AFC Whitchurch host fellow Cardiff based team Cardiff Draconians at their ground at Whitchurch Hospital, manager Tom Hill says the game will all depend on the midfield battle.
Reflecting on the season so far, which has seen them go far in the W John Owen Cup as well as being 3rd in the division, the Whitchurch boss says he’s glad to see in amongst the mix but that not being able to choose the same side has hampered their progress this season.
“At this stage of the season we are delighted to be right in the promotion mix. Our biggest challenge has been consistency in selection. We have only been able to pick an unchanged side on one occasion this season. When we have had a full complement to choose from we have rarely dropped points.
Overall this group has been together for this season and half of last season and at times we have played some really high quality football which has put us where we are in the league.
“I have really enjoyed working with this group this season, they are mates first and foremost and they socialize together most Saturdays which I think comes out on a Saturday afternoon.
The most important thing for me is that everyone enjoys being at the club. Every successful team I have been a part of has been friends first and foremost and success has always followed.”
With three Cardiff sides currently occupying the top three spots of the South Wales Alliance League Division One, it’s likely that the Premier Division will see yet another capital based side join the division next year, alongside Canton Liberal.
“I think it’s really important to have successful football teams in Cardiff. I chat to Cardiff lads who are playing Welsh League football for non-Cardiff sides and they have no real association to the clubs and don’t socialize particularly after games but have a desire to test themselves at a higher level.
It would be great to see more than the current 5 Cardiff clubs in the Welsh League to allow more players to play at a higher level but also have a real affiliation to the clubs they are playing for.
In terms of why the three Cardiff clubs are top three I think The Dracs have attracted a lot of high quality new players this season and Clywb Cymric tend to pick up most of the Welsh speaking players from around Cardiff so they both have strong squads and we have a young group that is improving all the time.”
The last time the two sides met, Whitchurch got the better of the league leaders, running out 4-2 winners away at Cardiff Draconian’s ground, Draconians have the best attacking record in the league so Hill says the game will be won by who scores the most.
“It was an excellent early season result but since then The Dracs have signed a lot of new players so I’m not sure how similar the team on Saturday will be to the one we faced in August.
We matched them in midfield that day and then our ball players were able to win us the game and having watched them on a couple of occasions since it is clear if you allow them to dominate midfield they score for fun so that will be the focus.
When I have watched the Dracs this season the key is to match them in midfield. They have excellent set piece delivery so there will also be a focus on attacking the ball at set piece. Apart from that absolutely we will go out to play and try and outscore the opposition.
I encourage our forward players go and affect the game in the final third. The team is set up for wingers to go and beat full backs and our ball players to go and find space to play.”
Hill says preparations going into the game will hinge on how the players conduct themselves before the match but that he will want the intensity of the training session on Wednesday, to be the same on Saturday.
“At training on Wednesday I told the players to bring the intensity they will look to bring to the game Saturday. The final message after training will be don’t go out Friday, hopefully with Wales v England being on later in the day, that will keep them in.”
Asked on who has stood out for his Whitchurch side this season, Hill put praise on Josh Spencer who is the club’s top goal scorer.
“I have to mention Josh Spencer as a stand out he has 20 goals in 11 games in all competitions this season which has been a great return and it’s been a real shame he has missed so much of the season.”
With the close proximity of both clubs, the Whitchurch boss says that it could be perceived as a derby and that three points are vital on Saturday.
“Three points is massive for both clubs , for us to keep up the pressure on them and for The Dracs to pull clear. It should be a cracker!
The two clubs are only a mile apart and a few of the lads know each other it definitely has a derby feel to it.
It is really important we get the 3 points, we are 11 games out from the end of the season so any slip ups now will be hard to make up. Ynyshir and Dynamo Aber are only 3 points behind us so it’s an important time to hit form and hopefully that continues Saturday.”