Monmouth Town 3 Cwmbran Celtic 0
11:44am Tuesday 5th March 2013 in Sport
TWO goals from the ever impressive Nick Harrhy secured the win and the points for the Kingfishers and, on a weekend when their title rivals were losing at home, moved them to second in the Welsh League Division One table.
Despite the headline and the scoreline however Celtic were far from pushovers and indeed dominated large chunks of the first half and subdued the Monmouth attacking force when Town could barely muster a string of passes let alone a shot on goal.
MacDonald did draw a sharp save from Church in the visitors’ goal but at the other it was Blackburn who had to be at his commanding best dealing with a succession of corners and free kicks in dangerous positions.
Once again he was aided and abetted by a great defensive performance and claimed a second successive clean sheet. If Celtic we indeed atrocious it was in front of goal despite some promising flank play they appeared largely toothless. Town’s attackers on the other hand for the first half at least seemed have put their teeth in a glass next to the bed for the second successive week.
Two minutes after the break however Harrhy’s breakthrough changed the complexion of the game. In a rare outbreak of the passing football to which Monmouth’s supporters have become accustomed Town pieced together a move which pulled the Celtic defence apart and Harrhy took his time before calmly picking his spot from close range. It was inevitable that the game would open up.
It did to a degree but both teams still found chances at a premium as the aerial aspects of the game dominated. Celtic crashed the cross bar with a free kick, a few headers flew high wide or both , Ford ballooned one over the bar when well placed but there were signs that any decent passing from Monmouth would bring some more rewards.
The question was when. Strangely when flu victim MacDonald was replaced by the effervescent Dean Lee for his second appearance things started to happen.
The injection of pace and energy unsettled a tiring Celtic back line. Ford was moved to the left to allow him to drive inside and within minutes former Cinderford starlet Lee’s superb reverse pass set up Ford who waltzed in on goal before sliding the ball to Harrhy his took his tally for the season to 12.
With Hyde on for Palmer the nippiness factor increased again and Hyde was all vim and vigour putting some exceptional crosses in his 20 minute appearance although he should have done better with a volley from another superb piece of work by Lee.
Celtic’s introduction of the burly Williamson livened proceedings a little but Guy and Evans were more than equal to the challenge. Ford got on the end of another good move to make it three with just four minutes remaining. There was however still time for a red card for violent play as the Celt's centre half let his frustration get the better of him by kicking out at Town’s Polish debutant Safian Skupinski.
Town boss Barry Burns was playing down any talk of title in his after, match assessment. “It’s always good to look at the table and see how it looks but it means nothing at this stage of the season.
We’re only just over halfway and there’s plenty of football to play. It’s a cliché but its cliché for a reason. We just have to play one game at a time. I was really pleased with Dean and Chris’ contribution today, they have certainly added some options to the squad and will freshen our approach. That’s not a criticism of our regular starters but if we are going to finish strongly we need to be able to change things now and again.”
Town’s reserves also kept their title challenge going with a 3 - 1 win away at Chepstow Town with Pontypridd transfer target Craig Lewis grabbing another two.
This Saturday sees a Sportsground double header as Town reserves take on table topping Cardiff University at 12 noon before Town’s first XI, sponsored by WyeMedia look to increase the pressure on the league leaders Taffs Well by beating second from bottom Goytre United.