With eight rounds left until the league split in January, points are at a premium in the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League. Here’s a run-down of the weekend’s action:
With all six of the weekend’s fixtures being played at 2:30 on Saturday, where better to start than at the top of the table as TNS (2/13) start as heavy favourites against a resurgent Carmarthen side (11/1). With a single point continuing to separate the top three, there’s no room for a slip-up for the Saints against a Carmarthen side who’re fast-gaining momentum after an uninspiring start.
Deserving of a win but forced to settle for a late draw against Prestatyn last weekend, Carmarthen are looking an altogether different side from that of six weeks ago, although Carmarthen are without their aging battering-ram striker Julian Alsop (suspended) . TNS should however give the Old Gold plenty to fear and their trademark rapier-style attacking play was on full display in last Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of a dejected Llanelli side. This should favour the league leaders but two defeats in their last five proves they’re not invincible of late and 11/1 is a massive price for a side who’re in high spirit and picking up pace.
The televised game this weekend (live on S4C and online via Sgorio) is at Park Avenue for tenth-placed Aberystwyth’s (11/8) visit of Connah’s Quay (8/5) – two clubs who would be delighted to claim a top-six place. Both sides are coming off the back of wins over Port Talbot and Newtown respectively and in young hot-shot Rhys Healy, Connah’s Quay have one of the revelations of the season within their ranks, with the 18-year-old netting nine goals in 12 league appearances helping fire the promoted Nomads into top-six contention. Healy’s prowess could well make the difference against an Aber side whose defensive vulnerabilities have been exposed all too often this season. The Green and Blacks are likely to be without injured duo Wyn Thomas and Josh MacAuley after enjoying a rare away win last weekend. Currently six points off sixth-place a defeat could be telling for Aberystwyth, with time running out before the split. Aber may become uneasy when under pressure to win at home.
Goal difference continues to separate Bangor City (3/10) from the league summit ahead of their visit to Afan Lido (7/1) – a fixture they will be surely expected to return victorious. Afan Lido are on the most miserable of streaks and find themselves on a hapless run of nine straight defeats, but as I’ve said before, Lido do have the uncanny knack of scoring and have struck more than many of their Welsh Premier League counterparts. As unlikely as their goalscoring record is for a team cast eight points adrift at the foot of the table, it undoubtedly highlights the team’s biggest malfunction – defence. Bangor will simply have to outscore their hosts if they are to power their way to their tenth win of the season and 1/3 is the price for there being over 2.5 goals.
Third-placed Prestatyn (5/6) still have everything to play for ahead of their clash with Bala Town (11/4) and still appear to have plenty of fuel left in the tank after proving just about everyone wrong so far. Even if last Saturday’s draw with Carmarthen was rather fortunate, the fact Prestatyn are only a point from top epitomises their work-rate and desire. Many would’ve thought it would be Bala enjoying a spot in the higher echelons in the league this term but, unbeaten in five, they are showing signs of reformulating the run of results which eventually carried them into the play-off final last season. I expect a gritty and scrappy encounter and at 12/5, a share of the points looks most inviting.
Airbus (8/15), fourth, have faltered in recent weeks as successive defeats ended their ruthless run of wins. Six points off top, the Wingmakers cannot afford to drop too many more starting against Port Talbot (4/1) and both teams will be keen to return to winning ways. Port travel north with skipper Cortez Belle and Carl Payne returning from suspension, having gone three unbeaten prior to their 4-2 loss to Aberystwyth last time out. First-choice stopper Ben Chapman returns for Airbus, who should have enough to grind out a victory.
New Llanelli (9/5) manager Bob Jefferies faced a baptism of fire on his debut in the Stebonheath hot-seat against TNS last weekend but his Reds’ side should fare better at Newtown (6/5). The Robins are six points adrift of the top-six and are struggling to record wins, with one in their last five. Newtown’s campaign has been marred by their disappointing home form where they’ve taken just one win. Llanelli – whose own problems are already well documented – have Ashley Evans, Corey Jenkins and Jason Bowen all suspended, while Craig Williams and Geoff Kellaway remain on the club’s injury list, with Martin Rose rated doubtful. I expect Newtown to again struggle for maximum points at home but Llanelli’s list of absentees will deny them of the win, with the draw at 12/5.
Aberystwyth 11/8 Draw 9/4 Connah’s Quay 8/5
Afan Lido 7/1 Draw 7/2 Bangor City 3/10
Airbus UK 8/15 Draw 11/4 Port Talbot 4/1
Newtown 6/5 Draw 12/5 Llanelli 9/5
Prestatyn Town 5/6 Draw 12/5 Bala Town 11/4
TNS 2/13 Draw 6/1 Carmarthen 11/1