County and Street look to move closer to silverware
Cup football returns to south Wales this week, Penybont FC’s Kymco Stadium providing the backdrop for the first Nathaniel Cup semi final as Haverfordwest County of Division One take on Division Three’s Bridgend Street.
For the west Wales side, a trophy would represent a strong start to a new era following relegation from the Welsh Premier League last season. For Bridgend Street, winning this trophy would represent the biggest achievement in the club’s history.
The quarter final ties were played way back on January 14 and while County comfortably dispatched League One basement club Risca Utd on that occasion, Street provided the shock of the round in beating two time defending cup holders Taffs Well one nil at their Willows base.
Lots has changed since both clubs secured their semi final spot. County made themselves genuine title contenders with six wins on the trot, before a 2-0 reverse at Barry Town and a 5-1 hammering at Goytre set them back. Their promotion hopes are now non-existent, with the board deciding they wouldn’t back a return to a 12 team Premier League, but they returned to form this past weekend with a thumping 6-2 win over a Port Talbot Town side hoping to avoid a second successive relegation.
Bridgend Street, based in east Cardiff, have gone from two managers to one, with Simon Croker departing the club. It was hoped the win over Taffs Well might provide a catalyst for a promotion push, but inconsistency has blighted performances since, with losses in consecutive weekends to Tredegar Town and Treowen Stars providing a low point. However, Street have often faired better against stronger opponents, beating Ely Rangers 7-2 and holding a 1-0 lead over STM Sports before ‘keeper Nick King was sent off.
Both sides are capable of scoring their fair share of goals. Ashley Bevan has been the leading light for the Blues this season and will need to be expertly marshalled by the Mission. However, expect lots of pace out wide in County’s 4-3-3 look. Greg Walters will likely continue his hard working role in midfield and his engine will be key in ensuring that Street don’t get time to settle on the ball.
Street have shuffled their pack in recent weeks, but Jeff White’s Welsh Premier experience up front should be invaluable and he will need to be at his best to hold up the ball and bring others into play. Paul Fowler and Owen Bancroft will martial the centre of the park, but the shape of the team and the identity of the wide men is only likely to become apparent on the night, as manager Dale seeks a great consistency in his performance. He may be tempted to add Alex Smith into a three man central midfield to match County, but will be aware that it has been a more traditional 4-4-2 that saw off Taffs Well and push Goytre (now 2nd in Division One) to a penalty shoot out in the Welsh Cup.
This game shapes up to be an entertaining encounter between two sides who will look to get forward and score goals. While County are justified favourites, it is a one off game at a neutral venue and the Blues players have further to travel. Bridgend Street will be looking to take their chance.
The Nathianel League Cup semi final between Haverfordwest County and Bridgend Street takes place on Tuesday 4 April, 7.30pm KO at Penybont FC’s Kymco Stadium
The second semi final sees Llanelli Town play Caerau (Ely) at Afan Lido FC on Wednesday 5 April with a 7.30pm KO.
(Featured Image: christopher7590)