No fear factor for Met says Dr Christian Edwards despite Barry’s impressive form
Cardiff Metropolitan University manager Dr Christian Edwards says that his side will have belief going into this Saturday’s crunch Europa League play-off semi final.
The two sides meet for the fourth time this season, after meeting in the Nathaniel MG Cup, as well as playing each other in the league twice.
Cardiff Metropolitan University finished above Barry Town United in the regular season, securing a top six spot for the second year running, but Barry Town United have remain unbeaten in Phase Two, earning themselves a place in the end of season play-offs.
“Gavin and his men have had an impressive Phase Two, but we don’t fear them. In fact, we believe that we have hit form ourselves having beaten Bala 4-3 in our penultimate game of the season and then on the last day we drew 3-3 with TNS a game that we could have comfortably won had we taken our chances,”
Cardiff Metropolitan University hadn’t beaten Bala Town in a top flight fixture before Met’s last outing at Cyncoed Campus, as well as securing a third point against Champions, The New Saints. The point at Park Hall saw them narrowly miss out on an automatic final spot, which the Cefn Druids pipped them to.
“This has given us great confidence knowing that we have taken 4 out of possible 6 points against two teams that have qualified automatically for Europe.”
Met find themselves in the Europa League play-offs for the second season running, after finishing in the top six in their debut top flight season in the last campaign.
They saw off Carmarthen Town who finished above them, before narrowly losing at Bangor City in the final, to a Dean Rittenberg goal at Nantporth. This time out though, Met will have a years experience behind them, as well as home advantage.
“The experience of the play offs will have certainly helped the players to manage that big game mentality. However, this is a local derby and both sets of players have that experience so there is no edge really, just two good sets of players fighting for one spot.”
That play-off final hurt was something that Cardiff Metropolitan University are looking to get over this campaign, with the defeat discussed before this campaign had begun.
With an even playing field and the chance against a side they’ve had the number of in three of their last four outings, a European adventure could be a real possibility.
“This has been a motivating factor all season. Last year hurt, we had no real entitlement to win but we were so close and want to go that one better this time around. The players have set their own standards this year all based on each training session and game being better than the last so we achieve our ultimate goal of European football.”
Summarising this seasons campaign, the Archers have seen their second campaign pan out similarly to their season last season, exceeding expectations through the regular season, where they were even spoken about as title contenders, before injuries affected their title charge.
However this time round, the Archers reached the final of the Nathaniel MG Cup for the first time in their history, where they narrowly lost out to League and League Cup double winners The New Saints at Park Avenue back in January.
“I think it’s been another development for the club. We always speak about developing ourselves individually and collectively and we have done that.
As soon as the final whistle went in last year’s final, we challenged ourselves to be better. In Phase One we were very good, topping the table in late November and finishing with a higher points total than the previous season while also becoming runners up in the Nathaniel MG Cup. All in all, we believe this has been another good season, through in being crowned British Champions again, then it’s been very successful.
Two of those players that have been injured is the impressive centre-back partnership of club captain Bradley Woolridge and Emlyn Lewis, who have cemented a strong understanding for one another over the last two campagins. Injuries to both players, as well as a season ending injury to summer recruit Dylan Rees has affected the Archers plans over the season.
The introduction of players such as other summer recruit Rhydian Morgan, BUCS captain Matthew Swindlehurst and as well as the re-emergence of players like Ben Bowler and Josh Barnett have helped deal with the injuries.
Any team in this league that lost the calibre of players that we did throughout Phase Two would have seen a change in their fortune. However, we have turned this into a positive and developed the depth of the squad for the better ahead of next season. It has been an excellent progression for the players who have ultimately made the squad stronger ahead of Saturday.
Phase Two has been slightly difficult but we amassed the same points total in the split with seven players out injured. As such, we have developed the depth of our squad for the better. Then we have had Adam and Eliot gain international recognition which is a real honour for them but also huge for the club.”
Summer recruit Rhydian Morgan earnt high praise from former Llandudno manager before he departed for his university studies at Cardiff Met, where he was able to transfer to for his footballing career also. Matt Swindlehurst is now a two-time winning BUCS captain and with both likely to play on Saturday, former Forest defender Edwards has no doubt they can step in to fill the gaps left by the injured players.
“It’s been of no surprise to us. Rhydian was on our radar last year when Alan Morgan, the then Llandudno manager, told me he was attending our university and that he was one hell of a player. He is correct, he has been superb for us when called upon and shown maturity beyond his years.
As for Matt, he is our BUCS winning captain and has been unfortunate to have had Brad and Emlyn in such fine form. Nonetheless, when called selected he has been superb. Matt is like Ronseal, he does was it says on the tin!!!!! Head it, kick it!!!”
(Featured Image: Matthew Lofthouse)