Welsh Premiership: The mid-season split

by Sion Cleaver

The second half of January saw the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League split in half, with the top six teams in the division playing each other another two times, with the bottom six playing each other the same amount of times.

This system debuted in Wales’ top-flight last season and proved to be very successful, with increased attendances and less-moaning in the press and from fans about meaningless games.

The top six will form the Championship Conference, where the Welsh Premier League title is up for grabs as well as three European places, one Champions League qualifier spot and the other two for the Europa League. The second Europa League spot will be taken by the winner of the European Play-offs, which will take place at the end of the season between all of the teams in the Championship Conference that don’t already have a European place as well as the winner of the Relegation conference (the bottom six).

Bangor City 5 – 3 Prestatyn Town
Farrar Road, Bangor – Attendance: 2,593
Bangor City’s last ever match at their historic home ground of Farrar Road was a romantic one to say the least. A sell-out crowd saw the home team seal the three points in style against local rivals Prestatyn Town with an attractive 5 – 3 scoreline.

 Les Davies opened the scoring for the home side after only two minutes with a stunning wonderstrike that left Prestatyn’s Dave Roberts with no hope of saving it. Sion Edwards doubled Bangor’s lead fifteen minutes later, only to see Neil Gibson grab one back for the visitors minutes later.

Bangor ran away with it in the second half, Dave Morley grabbed his side their third goal in the 60th minute, with Craig Garside hitting home three minutes later to make it four for the Farrar Road side. Dave Morley grabbed his second of the night with twenty minutes left to run and the game looked out of Prestatyn’s sight.

Prestatyn struck twice in the same minute, giving their travelling fans a faint glimpse of hope. A marvellous run from Michael Parker saw his excellent strike hit the back of the Bangor net before Ross Stephens cooly converted a penalty kick to make it 5 – 3.

Afan Lido 1 – 2 Port Talbot Town
Marston’s Stadium, Port Talbot – Attendance – 376
Afan Lido were narrowly defeated by local rivals Port Talbot Town after a tightly contested contest. Port Talbot Town, who made the quarter of a mile trip down the road to Afan Lido, sealed the points with a 2 – 1  away victory in front of an incredibly vocal following from the away side.

Jonathan Hood opened the scoring for the home side within the first ten minutes, and it took until the 46th minute for an Afan Lido player to hit the back of the net. This time however, the ball went in the wrong net as Craig Hanford’s own goal equalized for the visitors. Martin Rose got Port Talbot’s second ten minutes from time, to seal the game for Mark Jones’ men.

Afan Lido manager Andy Dyer spoke to welshpremier.com about the occasion: “Obviously you’re disappointed when you lose a game, it was a sloppy own goal to concede so early into the second half.

“They haven’t scored against us, we’ve given them the first goal which was real poor from ourselves, and the pressure they put on us in the end eventually they get their goal against us, but I couldn’t be more proud of my players up until one game to go, that shows how far this football club has come in such a short space of time and I’m really pleased with the effort that’s been put in, but it’s really disappointing that a referee travels down and dictates a game of football.”

The Split
Championship Conference
Bangor City are sitting pretty on top of the Welsh Premier League, and will look to continue their sensational form when they move into their new, multi-million pounds stadium in Febuary.

Full-timers The New Saints are only a point away from the league leaders, but will need to concentrate on turning draws into wins if they are to be serious contenders for the championship and that every-precious Champions League qualifying spot.

Llanelli, Neath, Bala and Prestatyn all made the Championship Conference after enjoying decent results in recent weeks, all four teams will undoubtedly be aiming to seal the automatic Europa League spots come the final stretch of the season rather than competing in the Europa League play-offs that will take place in May between 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th placed teams.

Relegation Conference
A run of poor results from Aberystwyth Town, Carmarthen and Newtown have seen them occupy the relegation places for the majority of the season. Carmarthen and Newtown are joint bottom with 13 points, Aberystwyth are five points from safety with a mere 17 points.

Despite some decent wins, the results just haven’t been consistent enough for Port Talbot Town and Afan Lido, both of which have 22 points and will have to make do with aiming to win the Relegation Conference in order to get a Europa League play-off place come the end of the season.

Airbus narrowly missed out on the Championship conference, and will feel very unlucky to be in the bottom six after having a tremendous season so far.

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