Welsh League Division One
Haverfordwest County 3
Cwmbran Celtic 1
This winning performance was a battling one rather than polished, but the Bluebirds showed real grit to fight back after conceding a penalty and a red card just after half-time.
The first half saw both sides having spells of ascendancy, with the difference being that the hosts scored twice during their brief burst while Celtic failed to find the net during theirs.
County got off to a fine start, with Lee Hudgell and Steffan Davies threatening in the build-up down the left. These two set up the opening goal in the third minute, when Hudgell’s through ball sent Davies on a strong run down the left and he squared for Greg Walters to drive in.
Davies, returning from injury after seven weeks, was a revelation, running dangerously at the Celtic defence throughout. In the 20th minute his ground pass sent Hudgell through, only for ‘Hudge’ to be ruled offside.
Then, in the 22nd minute, the striker put Walters through for him to blast in a shot which keeper Lewis Watkins could only parry into the net.
But Celtic then got right back into the game and, after Lee Penry’s header had been well saved by James Gwilt, their dangerous striker Josh Bull saw a wicked curling shot crash back off the bar. So the Blues led 2-nil at the interval.
The Bluebirds were rocked back on their heels at the start of the second half, when Matthew Broome received a second yellow card for a hand-ball in the area.
Bull’s penalty was smashed straight down the middle but cannoned off Gwilt into the net and Celtic were right back in the game.
They were in fact dominant for the remaining 42 minutes, and it looked for a while as if the the home outfit would be swamped.
But Chris O’Sullivan, who came on as a 63rd minute sub, marshalled his defence into two tight banks of four, and, as minute succeeded minute, Cwmbran were increasingly having to play it square with numerous strings of four passes going across the pitch, as the Bluebirds funnelled back and dug in. Sean Pemberton had a fine game at the heart of defence and Gwilt pulled off several really fine saves.
Haverfordwest County were not able to mount too many attacks and were having to rely simply on the ball over the top, usually finding no-one to receive it.
But Pemberton did head over from a Hudgell corner and Hudgell himself was very close to one fine low Walters cross. Then, in the 82nd minute, O’Sullivan put Hudgell through and his shot went inches wide.
This seemed to have been the hosts’ last chance before a dramatic finish when, in the 88th minute, Ricky Watts seized on a Stefan Williams chip to lob Watkins neatly and to clinch a very hard-fought win, which takes them up to third in the table.
Haverfordwest County: James Gwilt, Matthew Broome, Jamie Evans, Sean Pemberton, Antonio Facciuto, Kieran O’Brien, Ricky Watts, Greg Walters, Rhys Dalling, Lee Hudgell, Steffan Davies. Substitutes: Spencer Williams, Kristian Speake, Steffan Williams, Chris O' Sullivan.