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.
Aber settle for a point in entertaining draw
IN the driving wind and rain at the eye of Storm Callum well over 200 hardy souls turned out for another exciting evening of JD Welsh Premier League football at Park Avenue on Friday night (Oct 12), and they were rewarded with an engrossing game.
With defences on top neither side did quite enough to make the breakthrough, though the hosts did end up numerically on top following Noah Edwards’ late red card.
Declan Walker, who had moved to right wing for this game, made the most of the extra space and fired an early howitzer wide.
With Aber’s Ryan Wollacott and Allan Goodall excelling at the back against the burly Jamie Breese, the visitors were creating chances and Matthew Jones cleared one goalbound effort off the line.
Danny Brookwell’s right footed shot was easy for Terry McCormick in Aber’s goal, then at the other end the superb Paolo Mendes curled in a fantastic ball to Ash Ruane, who fell in the box before pulling the trigger. Aber’s penalty cries however were in vain.
Breese and Brookwell had further half chances saved, then Rio Ahmadi for hit the side netting at the other end. Walker flashed a shot past the post and Ruane had a low effort parried in Aber’s late rally but both defences were on top in a high quality first half and the teams went in at 0-0.
Into the second half and the chances kept coming. Ryan Edwards, who was dancing down the wing all night had Town’s first effort, and then Goodall made the tackle of the night, a real goal saver to deny Breese who was through and seemed certain to score.
A nice move from Aber saw Mendes burst through the middle but his shot skewed wide, before McCormick was again called into action to superbly tip over Brookwell’s shot from the left side.
Walker saw another attempt off target, and then Ruane, who had been terrorising Ryan Williams all night, finally got goal side, but saw his goalbound effort go narrowly wide.
Walker tested Alex Ramsey in Caernarfon’s goal with a free kick before Gareth Evans hot the post with a curling effort from inside the area.
In the driving rain the chances kept coming with Ryan Edwards and Mendes the next to shoot in vain, and then with nine minutes to go Caernarfon’s Noah Edwards was show a straight red card for an ugly lunge at Declan Walker.
The hosts dominated the last ten minutes with sub Joe Phillips twice denied by Ramsey, but in truth the draw was a fair result and both sets of players should feel proud having put on a good evening’s entertainment in awful conditions.
The point takes Aber back up into eighth place and Nev Powell’s side now have two away games to try and kick on if they are to make a challenge for the top six, at Llandudno on Saturday (Oct 20, ko 2.30pm), and Llanelli on Friday, October 26 (ko 7.45pm).
Dominant Aber beat Pembroke in Plate
ABERYSTWYTH went through to the second round of the WRU Bowl on Saturday (Sept 29) as they beat Pembroke 50-5.
Last season’s Bowl runners-up Pembroke were unable to field a full strength side however with a number of first team players injured or unavailable.
Although the score suggests a very one-sided match, Pembroke deserve credit for challenging and testing the visitors from the start to the final whistle and their effort deserved more than the five points they scored.
With a few enforced changes it took a while for Aber to settle down, but after an evenly contested opening ten minutes Sam Hesden drove downfield and offloaded to Dorian Jones. He was stopped and from the resulting ruck the ball was passed out along the backs. Llyr Thomas came into the line from full-back to create an overlap for winger Jack Rees to race over for a try that was very well converted by Steff Rees.
Pembroke hit back immediately and from a lineout near the Aber line they caught and drove over to open their account with Dom Colman credited with the try. The conversion was missed but at 5-7 ahead Aber had to work hard as the hosts won and retained possession very well and ran fiercely at the Aber defence. When Aber won the ball they used their backs intelligently and only a dropped pass prevented winger Matthew Wright from racing away to score.
The visitors worked their way upfield and after impressive carrying, supporting and offloading – a welcome feature of their game throughout the afternoon – skipper Arwel Lloyd burst on to a pass to cross for a try to put Aber 5-12 ahead.
Aber’s next try was a beauty. Scrum-half Griff Jones, making a welcome return to Aber colours, dummied and broke from a ruck near the half-way line, he raced upfield and passed to Matthew Hughes in support. He then ran with Hughes for the return pass to score a lovely try which Steff Rees converted to close the first half at 5-19.
The opening ten minutes of the second half was very evenly fought, but Aber’s tackling throughout the match was impressive. They put in a high kick downfield but the catcher’s pass was dropped. Jack Rees pounced to scoop up the ball and race over for his second try of the afternoon. Steff Rees put in a fine conversion and the visitors moved up to 5-26.
A good break by Matthew Wright then took Aber deep into the Pembroke half. When he was stopped, Griff Jones fed the rampaging Arwel Lloyd who ran through a number of tackles before offloading for James Plumbridge to feed try scorer Matthew Hughes.
At 5-31 Aber were comfortable and substitutions were made with no detriment at all to the team’s performance.
The visitors’ next try came from a Pembroke scrum 30 metres from their own line. The hosts won the ball but a dropped pass enabled Matthew Hughes to collect and feed Matthew Wright. He made ground before passing inside to the ever-supporting Arwel Lloyd who scored his second try of the day. Steff Rees converted and Aber moved on to 5-38.
The skipper claimed his hat-trick of tries from a lineout catch by Dan Binks. The drive forward collapsed but Lloyd was again on hand to barge over crowning an excellent performance which not even a bloodied head could spoil. Steff Rees converted to put Aber up to 5-45.
The visitors closed their scoring after an excellent long penalty kick by Llyr Thomas found touch near the home side’s 5 metre line. They won the lineout and fed the ball out for Owain Bonsall to pass to brother Steffan to score the final try. The conversion rebounded from the post but Aber were comfortably into Round 2 having won 5-50.
The second round draw was made earlier in the week and Aber’s win means has seen them earn a home tie against Bonymaen, with that fixture taking place on Saturday (Oct 27).
Borth comeback sends Street packing
BORTH United made it through to the first round proper of the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (Sept 29) as two late goals earned them a 2-1 win.
This much anticipated local derby began in glorious sunshine at Cae Piod and in a tense opening to the match the hosts took the lead within two minutes as Tom Williams’s glancing header from a corner kick beat Ben Willis.
Almost immediately after Williams was unlucky to see his low shot miss the post by inches.
Worryingly for the Borth management team, their side didn’t threaten Alex Pennock’s goal to such an extent the host’s defence were comfortable in dealing with the visitor’s forwards attacks.
Bow Street also had chances to double their lead but missed the target as they held a slender 1-0 lead at half time.
Bow Street held the upper hand as the second half got underway and Steffan Richards’ cross from the byline grazed the crossbar.
Borth, to their credit, also created some chances as Ryan Davies’s rasping low shot was turned for a corner by keeper Pennock.
As the end to end attacks continued Owen Roberts-Young’s superb shot was turned for a corner kick by keeper Willis.
The match reached the last ten minutes with the game still very much in the balance.
Borth’s Dion Ellis-Clark weaved his way from his own half past the Street defence and laid on a through ball for Ryan Davies to make no mistake with a low shot past Pennock for the equalizer.
The visitors sensed an unlikely winner and a long kick from Ben Willis wasn’t dealt with properly by the home defence and Justin Quinn seized on the loose ball and rounded the keeper for what proved to be the winning goal and send the superb Borth supporters euphoric on the sidelines.
It was an excellent cup tie and Borth’s reward for their victory is a game away to Llangefni Town in the first round proper.
The two teams will do battle once again on Saturday (Oct 6) as they meet at the home of Borth United for a Mid Wales League Cup first round tie, kick off 2:30pm.
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