By Jonathan Twigg
THE first-ever FA Cup meeting between Swansea and Tottenham on Saturday (Mar 17) saw the Welsh wizards unceremoniously dismantled in the quarter final, their first in fifty four years thanks to a sublime performance from midfielder Christian Eriksen in a 3-0 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
The North London aristocrats arrived with their usual pomp and ceremony and left South Wales in the knowledge the hosts will not be invading Wembley, Spurs temporary home ground as White Hart Lane is refurbished, although post-match, manager Carlos Carvalhal diminished any thoughts the result would impact on his goal of premier league survival.
Around the time of the Swans last foray into the latter stages of the FA Cup, Cliff Richard and the Shadows had a number one hit single ‘Summer Holiday’, where the fun and laughter of a summer holiday left no worries for me or you’, despite there being no further welsh involvement as Spurs became the first side since Southend United in 1976 to win two games against Welsh opposition in an FA Cup run.
‘We’re going where the sun shines brightly, we’re going where the sea is blue; Swans fans have seen it in the movies and but will now have to wait at least another season to savour the atmosphere and occasion of Wembley in an FA Cup tie.
Perhaps memories of a tough tackling wing back from the post war period can be dusted off; Arthur Willis, capped once for his country against France and part of the Spurs 1950 Division 1 winning side, the Yorkshire man signed for Swansea Town in 1954 and made 96 appearances before journeying further west to take up the reigns as player manager of Haverfordwest County at the Bridge Meadow.
Willis, who died in the Town in 1987 aged 67 brought a professionalism to the Welsh league side where he was able to coerce the best local talent amongst those more seasoned campaigners from up the line.
Local rivals Pembroke Boro had lifted the title in two of the previous three years before the Bluebirds were successful for the first time in 1956/7, something the Pembrokeshire public wouldn’t witness again until 1980/1, Willis mantra like that which Pochettino has seen evolve at Spurs.
Referee Kevin Friend oversaw the fixture with a bitterly cold north westerly wind swirling around as the dark blue shirted visitors kicked off with the Video Assistant Referee Stuart Attwell in place for subjective decisions, an early call being Nathan Dyer being felled in the area by goalkeeper Michel Vorm in a strong but fair challenge, after a fantastic through ball from Tammy Abraham.
The opening goal came after 11 minutes midfielder Eriksen curled a peach of a left foot strike beyond Nortfeldt after exchanging passes with Lamela having been given the freedom of the Swansea as he was unchallenged in moving 30 yards forward.
Tottenham’s quality from playing football in tight pockets nearly drew a second goal when a long winded VAR review stood by the Assistant Referees call of offside as the match was certainly a one sided affair.
With ten minutes left of the opening half Dyer and Clucas raised the home crowd of 17498 expectations an interlude, Ericksons left foot drive getting a fingertip save from Nordfelt and Dier spooning a header over from six yards.
McNaughton, tentative against his former side was disposed of possession as the game meandered into injury time, with Lamela placing a classy right foot shot beyond Nordfelt, the game and Swansea’s foray into a potential semi-final ended.
Carvalhal, mercurial in his analysis called Narsingh off the bench for McNaughton after the half time oranges, Olsson immediately pulling a blinding save off former Swansea goal stopper Vorm, who like Lazarus was off the ground to save a point blank diving header from Abraham.
Dier drew an equally stunning save from Nordfelt at full stretch all within five minutes of the restart where Swansea had some bite in their game, coming on the front foot until Erickson killed the game just after the hour following some sustained build up play.
Spurs are on their way to Wembley, home from home for their supporters, the first time since 1981/2 when they have reached back to back semi-finals. Reflective as the Spurs go marching on that maybe the suitcase required for the summer holiday was not a realistic thought, Carvalhal having greater plans and better destinations than Wembley.
Supporters can rekindle the romance of the Cup, former Police Chief Superintendent John Daniels a mere 14 year old Ammanford schoolboy when he followed the path to Villa Park in 1964.
Much water has travelled down the river since those halcyon days for John, a potential blockbuster role in the pipeline if the book on ‘Seal Bay’ makes the cinema screens.
Now brandishing a white lining on top, more than a fair splattering of snow, he will have to wait a little longer for a trip to Wembley, his suitcase holding the memories of yesteryear and perhaps more importantly the faith he holds in Carvalhal’s renaissance, a true Jack to a King story.
Swans still sweet on Premier League survival
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.
Street reserves reach cup semis
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.
Borth well beaten
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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