IT’S one down two to go as Welsh football attempts to dust itself down this week, after its latest high-profile setback saw Llanelli and Barry Town dumped out of the Welsh League.
Bala Town, Airbus UK Broughton and Prestatyn Town will have no complaints over the early start of their respective seasons as they each embark on European football for the first time in their history.
Bala, a town with a population of just 2000, kicked off a crucial week in Welsh football in style by narrowly defeating Estonians Levadia 1-0 – a result of historic proportion in the rural county of Gwynedd. Ian Sheridan’s early goal at Rhyl FC’s Belle Vue ground settled the outcome of the first-leg, leaving long-serving manager Colin Caton believing his side can see out the return leg in Tallinn next week.
“We only had eight days to organise for the game once the draw was done, so now that we know them we’ll be able to set up maybe a little bit different and we’ll be better prepared,” he said. “It was a fantastic night for everyone involved with the football club – a phenomenal night really.”
Rhyl will again be the host venue on Thursday night as Welsh Cup winners Prestatyn Town will be hoping for a similar fate in their first-leg tie with Latvian outfit Liepajas Metalurgs. Metalurgs, a side frequently involved in the early stages of Europa League qualification, have stuttered in the early rounds of their domestic championship and their inconsistent start to the season will give Prestatyn hope in what should prove a hugely difficult task for Neil Gibson’s side.
Of the three Welsh sides in action this week Airbus UK Broughton were considered the most well-equipped to progress – until they were handed an unfavourable draw against FK Ventspils. Whilst Airbus have transformed themselves into one of the strongest sides in the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League in recent seasons, in the Latvian cup winners, they have arguably been dealt the toughest of the three Welsh UEFA Europa League ties. Previous years have seen Ventspils hold Brondby, Newcastle, Sporting and Hertha Berlin to draws and although they lost to Llanelli on their last match on Welsh soil, they did go on to record a 4-0 home win against the Reds in the second-leg. A spying mission to Eastern Europe by manager Andy Preece and assistant Andy Morrison will have hopefully aided Airbus’ chances but the clash at the Racecourse, Wrexham is set to be the toughest the Wingmakers have ever faced.
Prestatyn & Airbus both to score on Thursday – EVS
Prestatyn & Airbus to both win on Thursday – 18/1
Prestatyn & Airbus both to keep a clean sheet on Thursday – 28/1
Presatyn & Airbus both to win to nil on Thursday – 55/1
Bala Town, Prestatyn and Airbus all to qualify to next round – 50/1