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Swans flying to new destinations after victory over Arsenal

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THE Liberty Stadium on Tuesday (Jan 30) saw Swansea take on Champions League hopefuls Arsenal with the charismatic Arsene Wenger, the longest serving manager in the Premier League barking instructions from the dug out.at his team.

The ‘Venga’ boys were out but it was the enthusiastic home crowd who were up for ‘the party’ from kick off.

Referee Mason dished out 3 yellow cards, all to the visitors as the greasy surface drew many rash challenges leaving Mason little time to dream of ‘heading to Ibiza’, a destination the Dutch based Vengaboys’ hit single from 1999 made famous.

Wenger the manager has thumped around in the top echelon of English football for over two decades, winning seventeen trophies during his tenure, including a double in 2003/4 when his ‘invincible side’ went through the season unbeaten, the first time it had been done since Preston North end did it 115 years before.

The Frenchman has calibre and panache and his ability unquestioned from the time he replaced Bruce Rioch, although his side arrived winless away from the Emirates in 2018, with new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan named as substitute.

Carlos Carvalhal, in stark contrast, had been defeated just once in his seven game-reign since arriving two days after he was sacked by Sheffield Wednesday in December, a side the Swans could potentially face for a place in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup if they overcome Notts County in next week’s replay.

The all whites started with a spring in their step, Nathan Dyer creating a half chance for Jordan Ayew inside ten minutes and another when he sprung a fizzing cross to Alfie Mawson at the far post, whose effort was blocked by a combination of former Cardiff City midfielder Arron Ramsey and goalkeeper Petr Czech.

Dyer was an outlet and consistently in space as the all blue away kitted ‘Gunners’ took a while to settle on the front foot despite two thirds possession, escaping again when Leroy Fer put Sam Clucas clear only for Mohammed Elneny to make a goal saving tackle and Ki Sung drove inches wide from 25 meters out. Wenger sat calm and collected in the dugout, having seen it all before whilst Carvalhal prowled with gusto, driving his side forward in a proud blue anorak.

Football is a game studied by many and absorbed by even more, with Wenger an author of his own book of football management, popular in Japan where he managed Nagoya Grampus before he was enticed to London. The written word meant little as Ayew put centre half Mike Van der Hoorn racing away and the innovative corners that followed fell on fallow land.

Lucas Fabianski saved from Alex Awobi at the other end, Ayew miscued a chance he created with a run from the halfway line before the opening goal on 32 minutes moved Wenger from his seat, as a delicate chip from Mesut Ozil to the far post saw full back Nacho Monreal ghost in unopposed.

The lead lasted just a minute, as Mawson beautifully slid in a pass for Clucas to drive the equaliser low passed Czech at his near post, greeted by a volcanic eruption of Hymns and Arias. A pop group genre these supporters do not aspire to be, settled on a mantra for dulcet harmony which stirs the emotion of anyone present, Welsh obviously but even the most patriotic Englishmen would be hard pressed not to have a lump in their throat.

Five minutes before the break Fer broke from midfield and held off the attention of three players before tamely shooting into Czechs waiting hands, Ayew aside him with the goal at his mercy. Boom, boom, boom forced Wenger up, hands gesturing in frustration at both the pace of the subdued visitors play and technical execution.

Swansea work rate off the ball was unquestionable, breezing with freedom when on the front foot as their seven shots in the first half testified when fourth official Roger East signalled a minute of extra time, under no duress from the TV Broadcasters tonight.

The half time music aptly blasted out the David Bowie classic ‘we can be heroes, just for one day’ to greet the players reappearance, where the Premier Leagues bottom side first half performance belied their precarious position.

Mawson has become the drum master for the home side and for the second home game on the bounce they had more than parity against sides chasing Champions League places. Clucas saw his headed opportunity go wide after a pin point cross from Kyle McNaughton where the Swans tactics of a 4-3-3 formation, allowed a spirit to attack.

Both Managers had attacking forces warming up, Arsenal including want a way striker Oliver Giroud in the company of Mkhitaryan, as Mason produced the yellow card out for the first time to Elneny.

An hour into the game and Mkhitaryan replaced Elneny but was powerless as the stadium erupted once more, this time to ‘who are you’ when Ayew struck for a 2-1 lead, rolling in a gift from goalkeeper Czech whose feet got caught under 6’5” frame.

