PREVIEW: MATCHDAY FOUR – JD Welsh Premier League
With the JD Welsh Premier League already underway, and some early season form beginning to take shape, game week four of the 2017/18 season will no doubt be as interesting as ever.
The season has already sprung a few surprise results and questions have already been asked. After their opening day loss to Bangor City, some critics suggested TNS’ grip on the league title was loosening, but Scott Ruscoe’s side haven’t dropped any points since.
This weekend should provide some more interesting results with the star tie of the weekend being Connah’s Quay Nomads facing up against Bala Town in Deeside as both sides stake their claim for an early season advantage at the top of the table.
Llandudno v Prestatyn Town
In the early encounter of the week, Llandudno host the Welsh Premier League’s latest addition, Prestatyn Town and Alan Morgan’s men will be full of confidence heading into the game after starting the season unbeaten after three games.
Tudno have proved any of their doubters wrong after last season’s slump, and have bounced back with three consecutive wins and should feel confident as they face off against Prestatyn who have managed one win in their opening three fixtures.
The 2016/17 Huws Gray Alliance winners have already proved they have the steel to ensure survival in the top flight after a last gasp winner against fellow promotion winners Barry Town United, and a 1-0 loss against a Bangor City who many have tipped for the title is nothing to be ashamed of.
However, the early season form and home ground advantage at Maesdu Park should prove to be another difficult test for Neil Gibson’s men, who have the unenviable of facing Connah’s Quay, Bangor and Llandudno inside their first four fixtures.
Connah’s Quay v Bala Town
A clash of the titans commences this week as last season’s second and third placed outfits come up against each other for the first time this season.
Both Andy Morrison’s and Colin Caton’s charges have faced difficult starts to their campaign, and despite brushing off Prestatyn and Carmarthen, notching seven goals in the process, the Nomads were defeated by Llandudno in the last round of games, whilst Bala have too notched two wins and a loss, after suffering a 3-0 loss at the hands of reigning champions The New Saints.
There is somewhat a new look to the Nomads side this season, as they let go of many of their key figures of last season’s success including striker Les Davies, who they left join their opponents this weekend.
The JD Welsh Cup winners look to be a strong outfit this year, but were pushed aside with ease by TNS, and overcame a difficult hurdle against Cardiff Met last time out.
A tough and rigid test will no doubt ensue with Connah’s Quay and the Lakesiders drawing three times last season.
The New Saints v Cefn Druids
Current JD Welsh Premier League champions TNS have had a summer of change, yet despite questions rising, recent results seem to have eased any pressure on Scott Ruscoe and Steve Evans and a victory against the Druids would go further to alleviating any doubt about their capabilities.
After the departure of Craig Harrison, Mike Harris placed his trust in two of the club’s own, and despite some shaky performances in the Champions League and a less than convincing loss against Bangor City on the opening day of the season, confident victories over Bala Town and Barry Town United have put them right back in the mix.
It has been a solid start for Druids, who similarly have turned things around since their opening day loss to Cardiff Met, as they picked up a point against Newtown and followed it up with a 2-0 win against Aberystwyth.
Despite some solid results for the club, the Oswestry based side should be able to come out with all three points and their credentials intact.
Aberystwyth Town v Cardiff Met
It has been very opposing starts to the season for the two clubs, as Cardiff Met have taken six points out of a possible nine and Aberystwyth have gained a single point against Barry, Llandudno and Druids.
After the summer additions of Joel Edwards and ?, the Students look more resilient and confident going forward than their debut season and recorded victories against Bangor City, who had been victorious against TNS the previous week, and Cefn Druids.
Aberystwyth have in contrast had a difficult summer, as after the appointment of Tony Pennock, were forced to look for his replacement after he was appointed to Leon Slutsky’s backroom staff at Hull City. Whilst the appointment of Neville Powell has instilled some confidence into the future prospects of the club, the positivity is yet to transition into results as the club have fallen to the club’s who are predicted to r around them come the end of Phase One.
If Adam Roscrow can continue his good start to the season, with Elliot Evans and Chris Baker working with him in a fierce attack, it could require a backs to the wall performance from the Black and Greens to see any positive result.
Bangor City v Carmarthen Town
Carmarthen Town continue their away travels as their new 3G pitch is installed at Richmond Park with a journey to league hot shots Bangor City.
After a resounding opening day victory over current champions TNS, Kevin Nicholson’s me were sending shockwaves through the league and talk of the JD Welsh Premier League trophy donning the blue of Bangor come the end of the campaign had already begun. However, they were brought crashing to the ground by Cardiff Met just one week later.
Carmarthen Town have fared much worse in comparison, having suffered three successive losses, conceding at least three goals in each match and netting just two in the process. However, Mark Aizlewood is an experienced head in the league and with the return of Kyle Bassett, no team will be underestimating one of the league’s youngest sides quite yet.
If Brayden Shaw can find his shooting boots, and wth Gary Taylor-Fletcher in attack, it could be a difficult day however for the Old Gold.
Barry Town United v Newtown
Barry Town United’s long await return to the top flight has been a tad more difficult than some would have liked, and a last minute loss against Prestatyn Town will have hurt, but the club can take confidence from a solid defensive performance against The New Saints into their game against Newtown.
Barry have bolstered their squad, and both Kane McLaggon and Ryan Newman have impressed early on in Barry’s colours. But fans and players alike will be itching to get three points on the board before it becomes a talking point. Newtown too have altered in the off season and have freshened things up after the departures of the league’s top scorer last term, Jason Oswell and stalwart Shane Sutton.
Chris Hughes’ men picked up just one point in their first two outings, but a 4-1 victory over Carmarthen Town last time out will have instilled some much needed confidence into their squad.
Barry do look quick going forward and will look to exploit that against their Mid Wales counterparts but the Robins will be looking to further add to Barry’s struggles and pick up where they left off against Carmarthen Town.
(Featured Image: Event Photo Wales)