Challenger eager for more memories as Cwmbran Celtic make long trip to Deeside
Cwmbran Celtic boss Lee Challenger has called on his side to replicate their JD Welsh Cup run of 2016, as they travel to the Connah’s Quay Nomads this weekend.
Challenger who played as a defender in the Cup run, played in the clubs quarter-final defeat to Port Talbot Town, will now be in the dugout following Dean Morris’ departure from the club last season.
And now he wants to make history of his own at the club, where they toppled Division One title favourites Llanelli Town, with a victory at Celtic Park in the last round.
“The 2016 cup run was great to be involved in, so many memories made from it.”
“I said to the players in the last round against Llanelli, it’s up to them to go and make some more memories, their attitude and application on that day were superb. they stuck to the game plan and have now set up a tie with one of the best sides in Welsh football.
The reward for beating Llanelli is playing against a side that finished second in the Welsh Premier League last season, as well as beating Finnish giants HJK Helsinki this summer.
Going into the game as certain underdogs, Challenger is aware of the task at hand, where league positions may play a part in the fixture.
“It will be a big test for us against Connah’s Quay, a very well drilled, physical and efficient outfit, one of the favourites to the win the competition, and rightfully so.
“It’s a big game for the club from a financial point of view, but from my point of view, it’s about us going up there and testing ourselves against a very good Premiership side.”
Round Four is a familiar territory for Cwmbran Celtic, but a win against a side that is semi-professional and boasts five full-time status players could be considered as the clubs best result in their history.
“Should we win Saturday it would probably be the biggest result in the clubs history. We know it’s going to be very difficult, no pressure on us and we go into the game as the underdog, under no illusions in that respect.
But as a player, manager, coach, club….. these are the games you want to be involved in, it’s why we are all here.”
And one thing on Cwmbran Celtic’s side is the ability to watch how the Nomads set up, through their highlights being broadcast on S4C’s Sgorio each week.
Andy Morrison’s men boast the second-best defence in the league, just one place behind South Wales side Cardiff Metropolitan University, who Cwmbran Celtic came up against over the years in their time in the Welsh Football League.
“They are well organised defensively, as you would expect, you don’t challenge at the top of the Welsh Premiership without being solid defensively.
They are equally as impressive going forward, a very direct style of play, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, but at the end of the day, it suits them, they have had a lot of success with it.
It works for them and wins football matches, ultimately that’s what they get paid for, to win football matches, and more often than not, they do.”
In the league, Cwmbran currently sits in a comfortable position of 10th but are ranked amongst the lowest scorers in the division, with the only bottom three sides Caerau Ely, Cwmamman United and Ton Pentre, scoring fewer.
But despite the statistic, the Cwmbran Celtic boss has been impressed with the chances created by his players, hoping that more of the chances made will be converted.
“It’s a stat that doesn’t bother me too much at this moment in time because we are still creating goal scoring opportunities, it’s when we stop creating I’ll start to worry.
“I’m quite confident that come to the end of the season, we won’t be one of the lowest scoring sides in the division, I have confidence in our attacking players, and it’s a stat that doesn’t concern me at this point.”
One player who has been creating and converting the chances is midfield Chris Ham, who was part of the Cup run back in 2015/2016, as well as featuring for non-league English side Westfields, as they reached the First Round Proper of the English FA Cup.
He returned to Celtic Park this summer to link up with prolific forward Josh Bull, but despite his individual traits, his manager is expecting more of a team performance on Saturday.
“Chrissy has been great since he’s come back, his attitude and work rate has been superb, a good mindset and he has matured a lot as a player.
I think it would be unfair on Chris and the rest of the players to say he could make the difference, Yes he will play a big part as he’s been in good form and enjoys the big games, but Chris knows as much as everyone else in the squad that it’s about the team performance as a collective, not the individual.”
“If we have any chance of progressing on Saturday it’s going to be a big, team effort that will get us through, concentration levels off every single player will need to be at their maximum, no doubt about that.”
(Featured Image: Steve Roberts)