County attacking policy earns deserved cup success

Pembrokeshire League celebrate winning the SB Williams Cup

Pembrokeshire League 4 - Carmarthenshire League 1

Referee: Dean John.

Assistants: Steve Jones and Aled Fellows.

Venue: Stebonheath Park, Llanelli

A tough job well done.

The Pembrokeshire Football League team claimed the SB Williams Cup last night as goals from Nicky Woodrow, Justin Harding (2 penalties), and Jordan Griffiths sealed a deserved win over the Carmarthenshire League at Stebonheath Park.

The county went in knowing no less than a win would do if they were to finish above the Swansea League in the group, so Nigel Delaney and Chris O’Sullivan, manager and coach, didn’t hold back as they fielded an attacking line-up and four pronged attack.

Attacking policy pays off after early set-back

Nigel Delaney, Scott Delaney and Chris O Sullivan with the SB Williams CupAnd it paid dividends as despite trailing to Sam Wilson’s early goal, Pembrokeshire simply had too much going forward for the hosts to be declared champions for the second time in three seasons.

With Woodrow, Harding, Griffiths and Adam John all starting in attack, the visitors struggled to settle in a frenzied start, despite threatening early as Mark Jones flashed a low ball across the face of goal.

But just 12 minutes in Carmarthenshire led as Wilson turned inside Matthew D’Ivry and then fired a low 20 yard shot that despite a hand from keeper James Gwilt, crept into the bottom corner.

County soon get a grip on things

At that stage Pembrokeshire were erratic in possession but they quickly got hold of things, Griffiths firing a low shot straight at Wyn Walters.

Winger John was soon causing chaos and he combined with Harding before flashing a cross-shot past the post, and then on 29 minutes, the same two players played a major hand in the equaliser.

A back heel from John set Harding free in the area and he squared for Hakin teammate Woodrow, who placed a left footed shot into the far corner. For a man with a three day old baby, the striker seemed pretty alert.

Danger signs before Pembs power ahead

On the right John continued to give Carmarthenshire left back Tom Lavender a tough time, teeing up Griffiths with a driven cross but the Goodwick forward saw his sliding shot brilliantly saved by Walters.

Then came another warning sign though as Carmarthenshire threatened on the break as Chris Brown’s cross found an onrushing Lavender, but he pulled his effort across goal.

Before half time though it was Pembrokeshire who went ahead.

Walters again had to react sharply to keep out Harding’s whipped shot with his feet, but with time running out Griffiths was wiped out by Jon Fagan in the box – and Harding duly sent the keeper the wrong way with the penalty.

Carms start second half well but run out of steam as Griffiths heads home

The early stages of the second half were nervy for the away side as Carmarthenshire pressed, but they seemed to run out of a steam on the hour mark and soon the contest was effectively over.

Woodrow fed John in the area, who produced a nigh on 360 turn before forcing Walters into another smart save, but the third goal duly arrived on 62 minutes.

Luke Hayward’s long free kick into the box was met by Griffiths – who looped a header over the onrushing Walters and into the net.

Harding spot-on a second time – but missed late chance of a penalty hat-trick!

Justin HardingCeri Evans did a curl a long range shot narrowly wide for the hosts and Gareth Phillips tested Gwilt with a 20 yard shot, but Pembrokeshire were beginning to look comfortable when the fourth goal came with 20 minutes left.

John was bundled over in the area and referee Dean John didn’t hesitate to point to the spot again, and once again, Harding did the honours.

The final stages were stagnated at both sides emptied their respective benches, and it was one Pembrokeshire replacement, Adam Hawkins, who remarkably won a third penalty for his side late on.

Harding stepped up to try and make it a hat trick of spot kicks – but this time he was denied as his effort crashed off the bar.

It mattered little though, and shortly after the final whistle skipper Scott Delaney was joined by his teammates in lifting the trophy on a Stebonheath surface that had looked in superb shape over the 90 minutes.

Man of the match: Adam John.

Throughout this tournament, Pembrokeshire have not been afraid to go for the jugular, and the livewire Hakin winger has been pivotal to the plan.

Last night he gave Carmarthenshire left back Tom Lavender a torrid time, and why the home side didn’t alter tactics or formation in the first half to address the issue was hard to understand. His link up play with Harding, also outstanding throughout the SB Williams Cup, was seamless and the fast paced nature of these games has suited him perfectly.

If he continues to play at these levels, a certain Welsh league side will inevitably take note. Maybe size really doesn’t matter.

Nigel Delaney: “All the games we’ve had have been good ones and we’re very pleased to have won this (SB Williams Cup).

“We knew we had to win tonight so that’s why we picked an attacking team. It was like a final for us and me and ‘Sully’ have managed together in finals before, so we were confident in what we were doing. We knew we had the pace in our team to trouble them.

“But I said before tonight that whatever happens, the boys have performed for us and wanted to play for their county. And they’ve done tremendously.”

Jordan GriffithsAll-out attack pays off for Pembrokeshire:

Admittedly, when I saw the Pembrokeshire line up I envisaged carnage – at both ends.

The two sides had previously played out a seven goal thriller at the Meadow, a game that eventually proved pivotal as Pembrokeshire battled back to win 4-3.

In that match Carmarthenshire consistently threatened on the break, but despite Wilson’s early goal, they didn’t cause the same problems this time around. In fact once things settled after a frantic start, Pembrokeshire were far superior in possession and when a four pronged attack of that quality gets time and space, goals will inevitably follow.

Delaney and O’Sullivan set up their side to go all out for a win, and the decision was fully vindicated.

A worthy tournament

The SB Williams Cup has its detractors, and 7.45pm kick offs on a Tuesday night are never going to prove overly convenient on a freezing November night.

But the games have been well worth a watch. All three sides have played with real intensity and although last night petered out somewhat at 4-1, games have produced goals aplenty with some thrilling finishes to boot. The competition has its place, and I hope the three remaining counties continue to commit to it – perhaps with Neath returning to the fold.

As always in these situations, debate flew around about the nature of the Pembrokeshire selection. It’s a difficult one to judge – on the one hand you inevitably see seemingly in-form players not given a chance, on the other you hear of people declining to be involved or not responding to selection messages.

Nicky Woodrow But Delaney and O’Sullivan had just four games to gel a squad and win a trophy. In that scenario, coaches often favour their tried and trusted players, but I think the fact some may disagree is healthy. If a 16-man squad picks itself it’s often a sign of a lack of depth - if selectors must make difficult decisions, as would have been the case here, it shows they have quality at their disposal.

The Pembrokeshire players who were involved certainly played for each other and Pembrokeshire. The silverware is their just reward.

Pembrokeshire: James Gwilt, Matthew D’Ivry (Ben Adams 72), Scott Delaney, Wayne O’Sullivan, Mark Jones, Luke Hayward (Lee Hudgell 82), Peter Thomas (Iwan Izzard HT), Adam John, Justin Harding (Jordan Griffiths 74) Adam Hawkins, Nicky Woodrow (Nathan Greene 76).

Carmarthenshire: Wyn Walters (Kyle Powney 71), Jon Fagan, Tom Lavender (Rhys Griffiths 67), Jamie Evans (Peter Donnelly 79), Rhys Weston (Adam Jones 67), Tian Foster, Gareth Phillips (Tom Roberts 67), Ceri Evans, Alex Evans, Sam Wilson, Chris Brown.