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Old Gold fall to Bala defeat

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Carmarthen Town 0

Bala 1

CARMARTHEN’S outstanding start to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme, along with their six-match unbeaten run, were brought to an abrupt halt on Saturday, February 18, with this narrow defeat against a strong Bala side who lie in second place in the league and are themselves enjoying a sequence of just one defeat in 17 games.

The Old Gold were far from disgraced and the outcome of this match could have been so different if they had not made such an awful start, conceding a poor goal in the opening stages – after that shock they soon recovered and for the remaining 75-80 minutes the play was far more evenly balanced, with both sides enjoying spells of pressure.

From the outset the visitors swarmed forward, putting immediate and sustained pressure on the Town defence which looked uncharacteristically hesitant and disorganised.

After only two minutes Bala took the lead when David Thompson’s huge throw-in caused confusion in the crowded penalty area where Kieran Smith took advantage to fire the ball crisply past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the net.

The Lakesiders again went close on 4 minutes – Anthony Stephens’ corner was met by Stuart Jones who saw his firm header deflected just wide of the post. But from thereon Town gradually began to find their customary rhythm, spirit and discipline.

The defence, and in particular the formidable central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, increasingly showed greater composure and resilience, while in midfield key players Kieran Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Declan Carroll were using their energy and vision both to disrupt the visitors’ attacking momentum and create opportunities for lively strikers Liam Thomas and Liam Griffiths to exploit with their pace and movement.

Throughout the rest of the first-half the game was more open and evenly balanced with the play shifting briskly from end to end – but with both defences performing soundly there were very few clear scoring chances.

However on 25 minutes the hosts narrowly avoided conceding again when a low cross from Ryan Wade took a huge deflection off a defender that sent the ball dangerously high towards the goal, only for Idzi to produce a stunning reflex save, clawing the ball onto the top of the bar and safely behind.

The Old Gold’s first notable effort arose in the 31st minute when Carroll slid a fine pass through to Griffiths who raced forward to the edge of the penalty area and turned smartly past his marker before hitting a fierce drive that flew marginally wide of the post.

Then on 35 minutes Carroll’s corner-kick into a packed goalmouth reached Thomas who, from 8 yards, cleverly chipped the ball over several defenders but ‘keeper Ashley Morris stretched high to claim it just under the bar.

After the interval the same pattern of play quickly emerged but for a long period the game was fairly uneventful and rather scrappy.

Then midway through the second-half manager Mark Aizlewood made his intentions clear when, in a 10 minute spell, he brought on three attack-minded substitutes Luke Cummings, Kyle Bassett and Matthew Thomas to inject more pace and flair into Town’s search for an equaliser.

In the 79th minute that was almost achieved – Cummings launched a long throw into the penalty area to find Morgan who from 10 yards drilled the ball through a crowd of players only for Morris to react instinctively and kick it off the goal-line to safety.

With the Old Gold pressing forward so enthusiastically, Bala were now looking more of a threat on the counter-attack and on 85 minutes they went close to extending their fragile lead – Wade cut inside from the right flank and drove the ball across the face of the goal but saw Bassett, alert to the danger, race back into the goalmouth and make a timely clearance.

Then after 91 minutes Town’s flying winger demonstrated his searing pace at the other end of the pitch when he burst through the Bala defence and into the penalty area only for Morris to rescue his side once more by quickly coming out of his goal and diving down to block Bassett’s 15 yard angled drive.

But deep into added time the visitors again threatened when, with the Old Gold defence stretched, Wade raced clear to the edge of the penalty area and as Idzi, who had clearly been hampered by a leg injury for some time, struggled to come out to challenge him the striker fired towards the unguarded goal only for the ball to drift just wide of the far post.

While this result was disappointing, Town’s performance (after the initial disastrous lapse) was certainly not – and to have secured six points in their opening second-phase fixtures against unquestionably the three strongest teams in the WPL was both highly commendable and unexpected.

Carmarthen, currently occupying fifth place in the league, next have an important away fixture against sixth-placed Cardiff Met on Saturday, March 4, (k/o 2.30pm).

A repeat of their stunning victory there on New Year’s Eve would be both very welcome and a big step towards securing that League position at the end of the season.

