There were so many Welsh goal scorers in the weekend matches!

On Monday night, Matt Smith scored his first professional career goal for FC Twente against Jong AZ. Smith scored a volley in what happened to be the winning goal for his team.

Sam Vokes scored a stunning long-range header for Burnley against Newcastle, in what was the furthest headed finish for 3 seasons. Paul Dummett was not in the Newcastle squad.

Harry Wilson was on hand to score his third league goal for Derby on Saturday with an excellent volley in the 18 yard box. Ash Baker and Morgan Fox started for Sheffield Wednesday in the same game, both in full-back positions. Tom Lawrence was brought on for Derby for the last 15 mins.

Joe Allen also got his third of the season for Stoke City in a goalmouth scramble and Ashley Williams started in the same game at centre half.

Although he was absent from the Wales squad last week, Ben Davies was back in the Spurs starting 11 as they beat Chelsea 3-1 at home to go third in the Premier League, behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

Wayne Hennessey put in a stellar performance to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Hennessey was tested throughout the game but made some excellent saves to earn Crystal Palace a 0-0 draw away from home.

Gareth Bale started for Real Madrid in their shock 3-0 loss away at Eibar. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey unfortunately continues to be used sporadically by Arsenal manager Unai Emery, only playing for 10 minutes on Sunday.

Swansea were hammered 4-1 at home by league leaders Norwich, but the main consolation was for Dan James, who tapped into an empty net for his first league goal for the Swans. Joe Rodon and Connor Roberts also started in the game, while Declan John was an unused sub.

After winning his first cap in midweek, Keiron Freeman grabbed an assist for Sheffield United on the weekend in their 2-2 draw with Rotherham. Ben Woodburn, who was absent from the Sheffield United squad again, put in an excellent display for Liverpool U23’s in a 1-0 win over Everton.

It was pleasing to see Chris Gunter back in the starting line up for Reading at right-back, following his record 93rd cap for Wales against Albania last week. Reading drew 0-0 with Wigan, for whom Lee Evans was an unused substitute.

James Chester and Neil Taylor both got 90 mins in the Second City Derby, as Aston Villa beat Birmingham 4-2 at home. Chris Mepham withdrew from international duty before the Denmark game last Friday, but he was back in Brentford’s team on the weekend, losing to Tony Pulis’ Middlesborough 2-1 at home.

And finally, new Wales-capped James Lawrence came on as a sub in Anderlecht’s 4-2 loss against Saint-Truden.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest updates on Welsh football.

Read more:
• Wales v Denmark: Pre-match Press Conference
• Wales Watch: Gwion Edwards, Hal Robson-Kanu and Joel Lynch among the goals 
• Ryan Giggs speaks at the squad announcement ahead of Denmark and Albania
• Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the highlight of the weekend 

Wales Watch: Gwion Edwards, Hal Robson-Kanu and Joel Lynch among the goals

Gwion Edwards was back amongst the goals this week in a 2-2 draw with Reading. Edwards opened the scoring for Ipswich after 5 minutes with a perfectly struck low first-time volley. Chris Gunter was an unused sub.

Paul Dummett will go into the international break with another 90 minutes under his belt. He is more than likely going to start against Denmark on Friday because of Ben Davies’ absence through suspension. David Brooks played 90 minutes for Bournemouth in the same game in the no.10 position, after his excellent showing last weekend.

In the other Premier League matches, aforementioned Ben Davies played at left-back for Spurs in their 1-0 win over Wayne Hennessey‘s Crystal Palace. Sam Vokes played 73 minutes for Burnley but didn’t score in a 0-0 outing with Leicester.

Aaron Ramsey technically got an assist in Arsenal’s 1-1 tie with Wolves, giving the ball to Mkhitaryan to setup a stunning finish. Ramsey started on the bench again and only played the last 15 minutes of the match.

In the Steel City derby on Friday night, Keiron Freeman was the Welshman on the Sheff United side, while Ash Baker and Morgan Fox were part of the Sheffield Wednesday 11. The game finished 0-0; clean sheets for all of the Welsh defenders here, but none of whom are in Wales’ international squad this week. However, Ben Woodburn, who did not make the Sheffield United match day squad has been called up for Wales.

