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.
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.
Nuemann set to make first start for Wales
FULLBACK Lisa Neumann will make her first start for Wales at Donnybrook this Sunday (Feb 25) (15:00) in Round Three of the Women’s Six Nations.
The 23-year-old from Pembrokeshire is the only new player in the starting line-up to face Ireland. Meanwhile, loosehead prop Cara Hope could win her first international cap from the bench.
“Lisa has been pushing hard for a place in the starting team and she deserves her opportunity this Sunday,” said Phillips, who has enjoyed the benefit of having former Wales international Gareth Wyatt coaching the backs since the start of the tournament. “We have a lot of talented back-three players in the squad, so we think Lisa will slot in well alongside Hannah Bluck and Jess Kavanagh-Williams – two players who pose threats from the wing.”
Phillips recently spoke about his team not being burdened by an “emotional hangover” from the result at the Twickenham Stoop, and insists that preparations for Ireland have been geared towards one thing. “We need to show that we’re improving in the areas that we’ve been working on this year,” said Phillips. “This will be a game between two very evenly-matched teams, and coming off the back of the last match we’re very keen to give a good account of ourselves.”
The last time both teams met in competition was during the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August – a game Wales won by 10 points at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. However, Phillips says that result won’t count for much come Sunday in Donnybrook, particularly after Ireland’s winning performance in a pre-Women’s Six Nations friendly with Wales in Ystrad Mynach earlier this year.
“Ireland were competing for a Grand Slam going into the final game of the competition last year, so we know how much of a strong team they are. The World Cup was a bit of an anomaly for them, so they’ve had a point to prove since then.
“They’ve got a lot of new personnel across the board, but the team is settled and experienced. It’s up for us to show what we’re about as a team. We’ll certainly be prepared for a hugely competitive match in front of a boisterous Irish crowd this Sunday.”
Wales Women team to face Ireland:
15 Lisa Neumann (Scarlets)
14 Hannah Bluck (Cardiff Blues)
13 Kerin Lake (Ospreys)
12 Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons)
11 Jess Kavanagh-Williams (RGC)
10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)
9 Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues)
1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets)
2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys)
3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)
4 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)
6 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets)
7 Beth Lewis (Scarlets)
8 Sioned Harries (Scarlets)
16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)
17 Cara Hope (Ospreys)*
18 Meg York (Dragons)
19 Natalia John (Ospreys)
20 Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets)
21 Jade Knight (Scarlets)
22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)
23 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)
Biggar, Williams and Halfpenny in Wales team to face Ireland
WALES have made three changes to their starting XV to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (KO 14.15) with British & Irish Lions trio Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny all returning to the side.
Biggar has recovered from a shoulder injury to make his 61st appearance for his country and will line up alongside Gareth Davies at half-back.
Halfpenny and Williams join Steff Evans in the back-three with Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams continuing their partnership in the midfield.
Wales have named an unchanged pack for the trip to Dublin. The all-Scarlets front-row of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee feature for a third consecutive game. Cory Hill partners captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row with Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty comprising the back-row.
“It is great to be able to bring so much experience back into the starting XV and into the backline,” said head coach Warren Gatland, who will take charge of Wales for the 100th time.
“It is the first week we have had everyone in the ‘green’ in terms of availability which is a nice luxury to have and a positive ahead of what is a very important test match against a very good Ireland side.
“We have been pleased with the depth we have developed in the back-three and pleased with how those players have gone but having the experience of Dan, Liam and Leigh coming back in is hugely important.
“We have been pleased with how the forward pack has been going and how they have worked as a unit but as always there is pressure for them to perform too.”
Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis are named as the front-row replacements with Bradley Davies and Justin Tipuric completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe and George North provide the back-line cover.
Wales Team to play Ireland:
Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (75 Caps)
Liam Williams (Saracens) (45 Caps)
Scott Williams (Scarlets) (53 Caps)
Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (3 Caps)
Steff Evans (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
Dan Biggar (Ospreys) (60 Caps)
Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (29 Caps)
Rob Evans (Scarlets) (22 Caps)
Ken Owens (Scarlets) (54 Caps)
Samson Lee (Scarlets) (35 Caps)
Cory Hill (Dragons) (12 Caps)
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (115 Caps) CAPT
Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (15 Caps)
Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (9 Caps)
Ross Moriarty (Gloucester) (19 Caps)
Elliot Dee (Dragons) (4 Caps)
Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (28 Caps)
Bradley Davies (Ospreys) (59 Caps)
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (54 Caps)
Aled Davies (Scarlets) (7 Caps)
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) (13 Caps)
George North (Northampton Saints) (70 Caps)
Aber earn a point against Prestatyn
ABERYSTWYTH Town battled to a 1-1 draw against a resolute Prestatyn Town side, in a frantic JD Welsh Premier League clash at Park Avenue on Friday night (Feb 16).
