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Bridge taste West Wales Cup glory

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MERLINS Bridge won the West Wales Cup on Tuesday night (May 7) as they beat Carew 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea in an exciting clash.

It was the first time both sides had reached the final and the first ever all-Pembrokeshire final and both were keen to put on a show for the good crowd in attendance.

Both have had excellent runs to the final with Merlins Bridge earning a narrow win against last season’s runners up Penlan Club while Carew have come from behind in two separate games.

Anticipation grew ahead of the match as Carew and Merlins Bridge named strong sides.

For many of the Carew side it was a first taste of the West Wales Cup Final while three members of the Merlins Bridge squad won the cup with Johnston a few years ago.

Merlins Bridge came from behind to beat Carew in the Senior Cup Final in April while their two league encounters finished in a draw and a 3-1 win for the Wizards.

There was a scare for the Rooks with only a minute on the clock as Scott Richards overcooked his back pass and keeper Tom Davies could only kick the ball out of play.

It was Carew who had the first chance as Iwan Izzard won the ball in midfield and passed to Jordan Richards on the edge of the box who wriggled his way past a couple of defenders before shooting just wide of the goal.

Merlins Bridge’s Dai Davies was shown the first yellow of the evening as he brought down Shaun Whitfield but the free kick came to nothing.

Carew again came close as Sam Christopher found Pembrokeshire League top scorer Jordan Richards in the box but he took a touch before seeing his shot saved. He then poked the rebound towards goal but the ball was cleared off the line by a combination of Bridge defenders.

With ten minutes gone, Shaun Whitfield took a throw which came back to him and he crossed into the box but Richards saw his header saved by Gary Thomas.

Carew would have been regretting those missed chances two minutes later as, from a Carew corner, the ball was cleared to Adam Hawkins who found Laurie Haworth on the right and he crossed to the back post for Hawkins to half volley in.

The Rooks were given a free kick just inside the D moments after but Jack Christopher saw his effort hit the wall and his follow up go over the bar.

Joe Leahy then saw a shot saved while Lloyd Hughes saw a shot go wide for Carew.

Alex Bayley then played in Lloyd Hughes and he fired low into the net for a deserved goal to bring the Rooks level.

Hughes then crossed into the box towards the back post but keeper Thomas fumbled the ball, allowing Richards a shot but he was equal to it to keep the scores level.

The Wizards were then given a free kick near the half way line which Leahy sent towards goal and his cross had to be turned over by the Carew keeper.

With just over half an hour gone, Carew’s Jack Christopher was shown a yellow for a foul on Leahy, giving the Wizards a free kick on the edge of the box. Leahy stood over it but saw his effort blocked over the bar.

There was a blow for Carew shortly before half time as Lloyd Hughes had to go off injured and he was replaced by Scott Ferney.

With two minutes to go until half time Sam Christopher crossed into the box for Richards but his shot was blocked with claims of handball waved away.

The half time whistle went with the sides still locked at 1-1 with everything still to play for in the second half.

At the start of the second half Sam Christopher flashed a cross towards goal which bounced out off the angle of post and crossbar.

Zac Rowell then made his way into the box but after he went down he was shown a yellow card for diving.

Nathan Greene then came close for the Wizards but his strong shot was turned over the bar.

Jack Christopher then crossed into the box for Richards but his header was straight at Gary Thomas.

Matthew Divry then crossed from the right for Joe Leahy just inside the box but he flashed a shot just over the bar.

With just over an hour gone Adam Hawkins won the ball back from Jack Christopher and he went on to slot the ball into the bottom left corner to give the Wizards the lead again.

Insult was added to injury for Christopher as he had to go off to be replaced by Max Brindley.

Iwan Izzard then came close to bringing Carew level again but his curling effort was saved by Gary Thomas.

Hawkins was denied the chance of a hat trick as he was then replaced by Will Haworth with fifteen minutes to go.