Connor Roberts and Joe Rodon were part of the Swansea defence that earned another clean sheet for Swansea. Dan James started again on the wing, but without a goal or assist this time around.

After making the squad for the first time under Ryan Giggs this week, Neil Taylor went off at half-time because of an injury in Aston Villa’s 3-0 hammering against Derby. James Chester was at the heart of defence for Villa with another clean sheet, while Tom Lawrence and Harry Wilson were off the pace for the home side.

More clean sheets for Ashley Williams‘ Stoke against Nottingham Forest on Saturday evening, Joe Allen was also in the same side. Meanwhile, Chris Mepham‘s Brentford conceded three against QPR, where Joel Lynch scored a rare goal for the home team.

Hal-Robson Kanu scored in a 4-1 hammering against Tyler Roberts‘ Leeds. Roberts only played 25 minutes of the game in the second half.

Third-choice goalkeeper, Adam Davies kept his place for Barnsley’s 4-0 win against Notts County in the first round of the FA Cup. Ryan Hedges came on as a late substitute.

New call-up James Lawrence played 90 minutes at centre-back in their 2-0 win on Sunday and Matt Smith played the full match for FC Twente on Friday night. Our other foreign export, Gareth Bale, came through seemingly unscathed against Celta Vigo on Sunday evening. He will meet with the squad in South Wales on Monday.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest updates on Welsh football.

Read more:
• Ryan Giggs speaks at the squad announcement ahead of Denmark and Albania
• Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the highlight of the weekend 
• The Welsh Wingers are on fire 
• Doidge opens his account for Bolton 

Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the weekend’s highlight

James Chester put in an outstanding performance for Aston Villa on Friday night. He scored the second goal to seal a 2-0 win for the home side, but it was a phenomenal clearance off the line that wowed spectators everywhere.

Harry Wilson scored another free kick for Derby on the weekend. This time it wasn’t quite so impressive as it was heavily deflected, but they all count. Tom Lawrence played 90 mins in Derby’s 3-1 win.

Though Bournemouth lost 2-1 at home to Manchester United, David Brooks put in another strong 90 minutes for the Cherries from a no.10 position.

Gareth Bale went without a goal or assist in the 70 minutes he played for Real Madrid and Aaron Ramsey was only used as a second half substitute for Arsenal.

Paul Dummett played 90 minutes at left-back for Newcastle, as did Ben Davies for Spurs. Elsewhere in the Premier League, Sam Vokes played 72 minutes for Burnley, but they got beat 4-2 by West Ham.

There were clean sheets for Chris Mepham (Brentford), Ashley Williams (Stoke), Neil Taylor (Aston Villa) and Adam Davies (Barnsley).

It was a second assist in as many games for Dan James, but there was no clean sheet this time for Joe Rodon. Connor Roberts played for Swansea in the higher position on the right, Declan John still doesn’t make the match day 18.

George Thomas has become a regular for Scunthorpe since featuring for Wales last month and scored the second in a 3-3 draw, as well as setting up the first goal.

Chris Maxwell was sent off for the first time in his career after a second bookable offence for Preston. Wayne Hennessey was in goal for Crystal Palace’s 3-1 loss on Sunday and stopped Alvaro Morata getting his hat-trick in injury time.

Ben Woodburn returned to the Sheffield United side with a 10 minute substitute appearance. Chris Gunter came on for the last 5 minutes in Reading’s 3-2 win over Bristol City.

FC Twente’s Matt Smith was again on hand to put in another match winning performance in their 3-1 victory.

Read more:
• The Welsh Wingers are on fire
• Doidge opens his account for Bolton 

Wales Watch: The Welsh wingers are on fire

It was a third goal in four games for Bournemouth winger David Brooks, who scored the second in a 3-0 victory against Fulham. The playmaker has been something of a revelation in recent times for Eddie Howe’s side after a goalless start to the season.

Paul Dummett kept a clean sheet at the back for Newcastle in a 0-0 draw with Southampton, as did Ashley Williams for Stoke as they beat Bristol City 1-0 away from home. Joe Allen assisted the only goal of the game with a headed pass.

