Play-off appearance on cards for Carmarthen; Airbus must step up; thumbs up for semi-final day

After what’s generally been a pretty dull season, Carmarthen Town find themselves on a good phase of form which suggests Mark Aizlewood’s men are aiming to take advantage of any dip in results from Bangor City and Aberystwyth, the two front-runners for that play-off qualifyer, via seventh-spot in the table.

Aizlewood will follow the outcome of Bangor’s clash with Aberystwyth with keen interest tonight – the seventh-placed Citizens have a two-point lead over Carmarthen but it is the Old Gold who perhaps have the true advantage with a game in hand.

Aize will be encouraged with what his side have produced of late; a three-game unbeaten run was halted last Saturday with a narrow defeat to Bangor, which was a harsh result for the hosts.

Carmarthen will be quietly confident of adding three points to their tally again this weekend with Rhyl the visitors. The jury remains out on whether Rhyl’s appointment of 24-year-old Niall McGuiness as manager is a masterstroke or an epic blunder, but the reality is that the season has been a complete disaster for the Lilywhites.

The return of Luke Cummings from suspension will be a further boost to Carmarthen and it may well be that Daniel Sheehan has to revert back to left-back and Jordan Knott is demoted to the bench, which would perhaps be harsh on the former Goytre defender, who I feel has really come on this year.

We could have all three teams vying for seventh-spot on the final day of the season.

Few would’ve expected Airbus to have been in the Welsh Cup semi-final draw last Saturday evening and their 3-0 win against Bala Town was the performance of the round. While they can now look forward to a semi-final date against Port Talbot next month, questions have to be asked of the Wingmakers’ league form.

In recent years, Airbus have been the side most likely to bridge the gap between TNS and the rest of the league.  With an uncompromising defence and a midfield boosting craft and tenacity, the acquisition of marksman Tony Gray during the summer should have seen Airbus really push on this season as a solid WPL outfit with a fiercely driven manager in Andy Preece behind them.

The reality however has been quite a different story. True, Gray wasted no time finding his feet in the WPL and quickly asserted himself as one of the front runners in the race for the Golden Boot, but inconsistency has blighted any chance of progress. Airbus will be quick to highlight the fact that they have suffered with more than their fair share of injuries, but they also possess one of the larger squads in the WPL. Once the ‘next-best’ side in the league Airbus has fallen further behind this season and trail Bala Town, Llandudno and Connah’s Quay, and without the goals of Gray – who has scored 15 of the team’s 33 league goals – you do wonder whether they’d have reached the top-six at all.

Winning the Welsh Cup would certainly rescue Airbus’ season and unless they step-up their league form, that will be their only realistic chance of securing continental football.

The club need to rebuild over the summer around the likes of Gray and talented youth products James Murphy and Bailey Jackson as the chasing pack is more competitive than ever.

To give credit where credit’s due, the decision to play both Welsh Cup semi-finals on the same day at the same venue is an excellent one.

Newtown AFC will host the event that has been described by the FAW as an experiment, but it’s hard to see the idea failing.

On Saturday 2nd April, Airbus will play Port Talbot at 1pm before Connah’s Quay face holders TNS later in the televised game at 5.15.

I was at Latham Park for Newtown’s European ties this summer and the club managed the bumper attendance superbly then. The atmosphere for those games then was fantastic and the Welsh Cup should bring with it a similar atmosphere,with four sets of spectators hoping to see their team make it through to the final.

The WPL and is FAW should use the event as big marketing opportunity for the league and I believe that this could really grow into a big day in the Welsh football calendar. I’m looking forward to it already.

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