Derby Day part 1 – Double figures in Welshpool

Ben Westmancott travels west to Wales for one of the most local derbies in the United Kingdom and sees an eleven goal massacre.

Local derbies rarely get much closer than this (geographically speaking). Waterloo Rovers and Welshpool Town occupy pitches at either end of Maesydre Recreation Ground in Welshpool. As far as value for money goes, £3 for one adult and two children is up there with the best. No programme though and no tannoy announcements, and with only one team sheet (guarded by the referee) matchday information was on the lean side.

The facilities at Waterloo’s ground are functional – just. No toilets, a minimalist tea bar, a 50 seater stand and small rooms for changing was about it. No floodlights hence the 2pm kick off. On the far side, park benches saved supporters from standing. Rudimentary but charming. Did I mention the lack of toilets? The sight of players running for pre-match relief behind the trees was a new one for me. And as for the inevitable, “Dad, I need a wee.” Well, enough said. Continue reading

Swansea silence the Sports Direct Arena at St James Park

Christmas shopping?  Not on your nelly…Abi Davies boarded the Swansea fun bus and headed as far north as you can in the Premier League with a visit to the St James, errr Sports Direct Arena.

Swansea City made the long journey North on Saturday in the midst of a busy Christmas period looking to capitalise on Newcastle’s current poor form which sees them without a win in their last 4 fixtures, in order to record their first away victory of the campaign.

Alan Pardew’s much depleted back line has left him with little resources at his disposal over recent weeks so it would have come as much relief that he had both Coloccini and Williamson back to bolster Newcastle’s defence.

Swansea had Joe Allen available again after the midfielder sat out last weekend’s victory over Fulham due to a one match suspension. He returned to the starting line up in place of Luke Moore who may have felt aggrieved to have to settle for a place amongst the substitutes given the magnitude of his performances in Swansea’s last two fixtures.

The only other change made by Brendan Rodgers saw Danny Graham restored to the starting XI to make his 250th career league appearance in place of Leroy Lita who has also delivered outstanding performances of late, looking hungry and eager in front of goal. Continue reading

Swans make light work of the Cottagers

Our very own Abi Davies has returned to the Earth’s orbit after a celebratory weekend toasting the pride of South Wales.

Suffering their sixth defeat of the season at Ewood Park last weekend, I felt Saturday’s fixture against Fulham was an important game for Swansea to win given that their next two games are away from home against incredibly stern opposition. However coming up against a Fulham side full of confidence having claimed a 1-0 victory over Liverpool on Monday night, Brendan Rodgers’ side knew that taking 3 points from Martin Jol’s side would be no mean feat.

The Welsh side were without influential midfielder Joe Allen as he served his match suspension following the red card received last week. Luke Moore was the player to benefit from Allen’s absence as he made his first Premier League start for Swansea.

Having been drafted into the side last weekend in place of the injured Danny Graham, Lita retained his place in the side to face Fulham despite Graham’s availability, meaning Swansea’s top scorer had to settle for a place among the substitutes.

The Swans were bolstered by the return of Steven Caulker who had been out of action since September’s defeat at The Emirates due to damaged knee ligaments.

The visitors got the game under way, and following a slow start the home side began to enjoy the better spells in possession early on as they controlled proceedings, not allowing Fulham to settle into any rhythm. Continue reading

The greatest derby in the world

Mark Pitman reports from The GenQuip Stadium as Afan Lido claim another Welsh Cup win over their rivals. Gareth Elms was on hand for the photo’s.

The first competitive match between local rivals Port Talbot Town and Afan Lido for over four years was a very different affair to famed previous encounters, but the only consistent of derby days passed was on hand to head home the headlines as the scoreline once again went in favour of the visitors. The two sides, separated by a couple of streets in the South Wales town, last met when they were drawn together in the Welsh Cup back in 2007 and a 1-0 win for the Lido was as good then as it was again in this latest contest. The fixture had a string of similarities in terms of the competition, the venue, the score, the goal and the importance, but the personal and the passion of previous derby days were very sadly missing.

