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 through in Central Wales Cup
BOW Street made it through to the third round of the Central Wales Cup on Saturday (Jan 5) as they beat Llansantffraid 3-2 after extra time.
The game was played at Aberystwyth Town’s Park Avenue and Street were keen to pick up victory to start 2019 in style.
Ben Jones scored for the Magpies to make it 1-1 after 90 minutes before the game came to life in extra time.
Llansantffraid took the lead but Dylan James scored to level the scores and he then provided the assist for Jones to score his second to make it 3-2 and send the Street through.
Street will be keen to carry on their good cup form on Saturday (Jan 12) as they travel to Cefn Albion for a fifth round tie in the FAW Trophy.
Elsewhere, Aberaeron bowed out as they were beaten 4-1 at home by Llanilar.
Ceredigion League Division 1 side Ffostrasol were also knocked out as they lost 3-0 away at Hay St Marys.
Llandysul suffered a 5-0 defeat to Kerry while Penrhyncoch conceded their tie with Llanidloes, having played a league game the day before.
Street edged out by Llani
BOW Street suffered a narrow defeat on Saturday (Dec 29), as they were beaten 1-0 by Mid Wales League Division 1 leaders Llanidloes Town.
Having been held to a 1-1 draw with Aberaeron on Boxing Day, Street welcomed the leaders looking to cause an upset.
Credit must go to the Cae Piod groundsmen who ensured the overnight downpour didn’t affect the game.
After an even start, Llani were given a penalty with just over half an hour gone but Alex Pennock made an excellent save to keep the scores level.
However, just moments later the visitors did take the lead as they grabbed the only goal of the game with ten first half minutes still to play.
Llion Jenkins’ pile driver cracked the cross bar from 25 yards but the ball fell to George Clarke who tapped in the rebound to make it 0-1.
In the second half, Ryan Biggs saw red for a foul but both sides agreed that the punishment was a little harsh.
Bow Street threw everything at their opponents as they looked for the equaliser in the last half an hour but were unable to find a way through.
Llani defended well to keep their clean sheet intact and despite seven minutes of added on time they held on for the win.
Street currently sit second from bottom in the table but will take a break from league action on Saturday (Jan 5), as they welcome Llansantffraid in the second round of the Central Wales Challenge Cup.
Aber’s top six hopes dented
ABERYSTWYTH Town’s hopes of securing a top six finish in the JD Welsh Premier League took a blow over the festive period following two defeats to Newtown.
The first, on Boxing Day, saw them slip to a 2-0 defeat at Park Avenue after goals from Steve Leslie and Nick Rushton.
Then, on Sunday (Dec 30), they were beaten 2-1 at Latham Park after a first half goal from Neil Mitchell and another from Rushton in the second half.
Manager Nev Powell made three changes to the side defeated by the Robins on Boxing Day, with Alan Goodall, Geoff Kellaway and Rio Ahmadi entering the starting line-up.
In similar fashion to the Boxing Day clash, it was Newtown who started the game faster, and they took the lead with their first meaningful attack of the game as Callum Roberts crossed for Neil Mitchell to head home within the opening 90 seconds to make it 1-0.
Despite the early setback, Aber fought their way back into the game and tested home keeper Dave Jones with long range efforts from Wes Baynes and Rio Ahmadi.
On 13 minutes, the Seasiders carved out their best opening yet as Geoff Kellaway forced jones into a fine save after breaking free on the left side of the penalty area. But as the first half wore on, the game became a closely contested affair with neither side able to carve out any clear opportunities and the hosts would enter the break with the advantage.
The Black and Greens started the second half in much brighter fashion, and very nearly equalised on 50 minutes when Paulo Mendes saw his header smartly saved by Jones in goal.
Then, on 56 minutes the visitors went closer still, as Rio Ahmadi cut inside and fired a low effort from outside the area against the base of the post. It seemed a matter of time before Aber were back on level terms, but on 60 minutes came the sucker punch that all but sealed three points for the Robins.
Sam Phillips broke free on the edge of the area before playing in Nick Rushton, who rifled a shot into the bottom corner of the net to make it 2-0 very much against the run of play.
Soon after, they almost well and truly buried the Seasiders as Luke Boundford went through one-on-one with Terry McCormick, but the Aber keeper stood strong and produced an excellent save to smother the shot.
Substitutes Ash Ruane and Joe Phillips were introduced in place of Kellaway and Ryan Edwards, and soon after Aber went close once more as Ryan Wollacott met Mathew Jones’ corner, only to see his header cleared off the line.
As stoppage time approached, Aber did find a way back into the game as Declan Walker flicked the ball through for Ahmadi, who produced a neat chip into the corner of the net to make it 1-2 with five minutes of additional time remaining.
In the very last minute of stoppage time, Paulo Mendes appeared to be fouled in the penalty area, only for his appeals to be waved away by referee Cheryl Foster, and the Seasiders would leave Latham Park empty handed.
It was an improved performance from the Seasiders’ previous defeats, but manager Nev Powell will be disappointed his side were unable to convert the chances they carved out at Latham Park on Sunday afternoon.
Town now face a real uphill battle to finish in the league’s top six as they welcome Conah’s Quay Nomads to Park Avenue on Friday evening (Jan 4) in the JD Welsh Premier League.
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