The story of the season so far in the Welsh National League Division One

As we rapidly approach 2018, undefeated Brymbo sit comfortably atop the table, looking to be in good shape to bounce back to the Welsh National League (WNL) Premier Division they found themselves relegated from last year. 

Although Brymbo’s success was to some extent predictable heading into the seasons beginning all the way back in August, the rest of the season has provided a roller coaster of unexpected events with most teams not even completing half of their 20 game season yet!

Story of the Half-Season

For obvious reasons, the main talking point of the division thus far is the resignations.  The league began as a fourteen team competition but following Point of Ayr, Penley and Acrefair resignations all taking place in the past four months, the league has seen a decline in participants.

All three clubs found themselves towards the bottom end of the table prior to their decisions to resign but they are all a huge loss for the league and community game.  Penley lost out in promotion on just goal difference last season, proving they had an extremely talented squad and Acrefair’s and Point of Ayr’s departures have left big football-less gaps in their respected villages.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the WNL Division One, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Brymbo is undefeated, winning eight of their nine games and topping the table, a very difficult record to achieve within any grassroots-style league.

Other teams fighting for the two promotion spots include a Rhos Aelwyd team who have made some minor improvements since last season to boost them into a top four where they are also joined by  last years one game-winning Maesgwyn now having won seven in eleven and a newly promoted Cefn Mawr Rangers side who have only lost one game to date.

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At the bottom end of the table, you’ll find Johnstown and recently relegated Overton, perhaps surprising considering how good Johnstown looked throughout their pre-season campaign and the fact Overton was in the division above just last season (although didn’t win a single game).

However, their place in the league is not a true sign of the quality of both the sides and they could well find themselves in much better positions had the three resignations not have taken place.

The remaining mid-table teams are an interesting group all proved tough challenges for the top 3 last year so can never be doubted going into a game. Castell AC, Llangollen Town, New Brighton Villa, Rhydymwyn and Mynydd Isa Spartans were all in contention for top spots heading into the season but it seems they haven’t maintained last seasons form so have found themselves filling up the middle spots of the league.

Team of the Half

Cefn Mawr Rangers have been one of the most impressive clubs so far this season.  After only gaining promotion to Division last season, a start as incredible as the one they had, only losing 1 game (to Brymbo) thus far is an incredible feat.

Their season has included a 5-4 victory over a Maesgwyn side who looked unstoppable at the time the two sides played as well as dominant wins over many strong sides like Castell AC, New Brighton Villa and Rhydymwyn as they find themselves in fourth place with games in hand on second and third.

Player of the Half

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To be as dominant as Brymbo have, a player who just can’t stop scoring is a must. Billy New has netted 15 goals for the Steelmen, often being the catalyst for victory within the Brymbo side.

New is also in the running for the Golden Boot, currently coming second to Llangollen’s Benjamin Wilson, who has scored 17 times so far

Manager of the Half

Rhos Aelwyd sat at the lower end of the mid-table at the culmination of the 16/17 season.  Manager Huw Rowlands, as done a superb job of coaching the team to a very successful first half to the season, improving dramatically as they find themselves pushing for promotion, currently in second place, a position no one would have expected to find the club before the season began.

Top Three Games

Cefn Mawr Rangers 5 – 4 Maesgwyn (9th September) :

A battle of the underdogs as two teams both unpredictably successful up to this point faced off.  It was a close game and a goal-fest which saw Maesgwyn’s win streak come to an end and Cefn Mawr Rangers prove they were serious promotion contenders.

Rhos Aelwyd 7 – 0 Maesgwyn (14th October):

Heading into the game, it appeared to be a clash of two of the league’s finest, with the winner having a stronger grip on second place, so when Aelwyd put seven past Maesgwyn it proved that Aelwyd was one of the best in the league in shocking fashion.

New Brighton 2 – 1 Llangollen (28th October):

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A lot of focus was on this game, both teams had had a mixed bag of results up to this point, some great wins but also some heavy defeats.  In a battle for fifth place which would see the winners able to get a strong opportunity to break into the top 4, New Brighton narrowly got the victory.

Conclusion

The Top Four isn’t quite set in stone yet, you can expect Brymbo, Rhos Aelwyd and Cefn Mawr Rangers to all be in the battle for promotion right until the end of the season but fifth and sixth-placed Llangollen and New Brighton will both fancy their chances of leapfrogging a Maesgwyn side who have accumulated four losses already this season.  Proving fixtures between those top six ones definitely worth attending.

The bottom half of the table will be less of a talking point as relegation probably won’t occur again this season due to the number of resignations, but upsets are common in the league, so one eye should always be kept on the lower half of the league.

(Featured Image: IF Cymru)

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