Cardiff Dragons 0 – 11 Newcastle Panthers

A very disappointing afternoon for the Dragons as the harsh realities of the GFSN League set in, but as always a valuable learning experience considering our lack of experience. The game was played in good weather conditions on our excellent new home pitch at the University Playing Fields in Llanrumney. With the two sides meeting on the pitch for the first time the game began fairly evenly with both teams playing some good passing football in the opening 10 minutes, the Dragons employing a 4-5-1 formation for the first time this season – a formation designed to make it easier to play some cohesive football and defend in numbers. This worked well in the initial stages but a combination of unfamiliarity with this system, and poor application, allowed Newcastle to create chances and they were soon 3-0 up after a series of defensive errors allowed the opposition too much space in and around the area.

An injury to Sam Ashton, who was replaced by Lucas Owen in an unfamiliar centre-midfield position, contributed to a continuation with well taken chances and opportunistic finishing the visitors, who found themselves 6-0 up by the 35 minute mark. The Dragons had the odd excursion into Newcastle territory with Lyons having a couple of half chances. The last 10 minutes of the half was more encouraging after Anthony Read exchanged his right-back position with the lost-looking Owen, and despite territory gained by the Dragons, the possession lacked final product.

The second half again started encouragingly for the hosts with some good passing movements allowing Newcastle less time to settle. The half was pretty even for the first 15 minutes but the visitors extended their lead with a fortunate goal as a clearance rebounded to one of their players in front of goal. In a similar vein to the first half this gave the Panthers a lift and they took full opportunity of many of the chances they were allowed with excellent finishing. The Dragons did fashion chances of their own – the best of these falling to Kris Llewellyn and Lyons, but they could not capitalise on these. As usual a good level of fitness and application was shown to the end. Three more Dragons substitutes were introduced for the final 10 minutes as the game was played out with no further goals.

Overall despite the result there was some cohesive football played at times against a team that will be challenging for the title this season. However, a catalogue of individual errors and the squad’s unfamiliarity with playing a 4-5-1 formation contributed to a very harsh scoreline.

Dragons: AMOS, READ, CRIMMINS, GERMAIN, WILSON, M JONES, HARVEY, ASHTON, DA SILVA, LYONS, LLEWELLYN

Subs (all used): OWEN, HUGHES, LOCKWOOD, JOHNSON.

Nottingham Ballbois 8 – 2 Cardiff Dragons

After much hard work over the last year, a piece of Dragons history was created on Sunday when they traveled to Nottingham to play in their first ever GFSN National League game versus Nottingham Ballbois.

With Nottingham defending their title and the Dragons going into unknown territory the game had a slightly nervous feel to it at the beginning with both sides not quite sure what to expect from each other. The score remained goalless for the first 15 minutes with the Ballbois having a couple of shots over the bar from the edge of the area and the Dragons nearly fashioning a good opportunity when Kris Llewellyn was put through but the Ballbois goalkeeper came out quickly to clear the danger. Ballbois then took the lead with an unfortunate own goal following a high ball through the middle. This settled the home side and their experience showed as they dominated the middle of the half scoring further goals with two fine headers from excellent crosses and two close range finishes from crosses which weren’t dealt with.

With the score at 5-0 the Dragons re-organised with Harvey dropping back to assist the defense. Jacobo looked a threat whenever he got the ball but with some mazey runs but the home defense dealt with him well. Lucas Owen fired just over the angle of the goal with a sweet turning left-footed volley from outside the area just before the break, as the Dragons tried to get a foothold back in the game.

Following a half time pep talk the Dragons settled quickly and started the second half in strong fashion having some long spells of play in the Ballbois half with the pressure culminating in a deserved goal, with Harvey finished well from close range following good work by Jacobo. This pressure continued and 5 minutes later a good move down the right saw Lyons reduce the deficit further with a fine header into the corner of the net from a good cross by Chris Crimmins. The Dragons continued to have the bulk of the play and a further excellent opportunity came when Jacobo struck a curling free kick from the edge of the area which was superbly blocked on the line only for the follow up shot also to be well blocked away for a corner.

With the Dragons continuing to cause problems the game became a little heated and, with Nottingham beginning to get anxious, they introduced three substitutes in an attempt to regain control. This paid dividends as, with little to play for, a superb angled shot from the edge of the area flew in off the far post to extend the Ballbois lead to 6-2. The Dragons continued to press and gain good territory with some good long throws from Owen causing problems in the home defence and Lyons having a clear chance from close range but firing just over the bar. With 10 minutes remaining the Ballbois broke and added a 7th goal from a finish following a cross and the scoring was completed when a hopeful punt forward unfortunately caught out goalkeeper Amos and landed in the corner of the net.

Dragons: AMOS, COUSINS, HARVEY, OWEN, READ, WILSON, LLOYD, CRIMMINS, JACOBO, LYONS, LLEWELLYN.
Subs (all used): DA SILVA, JOHNSON, HUGHES