Welsh League Division Two and Division Three promotion and relegation – who is involved and what is needed?
There probably aren’t many leagues across Europe this season with a title race as tight and as interesting as Welsh Football League Division Two.
It wasn’t so long ago that half a dozen clubs were in a position to challenge, now with less two weeks to go the number of realistic title contenders has reduced to four. Outside the title there is also the consolation of promotion, with three spots usually reserved for promotion to Division One at the end of the season.
The contenders are current leaders Pontypridd Town, STM Sports, Llantwit Major and Ammanford.
Pontypridd Town were seen as favourites by many observers before the season started. Co-managers Dominic and Damien Broad have built an excellent squad and they missed out last season by a single point. Ammanford are another side that have built on strong foundations this season after finishing 6th in the last campaign. Llantwit Major and STM Sports have been relative surprise packages after promotion from Division Three last season, but both have used that momentum and the winning mentality in their squads to spur them on again this season.
At present the top of Division Two looks like this:
Looking at the number of games left if every team were to achieve maximum possible points the final top four would look like this:
1 Ammanford P 30/ 69 PTS
= Llantwit Major P30/ 69 PTS
3 Pontypridd Town P30/ 67 PTS
4 STM Sports P 30/ 63 PTS
However, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that because there are a number of fixtures to be played between the four sides. The remaining fixtures for each club are:
Pontypridd Town: Ammanford (a), May 19; Ammanford (h), May 23
STM Sports: Llantwit Major (a), May 22
Llantwit Major: Pontardawe Town (h), May 15; AFC Llwydcoed (a), May 19; STM Sports (h), May 22
Ammanford: AFC Llwydcoed (a), May 15; Pontypridd Town (h), May 19; Pontypridd Town (a), May 23; Aberbargoed Buds (h), May 26
The Ammanford-Pontypridd Town double header will go a long way to deciding the fate of both sides. Whatever the outcome of the other matches STM Sports almost certainly need to win at Llantwit Major to have any chance of a top 3 finish. Despite leading the table for much of 2018, it is strange that STM Sports now find themselves in the position of requiring other results to go in their favour.
As STM Sports can only achieve a maximum 63 points, from the remaining fixtures it means Pontypridd Town require 3 points from two games to guarantee a top 3 place; Llantwit Major need 4 points from three matches; Ammanford will finish in the top three if they obtain 7 points from their four matches.
There is a caveat on all of this relating to Tier 2 ground regulations. At the time of writing Pontypridd Town have not been granted a licence to play at Tier 2 next season. It is believed The Dragons are appealing, but it remains to be seen what happens should Pontypridd finish in the top 3 and remain unsuccessful in their bid to become Tier 2 compliant. According to the Welsh League rules, promotion is nominally given to the top three sides in Division Two but “shall be determined by the FAW Pyramid Regulations and subject to any directive from the FAW”.
The race to join Division Three champions Swansea University in Division Two next season remains open. The contenders are Trefelin BGC – who after going so long unbeaten have had a wobble of late – and Bridgend Street.
Trefelin currently hold a six point advantage over Bridgend Street, but the Cardiff-based outfit have two games in hand and a superior goal difference.
Let’s look at the remaining fixtures:
Trefelin BGC: Swansea Uni (a), May 16; Panteg (a), May 21
Bridgend Street: Panteg (a), May 16; Ely Rangers (h), May 19; Pontyclun (a), May 22; Swansea Uni (h), May 24
The big challenge for Bridgend Street is whether they can get through the four games in eight days unscathed, or will fixture congestion take its toll? The final outcome could hinge on the respective meetings with the champions. Trefelin are the only side to have beaten Swansea Uni in the league this season; Bridgend Street were crushed 6-1 on their visit to the Sketty Stadium. Once again, you suspect this one will go to wire.
At the bottom of D3 relegation from the Welsh League is still undecided. There has been no confirmation about the exact number of clubs to be relegated, but based on permutations as it stands above and below the Welsh Premier League (no WPL club relegated to WL, only two clubs to be promoted from the feeder leagues) it would seem only one club will be relegated.
If this is the case it will be either Ely Rangers or Neuadd Wen. Ely Rangers hold a four point lead over bottom club Neuadd Wen, but the latter have two games in hand.
Ely Rangers’ solitary fixture is away to promotion chasing Bridend Street, but even a win in this fixture would not guarantee their safety a Neuadd Wen can mathematically reach 26 points from their three remaining fixtures; Ely Rangers can only gain a maximum 24 points.
It is very much in the hands of Neuadd Wen, but the Welsh League debutants have three tough away fixtures to play: Panteg, Treharris Athletic Western and Treowen Stars. With games running out there is probably little room for any mistakes from the Aberbargoed-based club.
(Featured Image: Callum J Ellis