Cwmbran Celtic continued their recent upturn in form in the Welsh Football League with a hard-fought victory over Undy Athletic in a five-goal thriller at Celtic Park.
After a rocky start to the season, Celtic have now won four in a row night in league and cup. While Celtic remain 10th in the congested Division One table, they are very much looking up rather than below. Despite defeat, Undy Athletic also saw no change in position.
However, they will no doubt reflect on missed chances in this game – in particular that first half penalty – and it will probably be of little comfort at the moment to know on another day the points could have been theirs.
In superb conditions for football, this local derby of sorts started at typically frenetic pace with committed challenges in the middle of the park and both sides looking to get on the front foot and assert their authority.
Undy carved the first real chance of the match and should have taken the lead in the 3rd minute. Building off Marcus Power’s hold up play, Ben Lawrence advanced up the right flank and crossed for Dan Jarman who fired over on the volley from 6 yards. Cwmbran had their own early chances too.
In the 8th minute a fine passing move through midfield by Celtic led to a shooting opportunity for Lloyd Kinsella which produced a good save from James Smallscombe. Then a couple of minutes later the home side had a golden chance to match Undy’s early miss.
Josh Bull’s desire to chase every loose ball in the final third should have brought him reward when he beat the offside trap and latched onto a loose ball forward. One on one, the prolific forward tried to beat Smallscombe low to his right, but the away goalkeeper got down quickly to make the save look comfortable.
Not to be undone, Undy launched forward and when the home defence failed to deal with direct play into the box, Gareth Cullimore was presented with a fantastic chance six yards out. His effort lacked conviction and went straight into the arms of Lewis Watkins. Undy did have the ball in the net shortly after this, but only after the assistant referee had raised his flag for offside.
The attacking intent on both sides did not let up, Cwmbran’s approach on an excellent surface to play short and build up play through midfield brought both rewards and risks as the occasional overplay allowed Undy to burst forward with quick transitions.
Lawrence on the right hand side was a notable outlet for Undy with his accurate crossing and he induced Power into a spectacular attempted bicycle kick; the air shot denying the spectators a wonder goal.
Cwmbran’s composure on the ball and movement around did provide a series of good positions. A superb series of one-touch passes worthy of the Nou Camp gave Josh Bull another sight on goal in the 23rd minute, but his nonchalant first time effort drifted wide.
Then Chris Ham was freed down the left, his marker did well to stand him up and force him wide. Ham’s intent was clear, but the angle was always against him and his powerful effort hit the side netting outside the near post.
Ten minutes before the break the half’s biggest talking point arrived. A long ball over the top by Undy allowed Dan Jarman to break down the left inside forward channel. Shoulder to shoulder with a retreating Cwmbran defender the winger tumbled to the ground. An illegal challenge referee Ben Williams deemed – after confirmation from his assistant – and a penalty awarded.
James Barners stepped up to take the spot kick, but his effort lacked direction and Watkins guessed correctly to save low down. A golden opportunity for the visitors wasted and with no further chances, both sides left the field at half time with the match finely poised and still goalless.
If there was disappointment among the Undy ranks with the penalty miss it didn’t show as they flew out of the blocks in the second half and broke the deadlock within a couple of minutes of the restart.
Good build up down the right, a midfield runner broke the lines and created space for Marcus Power central and 12 yards out. When the ball was squared to him, Power had time to pick his spot and stroke the ball home first time. It was a fantastic finish that left the Watkins in goal with no fault.
Cwmbran’s response was immediate and their first attack from the kick gave Kinsella a chance to shoot just outside the box in a central position, but he couldn’t control his half volley and the ball was sent wildly high and wide.
However, Undy looked the mostly likely to score the second goal in the early stages of the second half and it was just as it was beginning to look like they were taking control of the match that Cwmbran struck with a quick three-goal salvo.
Shortly after the hour mark James Young’s perfectly timed run beat the Undy offside trap and he showed great vision to cushion the diagonal ball across goal for Josh Bull, who was left with the simple task of tapping in the equaliser.
Three minutes later Owen Cook burst forward out of midfield after more neat build-up from Cwmbran; a moment of trickery worthy of The Showboat looked like it had created space for a strike at goal, but Cook was felled just inside the box. No hesitation from the referee as he pointed to the spot for a second time. Chris Ham stepped up and buried the penalty.
Not resting on their laurels, Cwmbran continued to attack and with twenty minutes to play they forced a corner on the right hand side. Kinsella’s powerful, well-directed corner into the six yard box meant Rhys Ahere had to go for the ball – unfortunately for him, heading into his own net.
Three goals in seven minutes for Cwmbran Celtic to complete the turnaround and build an unassailable lead.
The visitors never let their heads drop though. First Power had a chance to shoot when a short free-kick routine caught Celtic napping, but a poor first touch gave the defence time to recover and block the effort.
Then substitute Tre Marrett manufactured a shooting chance with some ball juggling on the edge of the box, but his overhead kick was off target. A tense finish was ensured when Power’s cross found Cullimore unmarked six yards out and he headed past Watkins into the goal with ten minutes left.
Despite Undy’s pressure Cwmbran seemed to holding on comfortably, but you always get once chance when you’re chasing the game and Undy almost grabbed a share of the spoils in the second minute of injury time.
Again Marcus Power was the creator, his dangerous cross not dealt with by Watkins, whose poor punch presented a close range chance with the goal gaping. However, the Undy player’s volley across goal sailed wide of the post and with that miss went the points to the hosts.
(Featured Image: Steve Roberts)