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The future is bright for Wales

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By Jonathan Twigg

A NEW look Wales team with an average age of under 22 conceded a last minute equaliser at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday (Nov 14) to first time World Cup qualifiers Panama.

The South American country, playing their first game against the ‘Red Dragon’ qualified through the Concacaf group for Russia but struggled against a Welsh side manager Chris Coleman selected with one eye on the future, despite this possibly being his last game in charge.

Tom Lawrence had opened the scoring for his side striking a low drive into the opposite corner after cutting in from the left wing, a just reward for the efforts of his team mates who dominate the game with nearly 70% possession.

Lawrence may have scored the goal, but it was Sheffield United winger David Brooks who stole the plaudits for a sensational performance where he was confident to run directly at opposition defenders before supplying quality balls into the danger area for youngster Ben Woodburn and the venerable Sam Vokes.

Vokes missed a first half penalty after Dave Edwards was tumbled over in the box, as Belgium referee Bert Vertenten issued four yellow cards as the game became a little feisty.

Neil Taylor was one of the Welsh cards alongside 17 year old Ethan Ampadu, as the Chelsea player was another youngster who gave a performance which belied his tender years.

When Wales next turn out in five months’ time for a competitive fixture in the China cup, injuries permitting, he could be the fulcrum of a midfield trio which will allow Arsenals Arron Ramsey and Joe Allen more freedom to push forward in support of Gareth Bale.

At 27 years of age Pembrokeshire born Joe Allen has become an international players of undisputed acclaim, held in high esteem by colleagues, press and the supporters; the Stoke City midfielder was recently voted the supporters’ ‘Player of the Year’ for the second season in succession.

He has come a long way since his formative years, educated at Narberth Primary School and then Ysgol Y Preseli to making his Swansea City debut in May 2007 and becoming a key name on Chris Coleman’s team sheets.

Such is the level headedness of Allen his eloquent tones were humble when he stated: “It’s extra special to win it from the fans; they’ve been amazing home and away so thanks to everyone who voted. They’re just so positive, they embrace the whole occasion.”

The popular midfielder has however come in for some rough justice in recent times, perhaps cynically deposed off in the World Cup play-off defeat to Ireland in Cardiff last month which raised the eyebrows of Coleman.

Allen is essential to the sides he plays in, being a quick thinking, quick passing and now in more recent times, an enforcer. Allen didn’t start out that way, and it wasn’t until a £15 million move to Liverpool in 2012 that his demeanour changed, mentally and physically, taking on an appearance to suit his new style.

Growing out his hair and beard, the baby faced ‘assassin’ Allen started to look a little like Jesus. This prompted fans to start calling him the Welsh Pirlo and is not akin to standing tall defying his stature; ask Troy Deeney of Watford who felt the rath of Allen when he decided not to return a ball which had been kicked out of play so one of his team mates could receive treatment.

Pirlo, an impressive Italian who himself is leaving New York City at the end of the season after plying his trade with assurance at Inter Milan then Juventus, there is more than just the looks which many see as a comparative to Allen, winner of 31 international caps and a representative in the Great Britain 2012 Olympic team.

In a career that now sees him playing for former Welsh manager Mark Hughes Allen has played champions league football for Liverpool on top of wearing the captain’s armband for his country, exciting times lie ahead for the Wales and Allen will be a key component.

During their failed attempt to reach Russia, Wales lost just their final game shoot out with the Republic of Ireland, but it was the fact they dropped points in five draws which undid their progress.

If Allen can play in a more advanced role then those draws could become victories and the Euro championship may see another rendition of ‘please don’t take me home’, although Cardiff could be one of 13 Cities which hosts games as UEFA celebrate 60 years of the tournament which will cumulate with a Wembley final.

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All Blacks earn third straight win

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NEYLAND sealed their third League win in a row on Saturday (Sept 22) as they beat Llanybydder 22-16 at the Athletic Ground.

It was a closely fought match and the blustery rain and strong wind made conditions difficult for both teams in their attempts to play open rugby.

The home side started well and were rewarded when lively right wing Patrick Bellerby made a strong midfield run to cross for the opening try, converted by fly-half Mark Riley.

Llanybydder then settled, and a good run by centre Arwel Thomas took play deep into the home 22.

Further pressure by the visitors led to two penalties for centre Steff Richards to give a score of 7-6 at the interval.

Neyland controlled possession and territory for most of the second period, with forwards and backs combining well.

