squad ticking over and we win 3-0.

Our home match against fourth-placed Airbus UK does not fall victim to any bad weather and we’re 1/6 favourites for the game. 250 fans turn out for my 100th game in football management and I make three changes – Jan Sebek replaces Aaron McCarey, a fit-again Steven Smith replaces Steve Evans and Paudie Quinn replaces Bagsan Graham as I change to a 4-3-3. Kofi Poyser is our lone centre forward, whilst Wayne Carlisle and Scott McBride are pushed on as attacking wide players. The change in formation has an instant impact, with McBride slipping in Carlisle in the 4th minute and he finishes into the far corner from 16 yards for his 6th goal of the season. Things get even better in the 8th minute when a McBride diagonal ball finds Poyser, who beats the keeper from 12 yards for his 7th goal of the season. I think the change of formation should have come earlier in the season! Airbus look to hit back and McClean heads just over in the 14th minute from 6 yards. This spurs us on to ensure victory and Poyser comes close to adding his second in the 25th minute, but shoots just wide from 18 yards. We have a corner in the 30th minute that Airbus clear to Conor Hourihane and he fires through a crowd with a bullet of a shot from 30 yards for his 3rd goal of the season. Hourihane finds Carlisle unmarked at the far post in the 34th minute, but his shot back across goal from 6 yards goes wide. The 36th minute sees Airbus go close when Wraighte hits the side netting. The second half is a bit of a non-event, with our best chance coming in the 54th minute when Poyser chests and volleys a McBridge cross against the bar from penalty spot. Airbus have a couple of late chances when Jones shoots at Sebek in the 86th minute and the same player sees a header cleared off the line in the 89th minute. McBride is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8.3 and 2 assists and our lead at the top extends to 7 points.

The Welsh Cup semi-final against Bangor City provides a distraction from the league and the game is played at Maesdu Park in front of 1697 spectators. The bookies make us 1/6 favourites, evidently ignoring the 11 changes I make. The early chances go to Bangor, with Gibson shooting wide and Young heading over in the 10th and 13th minute respectively. Matty Williams goes off injured in 35th minute and things get worse 6 minutes later when a cross from Walsh deflects off Hendry and goes in at the far corner. Jeff Whitley comes close to equalising in stoppage time, but his shot from 25 yards hits the bar. Disaster strikes in the 50th minute as McCarey makes a mistake outside the area and Connerton finishes into an empty net from 18 yards to double Bangor’s lead. Long almost makes it 3 in the 58th minute, but he slides in and puts the ball wide. With the game slipping away, Bagsan Graham plays in Lucas Akins, but he shoots over from 25 yards. His next effort is much closer (in all senses) as a header from 6 yards is tipped wide for a corner. Akins doesn’t give up and has efforts in the 84th minute (wide from 20 yards) and the 90th minute (a header from 10 yards straight at the keeper), but it’s too little, too late (although Danny Holmes does pick up a booking in stoppage time). Walsh is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8 and an assist as we crash out of the Welsh Cup. Whilst we were losing 2-0, Carmarthen were doing the same at Newtown and we are now potentially one game away from winning the league!

Fighting on two fronts

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:

Happy with Otten #FM

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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.

Mixed news, mixed results

2013 starts with mixed news on the player front. The good news is that Paul Robson agrees to extend his contract until the end of the 13/14 season. However, Aaron McCarey is not happy with being regular sub keeper and makes it known to me that he sees himself as more than a squad player. There’s interest in Jan Sebek, so I’m very keen to keep hold on him. Further bad news is that Richie Partridge will be spending plenty of time with the physio over the next month after breaking his arm in a reserve team game against Neath.

Our first game of 2013 sees us take a trip to Maes Tegid to take on tenth-placed Bala Town, who recorded a comprehensive 5-2 aggregate defeat over us in the semi-final of the League Cup. I can certainly think of easier fixtures, but the bookies are confident we will win and make us 1/3 favourites. A further worry is that the referee is none other than the card-happy Lee Evans. I name an unchanged 11 and the 59 in attendance include the Cambridge manager, Gary Peters, who is reported to be interested in signing Jan Sebek. The first action of note comes in the 23rd minute when Joseph Oastler sends a free kick down the right wing and David Mooney picks it up and crosses – his cross is met by Lucas Akins who heads in from three yards out for his 5th goal of the season. Little happens until towards the end of the first half, when Mr Evans gets in on the action by booking O’Connor (41st minute) and Macauley (stoppage time), with Akins shooting just over from 20 yards being the meat in that sandwich of action. Mr Evans’ card spree continues in the 47th minute when David Nixon picks up a yellow card. 10 minutes later and Nixon brings down Ngoo and Mr Evans blows his whistle. Thankfully, he’s blowing because the linesman had his flag up for offside. Cards continue to flow as Sebek gets booked for handball (63rd minute), Oastler joins him in the book a minute later and Darren Otten picks up a booking in the 75th minute. Mr Evans continues to make his mark by producing a second yellow card in the 78th minute for David Nixon, putting us down to 10 men with a one goal lead. We continue to hold out and Mr Evans continues to stretch his arm, adding Conor Hourihane to his book (I think he must have an A1 flipchart pitchside!) in the 85th minute. This evidently displeases Hourihane, who lashes an effort just over from 10 yards out a minute later. We come close to extending our lead in the 89th minute when a corner from Otten finds Mooney, but Bala clear it off the line. A minute later, Bala attack and Robinson heads just wide from 8 yards out. Stoppage time produces plenty of drama as Ellis goes clear, but a heavy touch from him allows Sebek to collect. Mr Evans has the final say in the action, producing a second yellow for Darren Otten to leave us finishing with nine men; it’s the third time that Otten’s been sent off this season and Mr Evans has shown the red all three times. Marco Pelosi wins Man of the Match (fully deserved just because he didn’t get booked!) with a rating of 7.4 and we remain top by 2 points.

