MATCH PREVIEW: Ynysygerwn v Bridgend Street

The Llandarcy Academy of Sport will play home to an intriguing game this Saturday as promotion-chasing Bridgend Street will meet an Ynysygerwn side looking to get themselves back on track and secure a comfortable position in the table in their first season in Welsh League Three.

The home team have made an incredible rise through local leagues over recent years and after a tough start, which included a run of fixtures against STM Sports, Llantwit Major and this week’s visitors Bridgend Street, during which manager Nicki Maggs reflects that his team learnt “a lot”, the team settled down into decent form in the run up to Christmas.  But only one win so far in 2017 has left the team having to contemplate looking over their shoulder.

Ynysygerwn manager Nicki Maggs said, “It’s been a difficult period since Christmas.  The boys have been playing reasonably well.  We had to play Llantwit Major as a third game in a week and that was the only real disappointing performance.  At the moment, we’re creating chances but we’re just not scoring. That is the big difference between the leagues below and this one – the quality of finishing in this league is much higher.  We gave Penrhiwceiber two chances at the weekend and they scored a goal.  We had fifteen to twenty corners, six or seven good chances, but we aren’t scoring.  The lads are still confident though, and we hope to turn it around.”

The teams met in League and Cup early in the season, and the 5-0 League defeat sticks in Maggs’ mind. He said, “Maybe at the start of the season we were guilty of playing a little bit too much football. But the League is too professional for that – it’s changed a lot since I last played in it six years ago.  In the feeder leagues, you can turn up and play your game but here we’ve learnt we need to take a different approach.  We’ll need to work to stop Paul Fowler in midfield and [Nicki] Davison up front. If we can nullify them, we’ll have a chance.  We changed our approach in the two games against STM Sports – it was a heavy defeat first time around, but we changed it second time and only lost by one goal.  It’ll be a different Ynysygerwn Saturday to the team they met in September – if I’m honest, we were lucky to get away with five that day!  We’re learning the league, but it’s positive.”

Like all managers, Maggs has players missing for the weekend due to personal commitments, but highlights the fact they’ve had to use four goalkeepers this season as a real challenge.  “We had a ‘keeper last year who kept 16 clean sheets – but he’s been injured this year. That’s been difficult,” Maggs added.

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Maggs was also keen to praise the influence of joint-manager David Burrows, who has had a distinguished playing career at the top level of the Welsh game and managed Aberystwyth Town.  Maggs said, “Dai Burrows has been brilliant.  His experience has been really helpful, he’s got the team fitter and more professional and the lads have really bought into it.  He thinks about football a bit differently to me, but that helps.  Sometimes we just need to get the ball up the channels and play in the opposition half, not just play out from the back.  He’s had a big impact with the club.”

Bridgend Street manager Craig Dale had to miss his sides last game, a Friday night 3-0 win at Trethomas, but was pleased with what he heard from the game. “[joint Manager] Simon Croker was able to feed back – the boys clearly did well in testing conditions and kept going despite missing a number of chances in the first half.  It was great to keep another clean sheet.  Ynysygerwn are a good team – they are in this league on merit and a good bunch of lads.  We won’t be underestimating them – we know anyone can beat anyone on any given day.”

After a few postponements to start the year, Dale has concerns about a fixture backlog, but feels things aren’t as bad as last season. He said, “Hopefully the worst of the weather is behind us. There’s been a couple of times this season where I feel games could’ve been played to help ease the fixture pile up, certainly the festive period but there was also a Saturday when Wales played in the evening – at the very least I think clubs should’ve had the option of being able to play.”

‘The Mission’ have lost two players this week in different circumstances.  Craig Dale was keen to praise both Richard Yarr and Joe Hinds.  “They were both very good players and great men.  They were both big personalities in the changing room.  Richard has not long been back from a knee operation, but he had the chance of a player-coach role at a previous club and we wish him the best.  Joe has been with us for only two years, but made a big impact coming through the reserves, sitting on the bench and then taking his chance in the first team and never looking back, becoming vice captain.  We’ll miss them both, but it gives others in the squad a chance to step up to the plate.”

KO: 2pm. Admission £3 for adults. Programmes available at £1.  Venue: Llandarcy Academy of Sport, SA10 6JD. Nearest railway is Skewen, which is about a 30 minute walk.

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