There wasn’t much action for Aaron Ramsey, who only came on for the last 15 minutes of Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Wayne Hennessey‘s Crystal Palace. Sam Vokes, who played an hour for Burnley, was part of the team that lost 4-0 at home to Chelsea.

Dan James continued his very impressive form on the left wing for Swansea, grabbing an assist for a second goal to seal a 2-0 win at home. Connor Roberts played in an advanced role on the right, Joe Rodon kept another clean sheet at the back and Declan John came on for the final few minutes in a rare appearance since joining in August.

Tom Lawrence and Harry Wilson played 90 minutes for Derby, but were unable to impact the scoreline of 1-1 with Tony Pulis’ Middlesborough side. Chris Maxwell and Andrew Hughes both played 90 minutes for Preston, as did Chris Mepham for Brentford, but neither could keep a clean sheet.

Ben Woodburn returned to the bench for Sheffield United and didn’t make an appearance, however, Keiron Freeman played 90 minutes in their 4-2 win against Wigan. Another Welsh full-back, Morgan Fox popped up with an assist for his club Sheffield Wednesday, but they lost the game 3-1 against Birmingham.

Wes Burns netted his fourth of the season for Fleetwood, and 24-year-old right-back Liam Shepherd scored his second goal of the week for League Two team Forest Green.

Although coming close to scoring on Sunday, Gareth Bale‘s Real Madrid were beat emphatically in El Clasico at the Nou Camp 5-1. Another Welsh expat, Matt Smith, is having a much better time with FC Twente. The Dutch side won again on Friday, taking them to third place in the league table.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest news regarding Welsh football.

Read more:
• Doidge opens his account for Bolton
• Match Report: Rep. of Ireland 0-1 Wales 
• Chris Mepham is “loving” his season with Wales and Brentford 

Doidge opens his account for Bolton in the Championship

Christian Doidge was the only notable Welsh player in the top divisions on the scoresheet this week. He signed for Championship side Bolton Wanderers from Forest Green Rovers on deadline day in August and netted his first goal against Rotherham on Saturday, after coming on as a second-half substitute.

26-year-old Doidge was a prolific goal scorer in the lower leagues but has never featured for Wales at any age grade.

It was fantastic news for Cardiff City on Saturday, winning their first Premier League game of the season in a dramatic 4-2 win over Fulham. Jazz Richards was brought on in the last 15 minutes to see out the victory.

Ben Davies was back in action for Spurs and played 90 minutes as they beat West Ham. Other Welsh left-backs, Paul Dummett, Andrew Hughes and Neil Taylor also played 90 minutes for Newcastle, Preston and Aston Villa, respectively.

David Brooks and Sam Vokes once again had Premier League starts and both were subbed around the hour mark. Aaron Ramsey came on for ten minutes in his return to the Arsenal squad.

It was a strange weekend for on-loan Sheffield United player Ben Woodburn as he turned out for Liverpool U23’s instead. Woodburn has not had much game time this season under Chris Wilder and it is thought that there’s a clause in his contract to guarantee a certain amount of games throughout the season.

Despite a solid performance for Liverpool U23’s, it was Welsh U21 international, Isaac Christie Davies who got his name on the scoresheet in the 77th minute.

Swansea gave a debut to youngster Cian Harries on Saturday in a 1-0 loss against Aston Villa. He played alongside regular Joe Rodon in a back three and was replaced by winger Daniel James around the 50 minute mark. Connor Roberts played his usual 90 minutes at right wing-back. James Chester was back to captain the Villa side under new manager Dean Smith.

It was a bad weekend for Chris Mepham as he was sent off for a second bookable offence for Brentford. Joe Allen and Ashley Williams played 90 minutes in Stoke’s fifth loss of the season, meanwhile, Gareth Bale came on at half-time to try and salvage a win for Real Madrid, but ended with another defeat.

Lee Evans and Harry Wilson played 90 minutes for Wigan and Derby in their sixth league wins of the season. Tom Lawrence was brought on in the 36th-minute for Derby.

