Even the referee, Mr Pratt, entered into the festive spirit, by doling out plenty of cards, the only problem being that they were of the yellow and red variety ! In all, 15 cards were issued, 13 yellow and 2 reds. We also had our pantomime villain, as Rob Hughes returned to torment his former teammates and generally wind up the crowd, before retiring injured at half time, but by that time he had already done the damage by scoring for his side.
On a sticky pitch that was hard to play football on, Flint’s defence decided to hand out some early Christmas presents to the Caernarfon attackers, as they gifted them two opening goals.
Notice had already been served of just how tricky the conditions were, when Hughes latched onto an underhit backpass on 17 minutes, and raced through on goal. As he tried to place his shot into the corner, Jon Rushton got down well to smother the effort and claim the ball. But rather than take heed of this warning, the Silkmen defensive line continued to play with fire.
Hesitancy at the back proved costly on 20 minutes, when Mike Hayes got in between Kai Edwards and Rushton to get on the end of a long ball. He rounded Rushton and slotted the ball home as Edwards tried to make up ground to the goal, but it was to no avail.
Then, just a minute later, disaster struck for the home side once more. A risky ball was played across the back to Edwards, and bobbled just as the Flint centre half was about to control it. Quick as a flash, Hughes pounced on it to dispossess Edwards and run through on goal. This time he made no mistake, lifting the ball over Rushton as the Flint keeper dived.
The Silkmen got themselves back into the game on 26 minutes, following a corner delivered from the right. Alex Jones, on his first game back after a lengthy suspension, came in at the far post to direct it back into the 6 yard box, where the ball was helped on by Ben Nash. Dan Roberts was then on hand to stick out a leg and poke it into the roof of the net, to reduce the deficit to just one goal.
But with 5 minutes to go to the break, two more quickfire goals from the visitors had Flint rocking once more. From a throw in on the right, halfway inside the Flint half, the home players were too passive in their attempts to win back the ball. Instead, Dion Donohue was allowed to square the ball across the pitch to the oncoming Noah Edwards, whose run had not been picked up, and he hit a lovely shot from the edge of the box that curled into the top corner.
At the end of the regulation 45 minutes, Hayes burst through into the box, and Edwards ran across to intercept, resulting in a coming together of both players. The referee’s assistant, positioned near the incident, signalled a foul, and so, after a brief delay, a spot kick was awarded. One that fell into the category of “soft” penalty decisions, but you could perhaps see why it was given. Donohue stepped up and slotted the ball into the corner, sending Rushton the wrong way.
All in all, the first half had become Flint’s very own Nightmare before Christmas, and it looked an almost impossible task for them to get back into the game in the second period.
A slight glimmer of hope appeared when Aaron Simpson was shown a straight red for a challenge on Jack Kenny in the 62nd minute. The decision looked to be somewhat harsh, but it was now up to the Silkmen to see if they could make the extra man count in the time remaining.
Just before that, Hayes could have made the game safe for the visitors, when he burst from the half way line, but chose to square the ball to Darren Thomas rather than shoot himself. This gave the Flint defence the vital extra seconds to get back and block Thomas’ shot.
With the man advantage, Flint upped the ante and started to press the Caernarfon goal, and Mark Cadwallader struck twice within a minute to bring the home side right back into it with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Callum Bratley, who was enjoying a fine game for the Silkmen, surged through from midfield, and as he reached just inside the box, he checked back and had his feet taken from under him in the process, earning his side a penalty of their own. Cadwallader confidently despatched it, to make the score 2-4.
From the restart, Flint attacked again. Conor Harwood, on as a substitute, initially made a great run down the left. before cutting into the area. His run was blocked, but Sam Hart was in support to fire in a cross that caused confusion amongst the Caernarfon defence. Eventually, Bratley got on the end of the ball and played it back to Cadwallader, whose on target strike from 16 yards, struck the back of a defender as it made its way into the net.
It was now very much game on, and Flint threw everything they could at it to try and grab the equaliser. First Bratley hit a good strike, following another strong run from the half way line, that flashed just wide of the post. Then, on 89 minutes, Harwood supplied a lovely cross from the left, which Kenny met inside the 6 yard box, but, agonisingly, his header crashed against the bar. In between these efforts, Ross Weaver picked up his second yellow card of the game when he was adjudged to have dived following a challenge just outside of the box. Again, another debatable decision.
So, in the end, it proved to be a bridge too far for Flint (sneaking in another oblique Christmas reference by way of a top film that’s usually shown over the festive period !), and but for the woodwork, they could have emerged with an unlikely point.
Line Ups :
Flint Town United – J. Rushton, J. Phillips, S Hart, D. Roberts (C. Harwood 76), B. Nash, K. Edwards, J. Kenny, A. Jones (c), C. Bratley, M. Cadwallader (O. Nugent 90), R. Weaver. Unused subs – R. Woods, M. Parker, L. Ellis, J. Brindley, J. Syers-Newton
Caernarfon Town – J. Ojrzynski, R. Williams, J. Bailey, G. Williams, S. Evans, D. Donohue (c), A. Simpson, N. Edwards, M. Hayes (C. Jones 90), D. Thomas (B. Beumont-Broadhead 81), R. Hughes (S. Bradley 46). Unused sub – T. French (GK)
Flint MOM – Callum Bratley (led the fightback in the second half with 2 assists)