Evan Watts | These are the moments you play football for

20th September 2023
Evan Watts Cardiff

Evan Watts savoured the moment after the goalkeeper's penalty shootout heroics helped Swansea City Under-21s reach the quarter-finals of the Nathaniel MG Cup.

After boasting the better of the chances, the Swans took the lead midway through the first half with Maliq Cadogan scoring his first competitive goal for the development side against their Cardiff counterparts.

And when Kyle Kenniford was sent off for the visitors right on half-time, it briefly looked like the home side might ease to victory.

But the Bluebirds put up a resolute defence, aided in part by some smart stops from keeper Jake Dennis, and, when they hit the Swans on the break with a goal for Kieron Evans to level the score, Watts began to prepare himself for the inevitable penalties.

And he would make the decisive contribution when he kept out Finlay Johnson's spot-kick as the Swans prevailed 5-3 in the shootout.

While the young Swans had spent some time practicing penalties the day before, Watts did not specifically study the opposition ahead of time.

He instead had his own method to help him in the shootout, and it worked as he dived the right way to deny substitute Johnson, while his teammates converted all five of their spot-kicks.

“You try to read the player’s body shape, and decide which way you’re going to go. Once you’ve decided it’s about pushing as hard as you can,” added Watts.

“You hope you guess right – or read their movement right – and then you just focus on the ball and try to keep it out of the net.

“I was loving the celebrations – those moments are what you play for. I won’t be forgetting that feeling in a hurry.”

Evan Watts saves a penalty v Cardiff City

Watts was also proud of the togetherness the Swans showed to come through the disappointment of losing their lead to keep their composure and come out on top.

And he hopes their cup journey is far from over as they await the draw for the last eight.

“I thought around 85 minutes that we could be going to penalties, because there were things in the game that didn’t seem to be going our way,” said Watts.

“It’s just about calming down the nerves really, and making sure it’s your time, doing everything you can to help the team and get them out of the situation.

“I’m chuffed for all the boys to get a win in the cup and be through to the next round, obviously to do it on penalties is a nice way for myself.

“All the boys put in a shift, I don’t think we played our best football but I think we showed our togetherness, stuck together through it and we’re through to the next round.

“Being in this competition is massive. We said at the start of the season that we wanted to target winning this cup, I think it’s a great experience coming up against senior teams.

“It’s a completely different challenge to what we face week-in, week-out in under-21s' football. Obviously today we were against a fellow under-21 team, but I think in this game we showed that, even when we don’t play our best, we can grind out a result and stick together as a team."