Deryn Brace already has "player-manager" next to his name on the Carmarthen Town AFC roster and perhaps they should look to add the words "emergency goalkeeper" as well after his exploits in the Welsh Cup quarter-finals.
When regular No1 Neil Thomas was forced off with an injury during their home tie with Port Talbot Town FC, the Carmarthen boss got stripped, donned the gloves and proceeded to make a couple of important saves to force extra time. Then, with the scores tied at 1-1 after the additional 30 minutes, he stopped Port Talbot's first two penalties in the shoot-out to ensure his side went through to a semi-final meeting with west Wales rivals Aberystwyth Town FC.
"I seem to be getting the headlines but it was not about me, it was a 14-man effort," said the modest Brace. "It wasn't a game that will stick out in terms of quality but it certainly had drama and tension and we're just delighted to have come through to fight another day."
Amazingly, he has no goalkeeping pedigree to speak of having spent all his playing career as a defender, but for some time has been the replacement when emergencies dictate. "As we are only allowed three substitutes you don't find many Welsh Premier League sides putting another keeper on the bench and unfortunately we don't have anyone else who's a natural stand-in," Brace said. "I have done it a couple of times before and it is better that way than to disrupt the formation by switching one of the ten outfield players to go in goal."
The victory means Carmarthen are well placed to win the trophy they last lifted in 2007. The other semi-final brings together Bangor City FC and division one minnows Bridgend Town FC. First, though, Brace's men, who lie fourth after a run of ten wins in 12 Premier League games since mid-November, will endeavour to put more pressure on The New Saints FC who are five points better off but who have also played two games more. Following a 3-0 win against Haverfordwest County AFC on Tuesday, a tough test comes this weekend at Richmond Park when they host leaders Rhyl FC who have reeled off nine successive league wins of their own.
"We knew at the start of the week that our season could be over with the cup game followed immediately by these two league games," continued Brace. "The lads are focused and we want to keep the run going. Rhyl are doing very well and the title is in their hands. All the top three have had financial backing but it's still up to the boys on the pitch to produce the goods consistently and they have done that."
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