AFC Llwydcoed 1-2 Ammanford: Craig Frater injury time penalty pushes Ammanford closer to promotion
An injury time penalty scored by Craig Frater gave Ammanford a win that keeps them on course for promotion to Welsh League Division One, as well as maintaining their pursuit of the Division Two title.
Craig Frater scored the penalty after he was adjudged by referee Mr Stephens to have been felled by a Llwydcoed defender under the slightest contact.
It proved a controversial finish to a feisty encounter in which Ammanford never quite looked like the side enjoying the run of form they are, while lowly Llwydcoed were certainly worthy of a point on the basis of their second-half performance.
Gruff Harrison’s Ammanford side arrived for this midweek match at the top of the Cynon Valley on the back of an 11-match unbeaten run knowing a win would draw them level on points with STM Sports.
For 13th-placed Llwydcoed it has been more of a transitional season as they have blooded a lot of players from their youth set-up.
However, after holding STM Sports to a 0-0 draw three days earlier and with Llantwit Major still to visit, Lee Williams’s side knew they still had a big role to play in the end of season honours.
On a balmy spring evening, Ammanford started the more positive side. Inside the opening five minutes Craig Frater was presented with a close-range chance on his left side but experienced goalkeeper Ryan Griffiths was on hand to make a block with his legs.
However, on a hard pitch with unpredictable bounce both sides struggled to form any continuity in their play, with a lot of long direct balls the order of the day. The visitors still seemed more assured in the conditions, in particularly using long diagonals to switch play and build attacks through their wide forwards Gavin Jones and Brett Enoch.
The lack of assurance in possession from Llwydcoed almost cost them a goal in the 10th minute. A loose square pass from Jay Woodford gave possession to Frater, his through pass sent Gavin Jones away and required a scrambling Llwydcoed defender to deflect away from goal Jones’ shot.
Ammanford didn’t have to wait much long before breaking the deadlock though. After outmuscling Rikki Evans on the wing, Enoch’s forward pass was missed by Adam Butler allowing Frater to run through and finish low across Griffiths into the far corner in the 17th minute.
Ten minutes later Ammanford almost doubled their lead with one of the goals of the season. Collecting a cross from the left as the ball bounced up into the air Gavin Jones attempted a spectacularly acrobatic overhead kick and was unlucky to see it drift just the wrong side of the post.
The remainder of the half remained a scrappy affair with very few openings, although Llwydcoed created the best of them in the final moments before half-time as Jonathan Mason twice forced saves from James Kirkwood.
The start of the second half saw Llwydcoed much more purposeful in the final third. Rikki Evans getting away the first shot on target in the first couple of minutes, then Morgan Andrews twice had shooting opportunities he might have hoped to do better with.
As the action remained end to end Ammanford certainly had moments of their own, especially through the running power of their wide forwards and with Craig Frater employing a shoot on sight policy the attempts at goal were racked up.
However, the usually prolific Frater’s profligacy would eventually come back to bite Ammanford. The introduction of Corey Roberts from the bench gave the home side new thrust in attack and it was the substitutes corner delivery that produced an equaliser with fifteen minutes left, centre back Butler heading home unmarked from six yards.
It could have been worse for Ammanford as Nicholas Arnold might be considered fortunate that a studs up lunge was only punished with a yellow card by referee Stephens.
Despite the frenetic end to end final stages it looked like both sides would share the spoils until Frater tumbled under minimal contact in the box in the first minute of injury time.
Mr Stephens clearly saw the challenge differently and pointed to the penalty spot. Frater picked up himself up and despite Griffiths getting across to the low strike, he could only push the ball into the side netting.
This win means Ammanford require just four points from their remaining three matches to secure promotion to Division One, with a double header against rivals Pontypridd Town coming up in the next week.
(Featured image: Jordan Forster)