Predictions: Welsh National League Premier Division and Division One – 2018/2019
Last season a dramatic last day of the season game between Buckley and Brickfield saw the Bucks crowned as Welsh National League (WNL) Premier Division Champions.
Division One saw Brymbo and Rhos Aelwyd take a run away lead on the rest of the competition and secure promotion…but what will happen this season?
This season promises excitement throughout, ask any manager in the Premier Division and they will tell you it’s an anyone can beat anyone environment, there’s no team which lacks talent and quality meaning this season is better than ever in the sense that no game provides a guaranteed win.
Toby Jones from the NE Wales Football Fanpage predicts how the two divisions of the Welsh National League will fold out.
WNL Premier Division:
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Champions: Brickfield Rangers
This will be the third consecutive season that Brickfield begin the season as title favourites. After finishing runners up in back to back seasons, Rangers have gone all out to win the league this season.
They’ve brought in a new manager in the form of six time WPL winner Nick Ward and recruited a plethora of WPL and Cymru Alliance experience with the likes of Jack Abraham, Adam Bayley, Michael Platt, Alan Bull and Danny Holland all signing on for the season.
Although everything seems in place for Brickfield it only takes a couple of unexpected losses for another side to claim first position but who might that side be?
Corwen and Llanuwchllyn are both consistent finishers in the top five and a finish akin to this will be the least expected from them this season.
Joe Williams of Corwen was the league’s top scorer with thirty goals in 26 games last season and Llanuwchllyn seems like the club everyone wants to play for in the Bala.
You can often expect strong starts to the season leaving them in the top four and that’s where they usually stay. Perhaps things will be different this season though…
Queens Park are back in the WNL following relegation from the Cymru Alliance. Almost all the squad who were involved in the 2016/17 title winning season is more or less back together with some other huge signing filling out the rest of the squad.
Their strike partnership alone is one to be feared. Mike Latham tore apart Cymru Alliance defences for Gresford last season before returning to the Park and Matthew Williams was Rhostyllen’s top goalscorer last season and also makes wonder goals look like taps in.
Throw in their wealth of midfield and wing talent and Queen’s Park look ready to win the league all over again.
Cefn Albion and Mold Alex will also have something to say regarding the title race, they both had high placed finishes last year.
Albion are on a steady trend of improvement, growing towards being one of the best in the league whereas Mold had a shaky start to last season but were almost impossible to get a result against for most teams come the business end.
The Mold team which finished last season could also be right up there challenging for the title whilst it is unknown just how good Cefn will be but anything outside of the top six would come as a surprise.
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The Dark Horses
FC Nomads, Saltney and Chirk all failed to have the season they would have wanted last season but are all well established often high placing WNL clubs.
Nomads have recruited well to counteract their bottom half of the table finish last season with many managers having them on their list of very tough games.
As for Saltney and Chirk they have the quality to succeed right on their doorstep, they just need to find consistent form to rise up the table, a strong, gelling off season could thrust them into the top four.
Although newly promoted, Brymbo and Rhos Aelwyd both looked extremely dominant last season.
Aelwyd’s journey to the Welsh Trophy final and route to winning the Division One cup, which even involved beating eventual WNLPD winners Buckley makes them hard to predict near the bottom of the table this season.
As for Brymbo, their league consistency was phenomenal last season and although their quality is untested at this level, they are rebuilding a strong foundation which is key to success in this league.
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Champions: Cefn Mawr Rangers
In just their third season as a club, Rangers have to be one of promotion favourites. They finished third last season had have since brought in numerous reliable players and set up a reserve team.
The talent is definitely at the club, it’s just down to manager Eddie Lancaster to get them firing and they should be en route to preparing for life in the Premier Division.
Promotion: Plas Madoc
Back to back promotions from the North East Wales League to the WNL Premier Division is not uncommon, both Rhostyllen and Queens Park have done it in recent seasons and it’s a struggle to see how Plas Madoc will be any different.
They scored 120 goals in twenty six league games last season and never really looked in doubt to gain promotion, their squad looks ready to continue these winning ways, providing they keep tight at the back, promotion is not too far away for the club which will be ground sharing with Cefn Mawr Rangers.
Benjamin Wilson of Llangollen was the league’s top scorer last season and he offered inspired his team to well fought wins to eventually finish fourth. Now with a re-established reserve teams, the clubs growing and Llangollen could be in the right place to push forward towards the promotion spots.
New Brighton Villa are a constantly improving club, climbing up league spots as each season passes, their time has to come soon and this season is looking very promising for them. If they find their key to winning early on this season, they too could be playing Premier division football next season.
Mynydd Isa Spartans are growing into a very strong community club with reserves and youth teams in place. Clubs which work so hard to grow communities often find success in the WNL.
In fact if they’d finished any higher than they did last season (sixth out of eleven) they’d probably be a contender as all the pieces are in place, it’s just about bringing them together.
Offa Athletic are another newly promoted club. They finished third in the North East Wales League, eight points above fourth and three points below second.
The secret to their success is a strong, well organised defence and a very talented midfielder called Ramone Nelson who creates and scores chances in pretty much every game. When it comes to big game scenarios, the team just never seems to lose.
After being relegated from the Premier Division with three draws and 25 losses, Coedpoeth United are looking for redemption this season.
Another very strong community club with firsts, reserves and youth means the talent must be there to utilise and the season will hopefully see them get back to winning ways.
It was just too hard to predict them as contenders because of their lack of wins in recent years. Just six in three seasons. But as previously mentioned, community clubs normally succeed at this level and it is doubtful Coedpoeth will buck this trend.
(Featured Image: Will Cheshire)