2017 didn’t end in the best fashion for the Welsh National League Premier Division with the majority of games postponed for the last three weeks of the season.
Nevertheless, the league has shaped up to be a very exciting league to watch with there still being a large opportunity for much more unpredictability to take place during 2018. This is what’s happened in the Welsh National League Premier Division up until the festive break.
As many predicted at the start of the season, Brickfield Rangers are leading the division, with a game in hand on most teams below them, and last years Welsh Trophy winners Chirk AAA building upon their great success of last season as they currently sit in second, just one point behind Brickfield.
Also predictably in the title race are Llanuwchllyn and Corwen who after finishing third and fourth last season, find themselves third and fifth at the midway point, but Llanuwchllyn are only one point behind the leaders too and Corwen are just two points behind Brickfield!
There is no real shock with the teams who take the top three spots and the same can be said for three of the four places at the bottom end of the table as Coedpoeth find themselves bottom with just one point with Penycae and Llay Welfare also following their 2016/17 season performances by being towards the bottom of the league table at this stage.
What has been incredible about the division so far is just how close the title race is, with just 3 points separating the top 7 teams, everything is still to play for, with some clubs having shown a lot more quality than they were given credit for at the beginning of the season.
Saltney Town are in a very strong position, in fourth place on equal points as second and third, a huge improvement on their mid-table performance of last season and Rhostyllen have had a good start to the season, including a huge underdog victory over Chirk, sitting three points behind the leaders in seventh place after only entering the league for the first time this Season.
The two teams who were relegated to the division, Buckley Town and Mold Alexandra haven’t had the most straightforward beginning to the season. Mold Alex finds themselves far off the pace, sitting in tenth place suggesting that it is unlikely they will gain the promotion many had them predicted to be in the race for before the season started.
Buckley, on the other hand, looks much stronger, three points off the lead with two games in hand on most teams in the top four, they are serious contenders this season and should provide many exciting performances going forward.
Another shock is the low position of FC Nomads of Connah’s Quay who despite a 6th placed finish last season with a view to further improve this season, have only managed three wins and currently sit second bottom.
As for the remaining teams, Cefn Albion and Lex Glyndwr, they all sit comfortably in the mid-table, all probably out of top four contention but a successful string of games could easily see them better their league positions, they’re clubs which teams have to be well-prepared to face and have definitely proven they deserve their place in the division.
Player of the Half Season
It’s fair to say Joe Evans of Llanuwchllyn has been on fire this season. He is the league’s top goalscorer with thirteen goals in twelve games, a key player in Llanuwchllyn’s success this season, Evans rarely seems to miss an opportunity, his team simply wouldn’t be the same threat without him.
Best Manager so far
Marc Edwards and Darren Meredith are Saltney Town’s Secretary and Chairman but after Jake Gibbons stepped down as manager, the two took over in a joint coaching role. The two have done a superb job in charge up to this point, guiding Saltney to fourth place, a point behind Brickfield with seventeen games left to play.
They are well and truly part of the title race and when this position is compared to their average mid-table season performance last season and this is a credit to the whole club but especially the two men in charge, Edwards and Meredith.
Games to Remember
Brickfield Rangers 1 – 2 Penycae (21st October)
A dominant side, who are league title favourites, coming off the back of a 7-1 win over Rhostyllen were set to face one of the league’s weaker sides in Penycae. But the game didn’t go to plan for Brickfield as Penycae put in a passionate performance to cause a thrilling 2-1 upset.
Chirk AAA 2 – 4 Rhostyllen (25th November)
Rhostyllen travelled to Chirk as an upper mid-table side, a win for Chirk would probably open a gap between the two sides which would put Rhostyllen out of any sort of title contention but Rhostyllen had their underdog boots on.
They played the incredible football which has seen them earn two straight promotions and win multiple cups in the past two seasons and upset Chirk in fashion as they put four goals past the Chirk keeper
Llanuwchllyn 1 – 4 Saltney Town (16th December)
Saltney made their longest away trip of the season to face a Llanuwchllyn side who despite putting themselves in a very strong position to challenge for the league title had just suffered a 3-1 defeat to Chirk.
Saltney was able to capitalise on this lull in form and establish themselves in the title race with their dominating 4-1 performance which saw striker Ryan Farrell score a hat trick and cement himself in place as one of the league’s finest.
What’s Still to Come?
For the top seven teams, every game they play is a must win if they wish to maintain their spot in the race for a league top spot. The energy teams will be required to play with every week could make the division one of the most exciting to watch in Wales with for at least the next couple months, every minute mattering for the top side.
Down the other end of the table, things do not look to be getting any better for Coedpoeth United with no wins and one draw in a very high-quality division, it is very difficult to foresee them saving themselves from relegation with Penycae, FC Nomads and Llay Welfare set to battle for survival from the second relegation spot.
The League is set to be more competitive than perhaps ever before in 2018, an exciting time for football in North East Wales. with every game for the next few months having something on the line for at least one of the clubs involved.