Nomads edge past title chasing Cefn Rangers
A fantastic game on the 3G saw the young Reds get a 4-3 victory against one of the favourites, Cefn Mawr.
This was the first encounter of the season for the U18's and Cefn, it was one that promised to be a pure footballing encounter and it didn't disappoint.
Woodward, without his assistant Kev Manley today, knew that Cefn would be a great footballing outfit and that the 3G would suit their style. The message before the game was clear, any loss of concentration by the players would be punished by the visitors.
The players warmed up excellently and looked very very sharp. The centre back pairing of Ben Waddilove and George Coulthon looked composed during the possession games and the units pressed well. This was taken straight into the game.
The opening 5 minutes the teams were feeling each other out and it was Nomads who would be the better team, mounting more attacks albeit half chances which were dealt with well by the opposing defenders.
It was in the 6th minute that Nomads' pressing unlocked Cefn. The visitors like to play from the back, which is refreshing however the midfield trap that was set by Jack Aitken, Andrew Ely and Owen Manley was executed perfectly. Once the ball hit midfield Ely was aggressive and the Cefn central midfielders couldn't turn, resulting in the ball being won by Ely and the loose ball picked up by Aitken. Aitken poked the ball between the opposing centre back and full back for Dominic Elsey-McHugh, the winger coolley bent the ball past the keeper and into the corner to make it 1-0.
Cefn sparked into life from the goal and were probing themselves. Their front 3 movement was exceptional and without excellent communication at the back they would have sliced through the back 4 numerous times. Their 9 dropped deep and their wingers looked to take the space, Waddilove and Coulthon held firm and Liam Bruford on the right was just too quick for their winger on the cover.
The one time they did beat the back four they scored, a clever ball through saw their striker 1v1 against Jack Wynne and he couldn't do anything about the finish.
Cefn quickly added a 2nd, a free kick wide right saw a delicious ball put in at the near post and a bullet header into the top corner.
Nomads rallied and it was their turn to dictate the tempo. The passing at the back was superb, a good mixture of patience between Waddilove, Coulthon & Manley and good passing decisions into midfield was the foundation.
The ball made it's way onto the left and was picked up by Elsey-McHugh, who then proceeded to ghost 4 Cefn players on the way to the box, his low drive was saved however Luke Woolley pounced to score his 9th goal in 12 games.
Half time and the Cefn players looked like they were tiring and for the first time this season, so did the Nomads lads.
The message at half time was just more of the same. If the performance levels were the same in the second half as the first half then win, lose or draw the players and management would be happy - however Woodward knew that a by-product of a performance as good as the one in the first half invariably ends in 3 points.
The first 15 minutes of the restart was just a continuance of how the first half ended, with end-to-end action and great spells of possession for both teams, Cefn would get their third during this period after a great pass and finish to restore their lead.
On the hour mark fitness levels became apparent, Nomads were finding more space as the Cefn players flagged. This was punished as Nomads struck a third, this time Woolley returning the favour for Elsey-McHugh. A through ball and an expert finish again saw Nomads pull it back again.
Euros Barker was out on his feet and replaced by Tom Hyndman. Barker has to have a mention here, as a lone striker he done all the dog work and his movement created the gaps in which Nomads scored all 3 of their goals, strikers always feel judged on goals but Barkers unselfish play was incredible today, pressing and moving all game even though he didn't have much of the ball.
Nomads started to get more of a grip on the game in the last 25 minutes but struggled to break down a resolute Cefn team, their shape was brilliant and their midfielders sat deep and allowed us possession. After around 30 passes, Andrew Ely spotted central midfield partner Jack Aitken on the edge of the box. His driven pass took out every Cefn player and Aitken's control on the 180 turn was perfect. His touch took him into the box facing the centre of the goal, he gave the keeper the eyes and slotted the ball in to put Nomads back into the lead for the first time since the 6th minute.
All 3 subs were made and unfortunately sub Tom Hyndmans recurring ankle injury forced him off. Woodward went 4-3-2 for the last 18 minutes and Cefn mounted attacks to pull it back against the 10 men. Nomads held firm though and could have added a 5th & a 6th through Elsey-McHugh but it not been for good goalkeeping.
Cefn Rangers were excellent throughout and you could see that their players have played and could still comfortably play at a higher level, their conduct was first class and they didn't once stoop to gamesmanship against a young side.
Dominic Elsey-McHugh (Assist Jack Aitken)
Luke Woolley (Assist Dominic Elsey-McHugh)
Dominic Elsey-McHugh (Assist Luke Woolley)
Jack Aitken (Assist Andrew Ely)
Man of the Match - Dominic Elsey-McHugh
Superb again today with another 2 goals and assist, meaning he has been responsible for 7 goals in 2 games for Nomads. His brilliance on the ball was matched by his brilliance off the ball. Leon Doran who loves to get forward was covered by Dom a couple of times in the game and Doms assertive pressing and work rate followed the game plan excellently. Many players who impacted the game like he did with goals and assists usually slack in their defensive responsibilities but that isn't in Dom's nature.
To note, every single player, from the substitutes put in 110% today and they all had brilliant games.