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Play off hopes still alive

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ON a wet night when Aberystwyth Town paid fitting tribute to their greatest ever goalscorer, David “Dias” Williams, the Black and Greens did him proud by earning a vital 3-2 victory which keeps their quest for a UEFA European Play Off alive going into the last five matches of 2018/9.

Ryan Wollacott tapped in Town’s opener on 6 minutes, and just five minutes later Geoff Kellaway blasted home a second. Luke Bowen brought Carmarthen back into it on 28 minutes, and the visitors pressed for long periods only for an own goal from Lee Surman to make it three-one with 22 minutes remaining.

Liam Thomas pulled one back in the 81st minutes but Town held on for a big win which keeps Aber in eighth place and equals last season’s tally of 37 points with five games to go.

After their fantastic win over Cardiff Met last time out the Black and Greens made one change with young keeper Adam Walters coming in to make his debut in place of Terry McCormick.

After sitting deep the hosts enjoyed a dream start when Wes Baynes’ deep cross fell for Declan Walker, and his low shot was parried by Lee Idzi right into the path of Wollacott, who tapped home from close range.

Geoff Kellaway then burst through down the right and hit the side netting, but the visitors were not so lucky on eleven minutes when Kellaway played a beautiful one-two with Ashley Ruane before slamming home yet another Gol y Mis contender first time from out on the right.

Town now looked supremely confident passing the ball round, though to be fair to Carmarthen Mael Davies sent one effort over the bar, and Luke Cummings brought a smart save out of Walters.

Ruane almost capitalised on a sloppy back pass but then Cummings again burst down the right and crossed for Bowen to tap home a response, and the visitors were right back in it just before the half hour.

Photo by Colin Ewart

Walters in Aber’s goal twice denied his namesake Greg Walters, and Wollacott pulled off a great tackle to deny a goal, while at the other end Kellaway just failed to control a super ball from Mattie Jones, and Steff Edwards went wide also.

In injury time Carmarthen’s Liam Thomas headed wide from a free kick in a dangerous area and an entertaining half ended with Aber ahead thanks to some clinical finishing.

Carmarthen dominated the early stages of the second half with Aber sitting back on their lead, and some determined tackling from the likes of Paolo Mendes and Man of the Match Declan Walker restricted their chances.

Walters sent a shot wide, Lee Surman glanced a header over from Cummings’ free kick, Liam Thomas tapped wide from Jordan Vickers’ cross and Vickers’ shot from out wide was touched home from a corner.

It was becoming clear that the next goal would be crucial and Mattie Jones’ surges down the left were resulting in some dangerous crosses, one of which just evaded Ruane.

The ever industrious Marc Williams turned on the edge of the area and curled an effort just over, and then another excellent cross from Jones skewed into the back of the net off the unfortunate Surman’s foot for the killer third goal, and Aber were surely safe.

There was however a quarter of the game still to play and although Mendes hooked over from a corner it was a rather nervous ending to the game for Aber. Walters saved from Bowen but then with nine minutes left Thomas made the most of a defensive mix up to cut the deficit once again.

The hosts however defended stoutly through the remaining nine (plus five) minutes, and Mattie Jones, picked for the Wales C Squad in midweek, could have even capped a super few days with a goal when Kellaway played him in, but with the Dias Stand primed to celebrate, his shot skewed just wide. It did not matter however, Aber held on for another crucial victory.
The Black and Greens are enjoying life in the Play Off Conference and ten points since the split is equalled by only one other Club in the whole League, namely leaders Connah’s Quay Nomads.

If Aber can keep up their super form they could be looking at a very exciting end to the season, with a UEFA Europa League Play Off place up for grabs.

Matchday 28 takes Town up to Llandudno on Friday, March 22, (ko 7.45pm).

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Sport

Swans grab last gasp play-off spot

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WAYNE ROUTLEDGE’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome away victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic Wednesday night (July 22).

Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.

The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the half through a George Puscas penalty.

The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.

And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.

The Swans started on the front foot, with centurion Connor Roberts having particular joy down the right-hand flank.

Brewster then nearly threaded Conor Gallagher in on goal after fine work by Andre Ayew, before Roberts hit a strike into the ground and over the bar after Jake Bidwell had made the overlap on the opposite flank.

The hosts responded by having a good spell of possession, probing and asking a few questions of their own.

But the visitors hit the lead in the 16th minute through Brewster. The striker picked the ball up some 30 yards out and got the ball out of his feet before smashing a long-range drive that completely deceived Rafael in the Reading goal.

John Swift curled a free-kick over at the other end, while more good work by Roberts could not quite end with Bidwell getting on the end of a deep cross before Rafael made a hash of dealing with a Gallagher cross.

Swift headed straight at Erwin Mulder from a good counter on the half-hour mark, with Ayew quickly advancing up the field to work Rafael again.

Opportunities were coming at both ends, with Mulder called into action again as Meite took aim from the left side of the area.
Swansea were riding their luck a little and had a let-off when a sliced clearance landed on top of the bar.

Matt Grimes had a free-kick pushed away by Rafael before the home side were reduced to 10 men after Meite had pushed Mike van der Hoorn in the face after a tussle for the ball.

