On Sunday afternoon we will know the make-up of the top-six as the first phase of the Welsh Premier League season draws to a conclusion with Carmarthen, Port Talbot and Newtown all in the chase for a top-half finish.
All three have had chances to secure their spot in the Championship Conference but now face a nervy final day with five of the weekend’s games kicking-off simultaneously at 1pm, Sunday.
Fifth and sixth-placed Carmarthen and Port Talbot (31 and 30 points) both need wins to make certain of their places but face difficult matches against The New Saints and Bala Town respectively.
That leaves Newtown, seventh on 29 points, looking to take advantage of any slip-ups from their south Walian rivals but they too, are by no means guaranteed an easy ride with a testing visit to Connah’s Quay.
It makes for an exciting final day and the fact that BBC Wales Radio have just week given an hour’s worth of coverage and BBC Wales News visited the GenQuip Stadium earlier today, shows that the profile and reputation is growing – albeit perhaps as not quickly as those associated with the league would want, it’s still progress nonetheless.
The problem with the current league format is however that it’s not ideal and the second-phase of format does have its issues.
At the top-of-the-table, there is a lack of excitement in the second-phase due to there not being a genuine title race, whilst undetermined relegation places at the food of the table can make the second-half of the season a monotonous affair.
Fortunately, the season does spring into life as it draws to a close with the Europa League play-offs – which has to be another plus-point of the current WPL format – but while those already following the league are understanding of the wildcard process, the structure becomes convoluted to anyone unfamiliar with the competition’s format, particularly when the Welsh Cup is thrown into the mix as well!
The second phase, along with the contentious issue of the number of teams competing and league’s space in the calendar year, fiercely divides opinion. However the current WPL format is, in the league’s current guise, is the best fit. It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal but it is the best fit.
FRAUGHAN NOMADS SWITCH SUITS ALL
It was announced earlier today that Ryan Fraughan has left The New Saints on loan to join Connah’s Quay and it’s a deal which I believe suits all parties.
Fraughan has shown over the years that he has real directness and quality playing on either flank but he has lost his way at TNS of late while niggly injuries have also hampered his progress and game time.
The chance to go the Nomads and a change of scenery where he is more likely to get a run of games, will do him no harm in rediscovering his form and Fraughan’s arrival at the Deeside Stadium is a boost to Connah’s Quay new managerial team, following the reshuffle which saw Mark McGregor depart the club.
AIZLEWOOD DISAPPOINTS AGAIN
Finally, it was disappointing to read Mark Aizlewood’s latest disparaging views this week.
I don’t like to criticise individuals and it’s not the first time I’ve criticised Mark here but it’s just poor form to denounce his own side’s chances of reaching the top-six because they visit TNS on Sunday and publicly ‘congratulating’ Newtown and Port Talbot before the final round of fixtures have even been played just seems cheap and unsporting. Again, Aizlewood is taking it upon himself to show a clear disrespect to the league as well as its clubs – including his very own Carmarthen Town.
Knowing many of the individuals who run Carmarthen, I can only imagine their embarrassment when they read his airings – even his criticism of TNS’s pitch, which is in need of being replaced, is uncalled for – just how many games have had to have been rearranged at Richmond Park in recent seasons?
Aizlewood is of a professional, international pedigree as a player, which should be an asset to both his club and the WPL. I believe he’d be a lot better for it and more respected should he keep the same approach as a manager.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!