CARMARTHEN Town made it through to the fourth round of the JD Welsh Cup on Saturday (Dec 2), as they beat local rivals Ammanford 3-2 in a thoroughly entertaining game.
The Old Gold made the short journey to Welsh League Division 2 side Ammanford knowing that progress in the Welsh Cup would provide a major boost to the Club at a time when Welsh Premier League performances, so far, have generally been so disappointing.
After a keenly contested match, during which fortunes swung back and forth, Town achieved exactly that aim to the delight and relief of the numerous supporters in attendance who helped generate a truly “local derby” atmosphere.
After a brief opening period of fairly unproductive midfield exchanges between the teams, the game sprang into life on 7 minutes when Luke Cummings made a powerful run along the right flank before firing a cross-field pass to Liam Thomas who cut past a defender then struck a crisp 20 yard shot that ‘keeper James Kirkwood denied with a fine full-length save.
But in the 10th minute the Old Gold, having continued to keep the home defence under pressure, took the lead when Kieran Lewis, from 25 yards, dispatched a promising free-kick that helpfully took a deflection off a defender and finished in the corner of the net.
From then on the match quickly developed into a competitive end-to-end affair with Ammanford, who seemed to be adapting to the heavy, unpredictable surface much better than the visitors who this season have been far more accustomed to playing on 3G pitches, looking especially lively going forward from midfield.
Carmarthen, however, were resisting that pressure quite comfortably with the central defensive pairing of Dave Vincent and Jordan Knott, in particular, performing with great awareness and composure.
Indeed, it was only in the 16th minute that the home side forced ‘keeper Lee Idzi into any anxious, meaningful action – Rhys Davies from wide on the right flank fired the ball high into the goalmouth but as it drifted towards the goal Idzi reacted swiftly, stretching high to turn it narrowly over the bar.
The rest of his first-half was limited to dealing with a number of crosses and corner-kicks, which Town’s experienced custodian accomplished with his customary confidence and safe handling.
However the Old Gold were still creating more chances and on 33 minutes Lewis, with another smart free-kick, saw the ball crash against the bar then bounce safely away.
Moments later he again sent a free-kick deep into the goalmouth where Vincent, rising above a pack of defenders, watched his close-range header fly just too high.
In the 39th minute they stretched their lead when, almost predictably, Lewis delivered a free-kick from wide on the left flank that reached Liam Thomas deep inside the penalty area and he instantly struck a fierce drive that left Kirkwood well-beaten.
With this goal, his 77th, Liam Thomas becomes the Old Gold’s top all-time goal scorer in all competitions surpassing the previous best, jointly achieved by Tim Hicks and Danny Thomas.
After the interval the Welsh League side immediately began playing with commendable spirit and determination as they launched a series of penetrating attacks which the Town defence struggled to contain.
Within just five minutes of the re-start they were awarded a penalty following what seemed to be a tame infringement by Kyle Bassett – Matthew Fisher stepped forward and drove the spot-kick past Idzi and into the net.
Spurred by that early success Ammanford continued to take the initiative and as the pitch began cutting-up badly they seemed to relish those conditions, while the Old Gold laboured.
Remarkably, after another spell of enterprising attacking play the hosts got back on level terms – in the 61st minute a long cross-field pass reached Fisher and he quickly threaded the ball through to Gavin Jones who raced clear into the penalty area before confidently firing home.
Carmarthen, shaken by having now lost a comfortable two-goal lead within the space of ten minutes, were now on the back foot as Ammanford pressed for a goal that would have taken them into the lead.
They felt they should have had a penalty soon after when an Ammanford player appeared to be brought down just inside the box but the referee instead awarded a free kick on the edge of the box.
The resultant free kick was blocked and Carmarthen began to strike back and put the home defence under pressure.
In the 72nd minute they regained the lead – Cummings, with a strong run and determined challenge, won possession off a defender near to the corner flag then fired a searching cross towards the goalmouth where Liam Thomas claimed the ball and swiftly struck a rasping drive that flew beyond Kirkwood’s reach and into the corner of the net.
Ammanford had no answer to that as the Old Gold proceeded to protect their lead with some solid defensive work and industrious midfield activity which starved the resolute Welsh League side of further scoring opportunities.
In fact Carmarthen produced the only genuine late chance when, on 90 minutes, Bassett burst past three defenders to reach the penalty area then drove the ball into the goalmouth where substitute Tyler Brock hit a crisp close-range shot that was blocked by a defender right in front of the goal.
