Yesterday evening the 2nd April, Druids travelled to Park Avenue to play out our final fixture of Phase 1. A slow start cost Druids in the end, as Aber were clinical and scored 3 first half goals. A spirited second half comeback was not meant to be after we got one back late on, with the match ultimately ending 3-1.
Druids came into this match well rested, off a solid 0-0 draw away at Cardiff Met almost two weeks before. The starting 11 was rotated again as Jonny Taylor came in up front and Ben Barratt slotted in at centre half alongside Phil Mooney. We were looking to finish Phase 1 on a high and carry that confidence into Phase 2.
The match kicked off and within 4 minutes, the worst start became a reality. A long throw in by our opponents was flicked on towards the far post and Aber forward Jon Owen got in front of his man and volleyed home from 6 yards. Druids would have been disappointed that we were unable to clear the ball coming into our box and had gone behind so quickly. We had hardly gotten playing yet when things went from bad to worse. An Aber forward dribbled at Ben Barratt on the edge of the area, Barratt did well with the initial tackle to stop his opponent getting into the box, however the ball bobbled up between them and the Aber forward got there again moments before Barratt attempted to clear, resulting in a collision. Referee Nick Pratt had no choice but to award a penalty to the hosts, which was converted, seeing us two goals behind within the first 7 minutes.
Following this, Druids eventually began to get the ball on the ground and work their way into the game. We had to make an early change however, as Barratt was forced off with what looked like quite a nasty knee injury following an awkward tackle. Jacob Wise made the straight swap into centre half. On 25 minutes, Druids were again unable to clear a ball coming into our box from an Aber freekick. The ball fell to an Aber forward whose strike was saved well by Jones, but the rebound again fell to an opposition player who bundled it in to make it 3-0.
We seemed a team lacking in confidence following the third goal, but we kept playing our football and tried to create something before half time. On 43 minutes, Sam Phillips produced a smart through ball to find forward Niall Flint in the box. Flint did well to turn his defender and get a shot off which went just wide of the post, but Druids finally starting to test the Aber defence. Not long after, the referee blew for halftime. Druids aiming to keep the pressure up in the second period and try to get back into the game.
We made a change at halftime as Charley Edge came on for Kieran Smith. Edge made a quick impact as the second 45 began, driving down the wing with the ball and trying to get balls into our opponent’s box for our forwards Taylor and Flint to attack. The game began to open up in the second period as both sides searched for another goal. Michael Jones made a great save just before the hour to keep us in the game as an Aber forward cut inside and shot from close range.
Following this, we kept probing for a goal and began testing the Aber defence. Edge whipped in a great cross from the right-hand side following a corner that bounced back out to him. Wise and Taylor both rose to flick it on, but it sailed inches past the far post. Not long after, we created another. A fluid counterattack from our own box, up the entire pitch, fell to Edge inside the box, his low strike was tipped just past the post by our opponent’s keeper.
The match was getting into the final 15 minutes as we continued to get balls into the box, but just were unable to get on the end of them so far. Harry Fuller and Alex Darlington came on shortly after. Darlo a welcome return after a lengthy injury. He made an immediate impact, picking the ball on the edge of the area and producing a clever flick for Flint to run onto in the box. The keeper came out to clear, but Flint got there just before and was taken down. The referee decided to award a penalty to Druids. Darlington stepped up to take. His initial shot was saved well by the keeper, but the rebound fell kindly for Darlo who tapped it home to make it 3-1. Following the goal, the Aber keeper was shown a straight red for dissent as he clearly didn’t think the penalty was the correct decision in the first place.
Druids now only 2 goals behind and with a man advantage, pressed with everything for another goal to try and make this comeback a reality. Aber began to sit back and slow the clock down by holding the ball in the corner. Jacob Wise moved up into centre forward to try and use his height to get on the end of the crosses coming into the box. Naim Arsan had two good chances just before the end with a volley just inside the box and a freekick, both just going wide. We kept pressing and didn’t give up right until the final whistle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be though, as Aber held out and the referee eventually blew for full time.
The lads can be somewhat proud of their second half display and reaction after going behind by 3 goals. Our opponents were clinical however, and finished the game off early, giving Druids a mountain to climb to try and get back into it.
We start Phase 2 next Saturday the 10th April at home to Haverfordwest County AFC. Full Phase 2 fixtures will be posted on our Twitter and Facebook pages in the coming days.
Still plenty of football to be played!
More than just a football club