Carmarthen travel to Park Avenue, Aberystwyth this afternoon (3pm) looking to successfully defend theWord Cup against Bala Town, and you can be certain Mark Aizlewood will giving his side the tag of underdogs once again.
Twelve months ago Carmarthen battled impressively to eventually see off favourites The New Saints on penalties in a topsy-turvy final, which received the highest viewing figures of the season for Sgorio’s live domestic coverage.
Corey Thomas’ double gave the Old Gold a 3-2 lead before Michael Wilde forced the game into extra-time late on for the Saints, who were eventually beaten on penalties when Steve Cann saved Paul Harrison’s spot-kick.
Though Carmarthen are considerably higher than Bala in the league table and look set to secure their place in the top-six next week, the form book paints a very different picture. Bala sit fourth in the form table on the back of their last six games whilst Carmarthen languish in tenth, with just a single win from their previous six outings.
Mark Aizlewood will be quick to point out that in Colin Caton’s tenth season at Bala, who would rule the Lakesiders out of winning their first major domestic title – particularly with the Carmarthen manager facing mounting selection worries at a time when they face a challenging fixture backlog to complete their first-phase league commitments.
Influential defender Cortez Belle is suspended along with full-back Luke Cummings, meaning that Aizlewood will once again have to reshuffle his defence.
I suspect we will see former Swan Matty Collins feature as a make-shift right-back, with Kris Thomas making a timely return coming in on the left. Craig Hanford, who was awarded Man of the Match in last weekend’s victory over Prestatyn will again be relied on, this time in the centre of the Carmarthen defence.
The biggest loss for Aizlewood however is Liam McCreesh. The fiery midfielder came off at weekend with a foot injury which also forced him to miss training earlier in the week and he is considered to be a major doubt.
McCreesh is as spikey a player you will come across in the WPL, but having watched him closely over the years there is no doubting, that when on form, he is one of the most underrated players in the league. His performances of late have been crucial in the heart of the Carmarthen side and his absence will leave a big hole to fill.
Aizlewood is something of an expert in detracting attention from his side and you can be sure regardless of the league placing of the two respective sides, he will be telling his squad that only by scrapping and fighting against the odds will they successfully defend theWord Cup trophy against plucky Bala Town.