Haverfordwest County secured a spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round by beating Newtown on penalties at Latham Park on Saturday evening.
The game finished 1-1 after 120 minutes following first half goals from Jordan Davies and Aaron Williams, before the Bluebirds held their nerve from 12 yards for the second week in a row.
After the two clubs mutually agreed to make tickets free for all supporters, a crowd of 1,862 packed into Latham Park – the biggest JD Cymru Premier attendance of the season.
The magnitude and tense nature of the tie was clear in the opening 15 minutes, as both teams were cautious on the ball and hesitant going forward, while the two goalkeepers suffered shaky moments on the ball.
Haverfordwest fired a warning sign in the 21st minute when Rhys Abbruzzese delivered a dangerous ball into the box to Dan Hawkins, who was flagged offside but he forced a good save from Dave Jones.
The opening goal arrived three minutes later from a similar situation. This time it was Dylan Rees who lofted the ball into the area and after Craig Williams failed to deal with it, Haverfordwest top scorer Davies pounced to turn the ball home.
Newtown almost responded instantly as Jake Walker surged forward from kick-off before seeing his shot blocked by Oscar Borg, while Zeli Ismail lashed a volley over the bar as the Robins continued to push for an equaliser.
The hosts got their goal in the 38th minute when Nick Rushton released Craig Williams down the right flank and the Newtown captain delivered a perfect cross to the back post where Aaron Williams was waiting to nod in his 19th goal of the campaign.
The two sides went in level at the break, but Newtown almost took the lead with two big chances in the opening 90 seconds of the second half. Zac Jones did well to save a fierce effort from Ismail, while Rushton fired over the bar after the ball had been worked back into the box.
Haverfordwest were the more dangerous side as the half wore on, with Corey Shephard going close just before the hour mark as his ferocious strike from distance was bravely deflected wide Shane Sutton.
While much of the play throughout the afternoon was patient build up, it was nearly a fast break away that earned the Bluebirds a goal. A superb through ball from Shephard sent Jack Wilson racing away down the right and he flashed a ball across the box which Davies could not quite get on the end of.
Wilson himself had perhaps the biggest chance of the second half when Henry Jones played him in with a delightful ball over the top, but the Haverfordwest academy product blazed wide.
Extra-time beckoned as neither team could find a winning goal in 90 minutes and in truth penalties seemed inevitable from early on in the additional period.
Chances were at a minimum as both sides tired, with Haverfordwest substitute Ioan Evans coming closest as his curling effort was saved by Dave Jones.
So to penalties. Zac Jones was the hero in Haverfordwest’s shootout win over Cardiff Met in the semi-final and he produced another save to deny Aaron Williams, who went straight down the middle with Newtown’s first kick.
After Dylan Rees, Craig Williams, Jack Leahy, Callum Roberts and Jordan Davies all scored for their respective side, a miss from Newtown’s Henry Cowans made it match point to Haverfordwest.
However, Dave Jones kept the Robins in it by saving Ben Fawcett’s effort and Nigel Aris scored from 12 yards to make it 3-3.
It left Corey Shephard to step up to take Haverfordwest’s fifth penalty and he kept his cool to slot home and send the Bluebirds to Europe for the first time in 19 years.
Haverfordwest manager Tony Pennock told Sgorio: “I thought we started the game really brightly, we scored the goal and then went into our shell a bit. Newtown got back in the game, deservedly so. As the game went on, nobody wanted to lose then.
“I am so chuffed for the board, for the supporters. It is massive for the club. The conditions were tough for both teams, it was so hot out there, it wasn’t as high tempo as it normally is. But lady luck is on our side thankfully, so we’ll take it. Commiserations to Newtown, they’re a great football club, one of the best in this division and they have been for a long time.”
“We knew it was going to be tough after finishing seventh, having to go away from home against Met and today at Newtown. The boys have been fantastic.”
Newtown: D Jones, Sears, Sutton, Rushton (Hughes 71’), Robles (Torry 116’), A Williams, Cowans, M Jones (Roberts 85’), C Williams, Ismail (91, Walker
Haverfordwest County: Z Jones, Abbruzzese, Rees, Shephard, H Jones (Evans 86’), Davies, Veale (Leahy 78’), Jenkins, Wilson (Fawcett 105’), Borg (Watts 54’), Hawkins
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