Llantwit Major’s Karl Lewis feeling sense of pride in midst of title race

Llantwit Major boss Karl Lewis has said of his pride for the club, with a highest league finish guaranteed, after their first year in Division Two. 

This season’s Welsh Football League Division Two title race has been one of the most gripping in years. With a handful of games left to play as many as five teams could be said to be still in contention to lift the trophy.

While there are three promotion places to Division One on offer and four eligible sides involved. Among those are Llantwit Major Football Club. Major currently sit 3rd in the table behind STM Sports and Pontypridd Town, but with games in hand. They briefly held top spot following Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at title-rivals Ammanford.

“Wherever we finish it will be the highest position in the club’s history and I think we can be proud of our first ever season in Division Two.”

Manager Karl Lewis is a relative junior in management terms. He is currently studying for his FAW ‘C’ Coaching Licence, learning most of his trade on the job. He managed Penybont youth and reserves for two seasons before moving up to a first team coaching role under Francis Ford, a season Lewis says “really set me up to be a manager”.

Under Karl Lewis’ management Llantwit Major have undergone a fantastic climb up the Welsh League, winning the Division Three title last season and now they are potentially four games away from Division One. Promotion and the Division Two title remains in their hands.

The presence of Llantwit Major at the top end of Division Two (as well as STM Sports, runners-up to Llantwit Major in Division Three last season) may be a surprise to some, but Lewis believes it speaks for the quality of competition throughout the entire Welsh League these days.

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“The Welsh League is extremely competitive across the Three divisions now. I think this is proven by cup competitions where lower division teams are beating higher [division] teams.”

(Image: Will Cheshire)

Lewis added:

“I feel we have done very well to come straight up and compete towards the top of Division Two with so many well established and financially competitive teams already in the league. I feel the boys have a mentality that strives to win and it’s that mentality that we have carried from Division Three to Division Two.

This season promotion isn’t just about league position though. With FAW Tier 2 Ground Regulations in place for the start of next season, having a ground that meets the criteria is just as important for those sides at the top end of Division Two. Some clubs have had to move to other Welsh League grounds or find pastures new to meet the criteria, whereas Llantwit Major have been granted a Tier 2 Licence to play at their home ground Windmill Lane.

Lewis said it was “massively important” the club achieved the Tier 2 criteria at Windmill Lane “not to lose our identity by ground sharing”. He also paid tribute to those who work behind the scenes at Windmill Lane for helping to deliver this outcome.

“I would like to thank the chairman and everyone else involved (there is a huge list of people). The chairman and the committee put in hours of work behind the scenes to ensure we achieved the status.

I think it’s a tribute to the clubs commitment when you see the chairman and committee members rushing back after games to fix seats into the stand. The club wants to match the team’s ambition and by achieving the licence they have now left it down to myself and the squad to match them.”

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That ambition has also been evident by the club’s ability to attract players with the calibre of Anthony Rawlings. Since his arrival, the former Goytre United and Penybont forward has struck up an exciting partnership with youngster Sam Snaith, something that Lewis believes has helped the team kick on.

“Rawls and Sam have been fantastic since they joined up. Rawls experience is really helping Sam and I’ve seen him develop a lot over the last few weeks under Rawls’ guidance. The pair of them scoring so many has definitely moved us up a level and their link up play has come naturally. Hopefully they will both continue to score and battle it out to finish top goal scorer.”

Sam Snaith is very much the junior partner at 18 years old. The Wales Schools forward has been in prolific form of late and Lewis believes he is a young man with a big future in the game.

“Sam made his first team debut under me at 16 and has got better and better since then. In my inexperienced opinion he has everything needed to play at a higher level and I will be surprised if higher teams don’t take time to have a look at him over the summer. Obviously we want Sam to be with us for as long as possible but I believe he deserves a chance to play at professional level and if it doesn’t work out we are always here for him.”

Turning attention to the race for the title/promotion Lewis predicts “there is still a lot of twists and turns to come” and believes it will go to the final match of the season. This weekend Llantwit Major travel to Aberbargoed Buds. The Buds are another surprise title contender and prior to Wednesday night’s loss to Pontypridd Town they had put a run of seven consecutive wins together. Unsurprisingly, Lewis expects a tough challenge.

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“Aberbargoed are on a fantastic run and have brought themselves into the [title race]. It’s always difficult playing a team with a winning mentality and I’m sure we are in for an extremely hard-fought game on Saturday.”

(Featured Image: Will Cheshire Photography)

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