But the hosts made light of the numerical disadvantage by levelling after Bidwell was adjudged to have fouled Andy Rinomhota, with Puscas beating Mulder – who got a hand to the strike – from the spot.

However, the Swans should have led at the break. Ben Cabango’s shot was blocked and fell to Jay Fulton, but the Scot pulled his shot wide of the target.

Rafael pushed away an Ayew drive right on half-time, with Swansea frustrated that referee Stephen Martin did not award them a penalty of their own as Fulton went down under a challenge from Omar Richards.

With Cardiff winning and Nottingham Forest losing, Cooper knew goals were needed and he made two changes at the break.

Yan Dhanda came on for Fulton, while Routledge replaced van der Hoorn, and they were immediately on the front foot.

With Swansea committing so many players forward, Reading looked to sit deep and play on the break and they proved resolute as the visitors battled to find a way through.

Grimes curled a free-kick wide of the target and Gallagher also threatened from distance, but the hour mark came and went without any clear-cut chances to show for their dominance of possession and territory.

However, when they did craft a sight of goal they took the chance clinically. Grimes produced a lovely ball, and Routledge controlled superbly to loft the ball over Rafael and into the net.

Unfortunately for the Swans, that goal went in moments after Forest had equalised against Stoke, which appeared to put a sizeable dent in their playoff aspirations.

Nevertheless, Cooper’s side continued to search for more goals in the hope events in the East Midlands would turn back in their favour.

They so nearly made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to play as lovely link play from Rutledge and Bidwell ended with Ayew steering just wide.

The situation was changing all the time, and Stoke retook the lead at Forest to leave the door ajar for the Swans.

And, when Stoke scored a third at the City Ground and Cullen coolly fired home his first senior goal for the club with six minutes remaining, they suddenly only needed a goal to finish in the play-off places.

Grimes had a deflected shot tipped over but the Swans then got the goal they needed in stoppage time as Routledge popped up to nod in at the far post, with Stoke’s fourth goal putting the matter beyond doubt a few moments later to spark delighted celebrations among Cooper, his players and his staff.

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Glamorgan launch new kit

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GLAMORGAN Cricket has unveiled its new Vitality Blast playing kit for the 2020 season.

Designed by the Club’s official kit supplier, Masuri, alongside Glamorgan’s management, players and coaches, the brand-new Vitality Blast strip contains a subtle Welsh twist.

Fitting Glamorgan’s traditional colour schemes, the top is dark navy with a tonal dragon across the front – a nod to the old Glamorgan nickname and the Welsh identity – while a sharp yellow trim on the neck and sleeves frames the top.

The famous ‘Daff’ sits on the heart of the shirt, with MiPost’s strong Welsh brand centre-stage. Appearing on the collars are the logos of ‘Official Players Car Partner’, Mon Motors and Welsh company, Philtronics Solutions, with Discover Leeks on the right sleeve and SA Group on the back.

The famous Aston Martin logo features on both side of the Glamorgan T20 cap, as they continue their ongoing support of the club.

Head of Commercial, Huw Warren, said: “We’ve enjoyed working with Masuri throughout the design process and together developed an exciting new kit we’re sure our supporters will love with its strong connections with Wales.

“Our Masuri kits have always been hugely successful with players and fans alike and we look forward to continuing our commercial partnership with them.

“We can’t wait to see our players wearing the new kit when the Blast gets underway later this summer.”

Masuri CEO, Sam Miller, said: ‘’Once again it has been a pleasure working with the team at Glamorgan to bring this year’s kit to life, and we are looking forward to seeing it in use during the much anticipated Vitality Blast this year.’’

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Wembley trip for Giggs’ men

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CYMRU will travel to Wembley Stadium on Thursday 8 October for a home nations international against England.

Ryan Giggs’ side will return to action this autumn for the first time in 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kicking off with the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League campaign. The match against England will be one of two additional international matches scheduled as triple headers in October and November. In keeping with current Government guidelines, this fixture is scheduled to be played behind-closed-doors.

Since their first encounter in 1879, England are Cymru’s second oldest opponents with 102 matches in total producing 14 wins, 21 draws and 67 defeats. Cymru’s last visit to Wembley Stadium was in 2011 for a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier, with Ashley Cole scoring in a 1-0 defeat.

Ryan Giggs’ side will be using this match to prepare for the rescheduled EURO 2020 finals next summer where they hope to return to Wembley, one of the host stadiums, for the latter stages of the tournament.

Looking ahead to the autumn, Cymru are in Nations League Group B4 alongside Bulgaria, Finland and the Republic of Ireland with fixture dates as follows:

Thursday, 3 September – Finland v Cymru (7:45pm)
Sunday, 6 September – Cymru v Bulgaria (2:00pm)
Sunday, 11 October – Republic of Ireland v Cymru (2:00pm)
Wednesday, 14 October – Bulgaria v Cymru (7:45pm)
Sunday, 15 November – Cymru v Republic of Ireland (5:00pm)
Wednesday, 18 November – Cymru v Finland (7:45pm)

All fixtures are scheduled to be played behind-closed-doors for the foreseeable future.

The FAW will continue to adhere to relevant Government guidelines and supporters will be notified should arrangements change and tickets become available.

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