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.
Reds stunned by Nomads
Report by Alan Evans
A SOBERING welcome back to the JD Welsh Premier League for the Reds resulted in a crushing home defeat at the hands of opponents who are one of the favourites for the league title this season, and in an efficient demolition job, boasted their credentials.
The Nomads, packed with players having a wealth of ex-football league experience displayed a ruthless streak from the off, and the home side were hard put to live with the almost constant pressure, finding themselves three goals down after just 25 minutes.
The Reds were well contained as an attacking force, and John Danby in the visitors` goal was barely tested throughout, the nearest threat coming early on when Jordan Follows was brought down outside the box, with the subsequent free kick by James Loveridge being cleared by the defensive wall.
Nomads almost snatched the lead when former TNS striker, Michael Wilde, was played through the middle before directing his finish beyond the onrushing Oliver Davies in the home goal, but James Parry came to the rescue by clearing out of the goalmouth.
This turned out to be a brief respite and a foretaste of things to come, as the visitors opened their account in the 8th minute when some poor home defending allowed Wilde to meet a cross from the left and head past Davies.
Seven minutes later, the lead was doubled following another ball by Ryan Wignall lofted to the far post which was headed home by Michael Bakare.
Even at this early stage in proceedings, it was obvious the Reds had their hands full to prevent a humiliating outcome, with damage limitation seemingly the order of the day, but again they were exposed with another through ball which Wilde picked up, but this time Carlos Indja did just enough to shepherd it over for a goal kick.
A rare home attack saw Follows meeting a Loveridge driven cross and directing it towards the far post, but it was hacked clear by a Nomads defender.
On 25 minutes, events took an even worse turn for the home side after Declan Poole was found in space on the edge of the area, although his final finish took a wicked deflection off Scott Tancock before beating Davies.
Loveridge made ground down the right before his cross into the middle was pushed clear by Danby, with Laurence Wilson putting the rebound over for a corner.
Three goals down at the break, the Reds found themselves in even deeper trouble on 58 minutes following an effort by Wignall which again deflected off the unfortunate Tancock and into the net.
Five minutes later matters got even worse for the Reds when their opponents racked up a fifth success, when a melee in front of goal following a corner culminated in Michael Parker netting from close range.
Barely four minutes had elapsed before the Nomads turned the screw even further, with Bakare notching up his brace by heading home a Wignall delivery.
Davies pushed away a fiercely struck Nathan Woolfe free kick, and then did well to divert another attempt by the same player for a corner.
However, in stoppage time he was beaten again when the Nomads completed the rout through Laurence Wilson, who drove home his finish low into the bottom corner.
A sobering return to the top flight for the Reds, and they will certainly have to improve on this showing if they are to have any hope of survival in the long months which lie ahead.
On Saturday (Aug 18), the Reds travel to meet Cefn Druids with a coach leaving Stebonheath at 8am.
Welsh Premier League season begins
THE 2018/19 JD Welsh Premier League season kicks off tonight (Aug 10), with three exciting games in prospect.
Carmarthen Town begin their campaign away to Bala in a game that will be streamed live on S4C’s Facebook page.
Aberystwyth Town are also in action as they host Llandudno at Park Avenue. Friday’s other game sees Cardiff Met play Newtown.
The 27th season of the JDWPL welcomes back two names synonymous with Welsh football, as Caernarfon Town and Llanelli Town return to the top flight after a number of years out.
Both clubs are rooted into the heart of their respective communities and will be hoping for great support as they kick off their campaigns at home to Cefn Druids and Connah’s Quay Nomads respectively.
Llanelli Town begin their season on Sunday (Aug 12) with a home game against Connahs Quay Nomads (KO 14:30).
The league has been recognised a number of times through the BBC Price of Football Survey as being the most affordable top-flight league in the UK, a validation of clubs’ commitment to keeping the live football experience open to everyone within their local areas. With the most expensive ticket price once again, being no more than £10, that commitment will continue into this season and beyond.
The League launched digitally this year on all JD Welsh Premier League social media platforms, and was accompanied by music from Cardiff band Himalayas, as part of the FAW’s partnership with the BBC Cymru Wales Horizons project.
Gwyn Derfel, JD Welsh Premier League Secretary, encouraged people to give the league a go, saying: “It is important that people give the JD Welsh Premier League a chance as, when people do come, they do tend to come back, which shows that we have a good, authentic, family-friendly product which is affordable to all.”
So, whether the football experience you’re looking for is affordable, family-friendly, authentic, good quality or all of the above, you’ll find it in your local community, at a JD Welsh Premier League club.
It begins. Get involved!
Llangennech seal promotion
LLANGENNECH secured promotion back to Division 1 of the South Wales Cricket Association as they beat Morriston by six wickets on Saturday (Aug 4).
Morriston won the toss and chose to bat first but Llangennech showed their qualities as they restricted their opponents to 166-9 in their 50 overs.
Openers Peter Lynn and Jay Wittram had earlier shared 42 runs for the opening wicket but that was broken when Lynn was caught by David Williams off the bowling of Simon Clement.
Wittram scored 36 but he was then trapped leg before by Matthew Jones and Stuart Jones scored 14 before he was also trapped leg before by Stuart Goddard.
Wickets were falling at regular intervals and Andrew Norton was also trapped leg before by Goddard.
Meilyr Powel was then stumped by Williams off the bowling of Bav Patel for a score of 1 and Morriston had slipped to 81-5.
Matthew Dardecker then fell in the same fashion as Powel on a score of 6 before a stand of 49 boosted Morriston’s position.
Greg Handley scored 27 with two sixes but he was then run out and soon after Mark Whittaker was bowled by Matthew Jones on a score of 39.
Huw Knudson made a late score of 10 but he was then caught by Hedd-Wyn Jones off the bowling of Patel before Morriston limped to their total of 166-9.
Morriston struck early on as Llangennech began their reply when Hedd-Wyn Jones was caught by Lewis Francis off the bowling of Stuart Johnson for a third-ball duck.
Scott Lloyd and James Taube then shared 39 runs for the second wicket but that stand was broken when Taube was trapped leg before by Owen Francis on a score of 23.
Lloyd then shared another 61 runs with David Williams before the latter was caught by Huw Knudson off the bowling of Jay Wittram on a score of 43 that included nine fours.
Lloyd and Stuart Goddard then shared another good stand of 64 which took them to within touching distance of victory.
Goddard made 25 with four boundaries before he was bowled by Stuart Johnson.
Lloyd hit three fours as he finished not out on 40 to help his side back into Division 1 with victory.
It has been an excellent season for Llangennech and Saturday’s win was their eleventh of the season from fourteen games.
On Saturday (Aug 11), they will go again as they look to be crowned Division 2 Champions when they host bottom side Briton Ferry Town.
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