WPL 2016/17 – Opening weekend preview

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A preview of the opening weekend fixtures in the 2016/17 Welsh Premier League season.

Friday night

Bangor City v Cefn Druids | Friday – 19:45
The new WPL season kicks off at Nantporth where Huw Griffiths brings his Cefn Druids side to meet his old club, Bangor City with the hope of a strong start to the Ancients’ return to the top flight.

Cefn Druids return to the WPL after one season in the Huws Gray Alliance following their relegation at the end of 2014/15 when the club finished in 11th place which ironically was their highest ever finish in the league.

Bangor finished last season in 9th place, only one spot higher than the previous year (10th in 2014/15) but the Nantporth faithful are hoping for a more fortuitous season since the new owners promised to pump their money into the club.

Under newly appointed manager, Andy Legg, Bangor have made some exciting signings that include the 33 years old striker and ex-Welsh international, Daniel Nardiello who earned one cap for Wales coming on as substitue for Robert Earnshaw against New Zealand back in 2007.

Players’ preview: Bangor City
Players’ preview: Cefn Druids

Last meeting:
Cefn Druids 0-2 Bangor City (28/03/15)


Saturday

Newtown v Bala Town | Saturday – 14:30
After finishing in their highest position in 15 years (5th) Newtown are aiming for the top four this season.

Another club that have high expectations are Bala Town, who have finished as runners-up for the last two consecutive seasons.

Manager Colin Caton told us that he will once again be looking to be the ‘best part-time club in Wales’ as only full-time professional side The New Saints have finished higher than the Lakesiders over the last two years.

It will be interesting to see ex-Aberystwyth team mates go head to head at Latham Park on Saturday as Craig Williams and Ross Stephens have joined the Robins while Chris Venables and Stuart Jones have moved to Bala Town.

Players’ preview: Newtown
Players’ preview: Bala Town

Last meeting:
Newtown 2-2 Bala Town (19/03/16)


Carmarthen v gap Connah’s Quay | Saturday – 17:15
Live on S4C – Full preview here

Players’ preview: Carmarthen
Players’ preview: gap Connah’s Quay

Last meeting:
gap Connah’s Quay 2-0 Carmarthen (08/05/16) – Play-off semi final

Sunday

Airbus UK v Cardiff Met | Sunday – 15:00
Cardiff Met will be feeling confident ahead of their trip to Broughton after hearing the news that Andy Preece has left his role as Airbus UK’s Director of Football only two days before the Wingmakers’ first game of the season.

After four years at the helm, Andy Preece said “we leave the club in a stable position’’ and stated “it is now time for a fresh challenge.”

Most of Airbus’ squad from last season have left the club over the summer, while Cardiff Met have more or less kept the same squad that secured promotion from the South Wales League last season.

Combining league games, university competitions as well as studying for their degrees, it’s going to be a busy year for the students under manager and lecturer, Christian Edwards.

Players’ preview: Airbus UK
Players’ preview: Cardiff Met

Last meeting:
Cardiff Met 1-4 Airbus UK (07/02/15) – Welsh Cup

Rhyl v Llandudno | Sunday – 15:00
Rhyl finished last season in 11th place and were lucky to avoid the drop as Port Talbot were relegated in their place after they failed to secure the domestic license necessary to remain in the top flight.

Young Lilywhites manager Niall McGuinness has only kept a handful of his squad from last season and replaced them with local talent, signing 17 new players over the summer.

In complete contrast, Llandudno enjoyed a fantastic season in 2015/16 and have not made much changes during the transfer window, although they have secured the signature of striker John Owen from Rhyl.

Llandudno are preparing for their second season in the WPL after an emphatic first season which saw them finish 3rd and reach the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.

Despite their successful season, the players are weary that it will be a tougher challenge this year as the expectations will be higher and that they no longer hold the ‘element of surprise’.

Marc Williams was named ‘WPL Player of the Year’ in 2015/16 and he hopes to continue his good form but admits that it will be a tougher challenge this year as the expectations will be higher and that Llandudno no longer hold the ‘element of surprise’.

Players’ preview: Rhyl
Players’ preview: Llandudno

Last meeting:
Rhyl 1–1 Llandudno (06/10/15)

The New Saints v Aberystwyth | Sunday – 15:00
There will only be one target for The New Saints this season and that will be to repeat tha feats of the last two seasons and claiming the treble for the third consecutive season.

The Oswestry outfit are going for their 6th title on the trot and hoping to lift the WPL trophy for the 11th time in their history.

But the champions have lost several key players over the transfer window including defender Kai Edwards who’s joined Conference side, Wrexham, while The New Saints’ all time leading goal scorer, Michael Wilde has made the move to Deeside to join gap Connah’s Quay.

Aberystwyth haven’t beaten TNS since August 2007, so it will be a baptism of fire for the new managment duo of Matthew Bishop and Wayne Jones in their first competitive game in charge.

The Black & Greens finished in a disappointing 8th position last season and it won’t be an easy start for them as they will have to play their first 10 WPL fixtures away from home as their new synthetic surface won’t be in place by the start of the season.

Players’ preview: The New Saints
Players’ preview: Aberystwyth

Last meeting:
The New Saints 1-1 Aberystwyth (11/12/15)

Highlights of all Welsh Premier League games will be on Sgorio every Monday at 6:30 on S4C.