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Britton earns point in first game

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WITH all the talk of Brexit emanating in the bleak mid winter around the United Kingdom the irony wasn’t lost that Swansea City turned to a Britton on Saturday (Dec 23) in a bid to ensure they remain part of the lucrative Premier League.

After dismissing manager Paul Clement earlier in the week, 35 year old fan-favourite and former Club captain Leon Britton became the third manager in 11 months to take up the hot seat at the Liberty stadium, the sixth incumbent in two years. Passion, pride and tenacity are words used to describe Britton in his 452 club appearances and he at least ensured the side were motivated to play in this pre-Christmas fixture.

The industrious midfielder is a man small in stature but one with a lion’s heart clearly displayed on his sleeve and his side showed spirit to draw the game 1-1, in doing so taking a point from a fixture for the first time this season when they have conceded the game’s opening goal.  One swallow wouldn’t make a summer for the rock bottom Swans, who travel to Liverpool on Boxing Day but caretaker manager Britton knows points are a premium in ensuring Premier League survival come May.

Brexit champion Theresa May would draw strength from a man like Britton in her corner as he instilled a sense of belief from the fans and players, whilst the Swans board experienced some turbulence, directly to Huw Jenkins and American Directors Jason Levin and Steve Kaplan.

For the third season running a manager has departed the Liberty Stadium in December, Gary Monk in 2015, Bob Bradley last season and Clement with history telling us in 1914 Walter Whitaker lost his job as manager of the Swans and at least reminding us that football is unpredictable at best.

41 years in management, six longer than Britton has walked this earth and former England head honcho Roy Hodgson galvanised visitors Crystal Palace season after arriving at the Club in September.

With no points after the opening seven fixtures of the season, including a 2-0 loss to Swansea in August the Eagles from South London are now flying, unbeaten in nine games and out of the relegation zone with 18 points.

Luck plays a part and captain Frederico Fernandez gave away a clumsy penalty just before the hour mark, the third penalty conceded this week by Swansea and Luka Milivojević made no mistake for 1-0.

Swansea for this game had been playing the Swansea way, going ‘back to a being a Jack’ as they kept the ball, moved at pace and worked closely in areas of the field which allowed crosses to be supplied into the box.

Nathan Dyer, Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton orchestrated the best moves where 85% of the 596 passes were accurate.

What was lacking, as it has been all season was the product with young striker Tammy Abraham isolated and lacking confidence to turn half chances into goals.

Dyer had a thirst to go hunting the ball and drew some treatment alongside Abraham from the Palace enforcers and despite some yuletide work from Tom Carroll the only festive song of note in the first half was the visitors rendition of ‘glad all over.’

Wilfred Zaha was a cut above those on the field as the Swansea crowd could appreciate a complete footballer but such is the passion in South Wales their enchantment for their own sides bravery and effort never wavered even after the Serbian struck with the penalty kick.

Britton stepped up to the plate and Jordan Ayew’s introduction after 64 minutes was the spark needed to ignite the flame.  The home side were more direct, testing goalkeeper Julian Speroni and chances arose much to the delight of the 20354 present.

The game was open, end to end which suited the Liberty faithful, safe in the knowledge Lukas Fabianski was untroubled in the home goal. The equaliser came with 12 minutes remaining, Ayew sending a flying James McArthur a Christmas cracker of a dummy, making quick yards to the edge of the penalty area and unleashing a right footed pile driver into the left hand corner for his first goal in 15 games.

‘Support the team not the regime’ was a mantra from the East stand which blasted out Hymns and Arias as the all whites were on the front foot but to no avail when referee Craig Pawson called a halt to the game after five minutes of added time.  Roll back time 12 months and Swansea were also bottom of the league, albeit they have one more point after Saturday than this time last season.

Post match Roy Hodgson spoke about how it “was going to take time to get back on an even keel” which his Palace side have achieved. Britton can take heart from that advice as he looks at exchanging his players passport to the ‘blue passport’ of management in time and perhaps trigger his own ‘article 50’.

He spoke himself about the Boxing Day trip to Anfield as “a brilliant moment for myself and my family” and the Swansea family know the importance of ensuring they remain in contact with the sides above them outside the relegation zone. A trip to Watford follows the Liverpool game before Tottenham arrive for the first game of the New Year, with Harry Kane, a man who has had more shots this season than Swansea’s entire team looking to emulate his 2017 record haul of 37 goals in a calendar year.

Nothing is easy in the Premier League but by the end of January the Swans may find themselves with some light at the end of the tunnel with a run of fixtures against Leicester, Burnley, Brighton, West Ham, Huddersfield and Southampton. If Palace can string together a nine game unbeaten run why can’t Swansea , although a wily Hodgson knows “there is a long way to go and it will be a scrap until the end of the season.”