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Sport

Swans still sweet on Premier League survival

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By Jonathan Twigg

SWANSEA’s clamber through the trials and tribulations of the Premier League can be compared to that of a child running amok in a sweet shop, so many tantalising favourites to devour, with the occasional reminder that not all sweets are sweet.

A retro walk down the Bridge Meadow Lane would have taken a child past the shop run by Connie Clarke, renowned for her welcome on the bell clanging. Supporters of Haverfordwest County and their opponents on match day, welcomed with few words but with the knowledge her confectionary delights never failed to deliver.

Following Saturday’s (Apr 14) 1-1 draw with Everton, who arrived without former Swans stars Ashley Williams and Gylfi Sigurdsson in their line-up, supporters left knowing the sweet taste of success held by the Premier League is still within their grasp.

With two of the bottom three to visit the Liberty in the final week of the season this point is one gained in search of extending their Premier League status to an eighth season, although manager Carlos Carvalhal nearly led his side to five consecutive home wins, something no other manager has done since the heady days of John Toshack in 1981.

Swansea welcomed Jordan Ayew back from a three game suspension to partner elder brother Andre as Bolton based referee Lee Mason began the game in front of 20,933, the returning brother setting the tone alongside Andy King at a sun drenched Liberty Stadium.

Carvalhal has worked some magic since his arrival on the cusp of Christmas, tactically leaving opposite number former England supremo Sam Allerdyce to venture to the touchline with his pocket ball side kick Sammy Lee to stem the tide; the blues were overrun in midfield, Jordan Ayew having a wonderful chance cleared off the line as was captain Frederico Fernadez header from the resultant corner, before Andre’s sight of goal was saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Alfie Mawson has grown to be imperial at the back for the Swans, attracting the interest of Manchester United, one of those mints that the longer you savour, the better it lingers. Luciano Narsingh however can be likened more to a quickly dissolving peppermint cream, releasing the taste with speed, rousing the Jack Army with an immediate hit, succulent whilst it lasts, inspiring the Swans to drive forward.

Former England captain Wayne Rooney had one of those games, like an aniseed ball, many unable to relish his taste as he left his mark, literally with some raking tackles; his class, undoubted, when it finally came to the fore.

An opening goal came with the aid of goal line technology, just before half time, Lucas Fabianski brilliantly making a double save from Bolasie, before a ricochet off Kyle Naughton and a half time lead, Fabianski thankfully however saving from Cenk Tosun a minute later.

Jordan became the first recipient of a yellow card in the second half, substitute Nathan Dyer creating a stir as the game went up by a level with a sugar surge, the vocal chords tingled with honey from a locket, in the form of striker Tammy Abraham’s arrival.

Full backs McNaughton and Martin Olsson created chances, Tom Carroll serving buckets of sweet balls, to no avail; Dyer driving forward over from twenty yards, Abraham and the Ayews creating half chances, Mawson’s header cleared off the line before the full quarter was served, Jordan levelling the game with a right foot half volley.

The final fifteen minutes rocked the stadium once more, after dinner mints were all Swansea’s, although Seamus Coleman thundered a shot against the woodwork, Abraham missed a gilt edged opportunity at the other end, whilst a tall and well positioned defensive wall directed Rooney’s set piece opportunity over the bar.

Extra strong mints were needed, alas unavailable as the toffees held firm, not fudging their lines with Beni Baningime taking a yellow card for the team, the games conclusion seeing a share of the spoils.

Carvalhal’s magic stars will have to be at their best to out fox and unwrap three points on Sunday (Apr 22) when opponents Manchester City will have champagne liquor chocolates on hand, having been crowned Premier League champions.

Swansea then have the opportunity to welcome Chelsea to ‘fortress’ Liberty the week after; wispa it quietly, as many have their eyes on the final weeks’ trio of games, starting with a trip to the South Coast in search of the bounty available at Dean Park, Bournemouth, before a starburst performance at home to Southampton on the Tuesday and Stoke City for a final day picnic. There can be no wine gums on show, just the everlasting gobstopper which is Premier League football.

