Versatility key to promotion success says departing manager Craig Dale

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Departing Bridgend Street manager Craig Dale has said that the clubs promotion to Division Two was based on the versatility his side possessed.

The Willows will begin life in Division Two on the 11th August, at home at their Willows High School ground, to former FAW Trophy winners Abergavenny Town.

Dale who left his role after leading the side to promotion after a number of years where they fell at the final hurdle, before handing the reigns to STM Sports Youth team coach John Jones.

“I gave up playing to manage so I wanted the team to set up and play in a way that didn’t just win games I wanted to watch and enjoy the way we played. The great thing about the team is we are not one dimensional,” said Dale. 

We can play in a variety of ways. We went a bit more offensive this season, we identified the fact we hadn’t scored enough goals the previous season so brought players in to fit into the expansive style of football and formation we wanted to play and it paid off.

Street were remembered for their Cup run back in the Welsh Football League Cup, where they lost out 3-1 to then Division Two side Llanelli Town, who went the season unbeaten. Street had been involved in a number of cup sets, including a remarkable semi-final victory over former Welsh Premier League side Haverfordwest County.

However there was to be no cup run for Bridgend Street this campaign, their early exits from competitions meant that they had sole focus on their target that alluded them a number of years ago.

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Dale said: “We were very close in 2015/16 and then last season fell away where we went on a fantastic run to the cup final. This season we exited both cups pretty early which meant we could focus solely on gaining promotion and we achieved it.”

It’s a huge achievement for a club of our size something I’m really proud of personally but I must point out that I have had a fantastic backroom staff in Lee Moore, Matt Boyd, Anderson Ross, Taylor Gibbs and Michael Parkins as well as the backing of our small but close knit committee members. 

To see their faces and what it means to them means more to me than anything! I grew up around these guys and it’s my way of giving back.”

The stature of the club has definitely grown in the last three seasons no doubt. A third place finish in the first season followed by a cup final against all odds and then this season we better it by gaining promotion to division two where I hope the stature of the club will continue to grow.”

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The Cardiff Central side achieved promotion in dramatic fashion. After a winter washout, where games were falling foul to the weather, Street found themselves with a backlog of fixtures, which led to a number of games being played in the final month.

Promotion rivals Trefelin Boys & Girls Club had only finished their league season, four days before their Welsh Football League Cup final with Llanelli Town, when they beat Panteg on the Monday evening.


Three days later though, Trefelin were consigned to another year in Division Three. Street had already experienced life at the top, before they slipped due to the winter weather, but it wouldn’t be a repeat of two years ago. Craig Dale’s men went on a 12 game unbeaten run, including a late postponement to Pontyclun in the week, to secure their place in Division Two for the first time in their history.

The clubs most difficult task though, came on the final day of their league campaign when they faced already promoted and championship secured, Division Three champions Bridgend Street.

“It was an incredible run and when we had all the postponements which led to so many games in such a short space of time I did begin to think back to 2015/16 where we were top of the league end of November but didn’t play again until nine weeks later.”

“We found ourselves 5th chasing teams who had points on the board and the winning momentum had gone and it cost us.”

The boys deserve so much credit they gave me everything their attitudes and commitment was first class. Their was no key message really we set a target of promotion at the start of season so with 12 games to go we knew if we won them all we’d achieve our goal.”

It won’t be Dale in the dugout for when the Mission start up their season though. Former AFC Rumney Juniors boss and STM Sports Youth manager of last season, John Jones has been appointed.

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He had originally planned to step down after the clubs League Cup defeat, but remained in charge until the end of the season, when Bridgend Street beat Division Three champions Swansea University.

Dale said: ‘It’s with a heavy heart that I had to step down and pass the managerial baton on especially after working so hard to get out of the division but what a way to step down.”

I have been stepping down for the last two seasons but now work and growing family commitments mean I physically can’t. I’ve loved managing and coaching it’s definitely something I will return to.

John is a great guy who I’ve known for years and he has my upmost respect. It’s a great time for him to take control and I wish him nothing but the best I will give him my full support both on and off the field that’s for sure.”

(Featured Image: Matthew Lofthouse)

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