With nine minutes to go the Bridge made it 3-1 as Ashley Beck played a nice one-two with Nathan Greene and the former finished in similar fashion to team mate Hawkins with the ball going in off the boot of the Carew keeper.

With four minutes to go Carew won a corner which fell to Tom Grover but he fired over the bar.

Both sides made a number of substitutions with Joe Leahy seeing yellow for his slow walk off late on.

The Wizards saw the game out to seal their first ever West Wales Cup win.

After the match, two goal hero Adam Hawkins said: “It’s amazing, it’s my second time winning it, we’ve got an amazing group of lads here.

“We were unlucky with the league but to come away with the Senior Cup and the West Wales Cup this season, you couldn’t ask for much more really.

“They are a quality side and we knew it would be a close game but on the balance of play I think we deserved it.”

Merlins Bridge manager Matthew D’Ivry added: “I am delighted, this group of players deserve it for the hard work and commitment they have shown. We’ve had tough draws in the cup this season but that hard work has paid off.

“Carew are a really good side and we knew they were going to have a good spell in the game. Gary Thomas made a few good saves and towards the end of the first half we started playing our football.

“At half time we were confident that if we came out and started well we would get the right result.”

The two sides also drew praise from Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb who tweeted: “Congratulations to Merlins Bridge for winning the West Wales Cup at the Liberty Stadium. Comiserations to Carew but great to have two Pembrokeshire teams in the final.”

Sport

Cullen scores twice as Swans sink Forest in FA Cup

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SWANSEA City’s Liam Cullen scored twice on Saturday as he helped his side to a 5-1 thrashing over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

It also set up a fifth round tie with Premier League giants Manchester City after they overcame their opponents Cheltenham Town.

Cullen, born in Tenby, netted the opener in the first half and added his second after half time.

He was denied the chance to go for an FA Cup hat-trick however as he limped off late on with an ankle injury.

Forest, perhaps with one eye on maintaining their Championship status, made ten changes for the game and featured two players that had recently returned from injury.

Swansea gave a debut to new signing Conor Hourihane

The game was only seven minutes old when Wayne Routledge crossed from the right and Cullen volleyed the ball back across goal and into the bottom corner, wrong-footing Forest’s stand-in keeper Jordan Smith.

Routledge was then forced off with an injury but his replacement was the in-from Jamal Lowe.

He almost made an instant impact as he was sent through on goal but his touch let him down and Smith was able to claim the ball.

Forest threatened briefly when Joe Lolley crossed into the box but the Swans were able to clear before Anthony Knockaert could get on the end of it.

The Swans were almost two ahead when Forest defender Joe Worrall headed the ball towards his own goal but from the resulting corner they doubled their lead in stunning fashion.

The corner was cleared but the home side played the ball to Matt Grimes, captain for the game, who unleashed an unstoppable shot that flew past Smith and into the top right corner.

Connor Roberts then came close with a header and he also had the ball in the net a minute later but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Forest made two subs at the start of the second half and came out the better side. Joe Lolley went close but his shot was saved by Swans keeper Woodman.

Then, shortly before the hour mark, the Reds were back in it. Lolley gathered the ball in the box but when he was brought down the ball fell to Knockaert who fired in to make it 2-1.

However, any hopes Forest had of mounting a comeback were soon dashed as two minutes later the Swans were awarded a penalty.

Joe Worrall was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Manning although replays suggested Manning stuck his foot towards Worrall’s leg to win the foul.

Grimes sent the keeper the wrong way to score his second of the afternoon and put the Swans 3-1 ahead.

Manning also came close to scoring but Smith was able to palm away his effort.

He then turned provider as he crossed into the box for Cullen who shot low into the bottom left corner to make it 4-1.

The Swans had already made their five substitutions before Cullen went off injured but that didn’t stop them.

With five minutes to go Jamal Lowe saw his shot blocked but the ball fell to sub Ollie Cooper whose shot squirmed in despite Smith’s best efforts.