Matt Smith started for FC Twente and was brought off after an hour as they went 4-0 up. They ended up winning emphatically away from home; the game finished 6-1.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest news regarding Welsh football.

Read more:
• Match Report: Rep. of Ireland 0-1 Wales
• Chris Mepham is “loving” his season with Wales and Brentford 
• Giggs and Williams speak ahead of clash with Spain 
• Harry Wilson eager to fulfil childhood dream 
• Everything you need to know about Joe Rodon – the latest Wales call-up 

Harry Wilson eager to fulfil childhood dream

Harry Wilson spoke to the press this week ahead of the matches against Spain and Rep. of Ireland. He talks about his progress with club and country, playing at the Principality Stadium for the first time, the competition in the squad and his free-kick practice.

Loan spells with Derby and Hull and a return to the Wales setup:

“It has been a really good start to the season overall. This year with Derby has been great and being a regular pick for the Wales squads too, I’m delighted.

“It was frustrating for me that I picked up an injury last month and missed four or five games, but now I’ve come back and I’m playing well and feeling fit and strong.”

“Lampard has been great. I spoke to him on the phone before I went there and the way he spoke and what he told me about how he wanted his team to play made me realise it was the right club for me.

“Since I’ve been there I’ve learned a lot and his coaches help me too. The way we’ve played in the last month or so has shown how we’ve progressed as a team.”

Wilson stresses that going out on loan was vital for his progress and experience as a footballer. He mentions the wonderful loan spell he had at Hull for five months in 2018.

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“Earlier in the year, I was desperate to get out on loan and get some senior appearances in. When Hull came calling I thought it would be a great move for me.

“I managed to score some goals and get some assists [for Hull], got my call-up to the Wales squad and my full debut, as well as my first international goal.”

“Being a regular selection for Wales squads now is great and I want to stay here.”

Making Wales debut and the hot competition

Wilson is smiling as he’s chatting and is clearly enjoying his lifestyle at the moment. He recognises that patience is key when you’re a young footballer and understands the frustrations Ben Woodburn is currently having at Sheffield United, as he experienced a similar spell at Crewe.

“I made my Wales debut at a very young age. Chris Coleman showed his faith in me by putting me in at 16.

“I didn’t get an appearance for Wales for a few years after that, but I think when you’re that young you’ve got to be patient and learn your trade on the football ladder.”

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“We all know the quality that Ben [Woodburn] has. He’s not playing regularly at the minute, which I suppose he wants like every player does.

“He will come out of the other side as a stronger player. When he gets his chance I’m sure he’ll perform.”

Competition in every position is key to a successful team and Wilson’s strongest position as a wide attacker is filled with mouthwatering options – Bale, Brooks, Woodburn, Lawrence, not to mention being coached by one of the world’s best left-midfielders ever.

“I think it’s a good competition to have, as we all know the qualities each other have. We’re all a similar age as well, so we’re learning these experiences together.”

“To have the manager that we’ve got, who played in the same position means that we’re learning every day.

“He doesn’t join in too much on the training ground, but when he does you can see his touch, his passing and his vision is still there definitely.”

Free kick specialist

As well as becoming a competent winger, he also demonstrated a superb free kick technique against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup a couple of weeks ago – executing it to perfection, to the level of Bale or Ronaldo’s quality.

“If Gareth isn’t on the pitch for one reason or another I’ll be putting my name forward, and then depending on where the free kick is on the pitch – hopefully I’ll be able to take it.”

“I just think that if the free kick is as far out as what it was [against Manchester United], it’s a bit too far to curl it, so I think it’s important to have a couple of techniques in your locker just in case the free kick is a bit further out.”

“I try and spend a bit of time after training with a couple of the lads trying to get that free kick technique, so to see it come off on the big stage was nice.”

“I think a lot of players try and replicate that technique, but only a couple have perfected it – Gareth [Bale] being one and [Cristiano] Ronaldo the other.”

Playing at the Principality Stadium

“It’s a stadium I’ve always wanted to play at. I was there a couple of times when I was younger as a fan.

“The last game I went to was the England game in 2011. I remember sitting there seeing a full house and one day wishing that would be me. Hopefully, that day will be on Thursday.”

