Pembrokeshire Football League Division One:
Hakin United 2-0 Carew
FIRST half goals from Gareth Fawcett and Nicky Woodrow sealed glory for Hakin United this afternoon as they beat Carew at The Obs to be crowned Pembrokeshire League Division One champions for the 17th time in their history.
In Kristan Bennett’s first season as head coach, The Vikings have secured the silverware with two games to spare, and have responded emphatically to the disappointment of losing the title to Goodwick United on the final day of the 2015/2016 season.
After Merlins Bridge were beaten by Neyland on Thursday, Bennett’s side knew that three points today would be enough to win the title irrespective of results elsewhere, but it was the visitors who made the brighter start.
Indeed, Hakin were indebted to two great bits of defending from Nathan Banner in the opening minutes – as first he raced back to dispossess Jordan Richards as the striker bore down on goal, before just managing to get a touch on the ball with his sliding tackle after Haydn Shapcott’s pass had played in Alex Bayley.
Moments later, Scott Ferney did manage to get past Banner with a smart turn, but lost his footing at the crucial moment and the centre back again recovered.
But on 11 minutes, The Vikings came to life - and took the lead when Bradley Barrett’s free kick from the left wing was headed in at the back post by Fawcett.
And just five minutes later, Fawcett was involved again as his flick on found Woodrow, and he appeared to be pulled back by Tom Grover, referee Gavin Southcott had little hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Woodrow duly despatched the penalty past Carew keeper Corey Hill and into the bottom left hand corner.
The Rooks then had appeals for a penalty of their own waved away after Ferney was nudged in the back by Jonty Bennett – before home keeper Steve Hartley had to be at full stretch to keep out a Jordan Richards free kick.
At the other end, the strike duo of Fawcett and Woodrow continued to cause problems, with the latter seeing his angled chip catch the top of the crossbar, before Fawcett also rapped the woodwork with a powerful left footed drive.
Hakin continued to push for a third goal before the break as Fawcett was denied in a goalmouth scramble after Daniel Armstrong had headed a James Stanmore corner back across the six yard box – before Ali Ouzman was seemingly taken down in the area but Southcott waved play on.
But early in the second half, it was The Rooks who fashioned a clear cut chance as the lively Ferney latched onto Shapcott’s through ball, but Hartley did well to rush off his line and block the striker’s effort.
The contest then stagnated somewhat as both sides began to cancel each other out, although it took a superb one handed save by Hill to keep out Woodrow’s downward header.
The Vikings picked up the pace again in the final quarter and Fawcett was twice off target with headed chances, before substitute Ryan Wilson nearly scored with his first touch, but was denied by another good save by Hill.
Woodrow then saw his left footed half volley deflect just wide, before winger Adam John produced a moment of genius as he tricked his way past three defenders, but could then only fire over from a difficult angle.
It was John who then crossed for Fawcett to head back across goal into the path of Bennett, but his close range effort was blocked on the line.
As the clock ticked down, Stanmore three times went close to getting the elusive third for Hakin as he flashed a 20 yard shot inches past the top corner, before also being denied by Hill, who blocked the midfielder’s driven shot with his legs.
In injury time, the same player saw his in-swinging corner cannon back off the bar, but it ultimately mattered little as seconds later, Southcott blew the final whistle to spark Hakin celebrations.
Chairperson of the Pembrokeshire Football League Rowena Lloyd presented the trophy to skipper Woodrow, and the league medals to the rest of the squad, and afterwards Bennett told Telegraph Sport of his pride at his squad’s achievement.
“They’ve been brilliant,” he said.
“The way they have responded to losing the title last season, and a few boys in the summer, has been unbelievable.
“I loved winning the title as a player but it feels even better to have done it in my first season as manager.”
Assistant coach Stuart MacDonald added The Vikings were determined to get the job done today, rather than rely on needing to pick up a result in midweek.
“There was a big crowd here so we wanted to do it for the supporters. But we have two games left and we’ll keep going because we want to finish strongly.”
Hakin will now host West Dragons on Tuesday night, before finishing their campaign at Lamphey on Thursday.
Hakin United: Steve Hartley, Jonathan Bennett (Allistair Robertson 90), Bradley Barrett, Daniel Armstrong, Nathan Banner, James Stanmore, Steve Mathias, Ali Ouzman (Ryan Wilson 68), Adam John, Gareth Fawcett, Nicky Woodrow.
Sub not used: Jimmy Walker.
Carew: Corey Hill, James Hinchcliffe, Haydn Shapcott (Sam Goodwin 85), Max Brindley, Tom Grover, Shaun Whitfield, Johnny Harris, Iwan Izzard, Alex Bayley, Scott Ferney, Jordan Richards.
Subs not used: Jeremy Griffiths, Jacob Knox.
Referee: Gavin Southcott.
More pictures of both teams to follow on www.westerntelegraph.co.uk/sport and in next week's Western Telegraph.