Predictions: Welsh Football League 2018/2019
With the Welsh Football League season just over a week away, Jordan Jones gives his predictions ahead of the new season and what will happen in the final year of the League as we know it.
Llanelli Town romped to the title last season, beating Haverfordwest County to the top spot by fifteen points, with an impressive 87 goals scored and 33 goals conceded.
However this time around, it doesn’t feel like there’s a Llanelli Town which will run away from the league, there’s a league that is open to a lot of teams.
After finishing second then third, it could be third time lucky for Rhys Griffiths and his side. After taking over in 2016, the club has gone from strength to strength and have recently been backed by a new 250-seater stand and television gantry, which will put them in line with Welsh Premier League regulations.
Penybont had a stern defence and were the joint-second best defence.
The defence will only get stronger, after the additions of Sam Rodon and Oli Dalton. Rodon joins from this season’s predicted title rivals to Penybont, Haverfordwest County.
Goytre United’s Curtis Hutson has also joined the club, adding some solidity to the midfield. Experienced forward Luke Borrelli
Who will challenge them?
A Haverfordwest County team including former Football League striker Lee Trundle isn’t a team to be written off and will pose a threat this season. The Bluebirds finished three points higher and a goal ahead in goal difference, due to a points deduction to Penybont, showing how close it was between the two last season.
Haverfordwest have also brought in backroom re-enforcements, Aberystwyth Town assistant Wayne Jones has dropped down a level, to assist Sean Cresser this season.
Teams to watch: Briton Ferry Llansawel Cambrian & Clydach Vale
I predicted Briton Ferry Llansawel as the team to watch last season. They may have finished 11th, but there’s a lot to be optimistic about this season.
Carl Shaw has had a strong transfer window, signing Llanelli Town’s captain Lee Bevan as well as Haverfordwest County shot-stopper Connah McFenton, add to that the addition of Ammanford’s attacker Gavin Jones, they could do some damage in the league this season.
Dale Williams takes charge of Cambrian & Clydach Vale in his first management role after taking over from Craig Hughes. Hughes lead Cambrian to a 4th placed finish last season. A strong backline, the third best in the league could be the foundations for an even better campaign this season.
With the emphasis on youth and a number of senior additions, like Adam Wright, Andre Griffiths, Cam Strinati, Jared Howells and Mike Jones, there is a good foundation for the squad this season.
Both sides beat seventh-tier Merthyr Town in pre-season, which could be a yardstick to base both team’s success in the league this season.
Welsh Football League Division Two:
Llantwit Major won their second consecutive title last season, after replicating their success of Division Three, joining them in Division One were Ammanford and Pontypridd Town.
Pontypridd Town missed out on promotion the season before but made sure they would be playing Division One football at the second time of asking, after winning promotion from Division Three.
Champions: STM Sports
I think STM will show a similar reaction to when Pontypridd Town missed on promotion. STM were the leagues’ top goal scorers last season and boasted the third-best defence in the league. It was inconsistency on the road which cost STM in their battle for promotion.
Dropping points at lowly AFC Llwydcoed provided Ammanford with their chance of promotion. This season, however, it could all be different for STM. They may not have joined Major in Division One after both sides made their Division Two debut, but the St Mellons side are known for their attacking quality at home.
A big loss to them is Chris Golton, who has dropped down three tiers, to play for South Wales Alliance League side Llanrumney United. In his place though is former Bridgend Street keeper Nicky King.
With Dale Gardiner and Nathan Cadette at the helm and players like Chris Worsley, Joe Evans and Lamin Conteh at their disposal, STM should be considered favourites with promotion.
Promoted: Caerau Ely and Swansea University
2014/2015 Division One champions Caerau Ely returned to Division Two after a five-year stay in the second tier of Welsh football.
Title-winning manager Nana Baah left and was replaced by his assistant Craig Sampson, who worked with a youthful Caerau Ely side over the course of the campaign after key departures like Curtis Hutson and Jamal Roberts.
This Caerau Ely team has matured though and after a Welsh League campaign under their belts, they will be better equipped to life in the Welsh League. They have added Elijah Chilekwa to their ranks, as well as securing the futures of Kyle Evans, Ryan Chandiroes, Luke Bridgeman, Nathan Mathias, Huw Corne and Jerome Maynard.
Swansea University will be riding the wave of their success and the sky could be the limit for Dafydd Evans’ men. After a successful tour of the United States, the Students look in good form for the Welsh League campaign.
They were prolific in front of goal and have further added to their squad, with former Welsh Premier League defender Dan Sheehan joining the coaching and playing staff.
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Welsh Football League Division Three
Champions: Trefelin Boys & Girls Club
It was narrow margins for Trefelin last season, missing out on promotion on goal difference, having finished on 74 points and only losing twice. The Welsh Football League Cup run however is an example of how Trefelin can hold their own against higher league opposition.
Richie Ryan is experienced in the Welsh Football League and I feel that in his second season of management, he will be determined to take Trefelin to a higher level, having won the League Cup against a now Welsh Premier League side. Players like Jordan Edwards, Shaun Best and Travis Monks-Landeg impressed last season and will be a part of any success Trefelin achieve this campaign.
Who will challenge for promotion? AFC Porth, Penydarren Boys & Girls Club, Treharris Athletic Western and Trethomas Bluebirds
It was a tough year for Porth last season, the club suffered an humiliating 18-0 defeat to STM Sports in the early parts of the season and were relegated from Division Two with just one win to their name. This pre-season though, there seems to be a sense of optimism around Dinas Park.
Ryan Betteney has assembled a squad of stand-out players from the lower leagues of the Welsh pyramid system, using his contacts well. Callum Westscott of Ynyshir Albions has joined the Black Dragons, having been named 2016/2017 Player of the Season at the Valleys club and has experience of playing under Betteney before, during their days at Ton Pentre Youth.
Penydarren Boys & Girls Club have proven their worth over the last season that they can deal with sides above them. Penydarren went on a remarkable Welsh Cup run, reaching the Quarter-Finals, only to lose out to Bangor City, who finished second place in the Welsh Premier League last season.
Kerry Mullins has added to his squad, bringing in Alex Long and Stephen Price, two players who were quality in the level below. Christopher Colvin-Owens was one of the stories of the season for Penydarren and could be one of the players to help make bridge the gap between South Wales Alliance League and Welsh League football. ]
Treharris Athletic Western under Richard Porter could be one of those teams that go under the radar, but that will suit Ross Porter’s side. Porter’s men beat Trefelin Boys & Girls Club last season and went on a good unbeaten run when they beat the Welsh League Cup winners. It came too late and they finished 20 points off the pace but could fancy their chances this season.
They have since moved from their traditional home and that may be the only stumbling block in their promotion chances. The club will need to bed in to their new ground as soon as possible and continue their way of going about things.
Trethomas Bluebirds finished 8th last season, but have recruited well over the summer. The club were able to boast the fourth best defence in the division though and their solid backline has been supplemented with the addition of former Welsh Premier League defender Bobby Briers.
Attacker Matthew Prosser has joined, having helped Treowen beat the drop last season, as well as the addition of Jordan Needs from Division Two.
As long as The Bluebirds new signings hit the ground running quickly, they could be a side that are hard to beat this campaign.
(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)