International Football - UEFA Euro 2012 - Qualifying Group G - Wales v England

“The Cardiff City Stadium has done us well. Some of the performances we’ve put in there and the atmosphere that’s been generated there has been great.

“I think the change can be good; more fans can go and get the chance to watch us and we’re hoping to put on a good performance for them.”

On the prospect of playing against Spain on Thursday, Wilson says he was a massive admirer of the Barcelona team ten years ago. This was a Barcelona side that included the Spanish talents of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, to name a few.

“I watched Barcelona a lot when I was growing up, from 2008 onwards I’d say. Watching them on European nights and most league games, they were phenomenal.”

Wilson’s flatmate and Derby teammate, Mason Mount, was called up to the England squad last week and they will face Spain next week, after Wales’ match.

“I’ll message Mason [Mount] after the game and ask him how he’s getting on and I’m sure he’ll do the same with me. If he asks for any secrets about Spain, I’ll tell him no problem.”

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest news regarding Welsh football.

Read more:
• Everything you need to know about Joe Rodon – the latest Wales call-up
• Ramsey and Brooks hit form at the perfect time 
• Mitchell Clark “surprised” at not being named in the Wales U21 squad 
• Ryan Giggs announces his squad for the fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland 
• Wales Watch: Tyler Roberts shines again for Leeds in midweek 

Everything you need to know about Joe Rodon – the latest Wales call-up

Joe Rodon has become a common name on the lips of Welsh football supporters in the past year, but even more so in the past three months, since cementing a first-team place for Swansea at centre-back. He was deservedly called up to the Wales senior squad for the first time for the matches against Spain and Rep. of Ireland this week, replacing Paul Dummett because of injury.

Standing at 6ft4 and great with the ball at his feet, Rodon has the attributes that every top manager wants from a modern-day centre-back. He is not shy of a strong tackle or a hard header and is a very assured passer of the ball – qualities that are in demand for today’s game.

Background

Joe has been surrounded by football from a very young age. Unofficially, he has been amongst Swansea City FC circles from the age of five or six, where his older brother Sam was playing at the time. He was formally signed to the club in 2005, at the age of eight and has been there ever since.

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Joe Rodon (back row, centre), playing for Llangyfelach primary school.

He comes from a footballing family; his grandfather and uncle were both professional footballers. Grandfather Peter Rodon, who passed away when Joe was very young, started his career with Swansea Town in the 1960s. After a fall out with the first team manager, he ended up joining Bradford City and played for them as a centre-forward/inside-left between 1964-1967 in Division 4 (now League Two).

His uncle Chris Rodon started his professional career with Brighton and Hove Albion in the 1982/83 season, the same season Brighton played Manchester United in the 1983 FA Cup Final and lost after two legs. Chris was homesick and told the manager at the time, Jimmy Melia he wanted to return to Wales and ended up joining Cardiff City on loan for six months in 1983.

His brother Sam Rodon (25) currently plays for Penybont in Welsh Division 1 as a centre-back too. He’s also had Welsh Premier League spells with Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth, as well as playing for West End in the year they won the Welsh Division 1 title.

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Sam (left) in action for Aberystwyth

The family grew up in a small village just a few miles north of Swansea called Llangyfelach. He was a Swansea season ticket holder with his dad by default and played for Swansea City through every age grade. Joe often played ahead of his year group and became a regular for Swansea U21s (now 23s) at the age of just 16.

In April 2015 he began training with the Swansea first team when they were a Premier League club with Garry Monk in charge. Welsh internationals, including Ashley Williams & Neil Taylor were at the club and around the same time, he was captaining Wales at U17 and U19 level. His potential has been known quietly for a number of years and is now on full display for everyone to watch.

Playing senior club football

Rodon got his first taste of senior football with League Two club Cheltenham Town at the beginning of 2018 under manager Gary Johnson. If there was one thing Joe’s game lacked before his loan move to Cheltenham, it was the rough-and-ready physicality needed to play men’s football.