David Nixon is suspended for one game and Darren Otten for two. Also, Darren Otten has set a new club record with 10 yellow cards and 3 red cards. With around a third of the season to go, he’s every chance of adding to this and setting a record that stands the test of time.

With it being January, it’s the transfer window and I take the chance to add a fresh face to the squad, signing England Under 19 defender, Steven Smith:

Steven Smith – DC/L

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Out first home match of 2013 sees a huge game as we welcome second placed Bangor City to Park Hall. The board make it a fan day (we get a crowd of 295) and with the top two playing each other, it makes it on to TV. The bookies have us 1/2 favourites, perhaps a touch generous with the incredibly tight defence that Bangor have. I’m concerned about how whether we will score against a miserly defence and even more concerned when I see who the referee is – Lee Evans. I make two forced changes, with Joe Jones coming in for the suspended David Nixon, whilst the suspended Darren Otten is replaced by Jeff Whitley, although I’m sure that if Mr Evans catches sight of Otten on the bench or in the crowd, he’ll produce a card for him. Joseph Oastler reaches a milestone, making his 75th career league appearance. Jan Sebek is called into action in the first minute, denying Reed from 16 yards. Lucas Akins has our first chance in the 4th minute, but he shoots over from 16 yards. In the 15th minute, Paul Robson passes from the left to Akins, who fires into the top corner from 16 yards out for his 6th goal of the season. Bangor nearly hit straight back in the 18th minute as an outswinging Gison corner is met by a sliding Reed, but Marco Pelosi is on the near post and clears off the line. Akins has a chance to double his and our tally in the 20th minute when he gets on the end of a long ball forward, but Glass tips over. Reed seems desperate to get himself on the scoresheet as he shoots from 20 yards out in the 23rd minute, but it’s over. In the 40th minute, Long brings down David Mooney 30 yards from goal. Mr Evans gets in on the act straight away and produces a straight red card. With covering defenders, it seems a surprising decision, but after 40 minutes without a card and allowing a game to flow, I’m sure he didn’t want to waste any opportunity. Despite us having a man advantage, Bangor have the next chance of the game as a deep corner in the 60th minute is headed against the bar before we can scramble clear. It acts as a wake up call and in the 66th minute, Wayne Carlisle slides in David Mooney, who can only shoot wide from 16 yards out. Walsh picks up a yellow card in the 68th minute. Disaster strikes in the 83rd minute as Hewitt-Fisher slips in Darlington (released by me in the summer with his contract ending), who rounds Sebek and levels the score. Our players protest, claiming offside and Akins picks up a yellow card. Alton Thelwell, who comes on as a late substitue, records his 25th league appearance for TNS. Lucas Akins is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.3 and a goal. We remain top of the table by 2 points, missing a great chance to extend our lead to 5 points (although I’m sure that Bangor were delighted with rescuing a point).

Transfer activity continues as St Mirren step up their interest in Aaron McCarey by making an offer. As their offer is nothing, I reject it.