Britton, or the man appointed to guide the Swans must enter the new year with the words of John Lennon’s ‘war is over’ ringing loudly to play ‘without any fear’.

Clement did it last season, picking up the January Manager of the month and there is no reason why it can’t happen again.

Raise a cup of good cheer in the hope of a prosperous New Year as without hope there is no life. Remember this is just football, a game that is more important than life and death according to one well known Scotsman who had a passport stamped across Europe.

Sport

Ruthless Mariners power past Saints

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MILFORD Haven put in a ruthless display as they scored seventeen tries to beat St Davids 119-5 at the Obs on Saturday (Jan 5).

The Mariners were right at it from the kick off and did not let up as they held a 63-5 lead at the break.

James Trueman scored a hat trick of tries for the home side and he also went on to kick each of his 17 conversion attempts for a club record haul of 49 points.

Dan Jenkins also crossed for three tries while Dan Birch, Sam Dolling and Brandon Cooper all scored twice for the home side.

The Saints, to their credit, kept going and were rewarded in the first half when Josh Strangwood crossed for a try.

Jamie Lewis, Dewi Williams, Ryan Mansell, Dan McClelland and Steve Martin all got their names on the scoresheet to seal an emphatic victory.

The win keeps Milford top of the table by a point from rivals Neyland and on Saturday (Jan 12), they will face a sterner test as they travel to Laugharne.

The Saints remain third from bottom in the table and on Saturday they are at home to third placed Haverfordwest.

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Trundle leaves Bluebirds

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HAVERFORDWEST County have confirmed that star signing Lee Trundle has left the club.

The news was announced on Sunday, December 30, and the former Swansea City player has since signed for Welsh League Division 3 side Trefelin BGC.

In a statement released by the Bluebirds they thank Lee for his time at the club in which he scored 12 goals in all competitions.

A spokesperson for the club said: “Due to increasing work commitments, Lee Trundle has decided to leave Haverfordwest County and his last game was on Friday evening (Dec 28) at Ton Pentre where he scored two goals taking his tally for the Bluebirds to twelve in all competitions this season.

“Whist his stay at our club was shorter than we would have hoped, we fully understand his decision and everyone at the football club would like to thank Lee for his time here and the way he has conducted himself both on and off the field of play. Lee leaves with our sincere best wishes.”

Lee commented on Haverfordwest County’s Facebook page saying: “Good luck the rest of the season boys. Great club run by great people. Wish you all the best on the race for the league title this year.”

Fans of the club have also commented saying they are ‘gutted’ to see him leave and that he will be missed.

As well as Swansea, Lee has also played for Wrexham, Bristol City and Leeds United in his career.

It was announced in May 2018 that Trundle would be joining the Bluebirds having helped Llanelli Town to promotion to the Welsh Premier League.

Lee now joins a team that sit top of Division 3 and his inclusion is likely to give a further boost to their promotion hopes.

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Late Smith penalty seals Pembroke win

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A LATE penalty from Toby Smith earned Pembroke a 15-13 victory in a hard-fought encounter with Pembrokeshire rivals Fishguard on Saturday (Dec 29).

It was an excellent game between two good teams with Pembroke feeling a little rusty having not played for three weeks while the heavy pitch suited a Fishguard side who were looking to avenge their narrow 16-17 defeat at home to Pembroke earlier in the season.

There was no sign of rustiness however as the home side started the game well and could have gone ahead but Johnny Palmer was held up over the line.

Sean Dalling also looked to be free but he was ankle tapped near the line and the Seagulls were able to recover.

Having weathered the early storm the Seagulls then took the lead as Andrew Williams touched down under the posts. Kial Keane then added the extra two points.

Pembroke responded well and were soon back on level terms as Dan Colley ran a good line off Toby Smith to touch the ball down under the posts. Smith then added the extras.

The home side then went ahead as a good break by Tom Lewis set up captain Scott Powell who crashed over. This time the conversion was missed by Pembroke held a 12-7 lead.

They could have had a third try soon after as Dan Colley touched down but it was ruled out for a marginal forward pass.

The Seagulls then narrowed the gap as Keane scored a penalty and the score at half time was 12-10 in Pembroke’s favour.

In the second half Fishguard came at Pembroke well and they took the lead with another penalty from Keane to make it 12-13 to the visitors.

It was an evenly contested half but it was Pembroke who had the final say as Smith sent a penalty through the posts in the last minute to seal a 15-13 victory.

Pembroke’s win keeps them fourth in the table and they will look for another win on Saturday (Jan 5) as they host Carmarthen Athletic.

Fishguard will look to get back to winning ways as they travel to Burry Port who sit just below them in the table.

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