Gwent Amateur Cup

Pontypool Town 2 Mardy AFC 3

LATE drama away to Pontypool Town saw Mardy AFC through to the semi-final of the Gwent Amateur Cup after a game full of incident but lacking flowing football, reports CLIVE HARRY.

Early momentum was with a fired up Pontypool team but the first real effort of the game came after 18 minutes when good play by Tom Jenkins gave Brad Daniels a shooting chance from the edge of the box.

His on target effort was well struck but safely held by home keeper Max Manson who had been playing Welsh Premier League football regularly for Cardiff Met prior to joining Pontypool this season.

A small, uneven pitch with long grass was hampering attempts to play good football and the home side often adapted better to it using an aerial approach.

But the next decent chance of the game again fell to Mardy when a cross by Dan Wait gave Jenkins a sight of goal but his effort went wide when, not for the first time, the ball took an uncontrollable bobble in the act of shooting.

However, the visitors took the lead a minute before the interval when Owen Vaughan lifted a free kick into the penalty area which caused problems for the home defence, and after a shot had been blocked by Manson, Rhys Meadows gratefully latched onto the rebound to break the deadlock.

Pontypool again started well after the interval and probably should have equalised when, despite looking yards offside, Brandon Virgo got clear of the defence but with only keeper Logan Hamer to beat, blasted his shot over the top.

Despite the football being generally scrappy because of the conditions, the game was nevertheless a feisty affair with a cup semi-final place at stake.

And after several Mardy players had been yellow carded for complaints to the referee, the home side equalised with 13 minutes to go when a goalmouth scramble ended with Joel Higgs poking home the ball at close range.

However, Mardy showed fighting spirit of their own in a game which was a real slog by retaking the lead in the 87th minute when a long throw caused confusion in the Pontypool Town box and Meadows pounced to score his second goal to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

That should have been that but, in the third minute of injury time, the hosts showed they weren't going down without a fight when substitute Sam Bond was put away and he finished clinically to bring his side level at 2-2.

Extra time looked unappealing against a home team fighting for every ball.

But incredibly, the game took another turn in the 95th minute when a quality finish from Matt Wham put Mardy back into the lead.

Wham had played a captain's part throughout with an outstanding display which was encapsulated by the quality of his goal when he met a Wait cross with a sidefoot volley from just inside the area into the roof of the net for 3-2.

There was still time for Manson to make an excellent save from Meadows before the whistle ended an exhausting but ultimately satisfying afternoon for the visitors.

Mardy's reward is a home semi-final against AFC Pontymister on April 13.

This Saturday (March 16), they are back at home in Gwent Premier One against Albion Rovers.

Meanwhile, the 2nds lost out 4-1 at home to New Inn Development at the weekend in Gwent Central One, and will be hoping to bounce back in a derby clash away to Crickhowell 2nds on Saturday.