Following on from yesterday’s look at the Play-Off Conference, here are three storylines to follow from the top-six Championship Conference.
Is the title more than a one-horse race?
Yes TNS are clear favourites to win the league title once again this year and yes I fully expect them to do so, but just how hard are they going to be pushed this season?
It sounds incredible to question the Saints’ title credentials given the fact they’ve only been beaten once all season, yet they have only been able to afford themselves a six-point lead over closest challengers (?) Bala Town.
TNS have drawn more games (eight) than they would’ve liked this campaign and that has allowed Bala and even possibly Llandundo the slightest glimmer of hope to make this final 10 games interesting at the very top of the table – something which the WPL desperately needs from a neutral’s perspective.
There is no doubting the quality and strength in depth that Craig Harrison has at his disposal and his brief to his squad will be simple: Just keep winning games on a week by week basis. An extended run of victories would firmly put TNS in the driving seat with the remaining sides likely to score points off each other and undermine their own efforts. But what if Bala, who only lost three games in Phase 1, are able to maintain a solid run of form of their own over 10 games?
I can’t see past anyone other than TNS to win the championship but a race for the title would be a breath of fresh air for the league.
The race for the Golden Boot.
Tony Gray and Marc Williams were unfamiliar names this time last year but the respective Airbus and Llandudno strikers have lit up the WPL this season and are now leading the way at the top of the WPL scoring charts.
Both players featured in every Phase 1 game and currently 31 year old Gray leads the way with an impressive tally of 15 goals. After weeks of being side-by-side in the scoring charts, Williams lost ground in the final Phase 1 round but still has 14 goals to his name.
The two go head-to-head in this weekend when Williams’ Llandundo host Tony Gray and Airbus .
The rise and rise of Connah’s Quay.
Connah’s Quay are perhaps the team I’m most looking forward to seeing in the Championship Conference with the Nomads finally heating up after a slow start to the season.
They should’ve wrapped up a top-six place far earlier than they did, but they finished Phase 1 in impressive fashion beating TNS to rubber-stamp their place. Connah’s Quay now head into Phase 2 nine points of an automatic European place and I that gap (excuse the pun) could quickly be eaten up with teams taking points of each other. This Connah’s Quay side are growing as a group of players and they are now producing the sort of results which I expected from them back in August. The impact of Andy Morrison should not be underestimated, the Nomads are a side not only able to compete with the physicality of the league but they also possess quality and strength in depth.
For me, Connah’s Quay are a team who’re flying under the radar and I believe they are going to become heavyweights in this league in the not too distant future. Looking at the first round of Phase 2 games, what a statement it would be from the Nomads if they could beat TNS in successive games.