Welcome to the final Power Rankings of the year! I’ll be taking a short break from the rankings over Christmas and reviewing both the Boxing Day and New Years’ fixtures jointly in the first week of January. The rankings have proved to be more popular than I had anticipated when I created them in August so thanks to you all for reading, and to those who have shared on social media, including the clubs themselves. Those involved and support the Welsh Premier League will know the league is a close community (football often is) and next year I want to address one of the most divisive topics within our league, as the issue of the number of clubs and league format has once again raised its head. I’ll be hoping to speak to those from various positions within the game to get some honest opinions and informative content to share here as we consider which direction the WPL needs to take moving forward.
Back to this week’s rankings, I can’t remember a week in which the ladder so accurately mirrored the actual league table. The top-six ranked positions is as it stands in the league itself, although there are some changes at the bottom end with Newtown and Cefn Druids climbing due to Rhyl slipping. Airbus move off the bottom for the first time in a few weeks as they show signs of resurgence. Controversially, Aberystwyth are currently bottom despite still having a chance of breaking into the top-six!
Whoever you support, have a great Christmas, enjoy the festive football and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year! Thanks for reading.
#1 THE NEW SAINTS
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 1st)
It’s incredible to think that TNS’s winning run has put them on the cusp of entering the Guinness Book of Records. A win on Boxing Day over Cefn Druids would see them match Ajax’s 26-game run during the 1971/72 season, a win in the return fixture would see them surpass it and make history! Their 19th league win came at the expense of Connah’s Quay in last weekend’s televised game, a straightforward affair which evidenced the Saints’ current stranglehold on the WPL. Their dominance could well be the biggest issue that the WPL currently faces but I have nothing but admiration for how Craig Harrison’s side have approached each game this season. There is a lot more to competitive football at any level than just turning up.
#2 BALA TOWN
This week: UP ONE (last week 3rd)
Bala returned to action last weekend picking up where they left off with a commanding 3-0 home over Llandudno and climb the rankings ladder accordingly. The Lakesiders are on a seven-game winning stretch (eight in all comps) and the fact November’s WPL Player of the Month Kieran Smith, can’t break into the side right now tells you all you need to know about current performance levels within Colin Caton’s squad – the big chief must be delighted!
#3 CONNAH’S QUAY
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 2nd)
The fact the Nomads didn’t really trouble TNS in their top-of-the-table clash evidenced the gulf that exists between the champions and the teams below them. Connah’s Quay are very much one of the league’s heavyweights capable of holding their own in that chasing pack. They slipped to third on goal difference on the back of that defeat but like many others, they’ll draw a line under this one and be ready to go again in their Airbus double-header.
#4 BANGOR CITY
This week: UP ONE (last week 5th)
The Citizens were fortunate to win at home to Airbus last weekend in a game which was more closely contested than anticipated. Ian Dawes’ men then turned in a far more controlled performance in their 3-0 midweek win at Aberystwyth, a result which rubber-stamped their position in the top-six. They look in good shape heading into the New Year.
#5 CARDIFF MET
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 4th)
Returning home with three points following their 1-0 win over Newtown will have been considered a job well done by Christian Edwards as his students close in on that top-six spot. They’ll need to show plenty of character of the festive period against gritty Carmarthen. A good points return from those two games should see them over the line.
#6 CARMARTHEN TOWN
This week: UP ONE (last week 7th)
Don’t allow Rhyl’s poor run take anything away from Carmarthen’s 5-0 victory over them in Matchday 18 – a result which lifted the Old Gold back into sixth-place. Carmarthen have been down to bare bones in recent weeks and with a point advantage over Llandudno, they have just given themselves the edge as they push to make the top-six. Can their determination and work ethic see them over the line?
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 6th)
Llandudno had been going along nicely until Bala sent them packing from Maes Tegid with a 3-0 defeat last weekend. The race for that final top-six spot is shaping up to be a straight shoot-out between themselves and Carmarthen, with both sides having three games remaining adding extra importance to their forthcoming festive derbies with Bangor City.
This week: UP ONE (last week 9th)
A narrow defeat to Cardiff Met at Latham Park adds a bit more weight of expectation on the Robins going into back-to-back derbies against Aberystwyth. Chris Hughes will be looking forward to January and the opportunity to add fresh faces to his depleted squad.
#9 CEFN DRUIDS
This week: NO CHANGE (last week 10th)
Last weekend’s 3-0 home defeat to Aberystwyth was a little misleading considering the chances Cefn Druids had but with successive games against TNS on the horizon it’s likely that the Ancients will be going into 2017 on the back of four straight defeats.
This week: DOWN TWO (last week 8th)
Rhyl are a streaky side – when they’re good they seem a half decent outfit, when they’re bad they really do look like relegation material. They’ve now lost seven of their eight last in the WPL following that heavy 5-0 defeat down in Carmarthen which leaves them hovering precariously over the drop zone. The side’s poor discipline must also be of concern to manager Niall McGuinness after they were handed two more red cards against Carmarthen – that’s now six red-cards in four games for the ill-tempered Lilywhites, who face a testing double-header against Bala Town.
#11 AIRBUS UK
This week: UP ONE (last week 11th)
Airbus looked dead and buried just a week ago and it was has hard to see where they were going to get any sort of break from, but credit has to be given to Andrew Thomas for somehow finding a spark in his side, despite them picking up two defeats. They were unfortunate not to win at Bangor, let alone lose, last weekend before leading at Bala Town at half-time midweek with the hosts eventually running out 4-2 winners. Both performances hint that better times lie around the corner and the appointment of Steve O’Shaughnessy as assistant manager is a smart move.
#12 ABERYSTWYTH TOWN
This week: DOWN ONE (last week 11th)
A mixed week for Aberystwyth, who continue to struggle for consistency despite it still being possible for them to grab a top-six spot. Their 3-0 win at Cefn Druids had something of a smash and grab feel about it despite the one-sided scoreline but they slumped to a disappointing defeat at home to Bangor City on Tuesday night in which they looked short of quality at both ends. They could still yet sneak up into the top-half of the table with their remaining games all being winnable fixtures, the question is do they have the quality?
Featured image courtesy of Naomi Jones/Bala Town FC.