Will it be another day at the office for Welsh champions, The New Saints, or could it be the biggest shock in the Word Cup history as Denbigh Town go head to head with the cup holders in this year’s final on Saturday.
‘theWord’ are the competitions sponsors for the fourth year running as The New Saints aim to clinch the cup for the 7th time in their history and for the second season on the bounce.
The final will be held at the neutral ground of Parc MBi Maesdu, Llandudno.
TNS are the most successful club in the competition with 6 wins, then Barry Town with 4 cup wins (on the bounce). Carmarthen, Caersws and Afan Lido have all won the trophy three times each.
Interesting fact! Not one of the three ever-present WPL clubs – Aberystwyth, Bangor & Newtown – have won the League Cup! Bangor has appeared in the final on six occasions but lost every time, three times on penalties.
But the big shock this season is that for the first time ever, one of the finalists will be a club outside of the Welsh Premier League.
Denbigh Town are currently in 5th place in the Huws Gray Alliance and were one of the four ‘wildcard’ clubs that were chosen to enter the competition this season.
Denbigh have earned their place in the final after knocking out three WPL sides, as well as hammering Holyhead Hotspur away from home.
The Huws Gray Alliance outfit have shocked everyone, beating Rhyl (2-4), Holyhead Hotspur (0-4), Airbus UK (2-1 aet) and gap Connah’s Quay (1-0) on the road to the final.
‘It’s been labelled as the biggest game in the club’s history, and it’s one we’re all looking forward to”, said manager, Gareth Thomas. “At the end of the day you want to pit your wits against the best sides, and TNS are the best side in Welsh football.’
This season, TNS have seen off Holywell (7-1), Port Talbot (3-1) and Carmarthen (4-1) to reach the final with the competition’s top scorer, Greg Draper scoring 7 times (5 against Holywell).
Another player with a great record in the Word Cup is striker Scott Quigley who has scored at least once in TNS’ last six Word Cup matches, including two goals in last year’s final (September 2014 was the last time he failed to score in a Word Cup match).
TNS manager, Craig Harrison will be determined to get his hands on the first silverware of the season, especially after TNS fell to their first defeat of the season last weekend (gap Connah’s Quay 2-0 The New Saints).
That was in fact The New Saints’ first domestic loss since April (1-0 vs Airbus).
TNS had gone on a run of 27 domestic games without defeat before their loss at Deeside last weekend (won 18, drawn 9).
But looking on to the final, Harrison said that they’re looking forward to the game,
“We’re certainly not taking them lightly. We want to win trophies, that’s what TNS is about.”
The champions’ recent record has been far from great as they’ve only won 1 of their last 5 games.
On the 7th of November, after 14 WPL games, TNS were 18 points clear of Bala in 2nd place, but two months later and the Lakesiders have closed the gap to only six points with ten league games remaining.
Denbigh Town and The New Saints have never met in a competitive game, but the clubs did meet in a friendly over the summer with the Welsh champions winning the game comfortably.
But the Denbigh squad has strengthened significantly since that encounter with the likes of Bala loanee, Tony Davies, bringing wealth of experience into the side.
Midfielders, Warren Duckett and Dave Macintyre have both performed consistently for the reds this season, but the one to watch on Saturday will be striker, Kristian Pierce.
As well as scoring 4 times in the Word Cup, local Denbigh lad ‘KP’ is currently the Huws Gray Alliance top scorer (11 goals) and his pace, power and determined attitude could be vital for Denbigh if they are to cause an upset in the final.
With over 600 tickets sold to the Denbigh supporters it looks like the town is ready, the coaching staff is ready and the players are ready for the biggest game in the club’s 136 year history.
Denbigh have nothing to lose, and who knows what could happen on the day… but remember this – Denbigh beat gap Connah’s Quay in the semi-final – gap Connah’s Quay beat The New Saints last weekend… which surely means that Denbigh are a better team than TNS… Doesn’t it!?
Denbigh Town v The New Saints LIVE on S4C, on Saturday 23 January with kick off at 5.15pm