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Loveridge brace earns vital win for Reds

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IT turned out to be a satisfactory afternoon for Llanelli Town, for as well as opening up a four point gap between themselves and their visitors at the foot of the table, courtesy of a brace by James Loveridge, the two teams immediately above them, Carmarthen Town and Cefn Druids, both lost, closing the points gap to five and six respectively.

Four new players made their debuts, although three of them – Scott Coughlan, Lee Bevan and Luke Morgan – are all ex-Reds, but the signing of Swansea City legend, Leon Britton, is probably the biggest coup the club has made, and is a tremendous morale-booster, both to the team and the Welsh Premier League.

Hopefully, his vast experience playing at the highest level will be the spur the Reds need to extricate themselves from their present predicament, and ensure their survival at the end of the season.

Llandudno, too, have been busy in the transfer window, bringing in Les Davies, Ryan Wade and Zebb Edwards who were all named in the starting line-up, and they were the first to threaten when a Toby Jones corner was headed against the bar by George Harry before the danger was cleared.

A run by Harry up the middle saw him unleash a shot which Coughlan dealt with comfortably, but he earned his reward on 12 minutes by putting the visitors ahead, meeting a ball into him on the half volley before turning and beating the home keeper.

The hosts were struggling somewhat to establish a foothold in the game, and they were hard pressed at times to contain their opponents, typified when Mark Connolly sent Harry clear up the right, and his delivery into the goalmouth could have gone anywhere, but deflected for a corner.

Photo by Darren Harries

As the contest progressed, the Reds began to come to grips with proceedings, and Kurtis March fired wide of the near post from a Jordan Davies assist, before they levelled matters on the half hour through Loveridge, who seized on a pass by Chris Jones to beat goalkeeper Shaun Pearson inside his near post

The home striker went close again shortly after, seeing his finish flash fractionally wide, while Davies failed to make a clean connection when he was found in the box.

But within seven minutes of the equaliser, Loveridge struck again to notch up his brace when he was the recipient of a pass from Davies, before once again beating the Llandudno keeper with a well taken finish.

Narrowly ahead at the break, the Reds had once again to withstand some early pressure after the restart, when Telor Williams, who had replaced Zyaac Edwards at half time, forced Coughlan into a save when he met a cross into the middle.

Joe Clarke then sent Loveridge clear up the right where he made inroads into the box, but his final ball across the face of goal sailed just beyond the back post.

The next home threat arose when Scott Tancock burst through the middle and his fiercely struck shot was parried away by Pearson with Clarke meeting the rebound, only for a timely block to relieve the danger.

Photo by Darren Harries

The visitors retaliated through Jones whose delightful delivery sent Alun Webb clear on a run down the right flank, and he cut inside but dragged his finish across the net and wide of the target.

With Llandudno desperately attempting to grab an equaliser, the Reds goal was surviving some close calls at times, but somehow it held out with Bevan a rock at the back, and when they countered, Loveridge, who was having an outstanding match, twice almost added to the tally.

He then set up Davies by crossing the ball into the goalmouth, but somehow the chance was lost when Pearson was able to hold on to the finish from point blank range.

The visitors might well have levelled matters shortly before the final whistle, when a corner by Jones found Davies, but he directed his header inches wide from a good position.

The home side hung on to clinch three precious points, and now face a visit to The New Saints on Saturday evening (Jan 12) for their final game prior to the mid-season split. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.

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Cwm’s good run halted by leaders

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CWMAMMAN United saw their recent good run of form halted on Saturday (Mar 16) as they returned from the Kymco Stadium in Bridgend pointless after a battling display against unbeaten league leaders Penybont who came out 2-0 winners.

In strong wind and rain Cwmamman took time to settle to the 4G pitch and conceded an early goal after 5 minutes when a free header from a corner left Chris Curtis in goal with no chance.

With the wind against them Penybont were keeping the ball on the floor and were controlling possession while Cwm tried to soak up the pressure and catch them on the break through releasing their wingers Ashley Curtis and Ryan Hurlow.

It felt like a long day at the office as Cwm’s midfield fought hard to get a foothold with Ross Morgan, Ryan Thomas and Colin Harris battling hard as the pressure mounted.

On 27 Minutes Penybont were denied a second goal after the effort was ruled off side. Curtis was again called into action and produced a great low save after a snap shot. Cwmamman were slowly getting into the game and a great header on by Chris Allen freed Ashley Curtis but he fired over the bar.

Just before half time Penybont were awarded a controversial penalty but a great save by Curtis kept the score at 1-0 to the hosts at the break.

Cwmamman were now playing against a very strong wind in the second period and Gareth Howarth and Declan John at the centre of Cwm’s defence were required to be error free while Penybont’s wing backs were also putting a lot of pressure on Calem Rees and Ashley Johns at full back.

However, it was still only a one goal deficit and Cwm felt they were still in the game. On 55 minutes Cwmamman had their best chance when Ryan Hurlow found Ryan Thomas who’s shot went narrowly passed the post.

Penybont were then handed a second goal again from a corner when the assistant referee flagged to indicate that the ball had crossed the line much to the surprise of everyone on the ground, including the home fans.

This goal secured the game for the hosts and deflated Cwmamman United who had given their all.

Cwmamman kept plugging away though and nearly pulled a goal back late on through another Ryan Thomas effort.

Cwmamman United have no fixture on Saturday (Mar 23), whilst the reserves are away to FC Nedd.

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Tour of Britain nominated for top award

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THE OVO Energy Tour of Britain has been nominated for a prestigious Sporting Event of the Year award.

The hugely successful cycle race has been shortlisted as a finalist at the Event Production Awards 2019, which take place in London this month.

The Grand Depart took place at Pembrey Country Park on Sunday, September 2 with Stage One of the race travelling north through Carmarthenshire en-route to the stage finish in Newport.

The Tour of Britain is one of eight nominees in the Sporting Event of the Year category and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Hammersmith on Thursday, March 14.

The awards recognise and celebrate the hard work and achievements of key contractors, agencies and production teams within the outdoor and live events industry.

Thousands of people lined the route through Carmarthenshire to cheer on the professional riders which included world-class cyclists Geraint Thomas – fresh from his epic Tour de France victory – and Chris Froome; and communities really got into the spirt of the race with various activities and events held and by creating impressive pieces of land art.

Live televised coverage, post-race highlights and national media coverage put Carmarthenshire in the spotlight as a world-class visitor destination and host of major sporting events.

It is estimated that in just that weekend alone, the county benefitted from an economic boost of £800,000 not to mention the long-term impact.

Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “This nomination is testament to the hard work of all involved to put on what is the biggest cycling race in the UK calendar.

“I wish the OVO Energy Tour of Britain team the best of luck; this award reflects the tremendous success of the event and I would like to think that we in Carmarthenshire played a small part in that.

“It is our aspiration to become the Cycling Hub of Wales and I think we have certainly proven ourselves as a first-class venue for major events.”

Talks are ongoing to build on the success of the Tour of Britain and bring more elite events to the county in the future.

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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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