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Swans have the scent for survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SATURDAY (Feb 10) saw the Liberty Stadium in Swansea witness a ‘turf war’, won by the commemorative, Chinese New Year shirt wearing home side 1-0.

Visitors Burnley continued their miserable winless run which started on December 12, whilst Carlos Carvalhal’s side are now nine games unbeaten, lifting themselves clear of the relegation zone.

“You don’t have to see it; you smell it” can be attributed to an egocentric player who patrolled the left wing for both clubs four decades, Leighton James.

Saturday’s contest was fractious with neither side gaining ascendency, requiring the input of a mercurial talent like James, winner of 54 Welsh caps after his international in October 1971 against Czechoslovakia in Prague.

How former Swan, Jack Cork would have liked a smudging of the influence imposed by James in scoring 124 goals from 645 games to rub off on him, whilst the home faithful welcomed Andre Ayew to the bench, following his £16 million return from West Ham.

Brother Jordan was leading the line and loan signing Andy King also warming the splinters because the Premier Leagues newest ‘Tinkerman’ has taken his side from the depths of the Ocean to now have their heads above water.

This Portuguese man of war is wary of the sharks around him but can see the coastline of the promised land and knows how to get there, with James’ analogy from bygone years, ringing true.

James made his league debut for the Turf Moor outfit in November 1970 against Nottingham Forest, returning twice to the North West in a career which saw him transfer for a mammoth £310,000 to Derby in 1975.

He left Burnley for a second time in 1978 when they were relegated to the third division and signed for Swansea City helping them from the third division to the first division in the heady days of the John Toshack era. He had spells with Sunderland, Bury and Newport County before he retired in 1989 when at Burnley, to explore more avenues.

James, in his punditry role would have vilified Olsson for diving which brought a yellow card before half time, alongside Ayew, Clucas and Ki Sung Yeung’s efforts to hit the target.

They needed to watch the matchday mascot in the half time break as Neyland Pirate Ethan Blockwell gave goalkeeper ‘Cyril the Swan’ a lesson in finishing.

The East stand corner were drumming the beat as everything remained black and white; Johann Gudmundsson forcing a save from Lucas Fabianski, before Andre Ayew made his entrance to replace Olsson after Jeff Hendrick snagged a yellow card for stopping brother Jordan’s charge.

The side needed new life; brothers in arms, possibly ‘Kolo or Yaya’ were joined by Tammy Abraham, the Tinkerman’s batteries now recharged with a ‘Triple A’ strike force taking the game to Burnley.

Referee Marriner received queries over his parentage as Pope made a wonder save to deny Abraham, Jordan Ayew and Kyle Naughton smashed shots goalward, before the breakthrough came with six minutes remaining.

Ki hammered home the winner from the edge of the box after Naughton and Jordan Ayew’s silky build up play invoked the loudest rendition of ‘Land of my Fathers’ west of Twickenham.

Ethan Blockwell: The Neyland Pirate was a match day mascot as Swansea beat Burnley 1-0

Sean Dyche’s side were reduced to humping long balls which drew no change from Alfie Mawson and skipper Frederico Fernandez and when the new King ‘of Wales’ came across the drawbridge for his debut to replace ‘Prince Jordan’, a crescendo of choral voices greeted the signal of four additional minutes without fear.

James tried his hand at management in the League of Wales with Llanelli, taking in spells also at Garden Village and Haverfordwest but he didn’t enjoy the success Carvalhal has kindled way down by the sea.

An echo from the beach portrays the words of Martha and the Muffins from 1979, James surely remembering the wish for the sun not to go down. He didn’t need to see the ball; he could smell it and Carvalhal has the scent of survival from the sea as he approaches a return to his previous Club Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday (Feb 17).

The Swans travel to Hillsborough in search of a place in the FA Cup quarter final for the first time since 1964, where they eventually lost to Preston North End 2-1 in the semi-final at Villa Park, with the backing of the Jack Army who are enjoying the fruits of the BBQ served by Carvalhal.

Sport

Greene’s double sinks Swifts

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MERLINS Bridge booked their place in the last 16 of the West Wales Cup on Saturday (Dec 8) as they beat Monkton Swifts 3-0 at the Racecourse.

A good crowd gathered to watch the game that was played in blustery conditions which caused problems for both teams throughout the match.

Neither side was able to gain an upper hand in the first half but it was the Wizards who eventually took the lead shortly before half time.

A slip allowed Joe Leahy in and went one-on-one with the Swifts keeper before finding the back of the net.

The windy conditions continued in the second half and Will Haworth came close to doubling the home side’s lead but his shot was saved.

They then made it 2-0 as Haworth crossed from the left for Nathan Greene at the back post who headed low and into the net.

Peter Thomas then played a good one-two with Greene but Thomas sent his shot over the bar.

Greene could have had a second soon after but, after the Swifts keeper had come off his line, he could only send his effort over the bar.

He wasn’t to be denied his second however as a through ball set him up and he fired low into the bottom left corner of the goal to make it 3-0.

On Saturday (Dec 15), Merlins Bridge return to league action with a game against bottom side Milford United at Marble Hall.

Monkton Swifts will look to bounce back as they travel to Herbrandston.

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Bluebirds prepare for Pontypridd test

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HAVERFORDWEST County will be looking to progress to the next round of the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (Dec 8), when they welcome Pontypridd Town to the Bridge Meadow.

The Bluebirds enjoyed a thrilling 4-3 win against Swansea University in the last round having previously beaten STM Sports 2-1 away from home in the first round.

They currently sit third in Welsh League Division 1 with seven wins from their ten games so far this season.

They will also be looking for another cup run having already reached the fourth round of the League Cup.

Visitors Pontypridd also enjoyed a thrilling 6-3 win in their second round game with Goytre and they also won 2-1 away from home against Llanidloes Town in the first round.

They may sit second from bottom in Division 1 of the Welsh Leagues but their cup run has shown that they should not be underestimated.

The game is a repeat of the third round tie from last year which Pontypridd won 3-1 and the Bluebirds will be looking to avenge that defeat.

This is the Bluebirds’ only home game in December so make sure you get down to the Bridge Meadow to show your support.

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Bowen wins Young Sportsman of the Year

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WELSH jockey, James Bowen, 17, has won the Carwyn James Young Sportsman of the Year Award at the Wales Sports Awards on Tuesday, December 4, at The Celtic Manor.

The Awards which are an annual amalgamation of BBC Cymru Wales and Sports Wales to make the biggest Welsh Sporting celebration of the year, it is intended to showcase the best of both elite and grassroot level of sporting achievement.

Speaking to James on his award he said: “It came as a bit of a shock to me, I didn’t realise I had done that well this year”.

Bowen, who has been racing for the past 18 months, at just 16 became the youngest rider to win the Coral Welsh Grand National in 2018 on Raz De Maree. He is no stranger when it comes to awards, recently collecting the Rising Star Award at the inaugural Welsh Horse Racing Awards at Chepstow Racecourse.

On his Rising Star Award James said: “It was exciting to win this award as it’s the first time these awards have been done at the racecourse”.

On his recent career highlights James added: “I would like to thank everybody who has worked with me over the years, and all the trainers who have helped me get here.”

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