Several key games will be played in the WPL over the weekend as the race heats up for European spots, play-off places and the battle to avoid relegation.
Bangor City v Bala Town | Friday – 19:45
After a late defeat against The New Saints last weekend, Bala Town will be eager to re-open a six point gap between themselves and Connah’s Quay in the race for 2nd spot.
Since their last loss against TNS back in September, Bala Town had only lost one in 19 league games before being beaten again by the Saints last weekend.
Bangor City are still very much in the race for 3rd place, and if TNS can complete the treble by lifting the Welsh Cup then finishing 3rd would be enough for an automatic spot in Europe.
Despite trailing twice at the Cymru Tyres Stadium on Saturday, Bangor fought back to beat Carmarthen and claim all three-points as Dan Nardiello completed his first Bangor City hat-trick in injury time.
Bangor City beat Bala the last time the clubs met at Nantporth through goals from Damien Allen and Daniel Nardiello, but Bala Town had their pay-back in their last meeting with a 3-2 win at Maes Tegid.
Cefn Druids v Rhyl | Friday – 19:45
Cefn Druids will hope to beat Rhyl for the fourth time this season when the clubs meet at the Rock on Friday night.
The Druids are the only team to have picked up nine points from Rhyl this season – almost a third of the Druids’ points this season have come from results against Rhyl (9/28 = 32%).
Rhyl start the weekend in 11th place, but a win would lift them out of the relegation zone and avod Cefn Druids into 9th place.
Rhyl managed to avoid relegation last season despite finishing in the bottom two as 10th placed Port Talbot failed to secure the domestic license and were relegated instead, but Niall McGuinness will hope to survive on merit this time around.
Cefn Druids have either been promoted or relegated out of the WPL in all of the last three years, and they will be keen to bring that run to an end this summer.
Airbus UK v Aberystwyth | Saturday – 14:30
If Cefn Druids manage to beat Rhyl on Friday, then Airbus could be relegated on Saturday if they lose to Aberystwyth.
With five games remaining, the Wingmakers are 10 points behind Aberystwyth and the safety of the 10th position and are looking very likely to be relegated into the Huws Gray Alliance after a 12 year stint in the top flight.
Airbus have only won one of their last 18 league games (Airbus 4-2 Bangor) and despite re-signing several experienced ex-players in the January transfer window (Leon Clowes, Glenn Rule, Lee Owens (on loan)) the club have failed to turn their fortunes around.
Aber have already beaten Airbus three times this season, but the Seasiders have been struggling lately as Matthew Bishop’s side have only won one of their last nine games in all competitions, which was a 1-0 win over Airbus.
It’s incredibly tight in the fight for survival, and Aber must start picking up points if they are to avoid dropping out of the WPL for the first time in their history.
Carmarthen v gap Connah’s Quay | Saturday – 14:30
There are a few paths that lead to Europe available for gap Connah’s Quay, but they’ll want to secure their spot as soon as possible, and finishing 2nd would be the best way to do so.
If the Nomads fail to climb above Bala into 2nd place then they could still claim an Europa spot by either winning the Welsh Cup, winning the play-offs, or simply by finishing 3rd if the Welsh Cup winners would have already secured their place in Europe.
The 2nd place is out of Carmarthen’s reach, but they’ll be confident going into Saturday’s fixture after beating the Nomads in their last meeting thanks to a Ceri Morgan goal (0-1).
All three matches between the two clubs this season have been tight affairs with only two goals scored in three meetings.
Cardiff Met v The New Saints | Saturday – 14:30
The New Saints have secured the WPL title for the sixth consectuive season, and for the 11th time in their history.
They will now use these remaining six games to try and break yet another record before the end of the season.
In 2014/15 TNS won the league by 18 points – the biggest margin between 1st and 2nd since the league structure was changed to a 32 game season in 2010/11.
Barry Town hold the WPL record for the biggest margin when they finished 26 points ahead of Newtown in 1997/98 in a 38 game season.
At the start of the weekend, with six games left, The New Saints are 23 points ahead of Bala (2nd) and could break Barry’s record.
Cardiff Met completed a remarkable feat by securing a Top Six spot in their first season in the top flight, but the students are still searching for their first win in the second phase.
An automatic European spot might be out of the Archers’ reach, but they will need to start building confidence and momentum if they’re to make a real challenge in the play-offs.
Newtown v Llandudno | Sunday – 15:00 (LIVE ON S4C)
Newtown could take a big step towards the play-offs if they can see off Llandudno at Latham Park on Sunday to go five points clear in 7th spot.
Jason Oswell grabbed his second hat-trick of the season last weekend as Newtown secured a comfortable 0-4 win away at Aberystwyth to make it five consecutive league victories since the split for the Robins.
Chris Hughes’ side have sneaked up to the top of the Bottom Six, while Jason Oswell has also climbed to the top of the goal scoring chart (16) and is now now in the driving seat to claim the WPL Golden Boot.
Llandudno will have been disappointed to have not taken all three points against Rhyl last Saturday after conceding a 90th minute equaliser from a corner.
Jason Oswell has scored more league goals this season than all five of Llandudno’s top scorers combined.
Highlights of all WPL matches will be on Sgorio every Monday at 6:30 on S4C.
On this day in 1994, Mike Smith started his second spell in charge of the Welsh national side.