The scene was set for another intense encounter between two sides battling for local supremacy, but the match echoed little of what has made this fixture so famous over the last decade. Over the years the fixture has been memorable for midfield battles, red cards, penalties and controversy in front of a crowd quadrupled for a one-off occasion. Sadly, this latest instalment lacked it all. Since the last time the two sides met, both teams now have different managers and while Leigh De-Vulgt, Lee John, Martin Rose and substitute Dylan Blain remain for the home side, the only name still on the Lido team-sheet from that 1-0 win in 2007 was Carl Evans. Although Evans played briefly for Port Talbot Town after that win, he like so many others before eventually him found his way back to Lido, and it would be his winning goal that would decide the tie. Afan Lido left-back Craig Hanford should also receive a mention at this time, he was part of the Port Talbot Town side that lost the 2007 fixture. Continue reading

Swans fed to the Yak

After their “planned” capitulation at Cardiff City on Tuesday, Swansea City’s visit to Ewood Park could have spelt disaster for Rover’s manager Steve Kean.  Alas, as Abi Davies found out, there is nothing worse in football than a centre forward scorned.

A whole host of defensive errors from the Swans on Saturday, along with many great tactics applied by Steve Kean’s side, further prolongs Swansea City’s wait for a first Premier League victory away from home.

The visitors got the game under way and enjoyed the superior spells in possession early on. However, despite Swansea’s initial dominance it was evident that the hosts had done their homework on Brendan Rodgers side as they pressed us high up the field, not permitting us to play out from defence. On the rare occasion that they did allow us time to build from the back, Blackburn doubled up on our wide players cutting off our sources/outlets and forcing us to spontaneously alter our strategies. Continue reading

A game that should not have been played?

Abi Davies brings us some of the reaction from the highly emotional game yesterday at The Liberty Stadium.

The Swans recorded a 6th clean sheet of the season on Sunday in a game where the result became somewhat insignificant following the tragic sudden passing of Welsh manager Gary Speed. My overwhelming feeling prior to kick off and throughout the fixture was one of distance from the game. The tragic circumstances put into perspective how much more there is to life, as the football World began to mourn the death of one of the most respected and well loved gentlemen to grace the game.

Four members of the Welsh national squad were involved in Sunday’s fixture as Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor and James Collins all started for their respective clubs, whilst close friend of Speed, Shay Given also played at The Liberty despite understandably being unable to disguise his grief.

The only change to the Swansea side condemned to defeat against Manchester United last weekend came in midfield, as Joe Allen returned to the starting XI in place of Wayne Routledge who had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.

Continue reading

Saints suffer at the Seaside

Mark Pitman reports from The Marston’s Stadium as Afan Lido upset the Welsh Premier League leaders. Gareth Elms was on hand for the photo’s.

Afan Lido eased their Welsh Premier League relegation worries on Friday night with the result and performance of the season. League leaders The New Saints arrived at the Marston’s Stadium looking to return to form after a rare home defeat to Bangor City the week before. Andy Dyer’s side had already defeated the only other full-time club at home this season when they edged past Neath back in August and more recently had frustrated a list of clubs challenging at the top of the table with draws against champions Bangor City, Llanelli and Neath. Addressing their limitations with a defensive line-up had suitably upset their superior opponents, but the fact that the side had not scored more than one goal in any of their previous fifteen league games this season explained their place in the bottom two.

The New Saints have seen their lead at the top cut in recent weeks but a 3-0 win over Afan Lido at Park Hall earlier in the season offered an indication that the club could and should retain their place at the top of the table following this latest fixture. While Bangor City were claiming a memorable 4-3 win at Park Hall the week before, Afan Lido were slumping to a comfortable 3-1 reverse at bottom-half side Airbus UK Broughton in a match that their usually solid defence had been easily exposed. The New Saints have consistently challenged at the top of the Welsh Premier League over the last decade and the chance of the side losing two consecutive games meant that the smart money was firmly on the visitors for this latest match. Continue reading