Safely through to Round 4 of the Welsh Cup, Cardiff Met can take another step towards their main pre-season objective of ensuring Welsh Premier League survival this weekend if they can somehow find a way to end TNS’s relentless winning run.
With five games remaining in Phase 1, Cardiff Met, currently fifth, are well-placed to secure a top-half finish which would, at the very least, ensure them of safety from relegation in their first season in the top-flight.
Back in August, the Met, then very much new kids on the block in the league, gave a good account of themselves when the league champions rolled into the Welsh capital. And though TNS returned home with three points in the bag, many observers left the Cyncoed Campus believing the newly promoted side would be well enough equipped to avoid an immediate return to the Welsh League.
Since then Cardiff Met have matured enormously under Christian Edwards’ astute leadership and have become an efficient WPL outfit, playing an attractive brand of football to match. The side are confident and well-organised defensively and going forward – and were it not for Craig Harrison’s record breaking run of victories, Edwards would surely have won the recent Manager of the Month award after just one defeat in November, as the side extended their unbeaten home run to seven-straight games, keeping a string of clean-sheets in the process.
Off the back of that solid run, Cardiff Met are unlikely to be overawed by TNS’s technical ability and they will be quietly believing of their own ability to ask a few questions of the champions elect. The Met will present a slightly different challenge to what TNS are typically used to facing in the league, in terms that Cardiff Met are essentially a side who train full-time with first-class conditioning and analytical support.
TNS’s incredible run of successive league wins has to come to an end at some point, could Cardiff Met possibly rise to the occasion on Saturday and record their finest WPL result yet?
Given the run of poor performances and results that has seen them slump to the bottom of the table, it will hardly have came as a surprise to see Airbus being one of the three WPL clubs to crash out of the third round to lower-league opposition.
That 4-1 defeat to Pen-y-bont in South Wales last weekend was typical of the performances we’ve seen from the Wingmakers of late as their season turns from bad, to worse, to alarming.
In the middle of all this is Andy Thomas, a young manager who has served Airbus well over the years looking to cut his teeth in his first management role after succeeding Andy Preece at the beginning of the season.
Preece had guided Airbus to Europe and it was just a couple of years ago when they were the leading contender to challenge TNS’s domestic dominance. Just last season Airbus reached the Welsh Cup final for the first time, and although a cut in budget after they failed to qualify for Europe was always going to mean the club would have to readjust its expectations, to see them fall so rapidly is a huge concern.
According to Andy Thomas it would seem their hopes of battling against the drop hinge on a mid-season rebuilding plan.
“You can see by the goals, we gave them the game in the first 10 minutes and that’s just down to personnel at the moment – we’ve just get to get through five games until January and then there’ll be massive changes,” he told Sgorio following the Cup exit.
Those next five games could make for uncomfortable viewing for those associated with Airbus and Thomas will know he’ll need to reshape his team with urgency going into Phase 2 if they are going climb out of the bottom two. For a debut managerial role, it really couldn’t get much tougher.
Featured image courtesy of Andrew Lincoln/ Airbus UK Broughton FC / Welsh Premier League