Ammanford 3-2 Aberbargoed Buds: Ammanford hold final day nerve to secure promotion to Welsh Football League Division One
There was euphoria come the final whistle at the Recreational Ground on Saturday, as Ammanford AFC secured an historic return to Welsh Football League Division One for the first time since 2001-02 courtesy of a 3-2 final day win over fifth placed Aberbargoed Buds.
The hosts headed into the game knowing one point would secure promotion, but came into the match on the back of successive defeats to Pontypridd, including a goal three minutes from time from Luke Gullick to down the Carmarthenshire outfit.
But, goals from Euros Griffiths, Mathew Fisher and Brett Enoch were enough to secure the three points and promotion, despite the best efforts of the Buds to ruin any final day promotion party.
As could be expected from a game with such lofty expectations, both sides begun tentatively. In front of a bumper crowd at the Rec, Ammanford seemed to have the best early opportunities, as Nich Arnold saw a shot deflected and Mathew Fisher blazed over after he darted through the middle of the Buds defence.
Ammanford begin to ease into the game as they sought out the opening goal. A well worked corner by Fisher and Enoch saw the midfielder come short, but his effort dipped over when well placed and unmarked on the edge of the area.
Then on 21 minutes, Ben Soal saw a half volley from the right of the area blast wide when under pressure.
But, the Buds came closest to scoring when halfway through the opening period they played a neat one-two around the edge of the Ammanford area and curled one just outside of the far post, but James Kirkwood watched it sail wide.
Fisher was proving to be a thorn in the side for the visitors as he danced through the Buds midfield with comfort for the majority of the half. Ammanford’s creative lynchpin again set up Gavin Jones, who rattled the bar from inside the area.
Ammanford ramped up the pressure towards the end of the half, and should have opened the scoring. Fisher, menacing in attack, and cut back on the byline and squared for Enoch who had time and space, but lent back and sent his shot high over the crossbar.
But, the second half was a much different story. Whilst the opening period was one of temperament and cautiousness, the second half was open and attacking football.
Five minutes into the second period, Euros Griffiths found his way on to the end of a free kick and his header was tamely let in by the Aberbargoed keeper.
The goal seemed to lift the pressure off the hosts, who knew a draw would be enough.
But, their pressing forward did not step there. Jones was relentless in his pressure up front and he forced the Buds back line into an error, and he claimed the ball, played an intricate one two with the effervescent Fisher who poked home to double Ammanford’s advantage.
But, ten minutes later, the home side were caught on the counter attack. With both centre halves up for a corner, the away side quickly countered and when Matthew Jones was unable to clear his lines, the Buds forward managed to halve the deficit with a delicate lob over Kirkwood who was caught off his line.
But, straight from kick-off, Enoch allayed any fears of a Buds comeback as his solo run saw him bisect the Buds defence and restore the two goal advantage with the deftest of touches past the goalkeeper at the other end.
Gruff Harrison tried to shut up shop by introducing Gethyn Jones for Dale Jones, but the Ammanford defence again left themselves in for criticism when they failed to clear their lines effectively and handed the Buds an open goal when their failed clearance landed at the feet of the visitors inside their own box, and they duly scored to make it 3-2.
Ammanford introduced Rhys Davies and Rhodri Jones late on, and the hosts held on to secure all three points.
This brought to a close a remarkable season from Ammanford, which included their inspired 12 match unbeaten run between February and May.
The final whistle sparked jubilant celebrations from the players and fans alike as they celebrated their promotion to Welsh League Division One.