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Old Gold fall to Bala defeat

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Carmarthen Town 0

Bala 1

CARMARTHEN’S outstanding start to their Welsh Premier League second-phase programme, along with their six-match unbeaten run, were brought to an abrupt halt on Saturday, February 18, with this narrow defeat against a strong Bala side who lie in second place in the league and are themselves enjoying a sequence of just one defeat in 17 games.

The Old Gold were far from disgraced and the outcome of this match could have been so different if they had not made such an awful start, conceding a poor goal in the opening stages – after that shock they soon recovered and for the remaining 75-80 minutes the play was far more evenly balanced, with both sides enjoying spells of pressure.

From the outset the visitors swarmed forward, putting immediate and sustained pressure on the Town defence which looked uncharacteristically hesitant and disorganised.

After only two minutes Bala took the lead when David Thompson’s huge throw-in caused confusion in the crowded penalty area where Kieran Smith took advantage to fire the ball crisply past ‘keeper Lee Idzi and into the net.

The Lakesiders again went close on 4 minutes – Anthony Stephens’ corner was met by Stuart Jones who saw his firm header deflected just wide of the post. But from thereon Town gradually began to find their customary rhythm, spirit and discipline.

The defence, and in particular the formidable central pairing of Lee Surman and Dave Vincent, increasingly showed greater composure and resilience, while in midfield key players Kieran Lewis, Ceri Morgan and Declan Carroll were using their energy and vision both to disrupt the visitors’ attacking momentum and create opportunities for lively strikers Liam Thomas and Liam Griffiths to exploit with their pace and movement.

Throughout the rest of the first-half the game was more open and evenly balanced with the play shifting briskly from end to end – but with both defences performing soundly there were very few clear scoring chances.

However on 25 minutes the hosts narrowly avoided conceding again when a low cross from Ryan Wade took a huge deflection off a defender that sent the ball dangerously high towards the goal, only for Idzi to produce a stunning reflex save, clawing the ball onto the top of the bar and safely behind.

The Old Gold’s first notable effort arose in the 31st minute when Carroll slid a fine pass through to Griffiths who raced forward to the edge of the penalty area and turned smartly past his marker before hitting a fierce drive that flew marginally wide of the post.

Then on 35 minutes Carroll’s corner-kick into a packed goalmouth reached Thomas who, from 8 yards, cleverly chipped the ball over several defenders but ‘keeper Ashley Morris stretched high to claim it just under the bar.

After the interval the same pattern of play quickly emerged but for a long period the game was fairly uneventful and rather scrappy.

Then midway through the second-half manager Mark Aizlewood made his intentions clear when, in a 10 minute spell, he brought on three attack-minded substitutes Luke Cummings, Kyle Bassett and Matthew Thomas to inject more pace and flair into Town’s search for an equaliser.

In the 79th minute that was almost achieved – Cummings launched a long throw into the penalty area to find Morgan who from 10 yards drilled the ball through a crowd of players only for Morris to react instinctively and kick it off the goal-line to safety.

With the Old Gold pressing forward so enthusiastically, Bala were now looking more of a threat on the counter-attack and on 85 minutes they went close to extending their fragile lead – Wade cut inside from the right flank and drove the ball across the face of the goal but saw Bassett, alert to the danger, race back into the goalmouth and make a timely clearance.

Then after 91 minutes Town’s flying winger demonstrated his searing pace at the other end of the pitch when he burst through the Bala defence and into the penalty area only for Morris to rescue his side once more by quickly coming out of his goal and diving down to block Bassett’s 15 yard angled drive.

But deep into added time the visitors again threatened when, with the Old Gold defence stretched, Wade raced clear to the edge of the penalty area and as Idzi, who had clearly been hampered by a leg injury for some time, struggled to come out to challenge him the striker fired towards the unguarded goal only for the ball to drift just wide of the far post.

While this result was disappointing, Town’s performance (after the initial disastrous lapse) was certainly not – and to have secured six points in their opening second-phase fixtures against unquestionably the three strongest teams in the WPL was both highly commendable and unexpected.

Carmarthen, currently occupying fifth place in the league, next have an important away fixture against sixth-placed Cardiff Met on Saturday, March 4, (k/o 2.30pm).

A repeat of their stunning victory there on New Year’s Eve would be both very welcome and a big step towards securing that League position at the end of the season.

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Community

Scarlets’ grassroots clubs show community spirit in delivering vital food packages

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Scarlets community clubs have been working together to help deliver vital food packages across the region.


Volunteers from grassroots clubs and WRU girls hubs across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have been helping take the food packages to vulnerable members of society who are self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The clubs have teamed up with the Scarlets Community Foundation — the charity arm of the Scarlets — and Carmarthen-based food wholesaler Castell Howell, while Scarlets players Osian Knott, Kieran Hardy, Ryan Conbeer and Jac Morgan have also lent their hand to the operation.


More than 300 packages were due to be delivered on Monday and Tuesday (April 6 & April 7), with the initiative highlighting that even without any action on the field, rugby clubs remain at the heart of their community.
Scarlets Community Foundation manager Caroline Newman said:  “We have been overwhelmed with the support that we have received from local clubs, the number of people prepared to volunteer to help the most vulnerable in our communities has been touching.


“People’s reasons for requesting packs have often been heart-wrenching and it really has made us appreciate what we have.


“The foundation has worked closely with Castell Howell to make sure the packages are ready to go to those whose need is greatest, managing to turn things around pretty quickly and I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in making this happen, our funder, Castell Howell, all the clubs, our helpline volunteer and the foundation members.
“Great teamwork which has made me proud to be part of the fantastic community that rugby creates.”

Here are the rugby clubs and WRU girls rugby hubs taking part in the initiative

Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Amman Utd, Ammanford, Burry Port, Betws, Bynea, Cardigan, Cefneithin, Felinfoel, Fishguard & Goodwick, Furnace Utd, Haverfordwest, Kidwelly, Llandeilo, Llandovery, Llandybie, Llanelli Wanderers, Llangennech, Llangwm, Merched Mynydd Mawr, Milford Haven, Narberth, New Dock Stars, Newcastle Emlyn, Neyland, Penybanc, Pontyates, St Clears, Stradey Sospans, Tenby Utd, Tumble, Tycroes, Whitland, Yr Hendy.

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Sport

Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Sport

Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April  4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.  

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance. 

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate. 

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