Late heartbreak for Caernarfon Town in Euro play-off final

Caernarfon’s two-goal hero Darren Thomas. Picture: Paul Evans

Caernarfon Town 3 (Kenny 17, Thomas 58, 73)
Newtown 5 (Rushton pen 38, Mwandwe 44, Davies 78, 81, Breese 86)

Cymru Premier Euro Play-Off Final – May 29, 2021

If ever a big game deserved a huge crowd this was it.

While those in positions of power ensured this did not happen, one thing they could not spoil was an eight-goal thriller which ranked as the best Euro Play-Off Final by some distance.

Sadly, the outcome the home side and their amazing fans wanted was not to be.

The fairytale would have been a first European qualification for Caernarfon.

It appeared the final chapter had been written when Town hero Darren Thomas made it 3-2 to the hosts with 17 minutes to go.

But Newtown found an extra gear and substitutes James Davies and Jamie Breese provided the goals which put Chris Hughes’ side into the Europa Conference League. They deserved it overall.

The first major talking point saw Caernarfon’s influential midfielder Paulo Mendes come off worst from an unfortunate ninth-minute head clash with Shane Sutton.

Mendes lay worryingly still for some time, but after treatment was able to continue.

And Town hit the front on 17 minutes when Louis Augustin dispossessed Jordan Evans and delivered a perfect 50-yard pass into the path of Jack Kenny, who brilliantly lobbed advancing keeper Dave Jones to make it 1-0.

Newtown were looking lively though, carving out several promising attacks, but initially coming up against solid defending.
A quick free kick into Tyrone Ofori saw the striker evade the reckless dive of keeper Lewis Brass, back from a two-match suspension, but the Ghanian was unable to get off a shot.

Caernarfon went close to a second when Thomas’ low drive missed by inches.

Portuguese ace Mendes was clearly struggling and eventually came off to be replaced by Ryan Williams.

This definitely affected the Cofis, who found themselves 2-1 down before the interval.

In the 38th minute, Lifumpa Mwandwe was clattered in the box by Brass after lobbing towards goal.

Although Gareth Edwards cleared off the line, referee Huw Jones had already awarded a penalty which Nick Rushton dispatched powerfully into the roof of the net.

Six minutes later, Rushton broke into the box down the right, Brass’ touch on his cross was not firm enough and Mwandwe finished superbly right-footed at the back post.

Half-time: Caernarfon 1 Newtown 2

Jake Bickerstaff replaced semi-final hero Mike Hayes at half time and brilliant work from the sub set up Kenny, who would surely have scored with a first-time effort, but was unable to make the right connection.

Noah Edwards then created a shooting chance in the box but miss-kicked.

And the Canaries deservedly levelled in the 58th minute when Augustin’s cross from the left was only cleared as far as Thomas, who lashed in a right-foot strike.

Newtown never stopped posing a danger and in the 67th minute Kieran Mills-Evans volleyed against the post. Seconds later the visitors appealed for a penalty for handball. Nothing doing.

Ofore then miscued from a great position as Hughes’ men upped the ante.

But just when it appeared the Robins were getting on top the picture changed again.

In the 73rd minute Bickerstaff did brilliantly to lead a counter attack and slip the ball to Thomas whose left-foot finish was deadly.

Five minutes later it was 3-3. Craig Williams delivered a fine free kick into the box and substitute Davies headed home.

Then on 81 minutes Newtown were ahead again. Mwandwe charged upfield and fed Davies, who applied a left-foot finish to send the away bench delirious.

Caernarfon tried to rally, but their fate was sealed when Davies was free in the box again and ex-Cofi Breese was there to seal it.

That striking quality Newtown had on the bench proved decisive in the end.

Caernarfon Town
37 Lewis Brass, 2 Joe Williams (20 Cai Jones 82), 5 Gareth Edwards, 6 Louis Augustin, 7 Sion Bradley, 8 Paulo Mendes (17 Ryan Williams 25), 9 Mike Hayes (Jake Bickerstaff 46), 10 Darren Thomas, 14 Noah Edwards, 29 Jack Kenny, 36 Max Cleworth.
Subs: 13 Tyler French, 4 Gruff John, 19 Telor Williams, 28 Michael Parker.

1 Dave Jones, 5 Kieran Mills-Evans, 8 Nick Rushton, 10 Jordan Evans, 19 Craig Williams (c), 22 Tyron Ofori, 23 Ryan Edwards, 26 Shane Sutton, 27 Alex Fletcher, 29 Lifumpa Mwandwe, 33 Callum Roberts.
Subs: 13 Kham Steventon, 2 Jake Phillips, 4 Sean McAllister, 6 James O’Neill, 9 Jamie Breese, 11 James Davies, 16 Dylan Downs.

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