Three unfamiliar names are set to line-up in goal this weekend; Afan Lido, Carmarthen and Bangor could go into games without their regular ‘keepers.
If you were at the Deeside Stadium last Saturday, you would have witnessed one of the oddities of the season so far. Yes, home wins have been something of a rarity for Connah’s Quay this term but it was the unconventional occupant of visitors Afan Lido’s goal, which was the real eyebrow raiser as the Aberavon club selected defender Sam Hodge in goal for their crucial relegation tussle against the Nomads.
Two weeks earlier, midfielder Kieran Howard was forced to play as goalkeeper in Afan Lido’s 2-0 defeat to Prestatyn Town. After second-choice goalkeeper Gareth Couch hobbled off midway through the opening half, with regular first-choice Rory McCreesh unavailable for selection and no other goalkeeper named on the bench, Howard came through 71-minutes largely untested, conceding just once, from the penalty spot.
Howard did not look too out of place between the sticks for Lido on that afternoon and it did seem likely that when it became apparent Paul Evans was struggling in his attempts to recruit an emergency goalkeeper for last weekend’s visit to North Wales, it appeared he would again get the nod.
This time however it was left-back Sam Hodge who wore the gloves, and the 20-year-old acquitted himself well as Connah’s Quay spurned a host of chances in a goalless first-half, before finding the net three times in the second-period.
At time of writing, it remains unclear who will be latest incumbent to wear the goalkeeper jersey for Lido’s Friday night derby with Port Talbot Town – more will be revealed on the club’s goalkeeping crisis in the coming days.
CANN FACES FIGHT FOR CARMARTHEN PLACE
While Paul Evans is struggling to fill the goalkeeping position, his opposite at Carmarthen Town, Mark Aizlewood, is spoiled for choice, with competition for the number one shirt heating up at Richmond Park.
Steven Cann – regarded as one of the league’s most established goalkeepers and Old Gold hero in their WordCup final penalty victory just two months ago – has suddenly found himself on the fringes of the first-team with Welsh Premier newcomer Scott James starting Carmarthen’s last two matches.
It is understood that Scott James, signed from Goytre AFC in late January, had been pushing Cann hard for a first-team place in the weeks leading him up to his debut against Bangor City. And Aizelwood kept faith with James for their home defeat to Airbus UK last weekend, giving the new goalkeeper a big vote of confidence.
“He is a genuine first-team keeper and we are very pleased to have been able to sign him before the close of the transfer window,” said the Carmarthen boss at the time of signing him.
“Scott is a player with great potential and he joins our squad knowing that he has a good chance of being able to perform well in the Welsh Premier League,” explained Aizelwood, adding weight to his decision to bring in the goalkeeper.
Just how soon Scott James has been given his break will come as a surprise to many, including myself, and with Cann believed to be contracted at Richmond Park until the end of next season, expect fierce competition between the two to ensue.
ROOKIE BOULD GETS CHANCE TO IMPRESS
Bangor City will turn to their own Welsh Premier rookie to assume goalkeeping duties this weekend as third-choice Nick Bould looks to capitalise on the misfortune of the club’s other two goalkeepers – a position which has been far from settled since the transfer window departure of regular stalwart Lee Idzi.
An ankle injury quickly scuppered Idzi’s successor Jack Cudworth, forcing Bangor’s new signing off the field without even reaching half-time on his WPL debut.
Bould, 18, was the replacement that night but upon hearing the news that Cudworth would remain sidelined for a number of weeks, City manager Nev Powell drafted in the well-travelled and more experienced Dave Roberts on an emergency loan deal from Prestatyn. Roberts’ arrival looked to have eased Powell’s goalkeeping worries until a woeful display, capped by a red card, at TNS thrusts Bould back into the limelight.
The young keeper did show positive signs against The New Saints but the next three games could well prove to be a steep learning curve for Bould in a run of fixtures that see the Citizens face Rhyl, Carmarthen and Airbus.
What is becoming apparent is that the increased competitiveness of the Welsh Premier League in recent years means that strength-in-depth in all positions, including goalkeepers, is now absolutely crucial for the managers of all 12 clubs.
TALKING POINTS: Who do you think has been the stand-out goalkeeper in the WPL this season? What keepers playing in the Welsh system are capable of making the step up to the WPL?
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