Haverfordwest County 0
Cardiff City Xl 2
The Bluebirds pushed a very good-quality Cardiff side sufficiently hard for it to be on to the 85th minute before the City slickers clinched the game with a second goal, writes Robert Nisbet.
Wayne Jones had gone into the game with a few experiments up his sleeve, playing the returning Phil Cattlin in midfield and Greg Walters and Declan Carroll out wide. But the hallmark of the Blues’ play, throughout the game and particularly in the first half, was the way in which they kept their shape and played consistently with pattern and purpose.
The regular back four had their usual strong game, with Sam Rodon outstanding and keeper Craig Morris, surviving a first-half knock to provide and steady last line of defence. Walters and Carroll set about their new roles with tremendous determination, Jordan Follows and Nicky Palmer threatened up front, and Jack Britton, in midfield, against his former team-mates, was busy and skilful.
As early as the fifth minute a neat Britton ball put Walters in and his shot was just wide. Morris had to tip one shot over before a strong Blues attack down the right saw a Ricky Watts cross go just behind. But it was Cardiff who took the lead in the 20th minute when Rhys Healey found a wafer of space and drove in a low shot. Ten minutes later Morris was just able to tip a Bradley Williams free kick on to the bar, but the Bluebirds finished the half strongly as a Carroll free kick forced keeper Charlie Horton into a last-ditch punch.
In the second half the Blues brought on all six subs and made several positional switches but there was still a most impressive level of tactical cohesion. To this was added a real degree of fight and energy as subs like Liam Fawcett and Laurie Haworth battled at a hard City defence, while there was an impressive display from Elliott Thomas in midfield.
Cardiff consolidated their slender lead with a fine strike from Grant Johns in the 85th minute but the last dangerous attack was from the Bluebirds as Carroll won a fine ball and swung a pass out to the wing for Antonio Facciuto to send a menacing cross deep into the Cardiff area.
Haverfordwest County: Craig Morris, Ricky Watts, Antonio Facciuto, Sam Rodon, Dale Griffiths, Phil Cattlin, Jack Britton, Nicky Palmer, Jordan Followes, Greg Walters, Declan Carroll.
Subs: Sean Pemberton, Liam Fawcett, Sam Wilson, Elliott Thomas, Laurie Haworth.