Geoff Kellaway’s 78th minute header was enough to earn Aber a point after Damian Ketley had given the visitors a 20th minute lead, in a game where the home side saw a host of golden opportunities go begging.
Aber manager Nev Powell named an unchanged side from last weekend’s home victory against Llandudno, and his side got off to a bright start as John Owen struck his half volley narrowly over the crossbar after just 2 minutes.
Soon after, Aber were on the attack again as Declan Walker tried his luck from range, before Owen dragged his left footed effort wide of the post.
But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 20th minute with their first effort on target. After Noah Edwards’ corner kick was headed clear in the penalty area, the ball ricocheted for Damian Ketley who prodded the ball home inside the 6 yard box to make it 1-0.
Aber responded well to going behind, continuing to play the ball through the midfield trio of Tom Owens, Damien Allen and Malcolm Melvin, and on 30 minutes came close to finding the equaliser as Ryan Wade volleyed straight into the palms of Carl Jones in the Prestatyn goal.
The hosts continued to press for a way back into the game as Jones saved Tom Owens’ tame header, before Joe Phillips’ curling effort sailed just over the crossbar, but it was to remain 1-0 at half time with much work to do in the second 45 minutes.
Aber striker Craig Hobson was introduced at half time in place of Joe Phillips, as Town looked for an immediate impact from the target man.
Soon after the restart, the hosts saw another glorious chance go begging as John Owen chested the ball down in the penalty area before seeing his shot bounce off Jones and behind for a corner.
Then, on 54 minutes came the game’s most controversial moment, as the referee brandished a red card for Prestatyn sub Zebb Edwards after he appeared to use foul and abusive language.
This swung the momentum of the game in Aber’s favour even further, as Geoff Kellaway and Luke Borelli were introduced in place of Tom Owens and Ryan Wade.
On 70 minutes, Kellaway almost had an immediate impact as he scampered down the left flank before crossing dangerously, only for Dave Hayes to produce a vital block.
Then, on 78 minutes Aber finally found their equaliser, as Malcolm Melvin cut inside before providing an inch-perfect cross for Kellaway to glance home an excellent header beyond Jones to make it 1-1.
Suddenly the home supporters found their voices as they urged their team forwards to find the winner.
To their credit, the 10-man visitors were defending admirably, harrying and hassling Aber all over the pitch.
On 82 minutes, Town thought they’d found the winning goal, as John Owen deflected in Hobson’s glancing header, only for the linesman’s offside flag to deny the front man.
As the game entered the final minutes, Aber continued to huff and puff without blowing the house down.
In the dying seconds, the hosts pushed for one final opportunity, as Ashley Young launched the ball into the penalty area, where Declan Walker’s attempted overhead kick fell to Damien Allen, who’s right footed shot flew agonisingly wide of the far post.
Unfortunately it just wasn’t Aber’s night as they were forced to settle for a point, in a game that could have been so different had they taken their opportunities.
Nevertheless, Nev Powell’s side still remain 10 points clear of bottom side Prestatyn Town, and move to within 4 points of the Europa League play-off spot in the JD Welsh Premier League table.
Aber must now turn their attentions to Sunday’s (Feb 25) huge JD Welsh Premier League clash with west Wales rivals Carmarthen Town at Richmond Park, kick off at 5:15pm.
Popular This Week
News1 week ago
Llangrannog: Dog rescued from cliffs reunited with owners
News2 weeks ago
Electric charging points to be installed at council offices
News2 weeks ago
Public litter picking events to be held in Ceredigion
News4 days ago
Richards-Keegan cleared of sending underage girl nude pictures
News1 week ago
‘Deeply troubled’ teen took own life
News6 days ago
Child sex offender will receive ‘considerable and lengthy’ prison sentence
News2 weeks ago
Paddle gates to be installed at public toilets
Sport5 days ago
Bow Street through to League Cup quarter finals