Unfancied Newtown reached the WPL Play-Offs, unfancied Newtown won the WPL Play-Off, unfancied Newtown held their own in Europe. Are unfancied Newtown now TNS’s biggest threat to their title defence?
It’s proven to be a remarkable 12 months for Newtown – after finishing the previous season being edged out in the play-off semi-final by Bangor City, last summer the club were tipped by many as outsiders to reach the top-six and that a bad campaign could even leave them nervously looking over their shoulders in fear of being dragged into a potential relegation scrap.
As we now know, Newtown managed to preserve their top-six status for a second successive season and took solace in their underdog label to see off Port Talbot Town and Aberystwyth Town to qualify for Europe.
The togetherness and team ethic which served them so well domestically aided them in two memorable victories against Valletta of Malta before Danish heavyweights FC Copenhagen proved too strong. A 2-0 away defeat was followed by a 3-1 reverse at Latham Park as Newtown exited the Europa League having gained more than a few friends from their committed displays, with 3,000 spectators passing through the turnstiles across both home fixtures.
The hope off the field is that some from those inflated crowds will return when the new season commences next month but what can the club now achieve on the field?
While Newtown will understandably be keen to downplay any strong sense of expectation and preserve their modest, tight-collective model, Chris Hughes’ squad will have matured from their experiences this summer and they will be returning next season with an even greater sense of understanding and togetherness.
Hughes has made very little changes in terms of personnel and having worked hard over the summer you sense that Newtown will looking to pick up where they left off when they begin their season with a visit to Connah’s Quay.
Having acquitted themselves so well over the summer months, it would not come as a surprise if Newtown were to quickly recover that momentum and start the season strongly and be amongst the front runners in the opening stages of the season. Judging on their performances in Europe, you have to say that they are no weaker than any other of the league’s chasing sides. The question is can Newtown apply some much needed pressure on TNS, or as we’ve seen before, will they join the likes likes of Airbus and Bala Town in dropping points whilst scrapping against themselves?
Should it be a case of the former, Newtown’s Christmas double-header home and away against The New Saints could make for very interesting games indeed and should they be able to muster any sort of title challenge and raise any doubts over the Saints’ domestic dominance, they will find themselves gaining quite a few more friends.