Czech was nervous, flapping in his goal unlike the ‘Big Pole’ who now had a watching brief as the Swans faithful were living the dream and Dyer’s left foot shot beat Czech but not the upright with 20 minutes to play.

Héctor Bellerín went into the referee’s notebook for a naughty foul on Ayew and the Arsenal frustration was compounded when Ozil talked himself into the same book. Wenger’s credibility was on the line as he threw on Giroud, for possibly his last Arsenal appearance, for Awobi with a quarter of an hour remaining in an intense and absorbing encounter.

Ten minutes remaining and still Fabianski remained untroubled, Dyer left to wide acclaim from the stands and high fives from his management team, with Tom Carroll entering the fray. Mawson continued to marshal the assistant referees’ offside signals as the game entered its final phases,

Three points were Swansea’s when Carroll took on Dyers mantle, releasing Ayew who drove into the penalty box and Clucas pinged a right foot shot into the net. A clapping Bony came on for Ayew and the home side were out of the bottom three and the relegation zone for the first time since November, with Routledge coming on for man of the match Clucas in injury time.

The ‘Tinkerman’ Carvalhal has gone from intensive care to the maternity ward at Morriston Hospital as the Club have been reborn. Could Ibiza be the promised land for Swansea? The plane has certainly taken off from Wenger Airways, possibly heading to West Virginia, as that’s where ‘Jacks; belong when they can’t ‘help falling in love’.

The next port of call is Leicester City on Saturday (Feb 3) before Burnley arrive at the Liberty Stadium the week after.

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Felinfoel celebrate second successive title

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ON Wednesday (Apr 17), Felinfoel celebrated their second successive League 1 West title win as they beat Llanelli Wanderers 33-14.

Llanelli took the lead early on though as Rhydian Morgan scored a penalty. Felinfoel though hit back with two penalties of their own scored by Aled Roberts.

Rhydian Morgan then scored his second penalty to level the scores at 6-6. The home side then scored their first try of the night but the conversion was missed.

Shortly before the break Morgan completed his hat trick of penalties for the Wanderers to make it 11-9 at half time.

The Wanderers were keen to give the Champions a good game and early in the second half they went ahead as Lloyd Thomas touched down but the conversion was missed.

That gave the visitors as 11-14 lead but it was then that Felinfoel took control of the game.

They regained the lead shortly after with an unconverted try to take them two points ahead.

Felinfoel then scored a second unconverted try to make the score 21-14.

The champions then all but secured their eighteenth victory with their fourth try to earn another bonus point and the conversion from Roberts made it 28-14.

There was still time for one more try for the home side and the missed conversion left the score at 33-14.

Leon Randell scored two tries for the home side with others coming from Elliot Dawe, Jason Frater and Rhys Evans.

After the game Felinfoel received the league trophy and the celebrations began. Felinfoel now wait to see who they will play in the two-leg Championship play-off.

Mike King, Felinfoel RFC Head Coach told the Herald: “It’s a great achievement from everyone involved in the club.

Credit has to go to the players and support staff, who without their buy in to what I wanted to achieve this would not have been impossible.

The whole club is aligned and the continued success of the Junior structure and Youth set up has allowed us to bring in to the first team system some younger, talented players to ensure the continued success of the club.

Credit must also be given to the Club Committee for the continued support and proactive approach to what has been a tremendous season for the Club as a whole!”

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Great Welsh Marathon ‘overwhelming success’

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THE Great Welsh Marathon took place in Llanelli on Sunday (Apr 14), with over 1100 athletes taking part across two races.

The third edition of the Great Welsh Marathon & Half Marathon organised by Front Runner Events was hailed an overwhelming success, with a record number of runners taking on both sold-out races.

Despite the windy Welsh weather, the runners taking on this year’s race were supported by hundreds of volunteers who turned out in their numbers to cheer the athletes. The event has almost doubled in size since 2018 and included many first timers, charity runners and club runners.

This year, the race also welcomed the largest international field so far, with over 15 nationalities represented, with some travelling as far as Australia, India, and the USA. Although the Llanelli coast may not have the tropical climate of California or Perth but it certainly has it’s own Welsh charm and stunning coastline.

One runner commented: “My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the race, it was challenging but brilliant. My friends travelled over from San Francisco to visit and take part in the race.

It was their first marathon and first time visiting Wales. It was a great experience and excellent course with plenty of marshals on the route helping you along the way.”

Local running clubs provided a team of race pacers helping many runners achieve their personal best’s and hitting their target time on the day.

