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Swans keep boyhood dreams alive

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By Jonathan Twigg

“Premier League games against the big teams are always very special, and tonight’s game will have added spice with the result being vitally important to both teams” said under fire Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins OBE on Monday (Jan 22).

The game started in a stonewall tribute to local St Joseph’s player Mitchell Joseph who tragically died whilst playing from a cardiac arrest, along with footballing greats Cyril Regis and Jimmy Armfield, a World Cup winner in 1966.

The result, a 1-0 win for Swansea over Liverpool, achieved with 28 percent possession, a fifth of their opponent’s shots at goals and a third of the corners won. The only statistic that mattered was the score line. A story born from any boyhood comic, where the evil character could have been Captain Can, a German wearing the oppositions armband of leadership. ‘Sleepy G’ this game wasn’t as bottom of the table Swansea, six points from safety started with three central defender to defeat the ‘Reds’ for the first time since Spurs rumbled them at Wembley in September.

The start was cagey, Swansea lacking belief to be direct, compensating by fronting up in challenges but having no outlet amidst the footballing ‘capital of Wales, way down by the sea’.

Chances were created by both sides but restricted in their tenacity through technical discipline, Manager Carvalhal stated post match ‘when you come up against a F1 car you may struggle in a race. If you put that F1 car amongst some London traffic it is no longer a F1 car as it has to respond to the traffic around it’.

An analogy worthy of any comic book hero; maybe a new Tinkerman has risen from the Phoenix and all boys know what happened to the last Tinkerman to grace the Premier League.

Liverpool sloppiness four minutes before half time gave away a corner which they didn’t deal with and pin ball around the penalty spot saw the ball fall to centre back Alfie Mawson. He swung a right foot to bury the opening goal, his third of the season but at a cost with his central defensive partner Fernandez taking a bloody nose from his own players celebrations.

Liverpool’s indiscipline saw a yellow card for a clinical challenge by Robertson on Ayew and another for Matip, when he poleaxed Clucas as the red engine oil stuttered to disable the turbo boosters. Referee Neil Swarbrick signalled the half time interval which brought a crescendo of voices, the volume not heard at that level all season.

Liverpool’s tempo after the break was more warming as Swansea midfielder Fer was guilty of picking up the man in blacks cards, albeit as confetti after Swarbrick dropped them to the amusement of the ‘Jack army’.

The atmosphere was reminiscent of 1980s and you ‘could not help but fall back in love’ with the beautiful game; McNaughton made a last ditch tackle on Robertson recalling memories of February 1981, when 22,604 at the Vetch Field cheered the Mersey beat when current Club legends Leighton James and Alan Curtis netted in a 2-0 victory. The Liberty faithful, 20,886 were treated to the same intense feeling as the halcyon days, with the big Pole in the goal tipping a driven free kick from Salah over the bar on the hour mark.

It would be incorrect to state ‘only one set of fans were singing’ at this juncture but the powerful Fabianski was commanding in goal even at times heading his side in the right direction and reducing the Champions League last sixteen entrants to speculative long range shots.

Swansea put Carroll on for Dyer, as did Klopp, Lalanna for Chamberlin and Ings thrown on for Wijnaldum but the white wall ensured any cracks were quickly cemented over, with Van der Hoorn a beacon shining before Fabianski before Ayew, unbounded and uncompromised was broken, to be replaced by Bony.

To Max Boyce singing Hymns and Arias the enormity of Swansea lifting themselves to 20 points against a team who defeated the previously unbeaten league leaders Manchester City just a week ago glistened through. ‘Comon City’ was an eruption of volcanic proportions and certainly for those ‘Swansea till they die’ proponents seeing four minutes of added time read like a comic book finale.

Salah blasted over and Firmino, clear in front of goal felt the reverberations of the choir as his header rebounded off the upright. “We are in hospital” said Carvalhal, “in a serious condition, but no longer in Intensive Care.” One in the onion bag for my Harry and all Jacks, for when the chips are down it becomes ‘together stronger’. Alive and kicking, still bottom of the Premier League but just six points off a place in the top half.

A storyline only for the comic book? Maybe not as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp acknowledged, ‘the stadium was theirs tonight and the confidence grew from it’, which abodes well for the next four months on the rollercoaster.