Llyr James reaches over to score the last try of the game. Pic. Herald

They were rewarded with two tries for Number 8 Ben Williams and another for replacement hooker Richard Jones as they claimed a bonus point.

However, the visitors, missing a few regulars, responded with a late try for scrum half Llyr James, with an excellent conversion by Richards securing the losing bonus point.

On Saturday (Sept 29), Neyland will look to keep their winning run going when they travel to Cardigan. Llanybydder return to South Pembrokeshire to visit Pembroke Dock Harlequins.

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Super Solva sink Neyland

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SOLVA pulled off one of the shocks of the Senior Cup first round as they beat Division 1 Neyland 4-2 at the Athletic Ground on Saturday (Sept 22).

The game got underway despite persistent rain and it was the hosts who took the lead.

Solva equalised before Neyland took the lead once more, Ben Fairburn and Mike Chandler scoring for the home side.

Shortly before half time Solva equalised to make it 2-2 and it was all to play for in the second half.

Leon Dinmore scored twice while Gonzalez Rocha and Josh Bland also scored as Solva went ahead in the second half.

Neyland looked to hit back but were unable to find a way past the Solva keeper as a couple of long range efforts flew over in the closing stages.

Solva hung on for a deserved win and will now look forward to their second round game away to Pendine.

Neyland return to Division 1 action on Saturday (Sept 29) as they take on Narberth. Solva will look to build on their Cup win as they host Camrose in Division 2.

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Senior Cup first round preview

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THE first round of the Senior Cup gets underway on Saturday (Sept 22) as the road to the Bridge Meadow begins.

The standout tie of the round sees Cup holders Hakin United taking on Clarbeston Road in a repeat of last season’s final.

Hakin won the final 7-1 and they will be keen to get their defence of the Cup up and running. Clarby have reached the final for the last two seasons and they will also be looking to get through to the next round.

There is a local derby on offer in Fishguard as they welcome former Senior Cup winners Goodwick United.

Both teams have made excellent starts to their respective seasons and something will have to give for one of these teams to go through.

Keegan Summers and Steve Lewis have both scored seven times for Fishguard and Goodwick will have to keep these two quiet. Jordan Griffiths has also started the season in fine form with eight goals and he will provide the main threat to their rivals.

Division 5 newcomers Newport Tigers will have their first taste of Senior Cup football on Saturday as they travel to Division 1 side Narberth.

Narberth have not won in their opening five games and will be looking to kick start their season with a cup win.

Newport have played three times so far winning just once but they will be keen to cause an upset.

Another side that has had a tough start in Division 1 is Lamphey and they host Division 2 side Letterston who have also made a slow start with just one win from their first five games.

Action from the Senior Cup game between Merlins Bridge and Solva last season

Merlins Bridge have made an unbeaten start to the season with three wins and a draw in their first four games and they will be looking to avoid an upset against Division 4 leaders Cosheston.

Cosheston are also unbeaten and have scored over three goals in each of their three games so far and the Wizards will need to be wary of the threat posed by their opponents.

Division 2 leaders Johnston are at home as they welcome Carew in what should be an excellent game.

Johnston’s Scott Crawford and Ryan Doyle, with nine and seven goals respectively, have started the season in excellent form and they will be hoping they can cause an upset.

Carew had been unbeaten until their loss to St Clears last Saturday and they will be keen to bounce back from that result with a win in the cup.

Neyland earned their first win of the season on Saturday as they beat Milford and they will be looking to back that up as they take on Division 2 Solva.

Solva have made a steady start to their season with two wins and a draw from their opening five games but they also won in their last game on Saturday as they beat Lawrenny 3-2.

Milford v Saundersfoot from last season

Milford United are away to fellow Division 1 side Saundersfoot Sports in a repeat of last season’s first round game which the Sports won at Marble Hall.

Hundleton beat Monkton Swifts in the first round last year and they have a home game against Milford Athletic.

Both sides have made a slow start to the season and will be eager to get their season up and running with a cup win.

Camrose are at home as they take on Pembroke Boro who are yet to lose in Division 3 so far this season.

Llangwm/H’west CC take on Herbrandston while Pendine are at home to Prendergast Villa.

St Clears host Kilgetty and St Ishmaels are at home as they take on Monkton Swifts. James Russell and Dylan Davies have started the season on fire scoring 19 goals between them and Tish will do well to stop them.

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