The brand new JD Cymru Premier season has arrived and new-comers Pen-y-bont and Airbus UK start their league campaigns at home against tough opposition.
Aberystwyth v Carmarthen | Friday – 19:45
The new season begins as the previous one ended for two of the Dyfed outfits as Aberystwyth face Carmarthen on the opening weekend.
After spending the past few seasons in the Bottom Six, the aim for both these sides will be to break into that elusive Top Six so to book a place in the end of season play-offs.
Aberystwyth have signed forward Luke Boundford from Newtown, as well as Stuart J Jones, Malcolm Melvin, Joe Phillips and Porya Ahmadi who have all returned to Park Avenue this summer.
Neville Powell will be disappointed to lose Declan Walker who has made the move to Stalybridge Celtic.
Carmarthen have acquired the services of winger Chris Jones from Llanelli, while Luke Cummings (Barry Town) and Mael Davies (Cardiff Met) have both left during the transfer window.
Airbus UK v Bala Town | Friday – 19:45
After two seasons in the Cymru North League, Airbus UK are back in the JD Cymru Premier.
But manager Steve O’Shaughnessy has revamped the squad that won the league by 18 points by getting rid of attackers Asa Hamilton, Joe Chaplin, Lewis Buckley and Leo Riley.
Arriving at Broughton in their place is ex-TNS star, Alex Darlington, as well as Jake Phillips, Jordan Evans and Andy Owens who have all played regularly in the top flight recently.
Bala Town have also seen several changes over the summer with new signings Louis Robles, Steve Leslie and Lee Molyneux all scoring on their competitive debuts in the League Cup last weekend.
Colin Caton’s Lakesiders finished in 6th place last season, missing out on Europe for the first time since 2014 after their lowest finish in five years.
The Bala boys will be determined to return to the top three this season, and will be looking to get off to a winning start at the Hollingsworth Group Stadium on Friday.
Newtown v Cefn Druids | Friday – 19:45
It should be a tight affair at Latham Park on Friday night, as the last five games between Newtown and Cefn Druids have all been drawn.
As the Robins finished in 5th last season, and the Druids only one place above the drop zone, then Newtown will be favourites for this encounter.
But the Robins have had to bid farewell to Steve Leslie (Bala Town), Callum Roberts (Connah’s Quay), Porya Ahmadi (Aberystwyth) and Luke Boundford (Aberystwyth) over the summer.
Chris Hughes has moved quickly to replace the players by signing winger Ian Sheridan from Bala, George Harry from Llandudno, Sean McAllister from Chester as well as Lifumpa Mwandwe on loan from Shrewsbury.
It’s been over 12 years since Cefn Druids last won a league game away at Newtown (March 2007).
Pen-y-bont v Barry Town | Friday – 20:00 (S4C)
Pen-y-bont have been busy preparing for their first ever campaign in the JD Cymru Premier after going unbeaten in the JD Cymru South last season.
The new-comers have plenty of top flight experience as squad members Luke Borrelli and Kieran Howard have both played over a 100 times in the Cymru Premier.
But it will be the experience of Bont’s manager that could prove vital to their success as Rhys Griffiths has seven Golden Boots and three Player of the Years awards from his time as a striker in the Cymru Premier.
Barry Town were awarded with an European spot after a top three finish last season, and despite losing 4-0 on aggregate to Cliftonville, the Dragons will be driven to repeat their feat in the league this year.
Right-back Luke Cummings has arrived at Jenner Park to fill in the void left by the departure of Macauley Southam-Hales in January, and Jack Compton, Keyon Reffell and Eli Phipps are all new attacking options for Gavin Chesterfield to replace Momodou Touray who has returned to Newport following his successful loan spell at Barry.
Pen-y-bont’s first JD Cymru Premier fixture will be live on S4C with coverage starting at 19:55 on Friday night.
Connah’s Quay v Cardiff Met | Saturday – 14:30
Both clubs will be eager to get the season going after enjoying an European adventure over the summer.
Connah’s Quay Nomads caused one of the biggest European upsets by a Welsh club in July by knocking out Scottish Premier side Kilmarnock in the Europa League first qualifying round.
The Nomads lost to Serbian side Partizan in the following round, but will be incredibly proud of their European performances.
Cardiff Met felt unlucky to be knocked out on the away goal rule by Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg after qualifying for Europe through a penalty-shoot out win against Bala Town in the play-off final.
The students have never won a league games against Connah’s Quay, but did beat the Nomads in the Nathaniel MG Cup semi final at the Deeside Stadium last season (0-1).
The only scorer of that game, Adam Roscrow has signed for League One side AFC Wimbledon, but Jordan Lam and Mael Davies have signed for the Archers.
Andy Morrison has made somewhat of a clearout at Connah’s Quay with Rob Hughes, Michael Parker, Jake Phillips, Andy Owens, John Danby and Jonny Spittle all moving on, while Callum Roberts and Kris Owens have joined the Nomads.
The New Saints v Caernarfon | Sunday – 14:30
The New Saints will be expected to get off to a winning start at home as they start their bid to lift the league title for the ninth consecutive season.
Despite a strong challenge from Connah’s Quay and Barry Town, the Saints eventually broke away and finished last season 12 points clear at the top of the table.
TNS beat Feronikeli in the Champions League qualifiers over the summer, but fell short against Copenhagen, and now look likely to be knocked out of the Europa League qualifiers by Ludogorets Razgrad after a 5-0 defeat in the first leg.
The Cofis enjoyed their first season back in the top flight with a 4th place finish after a nine year absence.
Caernarfon manager, Sean Eardley has added Michael Pearson, Sam Jones and Gruff John to his squad over the summer.
TNS have signed Keston Davies, Adam Hughes and Ryan Harrington to compete with Blaine Hudson for a place in the heart of the champions’ defence.
Highlights of all JD Cymru Premier games will be on Sgorio every Monday at 5:35 on S4C.