Sport

Thrilling finale sees Clarby through to Final

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CLARBESTON Road are the first team into the Senior Cup final after they knocked out holders Merlins Bridge on Wednesday night (Feb 21), thanks to a last minute deflected strike from Ieuan Cooke.

The Bridge, who had a man sent off with twenty minutes to go, had thought they forced the game into extra time when Chris Ormond headed in but it wasn’t to be as Cooke’s winner sent the Clarby players and fans into delirium.

The game was a repeat of last season’s Final which the Wizards won and both sides were clearly determined to reach the Final once more.

It was a quiet first half with Merlins Bridge shading the possession and having the better of the chances.

Will Haworth came close for the Wizards but his shot was pushed wide by Clarby keeper Lee Scott.

Adam Hawkins also tried his luck but his shot was tame and was easily saved by Scott.

On the half hour mark, Clarby’s Jason Griffiths tried a long shot but Bridge keeper Gary Thomas was equal to it.

A minute later, Griffiths flashed a ball across the face of goal but nobody was able to get on the end of it.

Joey George then sent an inviting cross to the back post for Hawkins but as the Clarby players appealed for offside, he could only send his effort into the side netting.

Matthew D’Ivry then played Hawkins in once more but he dragged his shot well wide of the posts.

Then on the stroke of half time Clarby got the all-important breakthrough as Tom Reubens beat the defender before sending a shot towards goal which was deflected in by the Wizards’ Richard Hughes.

There was still time for Merlins Bridge to come back and from the kick off a long ball was missed by the Clarby defence allowing Will Haworth in but his shot was saved at the near post.

The half time whistle went with Clarby leading by a goal to nil but the game was still up for grabs.

The Wizards started well in the second half and Luke Hayward saw his effort pushed wide by Scott and from the resulting corner, Hawkins saw his volleyed effort also saved.

Mike Turpin then sent a cross into the box which had to be tipped over by Bridge keeper Thomas with players lurking.

Bridge top scorer Nathan Greene was introduced to the action and he almost made an immediate impact when he turned and shot towards goal but Scott got down well to save it.

Then came a few moments of madness from Bridge defender Richard Hughes as he was booked and then brought down Clarby’s Matthew Davies and after waving play on, referee Sean O’Connor waited for play to end before producing a second yellow card for Hughes.

Despite being down to ten men the Wizards still had chances and Hawkins saw a shot saved before Greene saw an effort cannon back off the crossbar.

With three minutes to go the Wizards were awarded a free kick which D’Ivry delivered and Chris Ormond rose highest to head the ball into the net despite the best efforts of the Clarby keeper to save it.

That got their tails up and moments later Greene headed over from a corner as the Bridge pushed for a winner.

Then, deep into injury time, a ball into the box fell to Ieuan Cooke and his effort looked as if it would be saved by Thomas but a Bridge defender stuck an unfortunate leg out and the ball bounced off him and into the net.

Nathan Greene heads over from a corner

That sent the Clarby players and coaches wild and they held on to reach the final for the second year in a row.

They will now play the winners of the second semi-final between Carew and Hakin United which takes place next Wednesday (Feb 28).

Speaking after the match, Clarbeston Road coach Matthew Ellis said: “Everyone gave 110% as we knew we would have a tough night ahead of us. They started at a high pace and were on top until we changed formation slightly and this slowly got us into the game.

“The goal came at the perfect time and gave us a massive boost going into half time knowing they would have to break us down and would leave gaps at the back. Tom Reubens has been excellent this season and showed his power and pace to create the goal.

“The sending off didn’t really affect the game as we kept the same shape and allowed them to have the ball in their half as we tried to conserve energy for the final onslaught.

“It was a big blow when they scored when they did, I gave away the free kick which led to the goal so when Cookie got the goal in injury time I was ecstatic as none of us wanted extra time.

“It is a massive achievement for the team and the whole club as it is so well run behind the scenes. This is a reward for both us and them.

“Two senior cup finals in two seasons is outstanding, let’s hope this season we will be the winning side!”

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Nuemann set to make first start for Wales

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FULLBACK Lisa Neumann will make her first start for Wales at Donnybrook this Sunday (Feb 25) (15:00) in Round Three of the Women’s Six Nations.

The 23-year-old from Pembrokeshire is the only new player in the starting line-up to face Ireland. Meanwhile, loosehead prop Cara Hope could win her first international cap from the bench.