The fully marshalled race took place on the Millennium coastal path, included Brecon Carreg water stations, energy gel stops, bespoke medal, a technical finisher t-shirt and goody bag for all race finishers. Runners were also able to benefit from a much-needed pre or post-race massage provided by Gower College Swansea.

Both the full and half marathon started at Festival Fields, Llanelli before heading out to Burry Port, where the runners turned and headed back along the Millennium Coastal Path to Machynys and then back to Festival Fields.

General feedback has been fantastic, as runners took to social media to share their successes and photos with friends. The race, which was a regarded as a complete success saw lots of personal best times achieved, with the top 3 male half marathon course records beaten and most notably; the women’s first place half marathon winner shaved an impressive 12 minutes off last years record.

Results (provisional) – Great Welsh Half Marathon 2019

Male:

1. Luke Williams (San Domenico) 01:14:19
2. Dean Summers (Llanelli AC) 01:16:43
3. Finn Arentz (Unattached) 01:17:29

Female:

1. Melanie Wilkins (Winchester) 01:18:18
2. Carys Mai Hughes (Cardiff AC) 01:21:19
3. Amy Evans (Clwb Rhedeg Pontardawe RC) 01:33:29

Results (provisional) – Great Welsh Marathon 2019

Male:

1. Gethin Davies (Unattached) 02:45:44
2. Joseph Murray (Unattached) 02:46:13
3. Richard Foster (Spirit of Monmouth) 02:49:05

Female:

1. Katie Warren (Unattached) 03:04:47
2. Lizzie Diamond (Lliswerry Runners) 03:12:07
3. Crystal Goecker (Harrogate Harriers & AC) 03:12:15
The winning team of the Corporate Challenge was Carmarthenshire Actif Sport and Leisure, who also took the crown at the 2019 Llanelli Half Marathon. The full RACE RESULTS and official photos are available on the website:
www.greatwelshmarathon.co.uk

Race Director, David Martin-Jewell said: “The Great Welsh Marathon and Half Marathon has grown in its size and stature since we took it over in late 2016, we are thankful to the local runners who continue to support us across all of our races, however it has been fantastic to see the number on international runners travelling to Carmarthenshire to take on the Great Welsh races.

We have a strong team of Sector Heads and volunteers who continue to assist us at each of our events, without them, we would not be able to hold such successful events so we would like to thank them for their help and support.

We would also like to thank Brecon Carreg (Hydration Partner) for supplying water for the runners during and after the event. Also, a huge thank you to Carmarthenshire Council for continuing to support our events and letting us showcase what Carmarthenshire has to offer.”

The event was supported by a number of local businesses, event delivery partners and also received backing from Carmarthenshire County Council Event Support Grant in 2019.

The 2020 Great Welsh Full and Half Marathon will take place on Sunday, April 5, 2020, and will have a NEW route starting and finishing in the magnificent Pembrey Country Park.

Runners will be delighted to know that registration is now open, and they can reserve their place on the start line, just head to: www.greatwelshmarathon.co.uk

Further details and full race results can be found on the website, and you can also keep up to date with news and see the latest photos by liking the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GreatWelshMarathon or follow @WelshMarathon #RunCymru #WalesLovesRunning on Twitter.

If you are inspired by the Great Welsh Marathon and Half Marathon, why not sign up to the 2019 JCP Swansea Half Marathon which takes place on Sunday, June 23.

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Old Gold seal win late on

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CARMARTHEN Town eventually beat rivals Llanelli Town 3-1 on Saturday (Apr 13) after dominating for large parts of the first half.

Relegated Llanelli did take the lead but the Old Gold came from behind to lead but it wasn’t until late on that they secured the three points.

As last week, a much less impressive second-half performance allowed the opposition to maintain a serious interest in the match until a late third goal ensured victory for the Old Gold.

Town completely dominated the opening stages with frequent fast incisive raids through the midfield which the visitors’ overworked defence struggled to resist – yet despite forcing a series of early corner-kicks, it was not until the 9th minute that a genuine scoring opportunity arose.

Greg Walters sent a long pass down the left touchline to find Jordan Knott who neatly slipped the ball inside to Lewis Harling on the edge of the penalty area – he instantly released a delightful curling shot that went beyond the reach of ‘keeper Scott Coughlan but drifted just wide of the far post.

