MERLINS Bridge set up a Senior Cup Final date with Carew as they beat Monkton Swifts 3-0 at the Bridge Meadow on Tuesday night (Mar 19).
Both sides named strong line-ups for the game, determined to make it into the final, but it was the Bridge who proved the stronger as they exacted revenge for a 5-1 league defeat to the Swifts earlier in the season.
A good crowd gathered to watch the game despite persistent light rain throughout the evening.
A minutes silence was also held prior to kick off in respect of former Merlins Bridge player Denzil (Tally) John, who sadly passed away.
The Wizards had previously beaten Monkton 3-0 in the West Wales Cup and from the first whistle it was clear that they were in a confident mood.
Adam Hawkins and Nathan Greene linked up well but when Greene was tackled the ball fell to Laurie Haworth whose shot was saved.
Hawkins then saw a shot saved after he had been put through and he then played a one-two with Jordan Thomas whose shot hit the post.
Monkton then had their first chance as James Russell won a 50-50 but he saw his shot blocked wide for a corner.
All that action came in the first five minutes and it set the tone for the rest of the game with both sides coming close to opening the scoring.
The Bridge then came close again when Dai Davies sent Greene through but he flashed his shot across goal and wide.
With half an hour gone Russell came forward but dwelt on the ball too long leaving Dylan Davies and Ben Steele frustrated after both made good runs.
Blake James then saw a cross go straight into the arms of Bridge keeper Gary Thomas who then also saved Davies’ deflected shot.
With seven minutes to go until half time, the Wizards took the lead as Laurie Haworth turned excellently in the left corner and ran into the box before crossing for Hawkins who fired in to the roof of the net.
Five minutes later they doubled their lead as Ashley Beck played the ball through for Haworth who poked the ball past Swifts keeper Michael Murray to make it 2-0.
Monkton looked to respond but a corner on the stroke of half time from Chris Richards went out over the bar.
It left the Division 1 leaders with a mountain to climb in the second half and they knew they would need an early goal if they were to get back into the game.
Ten minutes in the Wizards had the first real chance of the half as Haworth won the ball and crossed for Beck but he shot wide.
On the hour mark Monkton won a free kick on the edge of the D but Steele’s free kick bounced back off the wall.
The Bridge won a series of corners which came to nothing and when Monkton looked to break off one, Hawkins made a desperate lunge to try and stop the attack. He was booked for his challenge which may have done more harm than good as he was then replaced by Will Haworth.
With twenty minutes to go sub Ryan Griffiths crossed into the box but Russell’s looping header was comfortably claimed by Thomas.
Moments later it should have been 3-0 as a slip allowed Greene in but he fluffed his lines and scuffed his shot wide.
The Swifts continued to look for a way back into the game and when Steele went down in the box he was adamant he had been pushed but referee Angus Scourfield waved away his prolonged protests.
Davies then saw a shot saved and then came perhaps their best chance of getting back into the game as a good move found Richards but Davies could only head wide from his cross.
They were soon made to pay for their missed chances as Laurie Haworth found Greene in the box who knocked in to all but seal the win.
Greene and Matthew D’Ivry were then taken off in a double change, perhaps with one eye on the West Wales Cup semi-final with Hakin next week.
The game had been won but Monkton’s Josh Richards, who had only came on in the second half, let his frustrations get the better of him late on as he overstepped the mark and saw red for his language.
Merlins Bridge saw the game out and will now look forward to the final with Carew. That game will take place on Saturday, April 20, again at the Bridge Meadow Stadium.
Speaking after the match, Merlins Bridge boss Matthew D’Ivry said: “We are really pleased with the result. We were confident that if we played to our abilities that we would get the result.
“We were confident on the back of the season we have had so far, having only had one loss to Monkton. It wasn’t about getting revenge, but more about us achieving what we had set out to do.
“Last night our experience in the bigger games shone through and that gave us the edge.”
Senior Cup Final Preview: Carew v Merlins Bridge
Carew v Merlins Bridge
Senior Cup Final: Bridge Meadow, Haverfordwest, 2:30pm
ON Saturday (Apr 20), Merlins Bridge take on Carew in the final of the Senior Cup at the Bridge Meadow in Haverfordwest.
In the first of a final double-header, both sides will be doing all they can to get the upper hand and lift the trophy.
The two sides will also meet at the beginning of May in the West Wales Cup Final at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.
Meetings between the two sides have been close this season with Merlins Bridge earning a 3-1 win at the Racecourse in November while their game finished 2-2 in Carew in January.
Both sides have had a fantastic season with only three losses between them and they currently sit second and third in the Division 1 table.
The Wizards are aiming to claim the League title as well while Carew are also only three points behind the leaders with a game left to play.
Merlins Bridge won the Senior Cup in 2017 and they will be looking to get their hands on the trophy once again.
The Rooks last won the Cup in 1986 and having last reached the final in 2005, they will be keen to make a new piece of history for the club.
Route to the final
The Wizards began their cup run with a comfortable 10-0 win over Cosheston in the first round with Adam Hawkins scoring five times.
They then beat Herbrandston 5-1 in the second round with Hawkins again on target twice with other goals from Nathan Greene, Joe Leahy and Ashley Beck.
In the quarter final they were pitted against rivals Hakin United but the Wizards went through with a 3-2 win at the Racecourse after Nathan Greene scored twice.