So, with Town’s continuing interest in the Welsh Cup secured by this hard-earned victory, they now return to the more pressing business of WPL survival on Saturday (December 9 (k/o 2.30pm) when they entertain Llandudno at Richmond Park.
Captain Bony calms the ship
By Jonathan Twigg
A MAN of the match performance from Captain Wilfried Bony led the charge for Swansea City on Saturday (Dec 9) when his second goal in consecutive games sealed a dour 1-0 victory on a dark and gloomy afternoon over West Bromwich Albion at the Liberty Stadium.
Securing a valuable three points lifted Paul Clements under pressure Swans side off the foot of the Premier League table as Bony’s winner sparked a chorus of ‘Hymns and Arias’ with nine minutes remaining.
Substitute Tammy Abraham’s effort was cleared off the line at the far post from a Ki Sung-Yueng corner before the Ivory Coast strikers’ driven right foot shot which thundered beyond former England goalkeeper Ben Foster.
The Swans started the game at the foot of the table but took solace from the fact they had won five out of six fixtures when they had been in a similar situation previously. Their visitors hadn’t won a game in the Premier League for four months and were on a run of three consecutive defeats in their travels to West Wales.
The green shirted Albion started brightly keeping the ball and moving it around across the floor much unlike teams who play under their new manager Alan Pardew’s banner.
Without creating opportunities apart from a Jake Livermore shot midway through the half to punish the home side, the play meandered precariously towards stalemate at half time, unsurprisingly perhaps as former Bayern Munich Assistant Manager Paul Clements side had netted just eight goals in 15 league games.
Winger Nathan Dyer drew a foul from Claudio Yacob after 18 minutes which earned him yellow card which proved to be a catalyst for the apprehension surrounding Swansea’s play subsiding for the remainder of the first half as they gained superiority in terms of possession and territory.
The closest they came was when midfielder Livermore headed against his own post from a dipping Tom Carroll free kick as the visitors screened the play well through skipper Jonny Evans and his centre back partner Yacob across the 18 yard box.
Bony’s opportunities were restricted despite midfielders Carroll, Ki and Roque Mesa enterprising combinations with Dyer and full back Martin Olsson getting behind the opposition defence through the outside channels, where Sam Field collected a yellow card after 35 minutes as he tried to disrupt the inter play.
Centre half Alfie Mawson squandered a great opportunity to head an opening goal when he found space six yards out with seven minutes remaining before Swansea came out for the second half on the front foot.
Bony managed to break the defensive shackles on him with a strong and direct run but pulled a driven shot wide of the post, which added to the derisory tally of 27 shots on target this season for his side, the worst across any of the major European leagues.
Clement’s introduction of Jordan Ayew after 54 minutes for Wayne Routledge injected more spirit and it created opportunities to test Foster, from which Bony drew heart to become an influential figure on the game as the Baggies eventually wilted under the pressure and conceded the only goal.
Tammy Abraham should have sealed the victory in injury time when he was worked free to stride beyond the covering defenders only to wrench his effort wide when one on one with Foster, an effort which the eighteenth created in the match, but only three were on target.
Mesa picked up a second half yellow card as did Carroll before he was replaced by Luciano Narsingh, with Evans and substitute Chris Brunt for the Albion, alongside Welsh striker Hal Robson Kanu as he berated referee Dean on his way off the field to be replaced just before the goal, by Oliver Burke.
The crowd of 19,590 greeted the final whistle knowing they find themselves a point adrift Alan Pardew’s side who hover one place outside the relegation places; two wins would catapult Swansea to mid-table, which would be a welcome festive tonic as the January transfer window opens, allowing Clement an opportunity to re-inforce his squad which for most of this season has looked short on the quality required for survival in the Premier League.
Their first win since October was certainly scrappy where the immaculately dressed Clements’ initial reaction to Bony’s strike was to dance down the touchline coupled with a huge sigh of relief to go with his elation.
His bold offensive substitutions achieved the result he required as unbeaten table toppers Manchester City visit on Wednesday evening to fully test Clements’ skills and aptitude as a focused and thoughtful tactician.
The roadshow then heads to Goodison Park to take on an Everton side themselves on a run of four unbeaten games since former England supremo Sam Allardyce took the reins before fellow relegation rivals Crystal Palace arrive at the Liberty for a key Yuletide fixture on Saturday (Dec 23).
Swansea head on the road after Christmas, firstly again to Merseyside to face Liverpool at Anfield on Boxing Day and Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday (Dec 30) before hosting Tottenham Hotspur at home on Saturday (Jan 2).
Clement and his side will take confidence from Saturday’s victory which has eased the pressure in the cauldron after Club owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien afforded Clement their ‘public support’.
