Blaenrhondda boss Matthew Howells relishing JD Welsh Cup run

Blaenrhondda are on the verge of a glamour tie against JD Welsh Premier League high flyers Aberystwyth Town when they face Cwmamman United in Saturday’s rearranged JD Welsh Cup second round clash.

The South Wales Alliance League side have already impressed in the qualifying stages of the competition, but they have a chance to enter its prestige phase as teams from the top flight enter for round three.

And as the lowest ranked side left in the cup, manager Matthew Howell’s is happy for the pressure to be off his players as they look to extend their cup run on the weekend.

“The JD Welsh Cup has been a nice release for us, because each of the four rounds we have been involved in have been against opposition from the Welsh League Division Three and above, so the pressure is off when it comes to expectancy.

“It’s through internal pressure that the boys want to prove a point to themselves that they can compete at higher levels. In the league we usually get called the favourites for most of the games, and this year we have been guilty of complacency at times which we have admitted to ourselves but we are slowly realising each league is getting harder and we need to up our game if we want to keep progressing!

The club sits fourth in division one of the South Wales Alliance – and should they succeed on Saturday, it won’t be the first time a club from the  league has seen one of its members enjoy a fairy tale cup run.

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Last season, Penydarren hit the headlines with a phenomenal JD Welsh Cup, taking multiple scalps before drawing Bangor City in a live S4C Sgorio fixture, where despite a 7-0 scoreline they bowed out with grace.

This time round, Howells would be happy to be this year’s shock underdogs.

“We take our hats off to what Penydarren achieved last year in the cup and if we can replicate that then we would be more than happy but we approach the games to enjoy them and what will be, will be. The league and therefore promotion is always our priority.

In the long term, he has lofty ambitions for Blaenrhondda to achieve – and isn’t afraid of welcoming six-time winners TNS to their home ground if they were draw them later on in the competition.

“Looking to go on to replicate what Penydarren did by achieving Welsh League status. Though if I was to dream, progression into the next round at least and a home tie against TNS up on Blaenrhondda Park would be lovely.

In Dan Stanton and Huw Bowtell they have players with experience of the cup at this stage, and Howells has moved to recruit more experience to the squad ready for big occasions such as the cup.

“We have recently added Shane Davies and Jason Davies to our group who also bring a wealth of Welsh League and Welsh Cup experience to add to Dan, our captain and Huw, who currently boasts being our top goal scorer so far this year.  These four are key for their experience in both the league and cup, but in the group as a whole we have players who have won league and cup titles so its all valuable experience for big games such as this.

Facing a Cwmamman United side currently sixth in the Welsh Football League Division One, Howell’s is aware of the challenge ahead of them but is confident that there will be no fear factor on the day.

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“It’s going to be a difficult game against a side performing well in the second tier and have lots of talent in their ranks. But we go there knowing we can compete with most on our day and have a group of players that don’t fear anyone. Hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves and progress to the next round.”

And although they face the prospect of welcoming three time Welsh Cup winner Nev Powell and his Aberystwyth side to their own Blaenrhondda Park, he is keen to put that aside and focus solely on the Cwmamman challenge.

“The opportunity play Aberystwyth on Blaenrhondda Park is a great added motivator to progress, but first and foremost the chance to test ourselves against a team sitting 6th in tier two is big enough. The Aber tie is only relevant should we get through. We remain focussed on making sure we leave Ammanford Saturday proud of the effort we put in and with no regrets.”

(Featured Image: Will Cheshire)

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