Midweek WPL blog: Finley set to stay put at TNS; Chris Thomas shines again for Old Gold; Carmarthen-TNS player ratings

Talented midfielder Sam Finley looks set to remain with The New Saints after director of football Craig Harrison confirmed the club have not yet received any official approach for the promising 21-year-old.

Finley, who is in his third season with the club, was reportedly subject of interest from Leeds United in the former Everton academy product last November.

Harrison revealed that he is aware of interest in Finley from a number of clubs but played down any suggestion of an imminent departure within the current transfer window.

“We’ve had no official contact whatsoever. I know from within the game that four or five clubs have indirectly shown an interest but that interest could be anything from watching a player once or several times. Most top players in this league will have been watched by scouts from Football League clubs,” Harrison explained.

“There’s nothing to suggest he’s going to leave [during this transfer window], I want to see him get a chance at a higher level and it’s good for the club.

“It’s a boost to the club’s profile in terms of being seen as a place where we develop talent and it’s a boost to the league too.”

Harrison added that he believed the league deserves more credit for its ability to create players who can have a career within the Football League.

“I’ve watched a lot of Conference football and I think this league is in direct competition. For some reason the league gets overlooked and I don’t understand why,” he said.

“There are players from clubs across the league have had European experience, you tell me how many players from League 2 clubs have experience playing in Europe?”

Finley meanwhile completed 70-minutes in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw against Carmarthen Town – a result which puts the Saints five points clear at the top of table, ahead of Saturday’s televised clash with second-placed Airbus UK.

On an atrocious evening of heavy rain at the GenQuip Stadium, Port Talbot, the visiting Saints dominated the game for nearly its entirety but found themselves unable to break down a compact Carmarthen side.

And in a match desperately short of chances it was, ironically, Carmarthen who saw the game’s best two chances go begging with Keyon Reffel and Christian Doidge heading narrowly over late on.

OLD GOLD SHOW STRENGTH IN DEPTH
Just three days after last weekend’s exhaustive theWord Cup final, Tuesday’s match – a potentially decisive fixture for Carmarthen’s top-six hopes – would’ve undoubtedly arrived too soon for the of Mark Aizlewood, who was called into making four changes to his starting line-up.

Young midfielder Ceri Morgan – fresh out of the Welsh League with Cambrian & Clydach – made his WPL debut, playing the duration against the league’s best side, while another relatively inexperienced player, Corey Jenkins acquitted himself well in Carmarthen’s hard-working five-man midfield.

Akin to his man of the match performance in the League Cup final, Paul Fowler again shielded the Carmarthen defence, never straying more than eight yards from the Old Gold back four, but it was in central defence where Carmarthen truly earned their draw with another impressive display from the makeshift pairing of Carl Evans and Chris Thomas.

Thomas’ versatility has been a real asset to the Carmarthen side and he has done superbly in his last two games to replace Cortez Belle – who was suspended at the weekend and then unavailable for this mid-week fixture.

Belle, an influential figure at Richmond Park, may have to wait a little longer to return to this side and I would be surprised if Chris Thomas didn’t get the nod once again in central defence for their visit to Connah’s Quay on the weekend.

PLAYER RATINGS
Carmarthen: Steven Cann 6.5, Corey Thomas 7, Craig Hanford 7, Matty Collins 6.5 (Luke Bowen 7), Carl Evans 7.5, Chris Thomas 7.5, Ceri Morgan 6.5, Paul Fowler 7, Keyon Reffel 7, Jordan Follows 6 (Christian Doidge 7), Corey Jenkins 6.5 (Kyle Bassett 7).

TNS: Paul Harrison 6.5, Chris Marriott 6.5, Simon Spender 6.5, Kai Edwards 6.5, Phil Baker 7, Sam Finley 7 (Ryan Fraughan 6.5), Christian Seargeant 6.5, Aeron Edwards 7.5, Matthew Williams 7, Greg Draper 6.5 (Alex Darlington 6.5), Chris Jones 7.5

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