They then took on Monkton Swifts at the Bridge Meadow in the semi-final and earned a 3-0 win thanks to goals from Adam Hawkins, Laurie Haworth and Nathan Greene.
Carew began their route to the final with a 2-1 win over Johnston in the first round thanks to two goals from Scott Ferney.
The second round saw them win 4-1 away at Narberth with Jordan Richards scoring twice and Ferney again on target.
They earned a similarly comfortable 7-1 win over Solva in the last eight with Richards scoring a hat trick. Ferney also scored with other goals coming from Iwan Izzard, Sean Whitfield and Lloyd Hughes.
They then played Pennar Robins in the semi-final, also at the Meadow, and earned a 3-1 to book their place in the final. Sam Christopher, Sean Whitfield and Scott Ferney were all on target for the Rooks.
What the managers say
Merlins Bridge boss Matthew Divry told the Herald: “We’re looking forward to it, it’s a game between two very good sides and it should be a good game.
“We are more than confident, we’ve been turning up in the big games and we’ve got a wealth of experience in the squad.
“Not many of their players have won or played in the Senior Cup Final but it’s all on the day.
“We have a confident dressing room and a full squad to choose from and it’s the first of four big games for us. Both sides are evenly matched.”
Carew manager Rob Scourfield told the Herald: “We’re really excited, two of the boys have been in a final before but it will be a completely new thing for the others but we’re really looking forward to it and we have a full squad to choose from.
“Our games against the Bridge have been the toughest we’ve faced this season, they are really well-drilled and have lots of experience.
“We’re the top goal scorers in Division 1 so we have a goal threat from everywhere and I’m hoping the boys will be on form.
“We know they are strong at the back, I have been impressed with their wide players as well and Joe Leahy is up there as one of the best strikers in Pembrokeshire so he is a massive threat, he hit a hat trick against us so we are well aware of that.
“It should be a nice day and I hope it’s a really good game of football. Both sides respect each other and it should be a good advert for Pembrokeshire football.”
Castle hosts World Cup trophy
SCORES of young Pembrokeshire Cricketers will have the chance to play in front of World Cricket’s most famous trophy next month when the ICC World Cricket Trophy Tour visits Pembroke Castle.
The visit coincides with the annual U9 Cricket in the Castle festival that has become such a hit with players and supporters since its inception two years ago.
Players from Neyland, St Ishmaels, Saundersfoot, Haverfordwest, Cresselly, Hook, Lawrenny and Whitland will all be eager to impress in front of the famous trophy that is touring the UK ahead of the ICC World Cricket Cup taking place in England and Wales between May 30 and July 14.
“Pembroke Castle lends itself beautifully to host a cricket festival like this,” said Sport Pembrokeshire Cricket Development officer Martin Jones.
“From speaking with players and parents in the past I know that they have enjoyed their time playing in the castle grounds and with the ICC World Cricket Cup Trophy paying a visit this year, it will be even more special.
“With the introduction of All Stars Cricket, there are more youngsters between the ages of 5-10 playing cricket in the county than ever before which is great to see and bodes well for the health of the sport in Pembrokeshire in years to come.”
For more information about All Stars Cricket visit www.ecb.co.uk/play/all-stars.
For more information about the ICC World Cricket Cup and for when matches take place at the Cardiff Wales Stadium visit www.glamorgancricket.com
Vikings come from behind to win
HAKIN United kept up their fight for a top four finish as they came from behind with ten men to beat Saundersfoot 2-1 on Wednesday (Apr 17).
It was a third game in five days for the Vikings but they started the game well as Craig Nicholson had two good chances to score in the opening ten minutes, hitting the bar with his second effort.
Adrian Devonald was in goal for Hakin and he came off his line on one occasion to deny Saundersfoot a chance.
Camron Thomas also came close after beating a player and cutting inside he let fly from 30 yards but his effort bounced off the bar.
Nicky Woodrow was also proving a handful but found it difficult to link with his team mates.
At half time, Hakin subbed Brad Barrett for Jay Power and Luke Hart came off for Shane Walsh with a reshuffle in the middle.
Saundersfoot continued to make things tricky for the Vikings who came close again as good play from Walsh and Ali Robertson set up Woodrow but his 25-yard effort hit the bar again.
The home side were unlucky not to go ahead as they had a number of good chances to score.
Hakin then tried to play the offisde trap to no avail and Jimmy Walker took down the Saundersfoot man leaving the referee no choice but to pull out the red card.
Richard Cope scored the penalty as he tucked the ball into the side of the net out of reach of Devonald.
Dan Evans then picked up an injury for Hakin and he was replaced by Stuart MacDonald who with ten minutes to go, played in Camron Thimas who found Woodrow and his cross was tapped in at the far post by Justin Harding.
The home side looked to see the game out but with three minutes to go Jay Power was fouled giving Hakin a free kick.
MacDonald took it quickly to Thomas who found Woodrow in the box, he had his back to goal but crossed to the far post for Thomas who had kept running and he nodded in.
Hakin were able to see the game out and manager Kristian Bennett said: “It was a good game where we didn’t have it all our own way, but we didn’t panic even at 1-nil down with 10 men with only 15 left to play. The boys just stuck at it and were rewarded for their efforts.”
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