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No Saintly intervention for the Swans

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By Jonathan Twigg

KEEPERS of the faith or a question when football rivalry becomes a ‘Holy War’ where your life depends on it.

Kevin Johns MBE, a pillar of Swansea City, spoke of martyrdom before defeat by Southampton, on Tuesday (May 8). Saint Mary, a team from the Church Young Men’s Association of 1885 born the banks of the ‘Itchen’ currently managed by ‘Welshmen’ Mark Hughes. A eulogy which encapsulates Peter Rodrigues, 1976 cup winning captain and the towering Paul Jones in goal; best of all from the pearly gates, none other than Gareth Bale.

Many thought godly intervention occurred with the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal prior to Christmas, divine intervention immediate, but the current situation, no goals and no points stretching back a month.

Wales and football have always had a heavenly ring when it comes to looking for signs but compare Scotland, Rangers vs Celtic for a view on how religion and sport cannot be separated. After Tuesday evening, a hope for a shared appreciation with Cardiff City in the Premier League once more, now hangs by a thread.

There was no cross carrying to the altar on this occasion, 20,000 white flag bearing emblems whipping the pilgrims to a frenzy. Andrew and Jordan Ayew the early disciples, Ki Sung-Yueng strong like St Barnabas, allowing Andy King having space to go for goal.

Luigi Scrosoppi (1804-84) the patron saint of footballers extended his care to all players but maybe, just maybe he had an inkling of companionship with George not David for the night. He was a battler against the strong anti-clerical feeling in Italy to bring hope and comfort to the poor; boy did Luigi, the son of a jeweller know when to kick sand.

The business of global football is humungous, still growing, the Premier League of course the place to be. Thursday, June 14, the start of the 2018 World Cup wouldn’t be able to match the energy of the Liberty Stadium, viral electricity in the form of a ‘berating Sparky’.

Kevin Johns’ reverence a catalyst for a chapel just off the players tunnel, encapsulating the imagery of ‘Camp Nou’? Peering back a replica of the Virgin of Montserrat, Catalonia’s most famous religious icon and its patron saint, with Baby Jesus on her lap exchange for St David, proudly inhaling a full choral rendition of ‘Land of my Fathers’. The Swans held sway, thirty minutes of football to their advantage, but no goal, Fabianski, the ‘big pole in the goal’ a saviour from Charlie Austin; twice.

One part of the epiphany, patron saint of the lottery, ‘Pantaleon’ although the Swansea players inspired by Saint Sebastian, extremely fit and able to withstand long physical endurance. Praying didn’t win the crunch game, when it mattered.

the ‘Jack Army’ a congregation of little ill repute registering the pressure, heading every ball, drumming pace and trickery. Sam Clucas saw his header slide across the face of the Alex McCarthy’s goal, the throng now not committed to the Sunday service Kevin asked of in his prayer.

The second half tension, flaring tempers and Jordan Ayew off like the clappers in tune with the stand, Austin chance after chance, enter Tammy Abraham, a tactical change replacing wing back Martin Olsson, Kyle McNaughton flying as Tammy called the tune, Jan Bednarek flattened by his own goal keeper, left to take a seat on the pews, Abraham cranked up the crescendo before substitute Manolo Gabbiadini broke the deadlock and the spirit.

Narsingh came on for McNaughton in the final quarter, Tom Carroll for King, Ki wasteful with Michael Oliver awarding six minutes of extra time, Abraham close before the emotion drained away.

The singing voices now clearly ‘the saints come marching in’ reminding us of St. Jude Thaddeus, cousin of Jesus and one of his Twelve Apostles, the patron saint of hopeless, desperate situations and lost, impossible, or forgotten causes. Read, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Kevin Johns, a Swan through and through and hope reigns eternal, perhaps with some ‘Hail Mary’s’ church bells will continue to ring loudly across West Wales.

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Hendy hit back in second half

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HENDY secured their fourth win of the season on Saturday (Oct 13) as they beat second placed Gowerton 26-15 after a fine second half.

The win moves Hendy up to third and they now sit just a point behind Gowerton.

Hendy’s Rhydian Morris got the home side on the board with a try but he couldn’t add the conversion.

Morris did add a penalty but Gowerton hit back with a converted try and a penalty to lead 10-8 at the break.

Hendy stepped up in the second half and Jake Newman put Hendy back in front with a good try.

Steffan Howells then grabbed Hendy’s third while Morris was successful with one of his three conversion attempts.

Morris also added two further penalties to all but seal the win for the home side.

Gowerton hit back with a late try but it wasn’t enough to affect the outcome of the game and Hendy saw it out.

On Saturday (Oct 20), Hendy are away as they take on fourth placed Llanelli Wanderers in what promises to be an exciting game.

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Scarlets beaten at the death

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A LAST gasp penalty try for last season’s Heineken Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 condemned Scarlets to a single point defeat in their opening game of this season’s competition.

Storm Callum played his part in the pre-match preparations with rain and gale force winds keeping people away from the Parc.

The Scarlets, unaffected by the storm, prepared for an opening titanic clash against the French side.

