The Welsh Premier League season is drawing to an end but the race to secure European football is only getting started.
The New Saints will represent Wales in the Champions League qualifiers this summer, while the league runners-up, Welsh Cup winners and play-off winners will reach the Europa League qualifiers.
Bala Town v The New Saints | Friday – 19:45
The New Saints have secured their place in Europe by winning the league, but Bala’s hopes of getting into Europe have taken a bit of a knock in recent weeks.
Colin Caton’s side have lost their last three matches sliding down into 4th place, five points behind fellow Europa hopefuls, Connah’s Quay and Bangor City.
But if Connah’s Quay do finish as league runners-up and manage to beat Aberystwyth in the Welsh Cup final, then the 3rd placed team would qualify for Europe… and with Bala meeting Bangor on the last weekend, it has the potential to be a thrilling end to the season.
The New Saints have beaten Bala 3-0 on three occasions this season.
The Lakesiders have not scored more than twice in their last 21 matches, since winning 1-3 away at Newtown in October.
This season the Saints secured their 12th league championship, and the seventh consecutive title for the WPL’s most decorated club.
TNS have lost four league games this season (vs Bangor x2, Barry and Newtown) – It’s been 10 years since they lost more than four times in a WPL season.
In the last four seasons (not including this season), TNS have lost 11 of their 128 WPL games (8.6%) – but have lost 5 of 17 after securing the championship (29%).
Bala Town captain, Chris Venables is set to make his 400th WPL appearance, becoming the 19th player to reach the milestone.
Prestatyn v Aberystwyth | Friday – 19:45
Prestatyn’s fate has been sealed in the bottom two, and it’s between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen as to who will join them at the end of the season.
With three games remaining, there’s five points separating Carmarthen (11th) and Aberystwyth (10th), and Aber will be eager to open that gap further this weekend.
A win for Aberystwyth would mean that Carmarthen would have to beat Llandudno on Saturday to avoid being relegated.
Aberystwyth might be in a nervy position in the WPL, but the club could still secure a place in Europe if they were to beat Connah’s Quay in the Welsh Cup final next month.
Prestatyn are on a run of 15 games without a win in all competitions (lost 13, drawn 2) and will return to the Huws Gray Alliance next season.
Connah’s Quay v Bangor City | Saturday – 14:30
Connah’s Quay thrashed Bangor 6-1 in last weekend’s Welsh Cup semi final – an unexpected result seeing that both sides are level on points in the league.
Andy Morrison’s side thoroughly deserved the win last Saturday and were inspired by the performance of old-school frontman Andy Owens who grabbed a well-deserved hat-trick on the night.
Although Connah’s Quay are above Bangor in the table (on goal difference), Kevin Nicholson’s side have had the better of their previous meetings in the league this season, winning all three clashes in the WPL without conceding a single goal.
But it’s the Nomads that boasts the best defensive record in the WPL this season.
Six red cards have been shown in the last nine meetings between the sides, three of those going to Nomads captain George Horan, who unsurprisingly remains suspended this weekend!
If Bala Town lose against TNS on Friday night, then a win for either Connah’s Quay or Bangor would put Bala out of contention for second spot.
Both Connah’s Quay and Bangor have failed to secure the domestic license to remain in the WPL next season, but the final decision about their fate won’t be known until 26 April.
Connah’s Quay 6-1 Bangor City (07/04/17) Welsh Cup Semi Final
Bangor City 1-0 Connah’s Quay (16/02/18)
Connah’s Quay 0-2 Bangor City (17/11/17)
Connah’s Quay 2-0 Bangor City (03/10/17) League Cup Second Round
Bangor City 1-0 Connah’s Quay (26/09/17)
Cefn Druids v Cardiff Met | Saturday – 14:30
Only one point separate these two sides and the result of this match could prove key as to decide which club will get home advantage in the play-offs by finishing 5th rather than 6th.
Cefn Druids will be confident after beating Bala Town in their last outing, and having already won against Cardiff Met in the second phase.
But it was the students who were victorious when the clubs last met at The Rock back on the opening weekend of the season.
It’s been a rough spell for Christian Edwards’ side as they have lost nine of their last 11 domestic games, with their only win coming against struggling Carmarthen (11th).
The reason for their poor league form could be down to tiredness as they have been busy competing in University Cups and were recently crowned champions of the British Universities Cup.
Carmarthen v Llandudno | Saturday – 15:30
Carmarthen are in serious need of three points on Saturday for any realistic chance of catching up Aberystwyth and avoiding relegation.
A win for Aberystwyth at Prestatyn on Friday would mean that the Old Gold would have to beat Llandudno or would be certain of relegation.
But there is a hint of confusion in the air as it isn’t too clear as to who will be promoted from the lower leagues, and with Connah’s Quay and Bangor both waiting for domestic licenses, there could be a potential situation where the 11th placed side would be void of relegation.
Llandudno are definitely safe from the drop, and after their recent win and clean sheet against Aberystwyth, Iwan Williams will be keen to finish the season in good fashion.
Carmarthen have not scored a goal at home against Llandudno since December 2015.
Barry Town v Newtown | Sunday – 15:30 (S4C)
A point would be enough for Barry Town to secure 7th position and book their place in the play-offs.
Barry Town have won all six WPL games since the split, scoring 14 goals, conceding only three with keeper Mike Lewis currently on a run of three consecutive clean sheets.
It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Newtown, who are likely to miss out on the play-offs for the first time in five years.
Both clubs have been without their main strikers in recent weeks, but Barry top scorer Kayne McLaggon (12 WPL goals) will return to the side this weekend following his ankle injury in February.
McLaggon had travelled with the Barry squad to Prestatyn last weekend before that game was called off for the third time this season!
As for Newtown’s main man, Jamie Reed, his injury is more long-term and the Robins will have to turn to their top scorer, Nick Rushton (8 WPL goals) to lead the line once more this weekend.
Highlights of all WPL fixtures will be on Sgorio this Monday at 5:35 on S4C.
On this day in 1961 one of the legends of Welsh football - Ian Rush - was born.