MATCH REPORT: STM Sports 3-0 Garden Village – STM re-ignite their title challenge in top of the table clash
A dominant home win for STM Sports against Garden Village moved the Cardiff-based outfit up to second in the Welsh League Division Two table, re-asserting their credentials as serious contenders in the open and highly competitive title race.
STM Sports began the day in third-place, one place and two points behind Garden Village, who shared top spot with Pontypridd Town. STM’s last game on December 23rd saw them crushed 6-1 at Pontypridd Town, while Garden Village defeated Pontypridd 2-0 last weekend. Despite an unbeaten home record in the league this season, STM may have been considered underdogs in this fixture.
However, goals from Josh Graham, Andrew Gardner, and Chris Worsley helped them to victory in a confident and powerful display at the Cardiff University Playing Fields. Gareth Morgan’s side remains two points behind leaders Pontypridd Town, while Garden Village drop to fourth on the back of this and other results.
In Baltic conditions, the away side started the more composed, as you would expect of a side on the back of a six-match winning run in the league, enjoying most of the possession, while STM had an obvious plan to hit early balls over Garden Village’s aggressive high defensive line for the recently signed Ben Ahmun to run onto.
Despite a succession of early offsides against STM’s over-zealous attackers, the home side took only five minutes to breach that high line. Josh Graham got in behind in the left channel but was felled by a challenge from a retreating defender, denying what seemed an obvious shooting chance.
Referee Vasilca Ciuplea did point to the penalty spot, but to the disbelief of the home players and management he produced only a yellow card for the offence.
After a four-minute delay for treatment to be given to Garden Village goalkeeper Dafydd Jones, Graham coolly slotted home to the keeper’s right-hand corner to give STM Sports the lead.
Given the lofty position of both sides in the table it was no surprise that there will was little between the sides in the first quarter of the match. Josh Bradshaw threatened to create something with a dangerous run through midfield, but his cross-shot came to nothing; Ben Ahmun had half a chance to shoot at goal after good work by Jack Kinnerly and Joseph Evans, but Jack Jenkins was quick to block.
It was around the half-hour mark that STM began to take a firmer grip on the game. A sublime slide-rule pass by Chris Worsley behind the Garden Village backline put Jack Kinnerly through on goal. Initially, the winger did fantastic work to round Dafydd Jones and create a shooting chance, but he dallied and despite three opportunities he was unable to double the home side’s lead.
A few minutes later there was an even better chance. Again Kinnerly was involved, displaying fine wing play to beat his marker and deliver a cross of high quality. Inside the six-yard box Josh Graham met the ball unmarked, but his header bounced wide.
Garden Village did have the ball in the net in the 35th minute, but the assistant referee’s flag was up before Jenkins converted a long free kick at the back post. Callum Silcox had a sighter from outside the box but fired over. Despite enjoying spells of possession in the first half, Garden Village lacked penetration against a well-drilled and organised home defence.
At the other end, STM Sports looked more incisive and capped a positive first-half performance by doubling the lead on the stroke of half-time. Kinnerly once again having the beating of his opposing full-back, squaring to Gardner to casually side foot the ball home from the edge of the penalty area.
With a two-goal lead, it was no surprise to see STM keen to protect their lead in the second-half and not commit too many numbers forward. While the intent to apply pressure was there from the visitors, the lack of creativity and space meant the hopes of an early second-half goal went unfulfilled.
The few opportunities that did arise came from the home side counter-attacking. Kinnerly secured a rare legal breach of the Garden Village offside trap but dragged his effort on goal wide. Ahmun had a headed opportunity from a Kallum Hajgato cross that he could have done better with. Hajgato then forced Garden Village’s replacement goalkeeper Michael Morris into a good save after a flowing STM counter-attack.
The final, decisive goal arrived nineteen minutes from time. The excellent Joseph Evan’s long pass sent Gardner galloping through the right channel, Morris rushed out to close down the threat, but the STM player was nimble enough to evade the challenge. Gardner’s initial effort was blocked on the line, Kinnerly’s follow-up too, but Chris Worsley showed a calm head from 10 yards and marked his accomplished performance with a goal.
Garden Village continued to fight for a consolation, there were several half chances for Jack Jenkins but he was unable to test Chris Golton at any time; the best chance came to Silcox seven minutes from time, his effort was on target but he couldn’t beat Golton, maintaining his clean sheet with a fine close-range save.
With that went any chance for the visitors to threaten a comeback and it could have been worse when Worsley showed an adept touch in injury time to lob a stranded Morris from 25-yards. It would have been a fine goal to cap an outstanding team and individual performance. However, there was just a touch too much elevation on the effort and the ball struck the face of the crossbar.