MATCH REPORT: Pontypridd Town 2-1 Caldicot Town – strong first half showing gives Ponty the points in top of the table clash
Goals from Ellis Bellamy and Andrew Smith in a dominant first-half display helped Pontypridd Town to a narrow home win over Caldicot Town in the battle of the top two in Welsh Football League Division Two.
Leaders Caldicot Town travelled to USW Sports Park as Divison Two’s form side, unbeaten in seven with six wins in that sequence. Pontypridd also started in good form on the back of five consecutive wins in all competitions. However, they went into this clash four points behind the Monmouthshire club yet with three games in hand due to their cup commitments.
In keeping with their form and status as pacesetters, Caldicot started in the ascendancy and could have taken the lead in the first two minutes. A darting run by Ben Ahmun through midfield was halted illegally by Rhys McCarthy just outside the penalty area. Olly Smith’s superb left-foot strike was unlucky to come back off the bar into the grateful arms of Pontypridd goalkeeper David Burnett.
Football matches can turn on moments of fortune like that and the near miss seemed to arouse the home side and within a few minutes, they were ahead.
Scott Hillman reacted quickest to a Caldicot goal kick and, characteristic of his aerial proficiency, headed the ball back towards the Caldicot goal. Luke Gullick flicked on the first time for Andrew Smith to scurry down the right flank. The forward’s burst of pace provided him with a yard of space and he had the vision to cross for Ellis Bellamy to tap in at the far post.
A well-executed goal by the home side, but no doubt Caldicot would have been disappointed to have conceded a goal directly from their own goal kick.
The sixth minute goal gave Pontypridd the confidence to take charge of the match and Bellamy was at the heart of a lot of their good play, forcing a low save out of Gareth Wesson from the edge of the area; then shortly after Bellamy turned to work himself space to shoot on the opposite side, this time seeing his effort beat Wesson but ricochet off the post.
The pressure would eventually take its toll and it again to would come down to Pontypridd reacting quickest to a second ball. Dan Hooper’s long free kick from the left in the 23rd minute was initially dealt with by the Caldicot defence, but the second ball was picked up by the home side and Scott Hillman delivered a sumptuous right-wing cross that would have graced the highest level.
Andrew Smith was unmarked at the back post and produced an accomplished volleyed finish past Wesson to double Pontypridd’s lead.
Caldicot began to work their way back into the game, particularly through the endeavour and passing of Olly Smith in midfield.
There were opportunities for Garin Withers and Ben Ahmun, while Smith could have done better with an effort he sliced wide when given time and space 25 yards out. Meanwhile, Pontypridd was always a constant menace on the counter with Luke Gullick and Andrew Smith constant outlets and prepared to chase down any ball.
Gullick had a chance to make it three when his pace allowed him to beat Matt James to a long ball, only brave goalkeeping from Wesson – who suffered a knock making the save – denied further damage. While the best passing move of the half involving McCarthy, Aiden Lewis and Andrew Smith put Bellamy through on goal, but again Wesson kept the deficit down to just two goals at half-time.
Unsurprisingly, Caldicot came out in the second half like a side determined to get back into the game. They came close in the 53rd minute when Jacob Guy headed an Olly Smith corner onto the post and minutes later they did have the ball in the back of the net when a free kick routine ended with a close-range finish. However, the linesman raised his flag to signal offside.
Despite being less assertive going forward in the second half, Ponty continued to threaten with rapid breaks and defensive lapses by Caldicot presented unnecessary openings to Bellamy and Gullick; Andrew Smith – in a non-stop display up front – twice showed his pace and sharpness to turn hopeful long punts forward into one on one opportunities, but on both occasions he failed to convert.
As the game reached the final quarter Pontypridd seemed happy to sit deeper, protect their advantage and force Caldicot to try and turn the screw. Unfortunately for the visitors, they couldn’t really produce enough fluent play to threaten their hosts as the contest became increasingly scrappy.
There were efforts from Ben Smith and Ahmun outside the box, neither troubled Burnett. It wasn’t until the final minute that Caldicot forced Burnett into a meaningful save when Ahmun turned smartly on a knockdown and fired at goal from close range, but the Pontypridd goalkeeper was equal to it and turned the effort away.
Caldicot did eventually breakthrough, captain Matt James’s powerful header from a left-wing cross deep into injury temporarily hinted at a comeback. It was to prove no more than a consolation as there wasn’t enough time for Caldicot to build any further pressure and Pontypridd held on for a win that reduces Caldicot’s lead at the top of Division Two to a single point.