Matchday 13 might just prove to be one of the most significant rounds of the championship come the end of the season with TNS assuming what is now likely to be an unassailable lead at the top of the table as they close in on their sixth-straight title. Cardiff Met’s current form is recognised as they climb up a notch in the rankings while Rhyl continue to head south!
#1 THE NEW SAINTS
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 1st)
Seeing TNS lead the league is hardly a surprise but this season they are surpassing their own high standards having won every single game they’ve participated in, in all competitions – that really does take some doing as we head into November. Whilst TNS’s sheer dominance is one of the biggest challenges facing the WPL, they should be applauded for their start; I’ve said this numerous times on this blog but the Saints do what they have to do, and they do it well. Their latest win was a 3-0 victory over second-placed Connah’s Quay, a result which takes them 15-points clear at the top of the table and their tally of successive WPL wins to an incredible 13 game. I do not envisage TNS suffering the catastrophic drop in form which would be necessary for them to relinquish their commanding lead, nor do I see any other side being able to produce and then maintain the sort of form that would see them capitalise on any such slip-up from the champions-elect. In my book, TNS are already 2016/17 WPL champions. Congratulations.
#2 BANGOR CITY
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 2nd)
They didn’t play particularly well, they left it late (very late), but the Citizens came up trumps last week with a dramatic 3-2 win at Cefn Druids. City, unbeaten in six in the league, have now won four of their last five. Their productive run lifts them up on level points with second-placed Connah’s Quay. It seems an interesting battle is now developing for that runners-up spot.
#3 CARDIFF MET
This week: UP ONE (last week 4th)
I was at Cardiff Met’s Cyncoed Campus last weekend as they turned in another polished performance as they dealt out a ruthless 4-0 defeat to Rhyl. Christian Edwards’ side look a different proposition to the one that lacked WPL experience and edged their way to points at the beginning of the season. The Students are brimming with self-belief, well organised and taking their chances. They’re looking every inch a top-six club right now and if they can maintain this sort of form then they are going to make the cut.
#4 CONNAH’S QUAY
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 3rd)
Last weekend’s clash with TNS was always going to be one in which the Nomads needed to win if they were going to be able to wrestle their way back into the title race. Manager Andy Morrison rightly points out that his side have suffered with the absence of three key defenders in George Horan, Ian Kearney and Mike Pearson for virtually the whole season but any hopes of being a thorn in the side of TNS have now been dashed.
#5 BALA TOWN
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 5th)
The feel good factor of last season is slowly returning to Bala Town with a five-game unbeaten stretch taking them up to fourth in the table. I can’t remember seeing a Bala having to re-jig their line-up as often as they’ve done this season and watched them earn a good 3-2 win on the road against Carmarthen last weekend with a handful of players absent. They appear to be coming good just as the top-six race heats up and I believe there’s still more to come from this team.
#6 CARMARTHEN TOWN
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 6th)
Extra-time prior to their game against Bala took its toll on Carmarthen last weekend who eventually succumbed to a 3-2 defeat. Competitiveness and commitment are trademarks of Mark Aizlewood’s side this season and these were evident once again on MD13. The Old Gold are walking a fine line with players carrying knocks and totting up yellow cards – will their small squad jeopardise their push for a top-six spot?
#7 AIRBUS UK
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 7th)
A frustrating weekend saw Airbus remain in 11th-spot after coming away empty-handed against Aberystwyth in a game in which Andrew Thomas will be ruing individual errors and missed opportunities. Thomas continues to stick with his ‘Wales formation’ playing a back-three with a box-shape midfield but you sense he’s still trying to find the right balance in his side for this to become completely effective. A suspension to Jonny Spittle and a possible injury to Matty McGinn is likely to force him into a reshuffle for this weekend’s crucial basement clash with Newtown.
#8 ABERYSTWYTH TOWN
This week: UP ONE (last week 9th)
Things are looking up for Aberystwyth who forced their way into the top-half of the table following that televised victory over Airbus. Life at Park Avenue is good and Matthew Bishop will be hoping this continues with the Seasiders midway through a seven-game homestand. The visit of Connah’s Quay this weekend will give Aber a real test.
#9 CEFN DRUIDS
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 8th)
Cefn Druids are proving to be one of the harder teams to rate as they seem to be a bit of a mixed bag. One thing for certain is that they are amongst the goals, drawing 4-4 with Bala and then being edged out to Bangor City 3-2 last weekend, conceding a last-ditch winner. With the table finally starting to take some shape, this is an important period for Druids boss Huw Griffiths. He not only needs to keep his side’s confidence levels up as they overcome these knocks and build on their record of two league wins, Griffiths also needs to find a new source of goals with leading scorer Ashley Ruane being prematurely recalled from his loan spell from Connah’s Quay.
This week: UP ONE (last week 11th)
Llandudno managed their second goalless draw in as many games against Newtown last weekend but their relatively healthy league position of seventh masks a concerning aspect of their form, with the side failing to score in six of their last eight WPL fixtures. I fully expect Alan Morgan to make this a priority in the January window but it might just be too little, too late with top-six split on the horizon.
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 10th)
There’s not a lot to write home about with regards to Rhyl, whose loss in form starts to become a concern after previously being seen as just a wobble. A disastrous start at Cardiff Met last weekend saw them on the receiving end of a 4-0 defeat and I wonder whether there will be some temptation on young manager Niall McGuinness to adopt a more direct approach in favour of his preferred passing game. Rhyl looked a more competitive side when they played more directly in the second-half against Cardiff Met so it’ll be interesting how the Lilywhites react going into this weekend’s encounter with Carmarthen at Belle Vue. Rhyl responded superbly to worrying run of results earlier in the season to defy critics but now on a run of five-straight defeats, they may not be out of the woods completely just yet.
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 12th)
Newtown may have ended their losing run but that second win of the season still eludes them after another week of frustration against Llandudno. With a man advantage for most of the game, Newtown did everything but score as their search for a win continues. The side continue to plug away for manager Chris Hughes and surely it’s a matter of time when the Robins return to winning ways. Three points in this weekend’s clash with Airbus, the side immediately above them, would be timely indeed!
Featured image courtesy of Tomos Ings/Aberystwyth Town/Welsh Premier League.