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Swans have the scent for survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SATURDAY (Feb 10) saw the Liberty Stadium in Swansea witness a ‘turf war’, won by the commemorative, Chinese New Year shirt wearing home side 1-0.

Visitors Burnley continued their miserable winless run which started on December 12, whilst Carlos Carvalhal’s side are now nine games unbeaten, lifting themselves clear of the relegation zone.

“You don’t have to see it; you smell it” can be attributed to an egocentric player who patrolled the left wing for both clubs four decades, Leighton James.

Saturday’s contest was fractious with neither side gaining ascendency, requiring the input of a mercurial talent like James, winner of 54 Welsh caps after his international in October 1971 against Czechoslovakia in Prague.

How former Swan, Jack Cork would have liked a smudging of the influence imposed by James in scoring 124 goals from 645 games to rub off on him, whilst the home faithful welcomed Andre Ayew to the bench, following his £16 million return from West Ham.

Brother Jordan was leading the line and loan signing Andy King also warming the splinters because the Premier Leagues newest ‘Tinkerman’ has taken his side from the depths of the Ocean to now have their heads above water.

This Portuguese man of war is wary of the sharks around him but can see the coastline of the promised land and knows how to get there, with James’ analogy from bygone years, ringing true.

James made his league debut for the Turf Moor outfit in November 1970 against Nottingham Forest, returning twice to the North West in a career which saw him transfer for a mammoth £310,000 to Derby in 1975.

He left Burnley for a second time in 1978 when they were relegated to the third division and signed for Swansea City helping them from the third division to the first division in the heady days of the John Toshack era. He had spells with Sunderland, Bury and Newport County before he retired in 1989 when at Burnley, to explore more avenues.

James, in his punditry role would have vilified Olsson for diving which brought a yellow card before half time, alongside Ayew, Clucas and Ki Sung Yeung’s efforts to hit the target.

They needed to watch the matchday mascot in the half time break as Neyland Pirate Ethan Blockwell gave goalkeeper ‘Cyril the Swan’ a lesson in finishing.

The East stand corner were drumming the beat as everything remained black and white; Johann Gudmundsson forcing a save from Lucas Fabianski, before Andre Ayew made his entrance to replace Olsson after Jeff Hendrick snagged a yellow card for stopping brother Jordan’s charge.

The side needed new life; brothers in arms, possibly ‘Kolo or Yaya’ were joined by Tammy Abraham, the Tinkerman’s batteries now recharged with a ‘Triple A’ strike force taking the game to Burnley.

Referee Marriner received queries over his parentage as Pope made a wonder save to deny Abraham, Jordan Ayew and Kyle Naughton smashed shots goalward, before the breakthrough came with six minutes remaining.

Ki hammered home the winner from the edge of the box after Naughton and Jordan Ayew’s silky build up play invoked the loudest rendition of ‘Land of my Fathers’ west of Twickenham.

Ethan Blockwell: The Neyland Pirate was a match day mascot as Swansea beat Burnley 1-0

Sean Dyche’s side were reduced to humping long balls which drew no change from Alfie Mawson and skipper Frederico Fernandez and when the new King ‘of Wales’ came across the drawbridge for his debut to replace ‘Prince Jordan’, a crescendo of choral voices greeted the signal of four additional minutes without fear.

James tried his hand at management in the League of Wales with Llanelli, taking in spells also at Garden Village and Haverfordwest but he didn’t enjoy the success Carvalhal has kindled way down by the sea.

An echo from the beach portrays the words of Martha and the Muffins from 1979, James surely remembering the wish for the sun not to go down. He didn’t need to see the ball; he could smell it and Carvalhal has the scent of survival from the sea as he approaches a return to his previous Club Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday (Feb 17).

The Swans travel to Hillsborough in search of a place in the FA Cup quarter final for the first time since 1964, where they eventually lost to Preston North End 2-1 in the semi-final at Villa Park, with the backing of the Jack Army who are enjoying the fruits of the BBQ served by Carvalhal.

Sport

Swans still sweet on Premier League survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SWANSEA’s clamber through the trials and tribulations of the Premier League can be compared to that of a child running amok in a sweet shop, so many tantalising favourites to devour, with the occasional reminder that not all sweets are sweet.

A retro walk down the Bridge Meadow Lane would have taken a child past the shop run by Connie Clarke, renowned for her welcome on the bell clanging. Supporters of Haverfordwest County and their opponents on match day, welcomed with few words but with the knowledge her confectionary delights never failed to deliver.

Following Saturday’s (Apr 14) 1-1 draw with Everton, who arrived without former Swans stars Ashley Williams and Gylfi Sigurdsson in their line-up, supporters left knowing the sweet taste of success held by the Premier League is still within their grasp.

With two of the bottom three to visit the Liberty in the final week of the season this point is one gained in search of extending their Premier League status to an eighth season, although manager Carlos Carvalhal nearly led his side to five consecutive home wins, something no other manager has done since the heady days of John Toshack in 1981.

Swansea welcomed Jordan Ayew back from a three game suspension to partner elder brother Andre as Bolton based referee Lee Mason began the game in front of 20,933, the returning brother setting the tone alongside Andy King at a sun drenched Liberty Stadium.

