Sunday 29th November
JD Cymru Premier
Yesterday afternoon, Druids made the long trip south to play 5th placed Penybont in surprisingly sunny conditions. It proved an extremely tight affair with both teams feeling they could have snatched all three points, however ultimately ending in a 1-1 draw.
Despite a feeling of confidence from the Druids entering this game after a solid performance the week earlier against Connah’s Quay, it was the hosts who started on the front foot. Penybont applied fast, intense pressure on Druids who struggled to play their possession-based football and had to result to more direct balls over the top to stay in the game. Penybont’s main threat came from balls down their right-wing area where Georgievsky and Davies aimed to get in behind Faux and Arsan. However, despite their early pressure, the Druids defence held firm with Mooney, Simpson and Wise blocking multiple attempts by the hosts.
What was great to see from Druids was that although being under pressure early on, we did not collapse as a team and continued to try and play our style and slowly work our way back into the game. Sure enough, halfway through the first half we began to create chances. Faux, putting Aziamale through on goal with his strike deflecting just wide, followed by the best chance of the half; Naim’s cross was flicked into the path of Aaron Simpson 7 yards in front of goal with his volley miraculously saved by Penybont keeper Ashley Morris.
Both sides continued to probe one another with Penybont looking threatening on a few set pieces whipped in by Owen and Druids breaking on the counterattack with Phillips, Aziamale and Faux. We went into halftime at 0-0, which seemed fair, hoping to create and finish our chances in the second half.
Druids started the second half how Penybont started the first. There was much more energy from the front three who were pressing the host’s defenders high up the pitch, which translated to the entire team to press high. We started nicking the ball in our attacking half with Faux, Phillips and Aziamale getting in good areas high up the pitch. The final ball unfortunately, was lacking as we couldn’t seem to get on the end of our crosses or through balls as Penybont’s defence were well organised.
Jamie Reed and Alex Darlington came on shortly into the second half for Aziamale and Kershaw to give Druids different options in attack. It seemed that we were in control of the game and that our sustained pressure was going to bear fruit at some stage. However, in the 71st minute, it was the hosts who broke on Druids with a long ball putting striker Ben Ahmun through on goal. Druids keeper Michael Jones rushed out of his goal in an attempt to clear the ball before Ahmun got there, however a tangle between them left Ahmun with the ball at his feet and Jones rushing to get back on his line. Ahmun’s intial chip was blocked by Mooney who was scrambling to get back, however the ball fell kindly again for Ahmun and he made no mistake with the second attempt, chipping the ball just under the cross bar, inches above the Druids defenders attempting to head it clear. It was cruel for the Druids as they had been playing well and Jones hadn’t really been tested in goal until that point.
It seemed it was going to be another one of those days for Druids who lost focus somewhat after the goal, with simple passes going astray and some heavy challenges flying in. However, we slowly started working our way back into the game again with Faux and Reed playing as a front two, getting in behind Penybont’s defence and getting more balls into the box. Then in the 87th minute, something utterly insane happened. Another cross was headed high and clear by the Penybont defence into the path of Druids centre back Jacob Wise who had found himself about 23 yards out from goal. As the ball came down, it was clear that the Druids players were thinking ‘please don’t, take it down and pass it to one of your strikers.’ But Wise only had one thought in his mind and produced a technically perfect volley that arrowed straight into the corner of the net. The Druids bench and players erupted with some of the Penybont faithful in attendance also applauding the strike.
With newfound life, Druids grabbed the ball and searched for a winner in the final minutes, however it wasn’t meant to be, and the referee blew for full-time in an exhilarating finale.
Druids can feel disappointed not to have snatched all three points as a win would have been vital to catch up to the teams around us on the table. However, there is no time to feel sorry, as our busy schedule continues on Wednesday night as we welcome current leaders TNS to the Rock.
Come on you Druids!
More than just a football club