As promised, here is my best XI from the first-phase of the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League.
Following my tweets yesterday, the league itself announced an official ‘Team of the First-Phase’ but this is my take on what I’ve witnessed around the grounds – feel free to disagree in the comments section or on Twitter!
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering their dominance so far, The New Saints lead the way with the most entries with four players being named but second-placed Airbus UK have just one name in my XI. Here it is:
GOALKEEPER: Steven Hall (Port Talbot Town) Hall has proven himself to be a great shot-stopper so far this term and although he’s not perhaps the most recognisable name amongst the WPL goalkeeping union, I haven’t seen a better stopper this season.
DEFENCE: From right to left, I’ve got to go with Declan Walker (Bangor City), who for me, is enjoying a superb debut season in the league. Following his arrival from Wrexham, he’s made the right-back position his own. Solid defensively, he also possesses a fierce right-foot. Still only 21, I suspect a return to the Football League may not be far off. Carl Evans (Carmarthen Town) is the first central defender on the list. He has been colossal at the back for the Old Gold, very strong, good in the air, he has given a defensive-minded Carmarthen side plenty of steel in the first-phase. Despite being in contention for the title, Ian Kearney is the only Airbus UK player to make my side but he does so on merit. He’s contributed some key goals for the Wingmakers this term and like Evans, installs leadership in one of the league’s meanest defences. At left-back I’ve chosen another Carmarthen Town player, Craig Hanford. Experienced in the WPL, I can’t think of a more consistent performer in his position. Good in possession and an excellent man-to-man marker, his recent performances against Prestatyn and against Bala Town in theWord Cup final are typical of the form he has shown so far.
MIDFIELD: Slightly out of position in my side playing on the left, it’s impossible to ignore Sam Finley (The New Saints). The WPL’s most exciting young talent is being courted by Football League clubs and he thrives in the fluidity of TNS’ midfield three, possesses great technical ability and always has an eye for a splitting pass. The first of my centre midfielders is also from TNS with Aeron Edwards getting the nod. He continues to take the lead and pull the strings in the best midfield in the league and like Finley, his excellent movement compliments TNS’ probing, possession-based game. Next, is the player who I’ve enjoyed watching the most so far, Chris Venables (Aberystwyth Town) on a season-best for goals scored, Chris is enjoying a superb season playing in a more advanced role under manager Ian Hughes this season. Venables is Aber’s biggest creative threat and also a cool finisher in front of goal, he’s currently the league’s joint top-scorer with 12 goals – not bad for a midfielder. Left-midfield was a tough call to make but Sion Edwards (Bangor City) eventually proved irresistible. I think it’s fair to say the current City side isn’t the strongest we’ve seen in recent years, but Sion has stepped up to the mantle and is hugely influential down the Citizen’s left flank. Sion is one of the rare players who is really able to lift his side and is always capable of grabbing crucial goals.
ATTACK: It’s hard to separate the league’s top strikers but I’ve gone with TNS’ two front-men Michael Wilde and Greg Draper. Considering the Saints typically only play one striker, the competition between these two must be immense. Wilde is currently on 9 goals and Draper, who at times has had to play second-fiddle, is remarkably on 10 goals. The quality of these two highlights the strength in depth and quality that Craig Harrison and Carl Darlington have at their disposal, making The New Saints a cut above the rest.
BEST OF THE REST
These players were in close contention and can consider themselves unlucky not be in my side:
Kieran Smith (Bala Town) – exciting young forward showing an eye for goal in his debut season.
Andy Jones (Newtown/Airbus UK) – tireless centre-forward who played a big role in Newtown’s tremendous start to the season before switching to Airbus.
Matthew Hearsey (Newtown) – lively winger who has really caught my eye this season, another who’s had a key role in the Robins’ successful start.
Tom Field – probably the most unfortunate of the list not to make my side, influential figure in the Airbus midfield. A real threat from set-pieces.
Cledan Davies – attacking left-back who really seems to have found his form in a settled-looking Aberystwyth side.