Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Football Away Days- The Welsh Derby: Swansea City & The Liberty Stadium

Outside the Liberty StadiumA few weeks back, at the end of October, 90 Minutes Online took in its biggest football away day yet, as the Ed. and friends made the long trip down to Swansea for the latest Welsh Derby clash with Cardiff City, and a first since 2014. We hadn't expected to be able to bag 6 tickets for this high profile game, but after doing so it turned out that our biggest obstacle was actually reaching the Liberty Stadium itself. However, despite the palava and the early rise on a Sunday, everyone agreed that this was a football adventure well worth undertaking.



I initially started the process of trying to acquire our tickets back at the end of August. After registering on the Swansea City website and being allowed to select seats, I found that my surprise at how straightforward it was to get into this game was well-founded. A call to the ticket shop revealed that only a paid membership would allow a purchase so far ahead of the fixture, and even then only 1 ticket could be purchased per individual.


At this stage the plan was abandoned as I was advised that general ticket sales would be, understandably, very unlikely to happen for Swansea vs Cardiff. A back-up plan was formed for an alternative football away day, but when the opportunity came at the end of September to check for tickets, I was thrilled to find that there was availability for our troupe in the lower west stand.


When the day itself came, we were faced with setting off at 8:30am in order to reach Swansea at 11am, giving us an hour before kick-off. The 1st leg of our journey was a rail replacement, but the coach wasn't all that bad, instead it was when we reached Newport that things went downhill! Waiting on a busy platform at the train station, we were jovially anticipating what was to come, when it was noticed that the arrivals board was signifying a delay to our connection.


Minutes passed until a rather sheepish announcement was made, reinforcing the delay, and when a new eta was finally announced, we came to the realisation that we couldn't make the kick-off if we stuck with our plans (thanks Transport for Wales). A swift negotiation with a local, and very fortunate, taxi driver meant that £100 was exchanged upfront and we were heading for the motorway. Once we were hurtling along it transpired that none of the seat belts were long enough, or had anywhere to click into, and those of us sat near the doors held on for dear life as a breeze around the frames suggested they weren't able to fully close.


On the plus side, we got to the Liberty Stadium by 11, and no one died along the way! As we made our way into the area surrounding the ground, the police presence was very noticeable, and there were even some heavily armed officers, which seemed a little excessive to say the least. Once we got inside we managed to finally settle down for a couple of pre-match pints, although the choice was far from inspired, and after the game we realised that the Boss Brewery is within spitting distance of the stadium (it's criminal that their beer is not on offer).


A Swansea City hotdogI also tried one of the hot-dogs, and whilst it looked OK, the reality was that the frankfurter was as hot as a volcano, and the surrounding brioche roll was drier than the desert as it disintegrated on contact. Still, all complaints aside, the Liberty Stadium is modern, well laid out and accessible, and the atmosphere built as anticipation grew for the impending clash with Cardiff.


The opening period of the match saw both a tentative Cardiff and a quietly confident Swans demonstrate the appropriate energy and commitment, without too much quality. Andre Ayew, one of several Swansea players to remain at the club from their Premier League days, provided various glimpses of his ability. In what was to become a recurring theme for the afternoon, the Ghanaian was involved in several promising moves, only to be let down by a frustratingly poor touch in the Cardiff box, or a fluffed attempt on goal.


In the 24th minute Swansea earned themselves a corner. Wayne Routledge played it short to Bersant Celina who passed it to George Byers, the Scot then completed the triangle by slipping it back inside to Routledge who was by now on the edge of the penalty box. The veteran winger proceeded to float a lovely ball into the midst of the Cardiff area, and Ben Wilmott skipped his way past the defence to guide a header into the bottom right hand corner.


Wimott, on loan from Watford, was making his 1st league start for the home side and couldn't find a better way to endear himself to the fans. The move that led to the goal was clever and pleasing on the eye, but Neil Warnock was understandably livid at the lack of awareness and concentration from his players.


In the minutes immediately following the breakthrough, Ayew had a shot saved, and subsequently put a free header over the bar from the resulting corner. Routledge then had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty, and Byers had a great header against the bar, only for the offside flag to stop play as the rebound dropped to Nathan Dyer.


In the 2nd half, Swansea continued to show the greater promise and conjured up a couple of probing chances that led to routine saves for Cardiff's Neil Etheridge. The best moment came when Routledge was once again involved, his superb wing play creating space for himself to slip in an excellent through ball for Celina as he galloped into the penalty box. Sadly his touch was too heavy when a first-time shot may have led to a great goal.


Finally, after an hour of play, Cardiff seriously threatened the Swansea goal. A free-kick into the box was connected with by Sean Morrison, his header down towards the centre of the goal was spilled by Freddie Woodman but then cleared. The goalie made up for this later when he clutched onto a difficult low save from a Gavin Whyte volley, making it look easy. That was pretty much that for the resistance of the away side, Dyer and Celina had further chances to extend the lead before the end, but the game finished 1-0 and the only disappointment for the Swans was that their dominance wasn't more evident in the scoreline.


Inside the Liberty StadiumAs we trundled back towards the train station, there were plenty of pubs to choose from on, the incredibly long, Neath Road. In the end we opted for the Hafod Inn, like the others it had a 'rough around the edges' feel but it was a lot quieter, a sign that in hindsight we could have done better than to ignore! Beer options left a lot to be desired, and the group consensus was for cans of Strongbow from the fridge.


Thankfully the journey home was plain sailing, with Welsh cakes to get us on our way, and more beer for the train. What turned out to be a very long adventure down to Swansea, was eventful and full of laughs. That in itself is the essence behind our #FootballAwayDays, to seek out new experiences as a fan and to embrace the unpredictable. So, time to plan for the next one!


Have a Merry Christmas...




Click this link to read about our other football away day adventures

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