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Sport

Super Reds reach Cup final

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Report by Alan Evans

LLANELLI Town have their sights firmly fixed on another double to emulate the achievement of last season, as they currently top the league table and look favourites for the title, while they are also through to the Welsh League Cup final, a trophy they won in 2016/17, after comfortably seeing off Cwmbran Celtic at Afan Lido’s Marston’s Stadium in the semi-final on Tuesday (Apr 10).

A dire first half seemed to consist solely of how far downfield either team could send the ball, although the Reds looked the more likely to score in the few chances which were created.

When Chris Jones swung a corner into the goalmouth, Ryan Fleming in the Celtic goal punched it clear where it rebounded off Joe Clarke and then another Reds player before ending in a harmless goal kick.

Chris Thomas brought off a saving tackle on Josh Bull when the Celtic striker threatened to break up the middle, before Kurtis March glanced a header wide from close in from another Jones delivery.

When a loose pass by Jones intended for Antonio Facciuto was instead intercepted by Callum Wakeham, he made ground into the Reds` box, but some good defending snuffed out the danger.

Celtic then suffered a blow when Bull was forced off injured on 38 minutes to be replaced by Lloyd Kinsella, and when Simon Prangley picked out Iolo Jones wide on the Celtic left, he whipped a ball across the face of the goal before it was gathered safely by Craig Morris.

The second half had to be an improvement on the first, and so it turned out with the Reds, at least, displaying some modicum of a passing game, with Lee Trundle accepting a ball from Jones only to see his finish cleared off the line.

James Loveridge, with a surging run, forced Luke Jones to concede a corner taken by Trundle, whose delivery to the far post was met by Lee Bevan who powered his header past Fleming on 56 minutes to put the Reds ahead.

Ten minutes later, March played a pass into the feet of Trundle whose instant reaction to meet it left the Celtic keeper helpless as it nestled in the bottom corner.

Now totally in control, the Reds were looking capable of adding to their lead, with Loveridge forcing Fleming to turn his well struck shot around the post, before the tie was finally wrapped up six minutes from time when Trundle got his brace, picking up a long clearance from Morris before making room and firing into the net.

There was still time for Loveridge to see his finish pushed over by the Celtic keeper, but the Reds ran out worthy winners and now face either Pontypridd Town or Trefelin BGC in the final on Friday, May 18, at a venue still to be decided.

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Laugharne too good for Quins

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LAUGHARNE now sit third in League 3 West A after they beat Pembroke Dock Quins 55-10 on Saturday (Mar 31), before beating St Davids 10-49 on Easter Monday (Apr 2).

Saturday’s game was well orchestrated by Outside Half Stefan Evans and it was he who opened up the scoring for the afternoon after 10 minutes when he cut through the Quins defence to score close to the Posts. He then converted himself to put his side 7 points up.

The Quins at this stage were matching their bigger and more experienced opponents with the whole pack especially showing full commitment. It was the Quins who were next on the scoresheet with a well worked try for No 8 Harry Owen, as he showed some neat footwork before scoring halfway out, Full Back Lewis Davies pushed his conversion narrowly wide.

Laugharne soon responded with two quick fire tries from Full Back Thomas Davies, Stefan Evans converted both and for good measure kicked a penalty with the last kick of the half to send his side in with a 5-24 lead.

The Quins were under more pressure as the second half started as they were finding it more and more difficult to handle Stefan Evans as they attacked at every opportunity.

On 55 minutes Scrum Half Gethin Jones scored the all-important Bonus Point try which was converted by Stefan Evans. No 8 Mike Williams soon followed with a fine try in the corner which was converted by Stefan Evans with a magnificent kick.

Right Wing Gareth Spiers and Gethin Jones soon added two more tries with the latter being converted by Stefan Evans.

Tom Davies rounded off his sides’ scoring by completing his hat trick for the afternoon, Stefan Evans stroked over his seventh conversion of the afternoon to end with a match haul of 22 Points.

Young Left Winger Will Nicot finished off the Quins’ best move of the Match with a fine unconverted try in the corner with just five minutes left.

The Quins ended the game on the attack and were unlucky not to grab a third try, which spoke volumes for the effort and spirit that the Quins’ young side put in.

Laugharne will look to keep their good run of form going as they travel back to Pembrokeshire on Saturday (Apr 7), to take on a Neyland side buoyed by their last gasp win over Cardigan last weekend.

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