The fixtures don’t come any easier, as we then travel to Richmond Park to take on third placed Carmarthen Town. We go into the game as 4/6 favourites and I make one change, with David Nixon (available after his suspension) coming in for Joe Jones. Scott is booked in the first minute (incredibly, Lee Evans is NOT the referee!!). Evans comes close to opening the scoring in the fifth minute as he mis-hits a cross, but Jan Sebek is alert and turns it behind for a corner. However, Carmarthen open the scoring in the 11th minute as Hicks slides in and meets an inswinging corner from Roberts. In the 20th minute, McKillen brings down David Mooney – penalty! Mooney steps up and… scores! It’s not a great penalty (it’s to the keeper’s left and actually goes under him), but it draws us level and is also Mooney’s 15th goal of the season. Mooney looks to play provider four minutes later, but the shot from Lucas Akins is turned behind by the keeper. Howard is added to the referee’s book in the 34th minute. Carmarthen re-take the lead in the 42nd minute as a cross from the right by Roberts is met by Evans, who scores from 15 yards out. I have a few words in the dressing room and they must have been inspiring as straight from kick off, we attack and Marco Pelosi plays in Mooney, but his shot is turned behind. We’re not having a great day in front of goal, but defensively we manage even worse in the 58th minute as Gibson crosses from the right, Sebek somehow manages to drop the cross and Hicks is on hand to take full advantage from 8 yards out. We look to get ourselves back in and Akins rattles the bar from 20 yards out in the 60th minute. Carmarthen show us how it’s done, going upfield and extending their lead further a minute later as Evans crosses from the left and Hicks completes his hat-trick (he came into the game suffering a goal drought) with a header from 6 yards out. Again, we look to hit back; Jeff Whitley crosses from the right and finds Scott McBride (on as a substitute after returning from injury) unmarked at the far post, but he heads wide. Mooney has a chance in the 68th minute and he chips the keeper, but unfortunately it drops too late and goes over the bar. Carmarthen extend their lead even further in the 84th minute as a corner from Roberts reaches Frater, who fires in from 6 yards. As always, a Carmarthen goal sees us look to hit back and this time it’s the turn of Jeff Whitley, who crashes an effort against the crossbar from 25 yards out. That ends the action and Carmarthen record an emphatic 5-1 victory to the delight of the 266 in attendance (the crowd includes St Johnstone manager Derek McInnes, who is interested in David Mooney). Hicks is unsurprisingly named Man of the Match following his hat-trick, which gives him a rating of 9.6. We remain top by 2 as Bangor surprisingly lose 2-1 at home to Newtown, but Carmarthen move themselves to three points off the top. The title race is definitely heating up.

Back Home

After 4 successive away games, we welcome third-placed Airbus UK Broughton to the unfamiliar setting of Park Hall. Despite the fact they’re third, the bookies have us a 1/6 favourites – perhaps they remember our demolition job completed at Llanelli. Steve Evans returns for Joe Jones, whilst a fit again David Mooney returns straight to the team at the expense of Lucas Akins. Paudie Quinn goes close to opening the scoring in the 8th minute after a corner, but his shot from inside the area goes over. Quinn remains in the action, picking up a yellow card in the 20th minute; David Nixon joins him in the 26th minute following a dive and Joseph Oastler follows a minute later after a foul. Davies is first into the book for Airbus UK in the 30th minute after fouling Mooney and Marco Pelosi ensures he really pays, firing in the free kick from 25 yards out to the bottom left hand side of the keeper’s goal for his first of the season. Airbus look to strike back and hit the post from 30 yards out in the 39th minute. We keep the lead until half time and in the 50th minute, Quinn commits a foul on the halfway line; the referee summons him over and I fear the worst, but he escapes with a talking to and is swiftly substituted for Darren Otten, who picks up a yellow card in the 70th minute. A one goal lead is never safe and Hamilton has a 1-on-1 chance in the 68th minute, but he can’t get a shot on target. The 76th minute sees the crucial second goal after Mooney cuts the ball back from the right byeline to Matty Williams, who blasts the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards to end a 13 hour goal drought. The goal makes the points safe to the delight of the 195 in attendance, but Conor Hourihane picks up a yellow card in stoppage time. Marco Pelosi is named Man of the Match after his goal with a rating of 7.8.

The victory sees us remain top by a point with Bangor City keeping the pressure on. David Nixon’s yellow card is his fifth of the season and he will be suspended for the next match.

We welcome tenth-placed Newtown to Park Hall on the Saturday before Christmas and we’re 1/6 favourites again. Joe Jones comes in for the suspended David Nixon and amongst the 220 in attendance is the York City manager, Justin Edinburgh; he’s reported to be interested in Paul Robson. In the 16th minute, Robson sets up Matty Williams, but he can only hit the crossbar from 18 yards out. Robson’s value sky-rockets a minute later when he scores, but unfortunately the linesman on the far side has his flag up for offside. The notable action for the half ends in the 20th minute when Cadwallader picks up a yellow card for fouling David Mooney. Robson remains in the action in the 52nd minute when a ball over the top from the left hand side by him is picked up by Mooney, but he can only shoot wide. That’s our best chance of the half, but Johnston and Brown pick up yellow cards for the visitors. The game fizzles out to a 0-0 draw despite us controlling the game and Joe Jones picks up Man of the Match with a rating of 7.5. The Christmas non-cracker sees us drop to second, a point behind Bangor

Sublime and ridiculous

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.