It was an excellent display from the Swans who will now look forward to their fifth round tie with Manchester City.

Before that though they face two crucial Championship games, at home to Brentford on Wednesday before a trip to Rotherham on Saturday.

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Wales quartet bolster Scarlets side for Cardiff Blues rematch

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Scarlets take on Cardiff Blues on Friday night

SCARLETS welcome back Wales internationals Johnny McNicholl, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias and Jake Ball to their starting XV for Friday’s rearranged Guinness PRO14 rematch against Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets (20:00; S4C, Premier Sports).

There are six changes in all to the run-on side, while club skipper Ken Owens is poised to make his first appearance since October. The Wales and British & Irish Lions hooker is named among the replacements after being cleared for action following a shoulder injury.

Behind the scrum, McNicholl comes in for the suspended Liam Williams in the only change to the back division that took the field against the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium two weeks ago.

The front row changes en bloc with Jones packing down alongside Elias and tight-head prop Javan Sebastian, who replaces the injured Pieter Scholtz.

Ball has made a swift recovery from the knee injury he suffered against the Dragons on New Year’s Day and resumes his second-row partnership with Sam Lousi.

Josh Macleod, this week named as the only uncapped player in Wales’s Six Nations squad, misses out with an ankle niggle so Ed Kennedy slots into the openside spot and links up with Blade Thomson and Sione Kalamafoni the back row.

On the bench, Owens has recovered from the shoulder damage he sustained in round two up in Glasgow. Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Tevita Ratuva and Uzair Cassiem provide the rest of the forwards cover. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Steff Hughes make up the remainder of the replacements.

Scarlets v Cardiff Blues (Friday, January 22 (20:00, S4C, Premier Sports)

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies (capt), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Javan Sebastian, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Ed Kennedy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.

Reps: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Steff Hughes.

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Clubs react as Pembrokeshire football league season cancelled

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THERE will be no football in Pembrokeshire until at least August after the 2020/21 season was cancelled on Wednesday night (Jan 20).

The Pembrokeshire Football League said it had taken into account the current Covid-19 situation and replies from clubs in making their decision.

Clubs had played a small number of friendlies towards the end of 2020 with the hope of getting back into the league action.

However, as the coronavirus situation worsened, the majority of clubs took it upon themselves to suspend football activity.

A spokesperson for the Pembrokeshire Football League said: “It was resolved that there will be no competitive football this season in Pembrokeshire at Senior or Junior level. There will also be no organised mini football fixtures for this season.

“Should clubs wish, when the restrictions are lifted and subject to Covid regulations want to play friendlies then they are free to do so subject to the authorisation of the League (as previously).”

Neyland’s Sean Hannon said: “The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. The most important thing is everyone’s safety and wellbeing. We haven’t had a chance to discuss any possible return to friendlies if restrictions allow but I’m sure we will leave it until at least August by which time we will have a further update from the FAW.

“It goes without saying the FAW will need to update all area associations and clubs on what will happen to player comet registration fees which they asked all clubs to pay for at the start of September 2020.”

A spokesperson for Saundersfoot AFC said: “We all knew it was coming inevitably and you’d be hard pressed to argue against it. As a club the safety of our players/ coaches and their families is paramount it’s just not worth the risk.

“You saw before Christmas the clubs took it between themselves to stop playing before any order from above came through so that shows how serious the clubs are taking it.”

Owen Duggan, Chairman of Fishguard Sport AFC said: “The decision was inevitable and we would commend the Pembrokeshire league for an early conclusion to this, every football club will be working hard behind the scenes to try and retain enough finance to continue.

“We all hope that in the coming months things will improve and we will hopefully commence season in August. We hope all our members and other clubs stay safe and fit and well which is the priority.”

Hakin United, who were crowned champions of the curtailed 2019/20 season, said they fully supported the decision to cancel the league season and recommended that football shouldn’t start back until it’s safe to do so.

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