Aberystwyth Town face playing their final league game and Welsh Cup final without a goalkeeper following Mike Lewis’ injury against Port Talbot Town last week. The situation highlights the need for the rulebook to be revised this summer.
Aberystwyth’s Mike Lewis was forced off in the second-half at the GenQuip Stadium leaving full-back Peter Hoy to take the gloves for the final 13-minutes of play, as the Seasiders’ finished with a point in a 1-1 draw.
Lewis, Aber’s only first-team keeper, is believed to have sustained ankle ligament damage which would expect to rule him out for 4-6 weeks – missing both Aber’s final league game this coming Saturday at Prestatyn and the Welsh Cup final against The New Saints, the following weekend.
On Tuesday night, Aber boss Ian Hughes was again forced to turn to Hoy for the second of head-to-head fixtures against lowly Port Talbot, which this time transpired into a comfortable 6-1 victory. And Hoy will again deputise in goal for Saturday’s final league game of the season at another relegation threatened side, Prestatyn.
While Aberystwyth are in the fortunate position of having nothing to play for in their final league fixtures – the club have serious concerns as to whether they will have a goalkeeper available for the Welsh Cup final.
Aber’s Under-19 goalkeeper Lewis Tomlin is already unavailable as he requested to play senior football earlier in the season and is on duel-forms for district side Llanon, leaving Mike Lewis as the club’s only specialist goalkeeper.
It is understood that the Park Avenue club made a request this week to receive dispensation to sign a goalkeeper outside of the transfer window, but this was then denied by the FAW.
The window for such emergency signings expired in Wales on 31st March but this season has highlighted the need for this ruling to be revisited.
Under the English FA, goalkeepers can be signed on an emergency basis for the duration of the season. Just two weeks ago Welsh international Lewis Price was subject to such a move when he joined League Two Mansfield Town from Crystal Palace.
The FAW will be fully aware that the scenario of clubs being forced to name outfield players in goal is not good for the credibility of the Welsh Premier League. And Aberystwyth are not the only club to have found themselves in this predicament this season.
Admittedly under different circumstances, Afan Lido were also refused dispensation to sign a goalkeeper earlier this season, which left them playing defender Sam Hodge in goal for several games – injury and availability issues have seen the league’s basement side use eight different players in goal this season.
Essentially, regardless of the individual details of both cases (which are differing), it is damaging to both the actual clubs and the league as a whole.
The possibility of being relegated by finishing in 11th-place now seems unlikely following results in the Welsh League Division One, but what if results involving Haverfordwest County had been different? Aberystwyth’s goalkeeping crisis would’ve created an uneasy situation for the Welsh Premier League if Port Talbot and Prestatyn both played goalkeeper-less Aber in a desperate need for points, leaving Connah’s Quay (also in danger) disadvantaged at a critical time of the season.
It would also be a great shame to see Aberystwyth take to the field without a recognised goalkeeper for the Welsh Cup final. The match at Wrexham’s Racecourse stadium next week has the makings of a great final but Seasiders’ goalkeeping worries could cast a very public shadow on what should be a day for Welsh domestic football to showcase its talents.
If full-time professional English clubs have the luxury of such a ruling where there are allowed to sign emergency goalkeepers throughout the season, then surely, providing correct protocols are followed, semi-professional clubs in Wales should be afforded a similar option for the benefit and integrity of the competition?
I, for one, hope the current ruling is revised for next season.