Carvalhal has worked some magic since his arrival on the cusp of Christmas, tactically leaving opposite number former England supremo Sam Allerdyce to venture to the touchline with his pocket ball side kick Sammy Lee to stem the tide; the blues were overrun in midfield, Jordan Ayew having a wonderful chance cleared off the line as was captain Frederico Fernadez header from the resultant corner, before Andre’s sight of goal was saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Alfie Mawson has grown to be imperial at the back for the Swans, attracting the interest of Manchester United, one of those mints that the longer you savour, the better it lingers. Luciano Narsingh however can be likened more to a quickly dissolving peppermint cream, releasing the taste with speed, rousing the Jack Army with an immediate hit, succulent whilst it lasts, inspiring the Swans to drive forward.

Former England captain Wayne Rooney had one of those games, like an aniseed ball, many unable to relish his taste as he left his mark, literally with some raking tackles; his class, undoubted, when it finally came to the fore.

An opening goal came with the aid of goal line technology, just before half time, Lucas Fabianski brilliantly making a double save from Bolasie, before a ricochet off Kyle Naughton and a half time lead, Fabianski thankfully however saving from Cenk Tosun a minute later.

Jordan became the first recipient of a yellow card in the second half, substitute Nathan Dyer creating a stir as the game went up by a level with a sugar surge, the vocal chords tingled with honey from a locket, in the form of striker Tammy Abraham’s arrival.

Full backs McNaughton and Martin Olsson created chances, Tom Carroll serving buckets of sweet balls, to no avail; Dyer driving forward over from twenty yards, Abraham and the Ayews creating half chances, Mawson’s header cleared off the line before the full quarter was served, Jordan levelling the game with a right foot half volley.

The final fifteen minutes rocked the stadium once more, after dinner mints were all Swansea’s, although Seamus Coleman thundered a shot against the woodwork, Abraham missed a gilt edged opportunity at the other end, whilst a tall and well positioned defensive wall directed Rooney’s set piece opportunity over the bar.

Extra strong mints were needed, alas unavailable as the toffees held firm, not fudging their lines with Beni Baningime taking a yellow card for the team, the games conclusion seeing a share of the spoils.

Carvalhal’s magic stars will have to be at their best to out fox and unwrap three points on Sunday (Apr 22) when opponents Manchester City will have champagne liquor chocolates on hand, having been crowned Premier League champions.

Swansea then have the opportunity to welcome Chelsea to ‘fortress’ Liberty the week after; wispa it quietly, as many have their eyes on the final weeks’ trio of games, starting with a trip to the South Coast in search of the bounty available at Dean Park, Bournemouth, before a starburst performance at home to Southampton on the Tuesday and Stoke City for a final day picnic. There can be no wine gums on show, just the everlasting gobstopper which is Premier League football.

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Sport

Street reserves reach cup semis

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BOW Street Reserves progressed to the semi-finals of The Len and Julia Newman Cup following a very competitive quarter final against a very good Bont team on Monday night (Apr 9).

A closely contested first half saw both sides create and miss chances but Ryan Evans and Shaun Jones converted two of the home side’s opportunities.

The second goal coming after a superb tackle by John James in his own area stopped a certain Bont equaliser.

Bont piled the pressure on at the beginning of the second half but were unable to convert any chances.

Then, the game’s outstanding player, Joe Williams scored a splendid individual goal to clinch the tie.

Osian Burrell then scored the fourth, before Bont responded with a consolation. Jac Williams with a header scored the final goal of an entertaining evening.

Manager Rhodri Jones was satisfied with the evening’s work adding: “I am delighted with the performance and the result and I feel that all the boys did extremely well against a good Bont side”.

Team: R Evans, Osian Rees Jones, J James, M Williams, S Dewdon, S Harrison, J Williams, R Evans, G ap Dafydd, S Jones, I Evans. Subs: O Burrell, J Quinn, Jac Williams, N Burrell.

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Borth well beaten

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WITH no sign of an improvement in the wet weather Borth entertained Llanrhaeadr at Park Avenue’s 3G pitch on Saturday (Mar 31), with the visitors arriving in second position in the league and well placed with five games in hand on Division 1 leaders Welshpool.

It took them only ten minutes to score the opening goal with Joe Vaughan netting through a crowded goalmouth and they nearly doubled the lead on twenty five minutes but Khyam Whytton’s bullet header bounced off the crossbar to safety.

To their credit Borth responded well and Ryan Edwards’s free kick wasn’t dealt with by the visitors hesitant defence and Dale Lloyd was on hand to score on his first team debut.

Slowly but surely Llanrhaeadr took control in the next few minutes with Mark Griffiths scoring twice plus an unlucky own goal by a Borth defender gave the visitors a handy 4-1 lead at the interval.

Borth resumed the second half with purpose and within five minutes reduced the lead as Dale Lloyds’s ferocious free kick was fumbled by visiting keeper Harri Matthews and the alert Ryan Edwards scored from the rebound.

However, in the next few minutes Llanrhaeadr took firm control of the match with Khyam Whytton scoring two headed goals.

As the match reached its conclusion Dan Graham scored a well-deserved hat trick for a comprehensive 9-2 win for Llanrhaeadr.

The score doesn’t complement Borth’s all-round team commitment against a well-organized Llanrhaeadr team, but the visitors run up play and clinical finishing proved to be the difference on the day.

Machynlleth picked up a victory on Saturday, Borth now slip to the bottom of the table on goal difference and they are ten points from safety.

With two home games coming up on Saturday (Apr 7) and the following Saturday (Apr 14) against the sides third and fourth from bottom respectively in Kerry and Churchstoke, Borth will be targeting two wins as they look to make up that gap.

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