Afan Lido find themselves out of the Nathaniel MG Cup after a disappointing 5-2 loss away to Risca United at Ystrad Mynach.
This was the first fixture since March for all clubs at Tier 2 level – the coronavirus pandemic enforcing an extended break for all clubs beneath the top division.
It’s been a tumultuous summer at the Marston’s Stadium following the exodus of last season’s squad and the nine month break in competitive action has yielded significant change which was evidenced here, with no fewer than seven first-team debutants named in the starting line-up.
Management team Paul Evans, Matthew Driscoll and Barrie Jones were also without several key figures for this opening fixture which made an already difficult fixture even tougher for a young, inexperienced squad.
Lido’s young side started brightly, however, forcing the Risca defence onto the back foot early with the two Ioans – Evans and Clatworthy – pressuring their full backs on the respective wings.
And it was Clatworthy who came closest to opening the scoring after just four minutes, somehow only managing to hit the post from inside the box with the goalmouth gaping after Risca goalkeeper Jordan Dibble was beaten by a low cross.
Lido were soon made to pay. Risca striker Tom Berry profited from some lax defending, turning his defender to place a long range shot into the bottom corner.
Berry was on fire for Risca, creating space every time he touched the ball, and he was soon to become the story of the afternoon.
Only three minutes after opening his tally, he hit the post after ghosting past two Lido defenders in the box.
By the middle of the half it was 2-0. Evan Price brought down Camden Duncan on the edge of the area and referee Teifion Cook had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Lewis Hitchcock duly tucked the penalty away.
Lido weren’t yet out of the reckoning and veteran midfielder Craig Reddy soon narrowed the deficit with a sumptuous half volley from 30 yards out, angling his body to guide a rising ball into the top corner to open his club account.
Risca hit back immediately and it was that man again Berry, losing his marker in the box to turn home a low cross.
Lido made two changes at the break to shore up the midfield and it appeared to work, the visitors looking far brighter in the opening exchanges. It looked to have paid dividends when a second goal came, this time courtesy of the promising Clatworthy who saw his low drive deflect into the bottom corner.
The goal seemed to spur Risca on, however, and they quickly added a fourth, Sam Palmer pouncing on a misplaced pass from Aaron Jones to play in Tom Berry for his hat-trick.
Despite a tactical switch that saw captain Cai Owens deployed up front for the last fifteen minutes, some sustained pressure from Lido couldn’t find that all-important opening. With the Seasiders pressing forward at every opportunity, Risca eventually broke quickly and capitalised by adding a fifth with two minutes to go. Camden Duncan breezed past Ben Burns on the right wing and fired in a cross which was turned home by Leon Thomas.
It was the story of the match, with Lido’s bright attacking movement undone by some inexperienced defensive play.
Nevertheless, the Lido management team will be encouraged by a return to action and the adaptability of all the players and officials in adhering to the unfamiliar protocols.