FAW disappointed at EURO 2020 snub
THE Football Association of Wales (FAW) and all its stakeholders are extremely disappointed with the news that its bid to secure four UEFA EURO 2020 matches at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff has been unsuccessful.
Over the past four years, Wales has successfully staged three UEFA events – firstly, the UEFA Super Cup Final in 2014, followed by the UEFA Men’s and Women’s Champions League Finals in June this year.
UEFA ranked the UEFA Champions League Final as one of their best events and praised the way in which the Cardiff 2017 Local Organising Committee delivered the showpiece.
The concept of taking UEFA EURO 2020 to 13 different countries was devised to allow smaller countries, like Wales, to have a unique opportunity of being involved in staging a major tournament.
Wales has never staged a EURO or World Cup Final and this was its one and only chance of doing so.
The FAW complied with all of the bid requirements and has written to UEFA to request feedback on the decision so that it can understand the reasons behind the vote for future reference.
The FAW wishes the FA and Wembley Stadium the very best for UEFA EURO 2020, which is sure to be a fantastic tournament.
The FAW will now fully concentrate its efforts on ensuring that the Wales National Team has the very best opportunity to qualify for and participate at UEFA EURO 2020.
Wales’ 6 Nations tickets on public sale
WALES’ home 2018 NatWest 6 Nations matches against France and Italy go on public sale from 10am tomorrow, Friday, December 8, at wru.wales/tickets.
It was also announced today that Warren Gatland’s side will open their campaign against Scotland on February 3 (2.15pm) in front of a sold-out Principality Stadium crowd.
Wales then hit the road to take on England and then Ireland, before returning to home soil on March 11 to host Italy (3pm) – where up to 48,000 new junior concessionary tickets have been made available – and welcoming France a week later, on the final weekend of the Championship (March 17, 5pm).
For the first time in the Championship a concessionary price ticket has been introduced for the round-four meeting with the Azzurri, meaning U16s can access this game for £20.
In another first for the national stadium, a unique ‘curtain-raiser’ also means supporters will be treated to two-matches-for-the-price-of-one that weekend, as the double-headed Sunday fixture includes the Wales Women clash with Italy – making it a must-see occasion for all the family.
Wales take winning momentum from their climactic Under Armour Series victory over South Africa into the tournament, after supporters turned-out in their greatest numbers for almost a decade, across the four-match series (a total of 265,071 attended Principality Stadium this autumn, the highest overall attendance for the campaign since 2008).
All three equivalent Six Nations home fixtures, against Scotland, France and Italy, sold-out at Principality Stadium in 2016 before the tournament started and a high demand for tickets is once again expected.
The Scotland game sold-out this week via Welsh rugby clubs, WRU supporters club members and debenture holders, who have had access to tickets since September, and a limited number remain for the clash with Les Bleus means that game is expected to sell-out before Christmas.
A seasonal guarantee means any orders before December 19 will be received by Christmas Day, with a festive-card option also available at the time of purchase (this option must be chosen at online check-out)
“We are blessed with the greatest supporters in world sport in Welsh rugby and we expect the hottest tickets in town to be snapped up in record time once again for this mouth-watering 2018 Natwest Six Nations campaign,” said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips.
“The concessionary tickets, which are available in their thousands for the Italy game, will be particularly popular, just as they proved to be for our Under Armour Series this autumn.
“Round four is set to be a real family rugby occasion at Principality Stadium, with the extra value of seeing two games for the price of one, as the Wales Women Six Nations international clash against Italy kicks-off ahead of the men’s game, at 11.45am.
“As a not for profit organisation, all WRU proceeds are invested back into the game at all levels.”
The WRU has guaranteed its lowest price ticket for a Six Nations match at Principality Stadium will be frozen at £40 for at least the next two seasons, until 2020.
REMAINING Tickets to watch Wales face France are priced at £80, £85 and £95, the Italy match has a concessionary ticket for U16s for the first time, priced at £20, with remaining prices at £50, £60, £65 and £75.
Official Hospitality Packages for Six Nations fixtures are available from 02920 822 413 or visit www.wru.wales/hospitality and official travel packages can be purchased from the WRU’s official travel supplier, Gullivers Sports Travel by visiting here
The WRU’s official resale marketplace, which gives clubs the opportunity to re-sell a limited selection of their allocated tickets to the general public, can also be found at www.seatwave.com/wru
For all other ticket enquiries contact wru.wales/tickets – which is now fully mobile responsive making it easier than ever to purchase tickets – or visit your local rugby club.
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