Precisely when the merits of the Welsh Premier League’s split-season format are at their most evident, it’s somewhat disappointing that off-field issues threaten to intervene with the exciting race for the top-six.
Bangor City nailed their top-six place after Saturday’s televised 3-3 draw with fellow top-six hopefuls Aberystwyth – but the Seasiders’ Championship Conference aspirations could well be decided within the FAW offices rather than on the pitch.
Twenty-four hours before last Saturday’s game, news emerged from the FAW that the club had been charged with fielding an illegible player, namely right-back Peter Hoy who was allegedly suspended for their 4-0 win over Connah’s Quay a fortnight ago.
A possible point deduction now faces Aberystwyth with the outcome of which not expected to be determined until after this coming weekend’s first-phase games, where Aber and Rhyl are still contesting the final place in the Championship Conference.
Without a point deduction, Aberystwyth (29 points) would seal a top-six place if they win against Carmarthen, or if Rhyl (28 points) fail to beat Port Talbot. But scenes of celebration at full-time on Saturday for Aber could be cut short, should a points deduction in the weeks to come decides otherwise.
Worryingly, a similar issue threatens to impact the title race after news broke this week that Airbus UK face a disciplinary charge also on a player eligibility grounds.
The club and recent signing Andy Jones both faces charges with regards to player registration offences when he made his debut at Port Talbot down earlier this month.
A point deduction from Airbus would, for me, all but confirm TNS of a third-successive league title and a similar turn of events at Aberystwyth would tarnish one of the race for the top-six – one of the league’s unique selling points.
I have absolutely no doubt that there is nothing untoward going on in either of these two cases, but it is becoming apparent that revised and improved administrative and communication protocols need to be implemented by both the clubs and the FAW.
SGORIO RIGHT TO SHUN TOP-OF-TABLE CLASH
On the field at least, there was plenty to cheer about as an action packed afternoon brought us 28 goals from just five fixtures. Sgorio, who questionably shunned the first-versus-second clash between The New Saints and Airbus in favour of the top-six clash between Aberystwyth and Bangor City, certainly played their cards right with the 3-3 draw at Park Avenue being rated as one of the televised WPL games of the season by messrs Jones and Morgan on the English commentary.
Whilst entertaining, it wasn’t the best defensive performance from either side and Chris Venables was once again on top form with his brace putting his tally up to 12 goals and top of the goal scoring charts – or so he thought.
And that would have been the case if it wasn’t for events in South Wales where Mark Connolly hit four in Bala Town’s 6-1 thumping against Afan Lido to put himself level with Venables at the top of the scoring pile, having netted five goals in the space of a week. Lakesiders boss Colin Caton has been talking up his side’s rediscovered killer instinct in front of goal for the last couple of weeks and he was proven right on a week where Bala claimed two straight wins. The match made ugly viewing for the home side at the Marston’s Stadium, worrying times indeed for Afan Lido.
Marksman Lee Hunt was also amongst the goals, bagging three, to seal an unlikely one-sided victory for Prestatyn against Newtown – a miserable return to Bastion Gardens for Robins boss Chris Hughes, who’ve already assured themselves a top-half finish.
CAN’T KEEP THE BIG MAN DOWN
After making the call last week that in-form Chris Thomas would keep Cortez Belle out of the Carmarthen side for their visit to Connah’s Quay. The in-form defender rewarded Mark Aizlewood’s faith by cancelling out Mike Hayes opener for the new-look Nomads. But never one to be away from the headlines, big Cortez Belle made his own mark on the game, coming off the bench to fire Carmarthen in front from the penalty spot before Christian Doidge sealed the win.
GOODBYE PORT TALBOT TOWN!
Finally, just a personal note to sign off on. I’m stepping down from my media post at Port Talbot Town following this weekend’s game at Rhyl for pastures new. I’m delighted that I’m going to be able to continue covering the Welsh Premier League but I leave Port Talbot after three great years. So many great people who make the club what it is, but special thanks to the likes of Andrew Edwards, Wayne Edwards, Scott Young and Marc Cahill. It’s been a pleasure to have worked with you!
For Welsh Premier League news snippets, comment and questions you can follow me on Twitter @1matthewburgess