LLANELLI Town made an early season statement as they overcame fellow title contenders Penybont on a wet Monday evening in front of a booster crowd at the KYMCO Stadium, as a James Loveridge hat-trick guided them to a 4-0 victory.
Penybont finished second place last season and went into the game on the back of a twelve-game winning streak, coming up against a Llanelli side who only suffered defeat to The New Saints in the Welsh Cup last season, after winning the League and League Cup double.
The home side were somewhat competitive, however Llanelli executed their game plan to a tee and following the sendings off of Ben Symons and Joe Hopkins, the visitors were able to add goals to reflect their performance, as former Swansea City men Lee Trundle and Loveridge scored the goals that saw off the hosts.
Early on in the match, both sides put on an evenly contested clash in the midfield as both sides tried to grab a foothold in the game.
Penybont threatened going forward as Cullen Kinsella would work the ball well as he tried to find Joe Hopkins but Llanelli defender Lee Bevan wouldd deal with the ball well as he blocked the attack. It proved to be an early omen as the Llanelli defence stood stern to everything Penybont threw at them, which allowed the Reds to take control of proceedings.
It was clear with Llanelli’s attacking options, they would try and open the Penybont defence by working the ball on the flanks due to the sheer pace of their wide men. On the right flank, Symons was dealing with the attacking threat of Jordan Follows, and with the deft touches of silky midfielder Jordan Davies and star man Lee Trundle trapping the ball with expertise, Follows was afforded chances in front of goal.
Kane Owen was proving to be a threat from dead-ball situations for the home side as he whipped in a well-hit free-kick, but Llanelli’s defence again proved resilient to the attacks of the home side.
And as was the course of play, it would be the away side who opened the scoring as around the 15th minute mark, Trundle would escape the offside trap and beat off a last ditch attempted tackled from former Cardiff City youth team member Owen, to lift the ball over the keeper and bring delight to the away supporters, making it 1-0 to Llanelli.
After going a goal down, Penybont would not lie down and did manage to showcase their ability to get back in the game, first when Owain Warlow would cross the ball in but Cullen Kinsell’s header would sail wide of the goal and then when Owen’s free-kick on the edge of the box almost deflected in, but for a block from Lee Bevan.
Around the twentieth minute, Penybont defender Ben Symons would pick up a yellow card for a foul on Follows on the half-way line, which he would regret later on in the match.
Trundle was proving to be instrumental going forward after his goal and he played in fellow forward Follows who shot from a narrow angle, but his effort sailed just wide of the goal which left Rhys Wilson stretching.
Bradley Flay worked the ball well down the right flank and Owen was being trusted with set piece duties, and he whipped in a well-delivered corner, but the Llanelli defence refused to be broken down as Adam Carpenter blazed over the bar as it came out to him.
Follows and Trundle were clearly enjoying each others’ company as the experienced striker played another exquisite pass over the top to Follows who pulled of a right-footed finesse shot but it sailed just wide of the goal.
Llanelli should have doubled the score as Chris Jones picked up a loose ball in midfield, but his shot went just over the bar.
Despite the yellow card, Penybont’s Symons was putting a good shift in at right-back, despite his inferior size he proved a match for the opposition and did go forward when the opportunity presented itself, as well as intercepting play well as he stopped the path of the Llanelli winger.
It would be Llanelli who would finish the half strongly before the interval as Joe Clarke would win a free-kick just outside the box. Trundle who had scored a number of free-kicks last season, stepped up and blazed his shot over the bar, as Andy Hill’s charges will have headed into the break disappointed to only be one goal up, as they highlighted their attacking prowess. Penybont had some opportunities but Llanelli had registered the first goal and went near many times after the first goal.
Ten minutes after the second half kicked off, the home side would go down to ten men as Hopkins would receive a red card as he chased the ball. He was judged to have gone in late on Kurtis March with a high tackle, which was deemed worthy of a straight red card.
This made Penybont’s task of getting something out of the game even harder as Llanelli were proving hard to break down and the loss of one of their attackers left an empty space going forwards.
Trundle and Follows, who thrived in the first half, were at it again and as the ball was played to Trundle, he found Follows again who held the ball well and shot just wide right of the goal after breaking into the box.
With Bont down to ten, Cullen Kinsella held on to possession and was then forced to shoot as the Llanelli defence chased him down, but he skied his shot over the bar.
Antonio Faccuito was working the ball well down the other flank for the Reds, where he broke into the box but he blazed his shot over the bar after doing the hard work.
Owen was proving Penybont’s best attacking outlet as he looked composed on the ball. He shot from distance with a powerful left footed effort, but it went behind for a goal kick.
Former Port Talbot Town man Loveridge was introduced as Llanelli sought a second goal and his pace and trickery forced defender Symons to go in to a tackle late, which saw him given a second yellow card, reducing Penybont to nine men.
After that, there was a flurry of goals as Trundle executed a brilliant ball, lifting it to Loveridge who had time and space to break down the left flank, to bear down on goal and slot home with a powerful shot.
Marcus Griffiths came on to try and offer Penybont something going forward and he was able to pull off a tame shot, but keeper Craig Morris had the shot covered.
Trundle played a cracking ball to Jordan Davies who ran with the ball on the left-flank and he played in Loveridge who ran in goal, hitting a powerful shot which hit the post as it ended up in the back of the net to make it 3-0 as Loveridge’s notched his second of the night.
With Penybont attacking to try and reduce the deficit, they paid the price as Lee Trundle was left unmarked and on the right hand side he ran with the ball and squared the ball to Loveridge who would tap home with an easy finish.
Llanelli surely showcased that they could be the team to beat this season on this performance and despite only scoring the once this evening, Lee Trundle is still proving pivotal to helping his side tick.