Today, 5.15 | Newtown vs. Airbus UK
Tomorrow 3.30 | Connah’s Quay vs. Carmarthen Town
The Europa League Play-Offs are a great time of the season for the clubs involved – if you’re winning of course.
There’s a real buzz of anticipation coming from Newtown’s Latham Park ahead of the first tie of the weekend as the Robins play host to Airbus UK. Newtown know full well just how good play-off success tastes after beating Aberystwyth 2-1 in last year’s final after entering the play-offs as the leauge’s lowest seeds.
That underdog status is something which Newtown are very comfortable with and in recent year’s the club seem to have developed a great knack for coming into form at just the right time.
The club found the going in Phase 2 tough to start and it wasn’t until their victory over TNS late in March did they win their first game in the Championship Conference, but the side did manage to finish competitively losing just once in their last five Phase 2 games.
Timely, influential defensive lynchpin and club captain has also returned from a lengthy injury in time for the all-important play-offs, managing to get a couple of games under his belt too for good measure whilst the mid-season arrivals of Jamie Tolley and forward Ryan Scott have injected the side with some new spark giving manager Chris Hughes some new options to toy with.
Despite having home advantage, Newtown cannot afford to underestimate Andy Preece’s Airbus. The Wingmakers were on the wrong end of a one-sided Welsh Cup final just five days ago and were unable to stop TNS as they marched towards the domestic treble for a second-straight year.
Andy Preece led his side into that game with a positive approach but found TNS to be a class above. I fully expect Airbus to be far more competitive in these play-offs and they have the ability to punish teams.
It’s crucial that the Wingmakers put that Welsh Cup final loss behind them and during the little time that Andy Preece will have had with his squad this week, he will have been telling them that they come into this game with a clean slate.
You can expect Newtown to leave everything out on that pitch today and Airbus cannot afford to be half-hearted or carrying any hangover from that final defeat.
ALL EYES ON THE NOMADS
The favourites for this year’s play-offs are Connah’s Quay and rightly so. They may have slumped at the end of the season and that heavy Welsh Cup semi-final defeat to TNS will have been a bitter pill to swallow for ambitious Nomads.
The closing weeks of the season aside, I believe this has been a season of significance for Connah’s Quay as they have really began to rub shoulders with teams in the top-half of the table and I firmly believe they’re there to stay.
Andy Morrison has now had time to begin making his mark at the club after his mid-season appointment and getting European qualification secured in his first year will definitely be a considered a job well-done.
The challenge facing Connah’s Quay is can they deliver under expectation? They face the lowest-ranked side in Carmarthen Town and the Nomads will be fully expected to end their poor run of form and progress to next weekend’s final.
Carmarthen may well struggle here – it remains to be seen what impact, if any, events involving manager Mark Aizlewood will have had on the side but having playing in the Play-Off Conference since January, Carmarthen will not have faced a side of Connah’s Quay’s quality for some time.
The Old Gold will need to adapt quickly and turn in a big performance if they are to remain in the play-offs past this weekend.
It’s do-or-die time for all involved…
Front page image courtesy of Newtown AFC