Shortly afterwards the ball was played through to Liam Thomas who, from 30 yards out, sprinted effortlessly past two defenders to reach the penalty area then dispatched a stunning angled drive that defeated Coughlan but flew just narrowly over the bar.

During this opening spell Llanelli had barely managed to make any meaningful progress going forward and the home defence had been put under no real pressure – but in the 15th minute all that changed.

An Old Gold attack broke down well inside the visitors’ half and the ball was quickly played forward beyond the half-way line where Town central defenders Lee Surman and Dave Vincent found themselves outnumbered by three Reds forwards – Joe Clarke sent the ball forward to Tristan Jenkins who raced clear towards the edge of the penalty area then fired a crisp strike past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the far corner of the net.

Stung by that setback Carmarthen straightaway swarmed upfield with even greater intensity than before – yet still they were unable to produce a shot on target or test Coughlan in any significant way.

Then on 23 minutes they deservedly got back on level terms. Knott sent a throw-in to Thomas on the corner of the penalty area and he swiftly lifted a high cross to the far side of the goalmouth where Luke Bowen stabbed the ball past Coughlan and into the back of the net.

Town continued their dominance of the play and went close to taking the lead after 28 minutes – Mael Davies, from the centre-circle, sent a neat pass through to Walters who took the ball forward then released a powerful 30 yard drive that defeated Coughlan but slid marginally wide of the post.

They achieved their aim just moments later – Bowen slipped a smart pass on to Knott who raced into the penalty area then ‘squared’ the ball across to Thomas and, with typical confidence and precision, Town’s top scorer fired it past Coughlan and into the back of the net.

The Old Gold kept up the pressure and on 38 minutes Jordan Vickers launched a long pass down the right touchline that found Bowen who sprinted past Joe Hunt then sent an inviting cross into the penalty area where Ceri Morgan arrived with perfect timing but, under pressure from two defenders, he drove the ball straight at Coughlan.

In the closing stages of the first-half Vincent fired a long clearance upfield which Bowen, again, collected – he took the ball forward to the by-line then crossed it into the penalty area but saw Davies, from 15 yards, wastefully fire his shot wide of the goal.

The initial period after the interval was a decidedly scrappy affair with neither side seemingly able to keep possession of the ball long enough to make any meaningful progress, let alone create a decent scoring opportunity.

However eventually on 61 minutes the match livened up when Davies’ corner-kick was headed away but only as far as Harling who from 20 yards struck a fierce volley that Coughlan, at full length, spectacularly turned around the post.

Straightaway the game became more evenly-balanced as it opened up with some lively end-to-end play.

The Old Gold defence dealt capably with the intermittent pressure due principally to another sound performance from experienced defenders Surman, Vincent and Knott, while Idzi once more looked sound and secure whenever his involvement was necessary.

By contrast the visitors’ defence seemed more vulnerable and Coughlan was certainly the busier ‘keeper, particularly in the closing stages of the match when Town were once again attacking with more pace and purpose.

After 80 minutes Declan Carroll sent the ball across to Thomas who moved swiftly forward into the penalty area then neatly slipped past a defender before dispatching a rasping drive that Coughlan, with an impressive reflex save, turned around the post.

In the 87th minute he was powerless to prevent the Old Gold from increasing their lead and settling the result. Luke Cummings finished a surging run along the right flank with a smart cross into the penalty area where Thomas, with a neat touch, sent the ball further on to Bowen who from 15 yards struck a sharp volley beyond Coughlan’s reach and into the back of the net.

This was Luke’s 11th WPL goal of the season – he and Liam Thomas have now scored 31 League goals between them out of Town’s current total of 42 which, remarkably, represents close to 75% of that figure. The next highest scorers are Mael Davies, Greg Walters and Declan Carroll all with just 2 WPL goals each. All of which graphically demonstrates the value of these two experienced strikers to the team throughout this season.

Then in added time Coughlan denied Town a fourth goal – Davies, from the right touchline slid a fine pass through to Thomas who outpaced a defender to reach the edge of the penalty area then released a fierce angled shot that the overworked ‘keeper just managed to block.

The three points gained from this victory have lifted Carmarthen closer to the 9th placed team in the WPL table, Cefn Druids, and with just two more matches to play there remains the possibility of overtaking them.

But to preserve this chance Town must win their penultimate match, at Cefn, next Saturday, April 20, (k/o 2.30pm) and then hope for favourable results in the final round of fixtures the following week.

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