“Lisa has been pushing hard for a place in the starting team and she deserves her opportunity this Sunday,” said Phillips, who has enjoyed the benefit of having former Wales international Gareth Wyatt coaching the backs since the start of the tournament. “We have a lot of talented back-three players in the squad, so we think Lisa will slot in well alongside Hannah Bluck and Jess Kavanagh-Williams – two players who pose threats from the wing.”

Phillips recently spoke about his team not being burdened by an “emotional hangover” from the result at the Twickenham Stoop, and insists that preparations for Ireland have been geared towards one thing. “We need to show that we’re improving in the areas that we’ve been working on this year,” said Phillips. “This will be a game between two very evenly-matched teams, and coming off the back of the last match we’re very keen to give a good account of ourselves.”

The last time both teams met in competition was during the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August – a game Wales won by 10 points at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. However, Phillips says that result won’t count for much come Sunday in Donnybrook, particularly after Ireland’s winning performance in a pre-Women’s Six Nations friendly with Wales in Ystrad Mynach earlier this year.

“Ireland were competing for a Grand Slam going into the final game of the competition last year, so we know how much of a strong team they are. The World Cup was a bit of an anomaly for them, so they’ve had a point to prove since then.

“They’ve got a lot of new personnel across the board, but the team is settled and experienced. It’s up for us to  show what we’re about as a team. We’ll certainly be prepared for a hugely competitive match in front of a boisterous Irish crowd this Sunday.”

Wales Women team to face Ireland:

15 Lisa Neumann (Scarlets)

14 Hannah Bluck (Cardiff Blues)

13 Kerin Lake (Ospreys)

12 Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons)

11 Jess Kavanagh-Williams (RGC)

10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)

9 Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues)

1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets)

2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys)

3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)

4 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)

6 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets)

7 Beth Lewis (Scarlets)

8 Sioned Harries (Scarlets)

Replacements

16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)

17 Cara Hope (Ospreys)*

18 Meg York (Dragons)

19 Natalia John (Ospreys)

20 Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets)

21 Jade Knight (Scarlets)

22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)

23 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)

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Merlins Bridge and Clarbeston Road set for Senior Cup semi-final

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TONIGHT (Feb 21) sees the first Senior Cup semi-final taking place at the Bridge Meadow Stadium in Haverfordwest and it promises to be an excellent game.

Merlins Bridge face Clarbeston Road in a repeat of the 2017 final which the Wizards won and they won’t want to release their grip on the trophy just yet.

However, Clarbeston Road were a Division 2 side back then, and now in Division 1, they will be keen to show how far they have come in just under a year.

Clarby got to this stage after surviving a scare in the third round as they beat second division Hundleton 3-2, thanks to a last minute goal from Jason Griffiths. The Road had earlier wins against St Clears and Fishguard Sports.

The Wizards eased into the last four after thumping Angle 7-0 after previous wins against Solva and Lamphey.

Action from the 2017 Senior Cup Final between Merlins Bridge and Clarbeston Road

Neither side has been tested to the full from their earlier games, with the exception of Clarby against Hundleton, in the competition and tonight is set to be a real test for both teams.

A look at the league table indicates it will be a close game with Merlins Bridge sitting fourth and Clarbeston Road sitting two points behind in fifth, albeit having played four games more.

The teams come into the game having played just once so far this year due to the bad weather across the county.

Clarbeston Road got back into the swing of things on Saturday (Feb 17), with a 6-0 thumping of Milford United, a win which coach Matthew Ellis described as a ‘Nice game to get back into things before the semi-final’.

Jason Griffiths scored a hat trick in that game to take his tally of goals for the season to 19 and the Wizards will do well to keep him quiet tonight.

Merlins Bridge were in West Wales Cup action at the weekend for their first game since December 16 and they beat Port Tennant Colts 1-0 thanks to a Luke Hayward penalty.

The cup mentality the Bridge had on Saturday will still be with them tonight which could work in their favour.

The teams are yet to meet in the league this season so the game could go either way.

The winner will go on to the final where they will play the winner of the second semi-final, which also takes place at the Meadow next Wednesday (Feb 28), between Hakin United and Carew.

Tonight’s game kicks off at 7pm so make sure you get to the Bridge Meadow to support your team.

Good luck to both and may the best team win.

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