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Carvalhal leads Swans to victory in first game

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By Jonathan Twigg

SWANSEA City gave new manager Carlos Carvalhal a winning start when two late goals at Vicarage Road saw them defeat Watford 2-1 to briefly lift them off the foot of the Premier League table.

The travelling support were ecstatic after Jordan Ayew, who struck the cross bar from 25 yards early in the game, equalised with eight minutes left to play.

Those supporters were delirious when substitute Luciano Narsingh pinged home the winner after home Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomez couldn’t control substitute winger Nathan Dyer’s pile-driver from the edge of the box.

The ‘Jack Army’ had given unstinted support for the new manager and their team whilst distain was voiced over the state of the Club at Boardroom level and requiring the removal of Huw Jenkins, once the Messiah of their Club.

Swansea did for large parts of the game look like a side who play without confidence, their individual mistakes compounded as they are a side continually having to absorb pressure. It helps when the side have ‘a big pole in their goal’ as Lukas Fabianski kept the game live with another authoritative performance.

Just a minute before his side’s equaliser he saved when one on one with Andre Grey, certainly a turning point in the game and as history tells us perhaps a season defining moment.

An Andre Carrillo header from close range after 12 minutes opened the scoring after Fabianski had saved well from Stefano Okaka exposing the frailties that have underpinned Swansea all season.

New man Carvalhal recognised the areas of concern, subtly tinkering with the Swansea formation and personnel to combat it.

Swansea were guilty of dropping off the ball as the Hornets constantly created space and 2v1 situations, at times not showing the desire to win the ball back.

Centre backs Alfie Mawson and Federico Fernadez were forced apart as Kyle Naughton was found wanting all game.

Restored to the side was Renato Sanchez, the Portuguese star on loan from Bayern Munich; having struggled all season to cut the mustard in the Premier League he was caught in possession as the tackles were crisp, but he grew with the trust heaped upon him by his compatriot Carvalhal.

The manager also recognised turning defence into attack has been an area of concern all season and it was noticeable on loan striker Tammy Abraham had supportive players on the few occasions play was in the home danger area.

Saturday was an improvement as the Swans had nine shots at goal, four on target and forced eight corners and importantly they scored the two goals needed to secure three points.

In no small part the result was galvanised by replacement striker Ollie McBurnie, the gangly legs of the young Scotsman, a throwback to ‘yesteryear’ with socks barely holding his shin pads. He endeared himself to choristers in the visiting end with a whole hearted performance bearing a smile, epitomising his enjoyment of the game despite the dire situation facing his Club.

where luck matters in the battle for safety in the Premier League which will go to the wire in the business end of the season come May.

Eleven points separate the lower half of the table as Swansea entertain Tottenham Hotspur tonight, with Liverpool and Arsenal arriving for evening fixtures after they travel to Newcastle.

As January ends, the Swans have a run of games against opposition in and around the relegation battle. Any run equivalent to that of Crustal Place, nine undefeated would catapult the Carvalhal’s men into a safe position; the new Messiah may well have been born.

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Nigel Owens hosts virtual rugby quiz for Pembroke Panthers

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PEMBROKE Panthers RFC enjoyed a rugby return during lockdown after winning a competition which saw international referee Nigel Owens host their own virtual clubhouse quiz, thanks to Principality Building Society.

The women’s squad at the Pembroke club beat more than 1000 entries to win Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz competition. With many clubs affected by widespread flooding at the start of this year and now closed indefinitely due to coronavirus, the building society is continually looking for ways to support grassroots rugby clubs in Wales.

Pembroke Panther Lucy Neale, 30, entered her team with the hope of bringing the players together online. She said: “We’d usually see each other up to five times a week between training sessions, matches and socials, so it’s been a really strange time. I thought I’d enter the club thinking it would be a nice pick-me-up for us all, but never actually expected to win so it was an amazing surprise.”

The team were tested on their rugby knowledge by world cup referee Nigel Owens over video conferencing platform Zoom, where players won tickets to Welsh internationals at Principality Stadium, signed rugby shirts and balls, and tickets for a tour around Principality Stadium. The quiz included a guest appearance from former Welsh international Tom Shanklin.

Lucy continued: “It was such a memorable and special evening for us all. We’re usually quite a lively bunch but we behaved well for Nigel. We’re so thankful to Principality for putting on the quiz and allowing us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience as a team.”

As sponsors of Principality Stadium and the National Youth Leagues for grassroots clubs in Wales, Principality has a strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and knows how much rugby means to communities across the country. With matches on hold currently, the building society wanted to be able to bring the buzz of the clubhouse to the home.

Clubhouse Quiz host, Nigel Owens, said: “Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz was a fantastic way to bring one team closer together and Pembroke Panthers really showed off their rugby knowledge. Rugby plays such an important role in Welsh communities and I know they’ll be missing the action on the field right now, so it was lovely to have been part of this experience to bring this team together. Thankfully, I didn’t have to sin bin any of them either.”

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at Principality Building Society, said: “Many rugby clubs across Wales have had a really difficult year, with flood damage to pitches and clubhouses now followed by coronavirus. This was our chance to recreate the camaraderie of the clubhouse for one team and we hope that it brought plenty of laughs and memorable moments for Pembroke Panthers at this challenging time.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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