In lots of ways, this short six-month spell in League Two became the making of him – he lived away from home for the first time, he learned what three points meant on a Saturday and what it meant to fellow professionals playing at that level. A relegation from League Two could mean playing non-league football, leaving grown men with families and mortgages forced to take huge salary cuts and as a result, struggling to make ends meet.

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The pitches in League Two are often poorly maintained due to lack of funds, especially in winter. The training facilities and club operations at Cheltenham are nowhere near to the standard of a Premier League or Championship club.

The quick passing and delicate football he had been playing at U23 level would be a far cry from the long ball games, hard-hitting tackles and smashing headers in League Two. But learning this side of the game has enhanced his overall ability and shown him the tough side of football that young players in the modern game often miss out on.

It was during this season that Rodon made his senior debut for Swansea. He is playing Championship football for Swansea City every week and has formed a strong partnership with Mike van der Hoorn, keeping six clean sheets together at the back so far.

There was a worry at the end of the summer transfer window when Federico Fernández left the club to join Newcastle, leaving Swansea with just one senior centre back until January. However, Rodon stepped up to the mark and his excellent performances have seen him linked with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, drawing a comparison with centre-back John Stones because of his excellent ability with the ball at his feet and natural pace.

Rodon is out of contract in June 2019 and Swansea desperately need to sign him on a long-term deal. He will undoubtedly have Premier League clubs interested in him and he’ll be able to formally talk with clubs from January, should Swansea hold off negotiations for much longer.

Swansea City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship

His Welsh international career

A captain of Wales at U17, U19, U20 and U21 level, including the Toulon Tournament in 2017, Rodon has shown maturity and leadership as a teenager that is far beyond his years. He has been Rob Page’s U21 captain for the last 18 months, which demonstrates the faith Wales have put in him.

Continued good performances at youth level earned him a preliminary call-up to the Wales squad in May this year, ahead of the Mexico friendly in Los Angeles. It was disappointing that he didn’t make the final cut of players, but he clearly made an impression on Ryan Giggs – enough to get his full call-up when he replaced injured Paul Dummett for the October fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland.

Rodon found out he was being called up to the Wales squad on Friday afternoon, a day before the official announcement. But he actually heard the news from his mother and not from the FAW directly, because they had sent the message to her on WhatsApp by mistake!

Despite first thinking that it might not have been a genuine text, Rodon and his family were elated when Swansea assistant manager Billy Reid called Joe to congratulate him. Obviously bursting with pride, they had to keep things under wraps for 26 hours until it was officially announced by the FAW, following Swansea’s match on Saturday evening.

Whether Rodon gets his first cap in either game remains to be seen, but Giggs has shown that he has huge faith in his youngsters, just like Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated to him in the 1990’s.

The likes of David Brooks, Tyler Roberts, Chris Mepham, Harry Wilson, Matthew Smith and George Thomas have played for the U21’s in the last 12 months and are now all involved with the senior squad – most are playing frequently at good levels. Joe Rodon is the latest name of the age group to be called up to the seniors.

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Rodon (back row, right), captain of Wales U21 v Liechtenstein in October 2017.

It’s a slight shame in one way that all of these youngsters didn’t play together in the latest U21 EURO 2019 qualification campaign; there is no doubt Wales would have qualified for the first time in history.

But the encouraging format Giggs seems to have adopted in giving young players a chance at senior level is only good news for future Welsh teams. There is potential in every area of the pitch – Tyler Roberts becoming the first choice striker, Mepham and Rodon a future partnership at the back, Brooks, Wilson and Woodburn on the wings; it’s only a possibility at the moment, but the action won’t hopefully be far away.

Rodon could make his debut on Thursday, on the same pitch as his idol Sergio Ramos – a dream debut for many players across the world. If he plays for any length of time in either fixture, his performances for Swansea this season have confirmed he has the quality to succeed and the talent to go to the very top for club and country.

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest news regarding Welsh football.

Read more:
• Ramsey and Brooks hit form at the perfect time
• Mitchell Clark “surprised” at not being named in the Wales U21 squad 
• Ryan Giggs announces his squad for the fixtures against Spain and Rep. of Ireland 
• Wales Watch: Tyler Roberts shines again for Leeds in midweek 

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