WHILST Wembley beckons for Wrexham and Newport County in Sunday’s all-Wales Conference play-off final, there’s still plenty to play for in a decisive weekend in the Welsh pyramid system.
The 126th Welsh Cup final on Monday headlines a Bank Holiday programme which also includes the start of the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League play-offs.
In the MacWhirter Welsh League, the title and promotion race in Division One is set to go to the wire with a season to be concluded within the next seven days.
Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground will host this year’s final as favourites Bangor City (4/5 with Corbett Sports) look to claim their first piece of silverware of the season and nail down a Europa League qualifying spot in the process – at the expense of fellow North-Walian’s Prestatyn Town.
It’s true Bangor haven’t quite been the ruthless force this season that we’ve come to expect in the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League despite their third-placed finish. But with a rich history in the competition, manager Nev Powell will be hoping his side’s Welsh Cup pedigree will shine through.
Three of Bangor’s eight cup victories have come under the stewardship of Powell as the club prepare for their 17th Welsh Cup final appearance.
“We’ve got to be confident. We’ve been in the Welsh Cup final five times out of the last six years, and everybody’s looking forward to it. Fingers crossed we’ll get the right result,” said the Bangor manager.
Prestatyn (priced 3/1) will live comfortably with their underdogs tag, a label which the club have happily carried throughout a season which has seen them rise from unfancied mid-table candidates to, at one stage, possible title contenders.
The Seasiders’ relentless form did however slow following the league split in January, where despite recording just one win in the top-six but Neil Gibson’s side remain a well-drilled outfit with a high work ethic, and in Andy Parkinson Prestatyn boast a considerable threat in front of goal.
I expect Bangor to lift the cup but they will face a battle from the first minute until the last to get their hands on the trophy, which is also to be televised live on Sgorio.
Only the Yale Stand at the Racecourse will be open with all seating in the upper tier. Admission prices are £8 adults, £5 OAPs and £1 children.
A family ticket (two adults, two children) is available at £15 and £1 per extra child. Programmes are £2 each.
The match does NOT require advance tickets, you can pay at the turnstile on the day.
In the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League, the start of play-offs give Bala Town (8/15) and Connah’s Quay (9/2) a shot of making into the last four clubs to compete the for season’s final European qualifying position.
Seeing Bala’s name in the play-offs is of no surprise, even if the manner of how they reached it wasn’t how many expected at the start of the season. A sluggish start saw last year’s losing play-off finalists miss out on a top-six spot completely but the were able to regroup and steam-rolled through the second-half of the season, easing their way to sixth-place.
Saturday’s visitors to Maes Tegid, Connah’s Quay will be aiming to pull off an upset having squeezed themselves into play-off contention. Benefactors of an extra place being awarded to the bottom-six, with either Bangor or Prestatyn already guaranteed a European place via the Welsh Cup, anything achieved in the play-offs will be a bonus for the Nomads.
Survival was the absolute aim at the start of the season for Connah’s Quay and having achieved that, the burden of expectation will weigh heavily on Bala Town who need to show that they can deliver when it counts.
Afan Lido will have more than a watchful eye over events in the MacWhirter Welsh League over the next week. Relegation awaits the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League’s basement side – should Haverfordwest County finish in the top two of Division One.
County, the only Welsh League side to meet the FAW’s promotion criteria, need to close a three-point lead on Taff’s Well and Cambrian & Clydach who share second and third position in the table on goal difference. Taff’s Well have two fixtures outstanding; Cambrian and Haverfordwest each have three games remaining with the two sides going head to head on Saturday.
And the situation is equally as tight at the top of the Division One table where West End have three games in which to clinch their first Welsh League championship.
The Swansea side currently have a two-point lead but, incredibly, face Taff’s Well and Cambrian & Clydach in their final two games. It will certainly be a title well-earned should Anthony Wright’s side remain at the top of the pile after the final round of games next Saturday.