The home side got the first points on the board after Racing were penalised on a couple of occasions leading to a penalty for Leigh Halfpenny to send through the posts.

Photo by Darren Harries

Racing then began to put pressure on the Scarlets and Finn Russell thought he had scored but play had been called back for a knock on.

Scarlets then came close to scoring a try but a knock on gave possession back to the visitors who then went back on the attack.

The home side lost concentration and that allowed flanker Baptiste Chouzenoux to run in for a try under the posts and Russell then added the extras.

That gave the French side a 3-7 lead at the break but the Scarlets came out for the second half determined to get back into the lead.

Ten minutes in they had a scrum close to the line and it was Gareth Davies who picked the ball before spotting a gap and going through to score. Halfpenny’s conversion was only inches away but Scarlets led 8-7.

Moments later Scarlets were back on the attack and after working through the phases the ball came to Jonathan Davies who kicked ahead for Johnny McNicholl to run onto and touch down. Again the conversion was missed.

The French side looked to respond but some good defending from saw them clear the ball downfield which Steff Evans did his best to retrieve.

Racing were penalised for not rolling away but Scarlets conceded possession with a knock on and the visitors came forward once more.

Scarlets defended well initially but referee Matthew Carley spotted an infringement and went under the posts for a penalty try and also sending Gareth Davies to the sin bin.

The home side had little time to respond and although they went upfield they were unable to add to the score.

Scarlets will be disappointed to have suffered defeat and will need to pick themselves up for Friday’s (Oct 19) game, also in the Heineken Cup, this time away to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

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Reds made to pay for missed chances

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A WET and windy evening (Fri, Oct 12) at Stebonheath ended in yet another loss for the Reds who have now accumulated just a measly point from their five home games to date.

But yet again, as has been the case in earlier matches, they could and should have wrapped up matters prior to the break, but failure to convert a number of gilt-edged chances cost them dearly in the long run.

James Loveridge was the main culprit by failing to  finish off a number of moves when through on goal, and these misses were to prove crucial when the visitors struck twice in the second half after being comprehensively outplayed in the first.

Photo by Darren Harries

Manager Andy Hill has also the additional worry of even more injuries to contend with, with Jordan Davies having to be replaced by Lenny Evans six minutes after the restart following a challenge on halfway, while Chris Thomas also came off with Anton Nelson taking his place.

Just to add to the overall dispiriting picture, the Reds were again reduced to ten men just before the final whistle when Scott Tancock  was red-carded – their third dismissal in as many games, and Tancock`s second in just five weeks, following his sending-off at Bala Town.

With resources already stretched to breaking-point, more and more reliance is being placed on academy players to fill the gaps, and to their credit they are shaping up well against far more experienced and physical opponents.

Jamie Owen, Nelson, Evans and Tristan Jenkins were all involved at some stage against the Met. and certainly did not let the occasion get to them, and at least the future of the club seems to be moving in the right direction with these talents available.

The first half was dominated by the home side, with Loveridge having an early chance which was just wide of the near post.

Daniel Alfei, making his home debut, then set up another chance for the striker, but this time goalkeeper Alex Lang brought off a great save to divert Loveridge`s finish around the upright.

Constantly on the front foot, and playing some decent attractive football in atrocious conditions, the Reds had their opponents pinned back for long periods, and they were lucky to survive another attempt from Loveridge which beat Lang and was heading for the net before Dylan Rees somehow contrived a clearance off the line.

The Met keeper was being kept fully occupied, and again brought off another important save from Loveridge when he got clear on goal, but with the number of chances which had come his way, the home striker would know he should have converted at least a couple.

Another Reds` chance came from a Chris Jones corner which was met by Carlos Indja at the far post, but he steered his finish just off target.

Despite their overall dominance, the hosts had still failed to break the deadlock at the interval, and it was still all to play for in the second half.

It was then that the tide began to turn in favour of the visitors who were far more involved than in the opening forty-five minutes, and Oliver Davies in the home goal, who had been a virtual spectator, was at last called into some meaningful action.

Photo by Darren Harries

A run down the left by Adam Roscrow culminated in a ball across the face of the home goal which failed to pick out a colleague, while Sam Snaith narrowly failed to connect with his header from a Elliot Evans delivery.

When the Reds countered, another Loveridge effort was hacked out of the goalmouth, before almost inevitably the Met opened the scoring on 79 minutes when Harry Owen met a ball into the box close to goal, and despite Davies managing to parry his shot, he could not prevent it squirming from his grasp into the net

He then pulled off a fine save from Roscrow when he was set up by Ben Bowler, but with the final whistle approaching, Tancock was dismissed by referee David Morgan for a foul on the same player just outside the box when homing in on goal.

The subsequent free kick was taken by Evans, who rifled an unstoppable strike into the top corner leaving Davies helpless in the 88th minute to effectively put the contest out of the Reds` reach.

In stoppage time, Davies was again in action, this time turning around another attempt on target by Roscrow.

More heartache for the Reds, who have another difficult game awaiting them at Jenner Park on Friday evening (Oct 19) when they take on Barry Town United. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

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