Mathern 0 Caldicot Castle 0

PROMOTION rivals Mathern and Caldicot Castle battled for an honourable draw to keep both clubs’ ambitions on track.

But if Castle keeper Dave Hayward hadn’t saved a 65th minute penalty, it might have been a different story.

The penalty was awarded when Castle defender Richard Beach appeared to handle the ball as he tried to shepherd the ball wide of a post.

Referee Tony Maher who was 20 yards from the incident, decided the handball denied a goal-scoring opportunity and dismissed the disconsolate Beach.

Whether the considerable delay affected his effort is debatable but the normally dependable Alex Bell’s penalty lacked power and Hayward dived to parry the shot and then grabbed the ball as Mathern’s Tom Marmont attempted to force it over the line.

Although a man short, Castle dug in and repelled wave after wave of Mathern attacks.

Manager and coach Dean Thomas was urging his men to “put it in the mixer” but they seemed more intent on trying to walk the ball in.

“It was a good game of football between two teams who kept the ball on the floor and played the right way,” Thomas said later.

“There was nothing to choose between them until the sending-off, but we really should have won the game against 10 men in the closing stages.

“All credit to Castle for holding out and I wish them the best of luck for the run-in.

“We are away to Ponthir next week and we have to win to keep pressure on the top.”

Mathern started the stronger and Hayward was called into action to turn a couple of strikes from Ieuan Diyaolu and Rory Prettyjohn over the bar.

But after about 15 minutes Castle settled and began to assert themselves with Joe O’Brien and Luke James prominent upfront.

“We started to get into the game, knocked the ball around well, created a few chances and probably finished the half the strongest,” said Castle boss Dave Adamson.

“The second half was pretty even until the sending off. It completely changed the game and our backs were against the wall for the last 20 minutes, which we did fantastically well.

“I was very pleased and proud of the lads for their performance, we needed the three points more than Mathern as they have games in hand on us, but I couldn't have asked for anything more against a very good, powerful team.

“It was the first time we looked close to our best although we're probably the outsiders for promotion as we've drawn too many. But with 27 points to play for, anything could happen.

“For a 0-0 it was really good game to watch. It would be nice if we can keep 11 players on the pitch against Thornwell next week though.”

Other results: Thornwell Red & White 1 Whiteheads 1. Division 2: Cromwell 2 Blackrock Rovers 0.