Haverfordwest County boss Mickey Ellis will not consider it a failure if his side fail to gain promotion to the Welsh Premier League at first attempt.
County are presently the only side in the Welsh League to have achieved a domestic license to compete in the top-flight, but time to clinch a top-two finish is running out.
Relegated from the Welsh Premier last season, Haverfordwest started the season as strong favourites to make an instant return. But a 3-0 defeat at Pontardawe Town on Saturday severely dented the Pembrokeshire side’s chances, and with midweek results going against the Bluebirds’ favour, the club slip down to fourth with just three games remaining.
“I’ve always said to the directors and the committee that it will take time,” manager Mickey Evans told Matthew Burgess.
“It would be a bonus to do it in one year but I still think it could take two or three years. The club are striving to keep the standards and facilities up and their ambition is to get back to the Welsh Premier as soon as possible but you can’t force the issue; you have to earn that right and it takes time.”
Haverfordwest dominated proceedings against Pontardawe but expectation weighed heavily against a well-disciplined Ponty side, adding to their fatigue.
Despite the best attempts of Chris O’Sullivan to prise open Pontardawe, County struggled to threaten – Dale Griffiths could only head over unmarked whilst Nicky Woodrow’s looping, windswept shot briefly troubled the backpedaling Steve Reeve.
“It was game too far us and the boys seemed tired today – it was a hard bumpy pitch, a typical end of season game whereby we controlled, but fair play to Pontardawe, they took their chances when they had them.”
Indeed, after a sturdy first-half display Pontardawe showed their clinical edge on 66 minutes as Scott McCoubrey drilled the ball in after Pete Blain could only parry Arwel Rees’ effort.
The strike would trigger an unlikely six-minute flurry of goals for the hosts, with McCoubrey poking home a second shortly after before completing his hat-trick, as Ponty again found their way through, leaving Haverfordwest shell-shocked and their promotion hopes in tatters.
“There’s been pressure on the squad all season to achieve promotion to the Welsh Premier as soon as possible, but like I’ve always said, when you’re rebuilding a side it takes time.
“It would be a bonus to do it one year but I still think it could take two or three years.
“We had eight new players come to the club and you can’t manufacture a side without hard work – we’re starting to get the side together for this year, and next year. Most of the players will re-sign for next year and hopefully we’ll strengthen with one or two if they become available and we’ll go on then.”
With an unfavourable fixture run-in for the Bluebirds, Mickey Ellis could once again be plotting his side’s eventual promotion from the Welsh League next season.
The Welsh League title race:
The Welsh League feeds one club into the Welsh Premier League, pending on a club finishing first or second and gaining a domestic licence via the FAW.
*Bridgend Town unsuccessfully applied for a licence but are expected to appeal the decision.