Manderwood Pembrokeshire Football League Division One:

West Dragons 1-2 Merlins Bridge

EARLY goals from forwards Adam Hawkins and Nathan Greene gave Merlins Bridge the perfect start to the Division One season as they beat West Dragons at The Pavilion Ground tonight (Tuesday).

Nathan Thomas’ side were good value for their victory after stunning the home side with two goals in the opening eight minutes – before Nick Squire pulled one back for the Dragons late on.

Bridge had to survive an early goalmouth scramble as centre back Simon Thomas managed to nick the ball away from Scott Crawford with the Dragons striker set to pounce – but just six minutes in, The Wizards took command.

Striker Hawkins surged into the area before cutting inside home left back Jerome Mansbridge, and placing a precise left foot shot past keeper Ben Henton and into the bottom corner.

And just two minutes later it was 2-0, as Greene got goal-side of Dorian Davies, before rifling high into the net from 12 yards.

The visitors then had strong appeals for a penalty turned down as Luke Hayward jinked into the area, but although his run seemed to be blocked by the hand of a sliding Daryl Mansbridge, referee Kevin Milich was unmoved.

The Dragons tried to respond as Tony Evans drilled a low free kick that Bridge keeper Gary Thomas got down well to save, before the striker had another low effort from outside the area that Thomas gathered at the second attempt.

But at the other end the impressive Hawkins continued to threaten, again cutting in from the right and firing a left foot shot that this time drifted narrowly wide of the near post.

The home side needed a quick start after half time, and after Scott Crawford blasted over from the edge of the area, Jordan Richards combined well with Davies, but dragged his 20 yard effort off target.

The Wizards then had a chance to seal it when Greene headed over from close range, before The Dragons came close to pulling one back when a Davies free kick was blocked by Thomas, and Bridge centre back Chris Ormond did brilliantly to block Richards’ follow up.

As Matthew Price’s men pushed forward, they inevitably left gaps at the back and Henton did well to rush off his line and deny Hawkins as he went through on goal.

The Dragons did have the ball in then have the ball in the net with ten minutes left as Evans latched onto a Davies header across goal, but the effort was rightfully ruled out by Milich with Jerome Mansbridge’s free kick having drifted out of play before Davies reached it.

In the closing stages, the home side were perhaps lucky to keep on 11 men after Squire was booked for lunging in on Ormond – and then ironically in the 90th minute, it was the Dragons defender who gave his side hope.

He headed in from a Lee Palmer corner to set up a frantic final minute, but it was Thomas’ men who held on to kick start their season with a vital three points.

West Dragons: Ben Henton, Dorian Davies, Steve Allen (Lee Palmer 68), Nick Squire, Jerome Mansbridge, Gethin Roberts (Jordan Thomas 81), Daryl Mansbridge, Jordan Williams, Scott Crawford, Tony Evans, Jordan Richards (Matthew Price 88).

Merlins Bridge: Gary Thomas, Matthew D’Ivry, Chris Ormond, Simon Thomas, Andrew John, Luke Hayward, Peter Thomas, Ashley Beck, Will Haworth (Laurie Haworth 70), Adam Hawkins (Joey George 80), Nathan Greene (Jordan Raymond 90).

Referee: Kevin Milich.