WPL preview: TNS hoping to secure the title

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The New Saints could have their hands on the Welsh Premier League title by Saturday evening, but they will need gap Connah’s Quay to take points off of Bala Town on Friday night.

Friday

Bala Town v gap Connah’s Quay | Friday – 19:45
It’s 2nd v 3rd in the WPL on Friday as the race intensifies for that definite Europa spot.

The New Saints will be keeping a close eye on this game as anything other than a win for Bala Town will mean that three points for TNS against Bangor City on Saturday would be enough to finally clinch the title.

Bala and Connah’s Quay will feel confident following their Welsh Cup wins last weekend as Bala beat Guilsfield (0-3) and the Nomads knocked out Prestatyn on penalties as it finished 2-2 after extra time.

The Nomads are six points behind Bala, with a game in hand, but Andy Morrison will be determined not to let Bala open up a nine point gap in 2nd place.

The spoils were shared in both their meetings in the first phase, but there will be more pressure on the Nomads to go for the three points in this one as Bangor City are breathing down their necks and closing in on the 3rd spot.

Latest meetings:
Bala Town 0-0 gap Connah’s Quay (14/01/17)
gap Connah’s Quay 1-1 Bala Town (03/09/16)

Llandudno v Cefn Druids | Friday – 19:45
Llandudno lead the pack in the race for 7th place in the Bottom Six as they are two points clear of Newtown (8th) and four points above the Druids (9th).

After beating Aberystwyth (3-4) in their last outing Llandudno are hoping to win two games on the bounce for the first time in six months.

Llandudno scored four at Park Avenue, but there’s been a goal-drought at Parc Maesdu this season as they’ve only notched nine goals in 12 home games this season (0.75 goals a game).

No teams have had more draws than Llandudno (9/25) and Cefn Druids (8/25) in the WPL this season.

The Druids were on a run of four league games without defeat before their 1-2 defeat to Newtown in their last game and Huw Griffiths will want to get back to winning ways on Friday.

Cefn Druids have either been promoted or relegated out of the WPL in all of the last three years, and they will be eager to bring that run to an end this summer.

Latest meetings:
Cefn Druids 1-3 Llandudno (04/11/16)
Llandudno 0-0 Cefn Druids (25/09/16)

Rhyl v Aberystwyth | Friday – 19:45
It’s a big six pointer at the Corbett Sports Stadium this Friday as a defeat will leave either one of these clubs in the relegation zone at the end of the weekend.

With seven league games remaining, Rhyl are in 11th position, two points behind Aberystwyth in the battle for survival.

Only six points separate the five clubs between the 7th and 11th position which means that anyone of the Bottom Six sides could still face relegation this season

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.

Aber gave the Lilywhites a 4-0 thumping in their last meeting with keeper Chris Mullock opening the scoring with a wonder goal in what was the first game to be played on the new 3G surface at Park Avenue.

Latest meetings:
Aberystwyth 4-0 Rhyl (14/10/16)
Rhyl 3-1 Aberystwyth (31/08/16)

Saturday

Cardiff Met v Carmarthen | Saturday – 14:30
Cardiff Met completed a remarkable feat by securing a Top Six spot in their first season in the top flight, but they haven’t had a great start to the second phase losing all three matches so far.

Adding the Welsh Cup defeat to Guilsfield into that run and Waynne Allison and Christian Edwards will be keen to bring their run of four consecutive defeats to an end at Cyncoed this Saturday.

With 12 points separating Met and the 3rd position, an automatic European spot might be out of their reach, but they will need to start building confidence and momentum if they’re to make a real challenge in the play-offs.

Three points for the students would see them climb above Carmarthen who have had a strong start to life in the Top Six with unexpected wins against gap Connah’s Quay and The New Saints.

The Old Gold were on a run of six games without defeat (including two meetings with Cardiff Met) before losing 0-1 to Bala Town in their last fixture.

After conceding only twice in their last seven games (once vs Met) it will be a tough ask for the Archers to break down a solid Carmarthen defence.

Latest meetings:
Cardiff Met 1–3 Carmarthen (31/12/16)
Carmarthen 0–0 Cardiff Met (26/12/16)

Newtown v Airbus UK | Saturday – 14:30
With seven games remaining the Wingmakers are 10 points from safety and in real danger of facing relegation to the Huws Gray Alliance after 12 seasons in the top flight.

Airbus have only won once on the road this season, and that was away to Newtown at Latham Park in the first phase.

Since that victory back in September, Airbus have only won one of their 16 latest league games (Airbus 4-2 Bangor) and have failed to score in their last three games.

Newtown have won their three games since the split and are unbeaten in five games.

But the Robins haven’t been at their best at home in 2016/17 winning only three out of 12 WPL games at Latham Park.

The strike partnership between Nick Rushton and Jason Oswell has begun to flourish as they’ve struck six goals between them in the three games since the split and are now a real threat to reach the play-offs.

Latest meetings:
Airbus UK 0–2 Newtown (05/11/16)
Newtown 2–4 Airbus UK (24/09/16)

The New Saints v Bangor City | Saturday – 17:15 (LIVE)
These two teams will go head to head for the second time in a fortnight following their meeting in the Welsh Cup quarter final last Saturday where TNS nicked the win in extra time.

Bangor City proved how far they’ve come since losing 4-0 at Park Hall in September as the game last weekend was goalless after 90 minutes before the Citizens went ahead in extra time despite being a man down following Yalani Baio’s dismissal.

But TNS fought back with goals from Greg Draper and Adrian Cieslewicz to book a place in the semi final.

The New Saints have won their last 16 league games against Bangor City, since losing 3-4 at Park Hall in November 2011.

Bangor’s most recent win against TNS came in April 2013 in a Welsh Cup semi final through a Chris Jones late strike at the Corbett Sports Stadium.

If Bala Town fail to beat Connah’s Quay on Friday night then TNS could secure their sixth consecutive WPL title with a win against Bangor on Saturday evening.

Latest meetings:
The New Saints 2-1 Bangor City (a.e.t) – Welsh Cup Quarter Final (25/02/17)
Bangor City 1-2 The New Saints (05/11/16)
Bangor City 0-2 The New Saints – Nathaniel MG League Cup (25/10/16)
The New Saints 4-0 Bangor City (11/09/16)

Highlights of all WPL matches will be on Sgorio every Monday at 6:30 on S4C.