MONMOUTH Town can cap a remarkable rise from parks football to the very top of the MacWhirter Welsh League tomorrow night, when victory at Taffs Well will earn them Division One leadership status.
The top-flight debutants gave themselves the chance to reach the summit thanks to a fine 2-1 success at Barry Town, who started the match at Jenner Park as table-toppers.
However. goals before the break by Ben Evans, his first for the Kingfishers, and Daniel MacDonald, his 12th of the season to take him back to the head of the league’s scorers’ chart, put Monmouth in charge.
Barry did manage to pull one back before the end of the opening 45 minutes, but joint Monmouth managers Barry Burns and Robin Pick looked on in delight as their side held on for its fifth win in nine league starts.
“We did very well because Barry put us under immense pressure and our goalkeeper, Keiron Blackburn, produced some fine saves,” said Burns, whose side gave a debut to Nick Harrhy – a forward who has rejoined after playing in the Welsh Premier with Llanelli and Carmarthen Town.
Only as recently as 2003 Monmouth were relegated to the very bottom tier of the Gwent County League and now they are seeking a third consecutive championship success to become Division One kings.
Cwmbran Celtic ended a run of five straight league defeats, yet a 1-1 draw at AFC Porth pushed them down to the basement slot of the 16-strong section.
“We dominated the first period and ended up being denied a much-needed win by what looked like an offside goal,” revealed Celtic assistant head coach Rhys Redman.
“Then we had Josh Bull in a one-on-one with their goalkeeper and that was a good chance to have clinched the win.”
Rakesh Patel was on target for Celtic, who are now below Margam-based Tata Steel – 3-0 home winners over Caerleon.
It was Caerleon’s fourth successive loss and manager Lee Relish clearly knows where the fault lies with his side.
“We played OK, but simply can’t put away the many chances we are creating,” complained Relish. “This game emphasised what happens when one team is sharper in front of goal and Tata scored at crucial times.”
In Division Two, Goytre are sailing towards a championship title win – Kyle Bassett scoring the only goal against visiting Penrhiwceiber Rangers to make it nine straight wins since the start of the campaign for the Plough Road side.
They, however, were the county’s only winner in the division – as Newport YMCA, Caldicot Town and Croesyceiliog all fell to 4-1 defeats.
YMCA had only Nick Potts netting at Briton Ferry Athletic, Luke Harris was Caldicot’s scorer at Ammanford, while Alex Cooke was on target for Croesyceiliog at home against Caerau (Ely).
Llanwern skipped from second to fourth in the Division Three table following a 2-2 home draw against county rivals Chepstow Town.
It was something of an incident-packed game because besides the four goals, both sides missed a penalty – Marcus Power for the home side and Jason Thorn for the visitors – while Llanwern’s debut-making substitute Geza Hajgato lasted just 12 minutes before being straight red-carded, with goalkeeper coach/physio Rhodri also being sent off for a verbal indiscretion against Newport match referee Andrew Murdoch.
Sam Hartrey went ahead before Richard Sharratt levelled before the break, and his second goal on 65 minutes brought parity again after a Jonathan Kift free kick put the home team 2-1 up.
Thorn’s spot kick and his follow-up attempt were well saved by home goalkeeper Ben Fletcher, while Chepstow stopper Callum George denied Power from 12 yards, and produced another three noteworthy stops.
Risca also dropped a couple of places, from third to fifth, when they became the first side this season to drop points to bottom-placed Treharris Athletic Western – where goals from Rob Aldridge and Jordan Knott earned them a 2-2 draw.
Tredegar Town are 10th following a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of promotion-seeking Pontypridd Town, while it was a bad day at the office for Newport Civil Service.
They were beaten 7-2 at Cardiff Metropolitan University, where Marc Gunter and Mike Traynor were their scorers. NCS gave debuts to former Cwmbran Celtic and Llanwern striker Scott Lanyon, and also to goalkeeper Adam Cueto, who made some terrific saves and was not at fault for any of the goals he conceded.
It was a different story, however, for Abertillery Bluebirds, who ended a run of poor results by scoring goals via Lewis Clarke, Brett Morgan and Luke Lewis in a 3-0 home success over Bridgend-based Bettws.
In the FAW Trophy, Division Three outfit Treowen Stars moved into round four thanks to a 5-3 home win over Gwent County League side Abertillery Excelsiors, goals coming from Josh Evans (3), Kyle Butler and Steve Parfitt.
Tuesday (7.30pm): Division One – Taffs Well v Monmouth Town.
Wednesday (7pm): Gwent Senior Cup, quarter-final – Caldicot Town v Goytre.