Whilst Port Talbot and Carmarthen can be considered established WPL outfits, the league’s senior representatives from South Wales have each endured less-than-enthralling campaigns to date.
It’s been pretty glum at the GenQuip Stadium and at Richmond Park this season with both unable to secure a spot in the Championship Conference. A win in tomorrow night’s derby between the two clubs (7.45) would be most welcomed by their respective managers Andy Dyer and Mark Aizlewood.
While Aizlewood will, without fail, state repeatedly that his primary aim for Carmarthen Town at the start of each season is consolidation in the league, down the M4 at Port Talbot, the Steelmen have typically been a club looking to grow their profile in the top-half of the table. This season however has been a backwards step.
Port Talbot do have the Welsh Cup to look forward to – a competition which the club would dearly like to get their hands on – and have been handed another favourable draw against Welsh League opposition in the form of Cwmbran Celtic or Goytre in the last eight of the competition. But the Cup aside, it’s been a difficult campaign for Andy Dyer, who has seen his plans undermined by selection problems, off-field changes and a squad of changing faces.
And whilst the club added former Bristol City youth product Marley Bishop (striker) and re-signed diminutive forward Kerry Morgan in the January window, amongst the latest of those changes in personnel is the exit of promising central defender Joseph Jones, with the Swansea City product leaving to play in Australia.
In a season where league wins have been a rarity, the Port Talbot rearguard has changed constantly throughout the duration of the season. A quick glance at the league table tells you where Port Talbot’s troubles evidently lie – the side have the worst defensive record in the league with 43 goals against (Carmarthen’s record doesn’t make much better reading either, having allowed a goal less).
On my count, a total of 11 players have started games in the Port Talbot defence this season and unable to have a regular back-four available to work with, Andy Dyer must be having all-manner of worries in trying to solidify and draw out consistency from his side.
Port Talbot did well to recruit Alan Tate to the club in November – the sort of relatively high profile signing which the club have become known for making – but even with the experienced ex-Swan in their ranks, the side have recorded just one win in his nine appearances.
With an unsettled defence, Port Talbot find themselves glancing over their shoulder in Phase 2 as they hover five points above the bottom-two.
For those unfamiliar with the Welsh Premier League’s not-so-straightforward relegation format, two teams can possibly be demoted, pending on the outcome of the successful promotion candidate(s) being awarded an FAW Domestic Licence.
With basement side Haverfordwest in real danger of an immediate return to Welsh League Division 1, the thought of Port Talbot becoming embroiled in a fight for their WPL survival would be unthinkable given their progress in recent seasons and disastrous for the league as a whole; given the possibility of there being just one South Wales club, Carmarthen, competing in the top-flight. I personally don’t believe that Port Talbot will drop further down the table but the Steelmen must show more resilience and stablise their form between now and the end of a season which has been a thoroughly testing for the club.
A place in the WPL assured with a few games remaining and a deep Welsh Cup run would be a job well-done for Dyer considering it’s been a season of change at Port Talbot.